A few years back I went to visit my aunt Celina in Guadalajara, Mexico. My aunt is one of those women who keeps a perfect house, from the decorations in her house to the food she cooks to the way the table is beautifully set at all times, even when no one is coming to visit.
When we get together, we always end up talking about food. That is something we all share in our family: a love of food and our traditions. During one of our conversations we talked about Cuachala.
What is that, I asked? Coming from the north, I had never heard of such a dish. My aunt smiled and got ready to educate me on the subject.
Cuachala is a chicken stew thickened with masa that is commonly made in every household in the southwestern States of Colima and Jalisco. Every home cook has his or her version, according to family traditions. Over there, they typically use dried chiles like Mirasol (what we in the north know as Guajillo or Cascabel) and Anchos, but there are some people who like things spicy and include de arbol chiles in their Cuachala.
This is a very simple dish that's made in three stages. First, soak the chiles and cook and shredthe chicken. Then, make the salsa, and finally, put everything together. Sounds easy? It is!
The real trick to a delicious Cuachala is to let the stew cook slowly so flavors can develop. The masa is added towards the end to help the mixture thicken just so.
Serve your Cuachala piping hot in deep bowls and garnish with finely chopped onions, flakes of chile de arbol and a healthy squeeze of lime juice. Some people like to add a scoop of rice into the stew. Either way, just don't forget the corn tortillas!
Chicken Stew with dried chiles and masa
1 large chicken breast
1 chicken leg quarter
1 carrot, cut into thirds
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 sprig cilantro
1 tsp kosher salt
8 cups water
4 guajillo chiles
1 roma tomato
1 lb tomatillos
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup Maseca
2 Tbsp lard or vegetable oil
Chile de arbol flakes
In medium saucepan, place chicken breast and leg, cover with 8 cups water and add carrot, garlic, bay leaf, cilantro and salt. Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer and cook, partially covered, until meat is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove meat from broth and shred finely. Set aside. Strain broth and reserve.
Meanwhile, heat cast iron griddle or frying pan. Toast guajillo chiles taking care not to burn them, 1-2 minutes. At the same time, roast tomato and un-peeled garlic, turning until nicely browned, about 10 minutes.
Place guajillo chiles (seeds and all) in a bowl with tomatillos and top with boiling water. Soak for 10 minutes or until soft. Remove chiles and tomatillos from soaking water. Reserve tomatillos. Place chiles in blender container along with the roasted garlic. Add 1 cup of the broth and process until completely smooth.
In large saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp lard and pour in guajillo salsa. Bring to a boil and then turn down and simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place roasted tomato and tomatillos in the blender. Add ½ cup of the shredded meat. Add 1 cup of the broth and blend until completely smooth. Add tomato mixture to guajillo salsa in saucepan. Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to simmer for 15-30 minutes, seasoning with salt as you go.
In small bowl, mix the Maseca with a few tablespoons of water, until you have a smooth dough. Combine with 1 cup of the broth and make sure all masa is dissolved. Add this mixture to the pot and simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Season to taste with salt.
Cuachala should be fairly thick, like a stew. If it thickens too much, add a bit more of the broth. Serve with lime wedges, chile flakes, rice and tortillas.
This recipe was first published at www.thelatinkitchen.com