Groovin’ and Grillin’!
By Tim The Brew Chef Shafer
The flavors of southwestern cuisine with its Mexican and Native American influences range from subtle and earthy to vibrant and quite spicy. Nopales cactus paddles also known as Nopalitos are very commonplace in the southwestern kitchen. Although prepared in many different manners one thing that must be done is to remove the spiky little tines which are not tongue friendly. This can be done by using a peeler or paring knife being sure to remove the asbestos like follicle. The combination of the grilled cactus with the smoky corn and sweet peppers along with the accent of cilantro, fresh lime and a hoppy ale lends itself perfectly to the spicy sweetness of the tender honey chipotle glazed chicken thighs. Give yourself a couple hours to put this dish together. This recipe will serve six to eight.
For the chicken:
4 pounds chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
½ cup chipotle in adobo, to taste
8 cloves garlic
1 large shallot, peeled and coarsely chopped
½ cup IPA
2 ounces Tequila
2 ounces fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon cumin
1 Tablespoon Kosher or good salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 good pinch cilantro
Rinse chicken thighs under cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Place remaining ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Place the chicken in a re sealable bag and pour in the marinade. Toss the chicken well and seal the bag removing an excess air. Place in refrigerator for 8 hours.
Heat grill and oil well. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on the grill. Reserve the marinade. Grill the thighs for 10 minutes on each side while basting with reserved marinade until 165 degrees internal temperature is reached.
Nopales cactus gives us two wonderfully delicious ingredients, which are not only indigenous to the southwest but staples in the kitchen as well. The paddles or “Nopalitos” are excellent grilled as a side dish or salad. Although I insist on fresh, if it’s not available, jarred can be substituted. The prickly pear fruit is primarily utilized for its juice, which is tart and a bit sweet. This purplish juice can be involved in a cocktail creation or as a perfect addition to a salad dressing. If the fruit or the juice is not available, pomegranate juice can be substituted. The flavor and color combination of the cactus, corn and chile peppers is only accentuated by the sweet yet tart and hoppy vinaigrette. You will have enough to serve eight and it shouldn’t take but an hour to prepare this versatile accompaniment.
For the grilled vegetables:
4 large cactus paddles, tines removed and stem clipped
3 ears sweet corn, husked
1 large jalapeno, split and seeded
1 red bell pepper, split and seeded
1 poblano chile, split and seeded
1 habanero or Serrano chile, optional
cracked black pepper
For the vinaigrette:
1 large shallot, peeled and grilled
4 large garlic cloves, grilled
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 ounces prickly pear juice
2 ounces fresh lime juice
2 ounces IPA or any good hoppy beer
1 small bunch cilantro leaves
1 Tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon cumin seed toasted
2 teaspoons good salt
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 ounces virgin olive oil
Toss the vegetables in a little olive oil to coat and season with salt and pepper. Place the vegetables including the shallot and garlic on a hot grill. Use foil or a grill plate for the smaller vegetables. Grill the vegetables for about 10 minutes until just tender and charred. Remove from the grill and set aside to cool. Cut the cactus into 2-inch long thin strips, remove the kernels from the cob and remove the skins from the chile peppers and dice. Place all the vegetables in a bowl. In a blender add the grilled shallot and garlic and the remaining ingredients add puree until smooth. Add the dressing to the vegetables and stir well. Serve warm or chill for later.