Mo Chica and Chicken Cau Cau

It was Dine LA week again recently.  Last time I decided to go to Ricardo Zarate’s lovely Picca, and had a wonderful time.  So this time I decided to go to his ‘original’ restaurant, Mo Chica.  I put original in quotes because Mo Chica was originally in a different and more down-scale location, but has recently moved to a more glamourous spot next to Bottega Louie and across the way from 7 Grand.

The new Mo Chica is correspondingly glamourous and shiny on the inside, and tiny in a way that makes you feel special.  No true bar, which was unfortunate.  In any case, they didn’t skimp on the Dine La menu, similar to Picca.  Picca seemed to have more of a Japanese influence than Mo Chica, but other than that they seemed quite similar.  Between the two of us TAL and I could order most of what they offered from their Dine La menu.  We had:

Tuna Tartare (avocado yuzu mousse, soy dressing, wonton chips): sometimes creamy avocado concoctions fall a little flat, but this added the right amount of body and depth to a very sprightly and bright tartare.  A good appetizer.

Ceviche Crocante (local halibut, leche de tigre, crispy calimari) :  the halibut was hidden under the calimari, and both were cooked perfectly.  Whatever the ‘leche de tigre’ was it was good.

Arroz Chaufa de Marisco (seafood medley, Peruvian fried rice, pickled radish): very similar to a dish at Picca that I still remember as being hearty and delightful.  But then who doesn’t like fried rice.

Chupe Gratinado (lobster and scallop gratin, potato, sea urchin ceviche sauce): sea urchin sauce!  the whole dish was rich, creamy and delicious.  It was a main entree that arrived before the Ceviche dish that was an appetizer, thus messing with my OCD, but the dishes were basically the same size anyway.

Corazon (anticucho sauce, twice cooked potato, huancaina, rocoto pesto): apparently beef heart is hard to cook, which makes me even more impressed with this very tender heart.  Aww.

Chicken Cau Cau (Peruvian chicken stew, jalepeno salsa criolla, cumin yogurt): a hearty chicken stew with a delicious piece of grilled bread.  What was in that bread?  No one else on the internet seems to talk about it and thus we will never know.

Tres Leches Cake and Vanilla Pisco Flan: the flan was amazing.  I opted to not get the flan at Picca the last time around and regretted it.  So this time I made sure to get it.  I mean, there were two of us, and two desserts on the menu, so we got both, but still.

My new thing (I have a new thing) is to try to make dishes I have at restaurants.  I think it comes from going to Italian places and feeling I could easily make what I just spent $14 for.  And I could.  But with food like this, it’s more complicated.  I decided to attempt the Chicken Cau Cau, because it’s a more straightforward chicken stew and seems not impossible to make.  And because recipes would be available on the internet, that being my old thing.
Chicken Cau Cau

(from a few different places, so, basically mine at this point…)

• Ingredients •

2lbs potatoes, cubed (4 medium sized potatoes, works out to 2 cups)

2lbs boneless chicken breast, cleaned and cut into cubes

1 regular onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 aji amarillo or jalepeno peppers, minced

1 tsp tumeric

2 tsp ground cumin

salt and pepper

1 cup chicken broth

juice of one lime

3 tblsp fresh parsley or mint (or both), chopped

1/4 cup yogurt

• Directions •

1. Peel potatoes and chop into bite-sized pieces.

2. Cut the chicken breast into equal sized cubes.  I bought these kitchen shears, which are very handy for this kind of task.

3. Blend the aji amarillo/jalapeño peppers into a paste.  Add some vegetable oil to help make it paste-y.  Aji amarillo are a peruvian pepper and it looks like this.  I used jalapeños.

4. Heat some vegetable oil in large heavy bottom pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute over medium heat until soft, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic, tumeric, cumin and salt (if you had not already) and mix to combine.  Cook for one minute and then add pepper paste

5. Add chicken to the pan, stir for about 1 minute. Next stir in potatoes and add 1 cup of chicken broth or water. Bring to a boil, cover and cook over low-medium heat for 15 minutes, opening cover to stir occasionally and ensure nothing is sticking to bottom of pan.

Finish by stirring in lime juice, yogurt and herbs.  Serve with…

Salsa Criolla 

(from here)

Some raw/lightly pickled ingredients really brighten up the above stew.  You can just put some of this salsa on top of the stew in the serving dish.

Ingredients:

2 red onions, sliced in very thin half moons
1-2 ají or jalapeño peppers, sliced into very thin matchsticks
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro or parsley, or both
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Preparation:

1. Soak the onions in salt water for 10 minutes. Drain and let dry.

2. Mix onion with the rest of the ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

3. Store in refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Grilled Bread

As mentioned above, the bread was amazing.  I kept trying to think about how to replicate the bread.  There is a traditional anise seed bread in Peru, but it’s more a sweet bread, and served as rolls.  But was the amazing taste of the bread anise seed?  It was bright and forward and self-important, so maybe anise in part fills that description.  What I ended up doing however, partially because I was lazy and didn’t want to make bread, was to zest some lime into olive oil, brush it on the bread, and put it under the broiler.  If I had more time I would have made a lime oil by heating the olive oil/zest mixture (with more zest) to ‘infuse’ as they say (I hate the word infuse, just because I do).

Overall, the dish was good, if not particularly inspiring.  The same was true of the original though, which is why I chose to make it at home, so maybe it was inspiring, in that sense.  Really what I wanted was that bread.  Oh and I made poached pears for dessert, just randomly.

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One Response to Mo Chica and Chicken Cau Cau

  1. Rachel M. says:

    ooh, poached pears!

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