20 August, 2012

Achiote Paste with I Heart Cooking Clubs

This is Achiote also known as Annatto.  It is a seed from a Achiote bush.  The name comes from Nahuatal; Achiotl which means shrub.  The seeds are usually ground into a paste with various spices and then used for flavoring dishes.  It is also used for food coloring (orange).  Normally in the stores you purchase the paste already prepared.  If you look hard you may find packets of Annatto Seeds or Powder.

We purchased these seeds in the Market place in Chiapas on our trip.  I had never seen the seeds by themselves and knew this was a treasure to bring home.  I have been looking for a recipe for Achiote Paste, and I found it in the piles of cookbooks I brought with me to Mexico; Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless.  I have really enjoyed making Rick's recipes with I Heart Cooking Clubs these past couple of months.  I have learned a lot about Mexican cooking techniques.  It is as if Rick has translated not just the ingredients but the concept and methods.  

I followed his recipe for Achiote Paste using the blender, packed it into a jar and let it rest overnight.  Now what to do with it?  Achiote by itself is not spicy, it has a slight nutty flavor, something that reminds you of nutmeg and is sort of peppery.  To make the paste you grind the seeds with peppercorns, oregano, cloves, cumin, cinnamon, coriander and garlic.  This all makes a powerfully flavorful paste.  It can be used as a rub, in marinades, salsas... the options are endless.  But the typical use is in a marinade with orange juice over chicken, pork or even fish.  For heat you can add Chipotles like we made a few weeks back.

Achiote Chicken
1/4 cup Rick Bayless' Achiote Paste
2 cups Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
2 Chipotle Chilies in Adobo
6 Pieces Chicken Thigh

Blend the Achiote Paste, Orange Juice and Chipotles in the blender.  Marinade the chicken for 4 hours or over night.
Grill the chicken until the juices run clear.  Or bake in an oiled dish with half of the remaining marinade.

Serve with rice and tortillas.

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