Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Something like "Cafe Rio" Salad

I've seen this recipe all over, so I'm not citing my source. Also, I've changed it up a bit to my own liking. The rice/water measurements on all of the recipes I saw were way off. You should have twice as much liquid as rice. Most recipes I saw had 1:1 ratio!! Not right at all.

I've made this 3-4 times now and it fulfills my Cafe Rio cravings. The chicken is not exact, but it's good. The rice here, in my opinion, is a little better. The dressing was right on.
The Chicken (for 2-4 people):

1/3 small bottle Zesty Italian Dressing (I don't measure-I just cover the chicken)
1 tps. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1-2 minced garlic clove

2-3 chicken breasts

For optimal taste: marinate the chicken for a couple of hours. Grill on a charcoal grill with some soaked hickory wood chips for added flavor. Chop and serve with salad.

For shredded/easy cooking: Combine all sauce ingredients and pour over chicken in the crock pot. Cook for 5-8 hours on low, shred, and let sit in sauce until ready to eat.

The Rice (for 4-6 people so I generally cut this in half for us):

aprrox 2-2 1/2 C. water + 2-2 1/2 tsp bullion (or that much chicken broth)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 bunch cilantro
1/2 can green chilies
1/4 med. onion

1 1/2 C. rice
1/2 tsp salt

Puree cilantro, onions, and green chilies together in food processor or blender to a liquid state. Scrape it into a large measuring cup (with measurements on the side). Add enough broth to make 3 cups liquid total. Pour into a medium saucepan and heat liquid to a boil, add rice and salt, turn down the heat to a simmer (on our electric range I turn it to 1 or 2). Cook covered approx. 25-30 min. or until all liquid absorbed and it's not crunchy. If the liquid is absorbed and it's crunchy still, add a little more water and cover again (try not to stir it too much at this point) for a few more minutes so it doesn't burn. After it's done, it's better if you let it sit covered for about 10- 20 min.

*I've made this a couple times and tonight I forgot to add my "Better than Bullion" to the water since I was rushing about. It was NOT as good without it.*

The Creamy Tomatillo Dressing (makes a little over a cup of dressing)
1/2 packet buttermilk ranch powder
1/4 C sour cream
1/4 C milk
1/2 C mayo
1 small tomatillo (green tomato with husk. Take off the husk and wash before use.)
1/4 bunch cilantro (nice big handful)
1 clove garlic, pressed
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 jalapeño, seeded (optional)

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender until well combined. Let sit in the refrigerator a little while to set up.

*I've tried this a couple ways, and this is by far the closest I've gotten to Cafe Rio's dressing. The sour cream made a HUGE difference in consistency and taste. I use full fat, so I don't know if reduced fat or fat free works. Matt actually said it tasted almost exactly like it, so that's saying something!!*

The Beans (4-6 people)
1-2 can black or pinto beans, drained. (we use 1 can for the 2 of us and have a little left over)
1-2 cloves garlic, pressed
pinto bean seasoning (if available) or season with cumin, chilli powder, liquid smoke, onion powder or minced onion, salt etc. to taste

Put beans in a sauce pan and add about 1/2-1 can new water to it. Put in cloves of garlic and shake the pinto bean seasoning in it. You can add a little (couple drops) liquid smoke if you so desire. Let it simmer on med-low covered for 15 min-1/2 hour, depending on how tough they are out of the can. Taste it and add salt or more seasoning to your liking.

The Guacamole (2-3 people)
1 Avocado smashed
very finely chopped onion (less than 1/4 of a small one)
lime juice to taste
1 garlic clove pressed
jalapeño salt to taste (or regular salt. the jalapeño salt just adds a nice kick.)
a little chopped cilantro if you want
a little cumin if you want
a little red pepper if you want

Mix all together.

(or you could just do smashed avocado mixed with store bought pico or salsa if you're short on time.)

Flour Tortillas-makes 8 large tortillas
2 C. all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt (I'm sure regular salt works fine, but I always cook with kosher)
1/4 C vegetable shortening

3/4 C warm milk

  1. Mix together first 4 ingredients, cutting in the shortening with a pastry cutter or two knives or forks.
  2. Add the warm milk a little at a time until completely incorporated.
  3. Flour a workspace and dump out dough. It'll probably be a little sticky, so flour your hands and have a little extra flour on the side. Hand kneed the dough for about 5 min.
  4. Put in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let it sit for about 15-20 min. If it's too tough or rubbery, let it sit a few more min.
  5. After 20 min. cut the dough into 8 equal parts. Roll these pieces into balls.* Flatten into a disk and roll into tortillas. It's okay if they're not quite as large as you want them. Cover and let sit another 5-10 min.**
  6. Warm up a cast iron skillet (or a non-stick pan, but honestly, they cook better on cast iron) Keep it dry-don't add oil or anything. Once the pan is nice and hot, slap your tortillas on about 30 seconds on each side (more or less depending on how hot your pan really is). If your pan is hot enough, they'll start to puff up and get big bubbles. Keep the cooked ones warm under a clean kitchen towel until you're ready to eat. them
*If you used a stand mixer to knead, you may need to let them rest a little longer. If your dough is ever too elastic or rubbery, just let it sit a bit longer to relax.
**I have stacked them in between pieces of wax paper and put them in a ziploc in the fridge for a couple hours. It worked just fine after sitting a couple hours, but the next day the final product was a little brittle and not quite chewy.

The Salad: You need a lot of Romaine
Use a pie pan and place a warmed burrito sized tortilla on the bottom. Layer the rice and beans and chicken. Cover with a good amount of chopped crisp ROMAINE lettuce. Add a little cilantro. Put on dressing and guac. to your liking. Squirt lime on top. You can crumble fresh cotija cheese (fresh mexican cheese) on top if you like.

A great topper:
Slice up some corn tortillas and pan or deep fry them till crisp. Salt them. Put them on top. Sometimes we opt out of the bottom tortillas as long as we have some of these.



Jodi said...

Believe it or not, I never went to Cafe Rio, so I don't have anything to compare it to, but it sounds yummy, thanks.

Celia Marie (W.) B. said...

What???! How does anyone make it through all of BYU without trying it?

Actually, the only thing I've ever eaten there is the grilled chicken salad. SOOOOO yummy.

A.J. Dub. said...

I bet the recipes calling for equal rice/water were using minute rice.
This sounds amazing! Thanks Celia!

Celia Marie (W.) B. said...

Yeah, I'm pretty sure they were, but the thought of minute rice makes me want to puke!