(Tonight’s guest post comes from a new friend who is also a skilled chef. He was my worthy competitor the Super Bowl Sunday Taco Taste-off. Here was his very worthy – and delicious – entry)
From a very young age I have had a passion for cooking. One of the earliest photos of me is sitting on the floor of my mother’s kitchen, surrounded by a mixer, flour and whatever ingredients I thought were important at the time. My mother always encouraged me to cook and experiment. For all my time with cookbooks, I have always enjoyed local recipes and orally passed kitchen traditions the most. As I have gotten older, I take these recipes and make them my own. So when Researching San Diego asked me to contribute to the Super Bowl feast and do a related guest post, I dug into my notes for my oldest recipe.
My first recipe gem came from an old Mexican lady in Amarillo, Texas who owned a restaurant called Los Insurgentes. She taught me her family recipe for chicken fajitas. I took that very simple marinade and adapted it into my “Chipotle con Pollo.”
The best recipes are simple with ingredients that are of high quality, few in number and big on taste. The first step of this recipe, marinating the chicken. embodies that concept. First, go out back and find two good looking chickens. Thank them for providing you eggs, then head to the store and buy 1.5 pounds of boneless and skinless breast meat. You will also need a cup of extra virgin olive oil, two good-sized lemons and some salt/pepper.
Wash the chicken under cold water and pat dry. Salt and pepper each side of the chicken breasts and put into a gallon size Ziploc bag. Next, squeeze the lemons for all they’re worth into the bag. Push out the air, seal the bag and put it in the refrigerator for three hours. After that time, let the chicken come back to room temperature. The meat should not be cold or chilly in any way. Fun fact: cooking cold is the reason chicken usually comes out dry.
Next, heat a covered sauté pan to medium high heat. Put in a couple diced cloves of garlic and wait until they just start to brown. Crank the heat to high and put each chicken breast in the pan (you may have to this in batches). Make sure not to crowd the pan so that no breasts are touching. Let the chicken cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes, then flip.
Do not worry about completely cooking through, as we will be slow cooking the chicken later. Once all the chicken is done, let the meat rest for 20 minutes. Do not clean the pan, but leave it on the stove with no heat.
In the meantime, open up your chipotle in adobo sauce and puree it. I use an immersion blender, but a normal blender is fine. Just make sure to save that sauce! Once you have your chipotle in adobo pureed, combine it with a 24oz container of plain Greek yogurt. You can go up or down on the yogurt depending on your desired level of spicy.
Returning to the chicken, cut each breast into bite sized pieces. Turn the stove back on to medium heat and let the pan, with all that juicy charred goodness, warm up. If there is anything stuck to the bottom use a wooden spoon to scrape it up, but leave it in the pan. Combine the chicken and the chipotle/yogurt sauce together and add to the pan once it is at temperature. Turn the heat to low and cover. The mixture should never boil, but should bubble up on occasion. Stir as necessary for the next 20-30 minutes.
To see if the chicken is done, take a piece of chicken out of the pan and lightly squish it onto a plate with a spoon. If it easily falls apart, you are done! The key here is to slow cook the chipotle flavor into the chicken. As I always say, meat should be cooked low and slow!
Top with some chopped cilantro, serve with tortillas or over rice and enjoy with shredded cabbage, sour cream (to mellow the spiciness!) and whatever other taco toppings may be calling to you. This dish goes great with margaritas and refried beans!