Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cheesy Chile Chicken Rellenos

Here's one of my own recipes: Chicken breasts stuffed with chiles and cheese. It is certainly not authentically or traditionally Mexican but it does draw on common ingredients used in Mexican cooking: Chicken, queso blanco, adobo seasoning, chile peppers and a nice salsa ranchera.

I like to roast a fresh poblano chile (also sold as "pasilla" chiles in many stores), peel it and either slice or dice it for the extra flavor it brings to the dish. However, if I'm in a hurry I'll just use a 7-oz can of fire-roasted green chiles to save time. That's what I've used in the recipe below.

There are a couple of ways to stuff chicken breasts. You can pound them thin, place some stuffing on them and roll them up like jelly rolls. Or, you can do it the easy way by simply cutting a pocket into each half of a breast and then placing stuffing into that pocket before cooking them. Being lazy, I generally prefer the second method, and that's the one I use here.

Sorry about the lack of a photo, but let me describe the finished product: Plump, rich brown and crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside, with luscious melted cheese and chile peppers oozing out when you cut into them. Oh yeah!

Serves 6

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 7-oz can whole or diced fire-roasted green chiles
  • 8 ounces Queso Blanco, Queso Fresco or Monterey Jack cheese (grated or sliced)
  • 2 C flour
  • 2 tsp adobo seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 eggs,lightly beaten
  • 1/2 C Lard or Vegetable oil for frying

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Shred or slice cheese. Drain canned peppers. Divide the cheese and chopped chiles evenly into 6 piles. Set aside.

Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry.

Lay each breast on a clean cutting board. Using a sharp paring or fillet knife, carefully insert it into the thickest tip of the breast. Make a horizontal incision in the breast, being careful not to cut all the way through to the sides and front. (You want a pocket, not two slices of chicken.) If necessary, use your fingers to deepen the cavity made by the incision. Repeat process with each remaining breast.

Using your fingers, stuff the cheese/chile mix into the pockets. Use toothpicks to close the pockets.

Combine the flour, adobo seasoning and pepper and paprika; mix well.

Break the eggs into a shallow bowl and beat until whites and yolks are well mixed.

Dredge each chicken breast with flour; shake off excess and roll in beaten egg, then dredge in flour mixture again. Set aside until all breasts are coated.

Heat lard or vegetable oil in a large heavy pan (I recommend cast iron!) over medium heat until it begins to shimmer. Add chicken breasts 2 or 3 at a time (don't crowd them) and carefully brown them for approximately 3 minutes per side. When they are nicely browned, place them in a large baking pan. Place the baking pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake an additional 20 minutes.

To serve, remove the toothpicks and plate each breast. You can either slice each breast into individual slices and place the slices on the dinner plates (it looks very pretty that way!) or you can just serve one whole breast per plate. Drizzle some salsa ranchera over the top.

This is a dense, rich dish that goes well with a light salad, Mexican rice, a side of salsa and a serving of fresh guacamole with a dollop of sour cream and crumbled bacon on top.

Buen provecho!

If you have a favorite recipe for a Mexican or Mexican-inspired dish, I'd love to add it to our recipe box! email (and put "recipe" in the subject box so I'll know what it's about)