Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Creamy Chipotle Cheddar Chicken. Enter the Ring of Fire.
Chipotles may be a little five minutes ago as far as culinary trends go, but I'm very comfortable with being uncool. Chipotle chiles, found packed in cans of adobo sauce, are just plain old jalapenos that have been allowed to stay on the vine until they develop a deep red color, then are removed and smoke-dried over fire until most of the moisture is evaporated. What you get is an intense smokey flavor unlike anything on earth. It's absolutely addictive, especially in dishes like this with cilantro and sharp cheese which LOVE them some smoke.
The only catch is, chipotles are roasted with seeds and all which is why this dish lives up to its other title - Ring of Fire Chicken. So unless you really, really like a kick I advise making this with two chipotle chiles the first go around to see how much you like eating and sweating at the same time. It also helps to serve it over a mellow flavored rice with something sweet in it like peas or corn (I've included my recipe below) to round everything out. But if you're a heat freak, you could always mince up another chipotle and add it to the rice as well. And in that case my hat goes off to you. As Sissy says in the movie Urban Cowboy, "You're a real cowboy, ain't you?"
As for Kris and I, we were dying laughing while eating this, watching each others' faces get redder and redder. The phrase of the meal was, "It hurts a little but man - it's SO good!"
Creamy Chipotle Cheddar Chicken (aka Ring of Fire Chicken)
* The chipotle sauce would be good for lots of different things, especially steak.
* Kris wanted me to tell you that this chicken would also be great in warm tortillas, just in case the rice wasn't enough carbs for you...
4 chicken breast cutlets (boneless and skinless)
1/2 cup milk (whole or low fat is fine - skim is a no no)
3 chipotle chiles, from a can of chipotle in adobo (use 2 for less heat), finely chopped
1/3 cup cottage cheese (regular/full fat will give better texture and flavor but you could use 2%)
1/2 cup sour cream
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons half and half
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar (I used Cracker Barrel 2% sharp cheddar)
handful of chopped green onions, for garnish
handful of cilantro leaves, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a glass or ceramic baking dish (large enough to hold the 4 cutlets) with nonstick spray. Add the chicken (it's okay if they overlap a little but they should have the majority of space to themselves to cook evenly) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Once the oven is preheated, put the chicken in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, just until the edges of the cutlets begin to turn white.
Meanwhile, get on with the sauce. Add the milk, chiles, cottage cheese, sour cream, garlic, onion powder, cumin and salt to a medium sauce pan and bring over high heat, stirring every few minutes to keep the bottom from burning. (If you want a smooth, pretty sauce, blend the milk, chiles, garlic, and cottage cheese in a blender on high until smooth before adding them to the pan with the rest of the ingredients. Since the whole thing gets covered in cheese anyway, I save myself extra cleaning and skip this step, but to each their own.)
While you wait for the mixture to boil, mix the half and half and cornstarch in a small cup until the cornstarch is well incorporated and set aside. Once the milk mixture is boiling, add the half and half/cornstarch to the pan and stir in. Continue to boil the entire mess for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, or just until the mixture thickens. Reduce the heat so that it's just simmering and not violently boiling, and let it continue to thicken - another 2 minutes or so. Take off the heat and cover while you wait for the chicken.
Once the chicken's had its first go in the oven, remove it and carefully add the chipotle sauce to the pan, covering every bit of the chicken and making sure any extra is evenly distributed around the dish. Evenly scatter over the shredded cheddar and return the dish, uncovered, to the oven for 20 minutes. Increase the heat to 450 (if you have a fancy oven, switch it to 'top' or broiler mode) and cook the chicken an additional 2 minutes, JUST until some of the cheese begins to brown in spots.
Remove and let set up for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with additional chopped green onions and cilantro leaves.
Scallion Cilantro Rice
1 tablespoon butter
1 large shallot, minced
salt and pepper
1 cup jasmine or other long grain rice
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
3/4 cup thawed frozen peas OR corn if you're not a pea person
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds
In a medium pot, heat the butter over medium heat just until melted. Add the shallot, seasoning with salt and pepper and saute until translucent - about 3 minutes. Stir in the rice, toasting for 1 minute. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir well, reduce heat to low and put the lid on. Cook until the rice has absorbed all the liquid - anywhere from 12-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork (also checking to make sure the bottom rice hasn't burned.) Gently stir in the peas and paprika, put the cover back on and let sit off the heat another 5 minutes.
Stir in the green onions, cilantro, and almonds and serve, topping each serving with a chicken breast, sauce, and additional scallions/cilantro if desired.