Friday, April 3, 2009

Garlicky Mexican Chicken with Ancho Peppers and Crispy Polenta

I've had this recipe for a long time and finally got around to making it last night. It was relatively simple, and now that I've made it once I know that I SHOULD have done this during nap-time (or even before), because you could do a lot of it in advance. To clarify, it's not so difficult that I needed to do things during nap, but you can without impacting the result and why not make your life easier by doing things in advance?

from Weight Watchers

1 lb uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/8 oz cilandro, fresh, plus more for garnish (about 2 sprigs)
4 large garlic cloves, not peeled
2 dried ancho peppers, stems and seeds removed
1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 cup uncooked cornmeal (aka polenta)
cooking spray
6 medium radishes, red, sliced (optional)
2 medium scallions, sliced (optional)

Place chicken (about 2 breasts) in a single layer in a large nonstick skillet and cover with water. Add cilantro sprigs and 1 clove of unpeeled garlic. Cook chicken breasts over medium heat until no longer pink in center, about 10-15 minutes.

Remove chicken from pan to cool. Pour reserved cooking liquid into a bowl and add ancho peppers. Cover and soak peppers about 10 minutes to soften.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add 3 garlic cloves and roast in pan, turning frequently, until blackened in spots. Remove cloves and allow to cool. When cool enough, peel garlic.

Place peppers, roasted garlic, tomato sauce, and cumin in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Shred chicken.

Note: You could do all of the above in advance.

Place shredded chicken and blended sauce in a medium saucepan and heat through, stirring occasionally. You may want to save some of your shredded chicken without sauce for the little geeks.

To make polenta, bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add salt. Then slowly add cornmeal, stirring until smooth, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Coat a 9 x 9-inch pan with cooking spray and pour polenta into pan. Smooth with a spatula and allow polenta to firm up, about 1-2 minutes (or longer if you choose to do this in advance as well).

When polenta is firm (or you are ready to make dinner), cut polenta into 4 slices (I did 6, but you could do 4). Coat a larege nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Spray polenta with spray and place in skillet (you may need to do this in batches). Allow polenta to cook for 2-4 minutes, then spray top with cooking spray and flip to cook for 2-4 minutes on the other side.

This was the trickiest part, because I had no clue what I was doing or when to flip the polenta. It got easier by the 2nd batch, and was WAY better by the 3rd batch. Spraying the polenta with cooking spray helped. I think it's just going to take practice.

The Big Geek, apparently, does not like polenta. He thinks it has a weird texture, and I don't know how to get it crispier for him. I thought it was good, though, and the little geek liked her "corn mashed potatoes."

I topped it with Monterey Jack, but it didn't need it (when I had seconds I forgot about the cheese).

I hear you can buy pre-made polenta at the grocery store and then just slice and cook it. However, since cooking polenta basically involves boiling water, I'm not sure why you'd do that. . .

Quick, yummy, and easy to prep in advance--that's what I call my kind of meal!

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