Early this month, we met some friends of ours a new-to-all-of-us Mexican restaurant called Tequila's. If you can find one near you, make plans to go there. Everyone loved what they had for lunch. I loved my Pollo a la Cazuela so much that I am on a quest to replicate it. And that's where this recipe comes in. The Pollo a la Cazuela is "Breast of chicken cooked with mushrooms sauteed in sour cream."
I came home and scoured my Mexican cookbooks for chicken with mushrooms. I found this recipe in Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen. Although it doesn't include sour cream, the luscious Poblano Cream Sauce was an instant selling point for me.
As luck would have it, the store was out of poblano chiles, so I used canned whole green chiles, sliced them into strips and skipped the roasting/peeling/seeding part--quite a nice shortcut, actually! Number One was able to pick me up some good mushrooms though, so I used a mix of shiitakes and baby bellas.
I was planning to make this dish Christmas Eve, then our plans changed and we joined some people for a grilled salmon dinner. So I pushed the dish to Christmas dinner, for which we were planning on some relatives joining us, but that didn't happen and we ended up eating leftover ham instead.
So this year, it is our fabulous Day After Christmas dinner. Since I had already made the sauce on Christmas Eve, I added some water and cream to thin it a bit. I also ended up cooking the dish in the oven for between 5 to 10 minutes longer, to make up for the sauce being cold. It seemed to work.
Although this does not have the same flavors as "Pollo a la Cazuela," it is delicious! The poblano cream sauce is wonderful with the mushrooms and the chicken is very tasty. Number One and I loved this, Sawed Off said it was yummy and H-Bomb said he "liked it a little." I must say that H-Bomb ate all of the chicken we put on his plate. We will definitely be eating this again.
And, I will continue my quest for the Pollo a la Cazuela recipe! Aren't you all lucky?
Chicken Breasts with Poblanos, Mushrooms and Cream
These chicken breasts are one of the simplest, dressy (yet gutsy) crowd-pleasers you can prepare. The poblano-cream combination that has popped up in several of my recipes makes an entree appearance now--to great advantage. The mushrooms lend an earthiness to the sweetness of the cream and rich spice of the chiles. I love to spoon a little Classic White Rice onto the plate, or Green Poblano Rice for a more special touch. Not-too-oaky Chardonnay or Viognier is the perfect libation.
Serves 6, with about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of sauce
For 2 cups Essential Poblano Rajas
1 pound (6 medium-large) fresh poblano chiles (OR about half of a 27-ounce can of Hatch whole green chiles, drained and sliced into 1/4-inch strips)
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 large white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme)
1 cup whipping cream of creme fraiche
6 large leaves epazote, if you can get them (I can't)
Salt, about 1 teaspoon, plus a little for sprinkling on the chicken
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, plus a little extra for garnish
6 medium-large (about 2 pounds total) boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves
3 cups (about 6 ounces) sliced mushrooms (preferably shiitake, oyster or some delicious wild variety--chanterelles are great)
1. Making 2 cups Essential Roasted Poblano Rajas. Roast the chiles directly over a gas flame or 4 inches below a very hot broiler, turning occasionally until blackened on all sides, about 5 minutes for open flame, about 10 minutes for broiler. Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand 5 minutes. Peel, pull out the stem and seed pod, then rinse briefly to remove bits of skin and seeds. Slice into 1/4-inch strips.
In a large (10- to 12-inch) skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high, then add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until nicely browned but still crunchy, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and herbs, toss 1 minute, then stir in the chiles and heat through.
2. The sauce. Scoop about 1/3 of the rajas out of the pan and onto your cutting board. Roughly chop them and set aside. Add half of the cream and the epazote to the skillet, simmer over medium for about 5 minutes, then scrape into a food processor or blender. Add the remaining cream and process (loosely covered, if using a blender) until smooth. Taste and season with salt; stir in the cilantro and the reserved chopped rajas. If necessary thin with a little water (or chicken broth) to the consistency of a medium-thick cream soup.
3. The chicken and mushrooms. Turn on the oven to 350 degrees. Wash and dry the skillet, set over medium-high heat and measure in the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil. Dry the chicken breasts on paper towels, then lightly sprinkle both sides with the salt. When the oil is sizzling hot, lay in the chicken breasts in an uncrowded layer (you may have to brown them in two batches). When lightly browned on one side, about 2 minutes, flip and brown the other side. Lay in a single layer in a gratin dish or a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish.
Return the skillet to the heat (there should be a light coating of oil left; if not add a little more), add the mushrooms, and stir until nicely soft, about 5 minutes, depending on the variety. Strew them over the chicken breasts, then spoon on the sauce.
4. Finishing the dish. Cover the baking dish lightly with foil and bake until the chicken is just cooked through and the sauce is beginning to brown at the edges, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro (thinly sliced epazote is enticingly aromatic as a garnish here, too), and carry right to the table, baking dish and all.
Advance Preparation: The sauce may be completed through step 2 a day or two ahead; cover and refrigerate. Step 3 may be completed early in the day you are serving (store everything covered in the refrigerator), then complete step 4 just before you are ready to eat.