Pollo Fundido

Inspiration: Like a few other recipes on our blog, this one comes to you via some more inspiration from El Salto, the restaurant that we like to frequent with my parents. I’ve been on a pollo fundido kick there recently, ordering a dish similar to this nearly every time that we stop in. Their dish doesn’t have bacon included, but Brandon always orders a similar dish that has beef and bacon instead of chicken, so I decided to make a mixture of the two. Adding bacon to a dish is never a bad idea, after all. Here’s to El Salto for their awesome food and some awesome inspiration.

What We Loved: This recipe just might be a new weeknight staple for us. It’s a snap to throw together and results in a nice and flavorful Mexican meal. Like the chipotle shrimp that we previously made, it turned out differently than the restaurant version, but I really think that it was every bit as good – just in a different way. I truly love dishes that meld all of the ingredients together so that each bite has a myriad of different flavors, and this dish does exactly that. With every forkful, there’s a bit of rich bacon and onions, some super tender chicken, and a tiny kick of heat from the poblanos. Plus, the chihuahua cheese melts and oozes down into everything, providing a fantastic, cheesy glue. You can’t beat that.

Tips: We love chihuahua cheese because it’s a really great Mexican melting cheese, so I would really recommend trying to find it, if you can. It has a wonderful texture and really just oozes down into the dish in an awesome way. We always buy ours at Whole Foods. If you can’t find it, though, Monterey Jack might be an okay substitute.

Pollo Fundido
Source: Original Recipe, Inspired from El Salto

5-6 slices bacon, chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 medium-sized poblano or anaheim peppers, seeds/ribs removed and cut into slices
1/2 large onion, cut into thin slices
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into slices
Kosher salt and black pepper
Chihuahua cheese, freshly shredded, about 1/2 cup
Cream, a few tablespoons
Fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Place the bacon into a saute pan over medium heat. Saute until cooked through and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Add the pepper slices, onion slices, and chicken slices to the pan, and season with Kosher salt and black pepper. Stir to combine, and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through, the vegetables are softened, and everything is starting to nicely brown and caramelize.

3. Meanwhile, add a good handful of cheese and several tablespoons of cream to a small sauce pan. Heat over low heat until a nice sauce forms. Add more cheese or cream as necessary to get a nice, thick consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Remove the pan with the chicken mixture from the heat. Add the bacon back into the pan, stirring to combine.

5. Serve the chicken mixture topped with the cheese sauce and fresh cilantro.

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Southwest-Style Chopped Chicken Salad

Inspiration: I created this dish as a meal that would be a good on-the-go dinner when Brandon and I were taking childbirth education classes at the hospital. The classes ran from 6:30 t0 9:00 at night, right through dinner time, so I was looking for something that we could pack up into a cooler and eat a few hours later during class. When the occasion arises where we need to eat a quick dinner away from home like that, I would much rather pack a meal from home than be forced to grab something from a fast food place. There’s nothing worse to me than gobbling down some food that I’d rather not be eating while I’m busy and in a rush. To a couple of people who  love food as much as we do, we always feel like meal times should be enjoyed, no matter what.

What We Loved: This salad was really good for just what I intended – an easy throw-together meal that was great eaten cold and on-the-go. We really enjoyed the combination of flavors – moist chicken, creamy avocado, bright tomatoes, earthy black beans, and awesome little cubes of spicy pepper jack. We both thought that the pepper jack cubes were the best part! And to top if off, everything was coated in some lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, and salt, which really tied everything together.

Tips: I served this with some fresh blueberries alongside, and that was a good pairing. I think that mixing some blueberries right into the salad would be delicious! Or, it would be great to serve all of the ingredients over a bed of salad greens, with the olive oil, lime juice, cilantro, salt, and pepper whisked together to form a dressing instead of just added into the salad separately.

Southwest-Style Chopped Chicken Salad
Source: Original Recipe
Serves: 2-3

2 chicken breasts
Kosher salt and black pepper
2-3 oz pepper jack cheese, cubed
Half pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 small avocado, diced
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1 lime
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat a pat of butter in a saute pan, and saute the chicken until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan, let it cool, and then cut into cubes. Cool in the refrigerator until nice and cold.

2. Add the chicken, pepper jack cheese cubes, grape tomatoes, black beans, avocado, and cilantro to a bowl. Squeeze the lime juice over everything, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and pepper.

3. Serve immediately, or chill until ready to serve.

Simple Lemon Rosemary Chicken Breasts

Simple Lemon Rosemary Chicken Breasts

Inspiration: I’ve been meeting Brandon at his work for lunch every now and then this summer. His work has some nice picnic tables outside where we sit and enjoy a lunch hour together, which is a pretty nice mid-day treat. I’m always trying to think of new lunches to pack, and the thought occurred to me recently to saute up some chicken breasts to take as the main part of our lunches. The great thing about chicken breasts is that they’re great hot, warm, or cold, so they really work perfectly for a packed lunch.

What We Loved: These are so simple to make and have a nice, refreshing flavor. As the title suggests, the two main flavors are the tart lemon and the earthy rosemary, which are really a couple of great complementary ingredients. I just loved how the lemon really cut through and added such a refreshing taste. With some added garlic, some olive oil, and plenty of salt and pepper, there couldn’t be a simpler recipe for a nutritious and filling lunch.

Tips: For an even simpler chicken breast lunch, I’ve also been digging through my pantry and coating some chicken breasts in whatever seasoning mixes that I happen to have (jerk rub, Cajun seasoning, lemon pepper, etc.). You can’t get much simpler than throwing some seasoning on a piece of chicken, cooking it, and packing it up for lunch.

Simple Lemon Rosemary Chicken Breasts
Source: Original Recipe
Serves: 2

2 chicken breasts, butterflied and cut in half
2 cloves garlic, minced
Handful fresh rosemary, minced
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Few tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper

1. Place the chicken breasts in a shallow dish. Add the garlic, rosemary, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix together well with your hands, cover, and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.

2. Saute or grill the chicken until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side.

Chicken, Avocado, and Blueberry Salad

Chicken, Avocado, and Blueberry Salad

Inspiration: I whipped this salad up for lunch one day using just about the only odds and ends that I had left in the refrigerator. It was a day when grocery shopping was desperately needed, and I wasn’t really expecting to much enjoy whatever I threw together. It turned out that I loved this salad so much, that I tossed it onto our dinner menu for the next week. We’re not big salad eaters, and I know that Brandon is usually less-than-excited when a salad appears on the menu for dinner, but I think this one deserved a spot.

What We Loved: I just love how the ingredients in this salad play so well off of each other. The flavors and textures of browned chicken, creamy avocado, tart blueberries, and nice chunks of Colby cheese really complement each other so well. I added a good glug of olive oil over top and plenty of Kosher salt, which really helped to bring everything together and make the flavors pop. As always, the avocado especially benefits from a nice sprinkling of salt. We also love how this is such a substantial and filling salad. Believe it or not, there is a good deal of Romaine lettuce hiding underneath all of the other goodies – you just can’t see it because the salad is so packed full of delicious.

Tips: I think that the chicken on this salad is best at room temperature or cold. If it were hot, it would wilt the lettuce, melt the cheese, warm up the nice cold blueberries, etc. So I would leave enough time to cook your chicken beforehand and let it cool for a while before assembling the salad.

Chicken, Avocado, and Blueberry Salad
Source: Original Recipe
Serves: 2

2 chicken breasts, butterflied and cut in half
Kosher salt and black pepper
About 3 cups chopped Romaine hearts
2-3 oz Colby cheese, cubed
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup blueberries
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Heat a pat of butter in saute pan. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and saute until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side. Let cool to room temperature, and then chop into cubes.

2. Divide the lettuce between two salad bowls.  Top with the chicken, Colby cheese, avocado, and blueberries. Drizzle generously with olive oil, and sprinkle with Kosher salt and black pepper.

Chicken with Black Beans, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Cilantro, & Cheddar

Inspiration: Have you ever thought to use sun dried tomatoes in a Mexican or Tex-Mex inspired dish? I always tend to use fresh diced tomatoes or sliced grape tomatoes when cooking that type of cuisine, and I tend to use sun dried tomatoes almost exclusively with Italian. I’d probably list sun dried tomatoes as my favorite type of tomato, though, so I was more than excited to run across the idea of combining my favorite tomato with my favorite cuisine. (And since Brandon loves fresh garden tomatoes best, I might just try this recipe out later on using fresh tomatoes to see how it compares).

What We Loved: As I was hoping, this chicken had a nice Mexican flair with all of the different flavor components that were thrown in. The chicken itself was seasoned with cumin and chili powder, which are a couple of spices that I think always give that Tex-Mex or Mexican twist to a meal. With creamy black beans, bright and fresh cilantro, gooey cheddar, and the unexpected tangy sweetness of the sun dried tomatoes, this meal sure had a lot of great things going on. A nice squeeze of fresh lime juice over top added a tart, fresh flavor that really was the finishing touch. We enjoyed this alongside our favorite hearts of palm salad, which was the perfect complement.

Tips: I used plain sun dried tomatoes that I re-hydrated in water, but I think that olive oil packed sun dried tomatoes or other flavored sun dried tomatoes would be fantastic and lend another dimension of flavor to the dish. The original recipe actually uses sun dried tomatoes with pepper strips, which sounds great.

Sauteed Chicken with Black Beans, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Cilantro, and Cheddar
Source: Adapted from I Wash…You Dry.
Serves 2

2 chicken breasts, butterflied
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Chili powder
1/3 cup cooked black beans
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
Handful fresh cilantro, minced
Freshly grated sharp cheddar
Lime wedges, for serving

1. Season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder. Heat a couple of pats of butter in a saute pan. Add the chicken, and cook for about 4-5 minutes on the first side.

2. Flip the chicken. Top each breast with black beans, sundried tomatoes, cilantro, and cheddar. Cover the pan, and cook for about 5 minutes more, until the chicken is cooked through.

3. Serve with lime wedges.

Simple Shredded Chicken and White Beans

Inspiration: A one-pot dish with Mexican flair and lots of pepper jack cheese? I’m in. I sometimes think that Brandon and I could eat this style of food every day (Mexican, Tex-Mex, Mexican-inspired, basically anything topped off with plenty of cilantro) and be happy campers. It’s also my favorite kind of food to cook – it’s fun and creative, with recipes fitting for an involved Saturday night supper (like a really great mole, which is on my to-make list) or a quick weekday meal, like this one.

What We Loved: What’s great about this recipe and what drew me to it in the first place is that it’s so simple. There are only four main ingredients – chicken, beans, salsa, and cheese – that are thrown into the crock pot and cook away on their own all day. Sometimes there’s just nothing better than that. The resulting flavors are simple and tasty, too – moist, fall-apart chicken and creamy white beans with a nice kick of Mexican-style flavor from the peppery salsa and cheese. For supper on a busy evening or as leftovers for a quick and hearty lunch, this recipe is perfect.

Tips: Brandon and I thought of this dish as more of a shredded chicken dish than as a chili (as it’s called in the original recipe), since we normally consider chili to have much more sauce to it. Most of the liquid from the salsa was absorbed into the chicken in this dish (making the chicken super moist, which was awesome). As such, we thought that it would work great if you wanted to make Mexican-style shredded chicken sandwiches. Or, come to think of it, this would also work really well atop of a bed of greens for a salad. It really was wonderful and perfect for us eaten just on its own out of the bowl, though.

Simple Shredded Chicken and White Beans
Source: Slightly adapted from Pink Parsley

4 chicken breasts
4 cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
8 oz pepper jack cheese, cut into 2 inch cubes
3 cups salsa
Additional pepper jack cheese, shredded
Grape tomtatoes, diced
Fresh cilantro, minced

1. Place the navy beans, pepper jack cheese cubes, and salsa in a crock pot.

2. Nestle the chicken breasts into the crock pot.

3. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

4. Remove the chicken, shred, and return it to the pot. Stir to combine.

5. Serve topped with additional pepper jack cheese, tomatoes, and cilantro.

Mushroom-Crusted Chicken Burgers

Mushroom-Crusted Chicken Burgers

Inspiration: When I’m reading through blogs or cookbooks, it’s usually my style to bookmark a recipe that I love, then proceed to leave it there in my “to-make” queue for about one to two years before I finally get around to having just the right time/craving/ingredients necessary/etc. to make it. For better or for worse, my meal plan is usually a pretty complicated thing (…..I really don’t feel like making a burger in the winter….I already have another burger on the menu this week….I can’t buy havarti when I already have about 30 other cheeses in the fridge to use….). Anyway, I happened to be making my grocery list when I ran across this recipe, and it immediately went onto the list. Don’t you just love when something is so inspiring?

What We Loved: I love cheeseburgers. Always have. And while in my opinion nothing can quite beat a plain old beef burger grilled on a charcoal grill and topped with plenty of cheese (I always wanted to live off of those as a kid), I also love experimenting with some more unique ingredients when cooking burgers. And I really think that I’d list this as one of the best burgers that I’ve ever made (up there with prosciutto-wrapped lamb burgers, which I also adore). The rich and earthy mushroom flavor that dominates these burgers is just so unique and fantastic, and the chicken itself stays super moist beneath that mushroom crust. And to top things off, the gooey, somewhat lemony havarti and the peppery arugula (with just a touch of crunch) are the perfect complements.

Tips: Forming ground chicken thigh into burgers is not a pretty thing. It’s really not anything like using ground beef – it’s much stickier/messier and is a general pain. I wouldn’t worry about it too much, though – as long as you end up with a somewhat spherical looking patty, it’ll work out just fine.

Mushroom-Crusted Chicken Burgers
Source: Adapted from Elly Says Opa to serve two, originally from Pink Parsley

1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
Kosher salt and black pepper
About 3/4 lb ground chicken thigh
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 slice onion, finely diced
Handful fresh parsley, minced
Havarti cheese, freshly grated

1. Grind the porcini mushrooms to a powder in a food processor. Reserve about 2 teaspoons of the mushroom powder in a bowl. Place the rest on a plate, mixing with salt and pepper.

2. In the bowl with the reserved mushroom powder, add the ground chicken, Worcestershire, Dijon, onion, parsley, and a good bit of salt and pepper. Mix well to combine.

3. Form the chicken mixture into two burgers. Dip the burgers into the mushroom powder on the plate, coating each burger completely.

4. Heat a pat of butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Cook the burgers until they are cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Add the havarti cheese to each burger about a minute before you are done cooking.

5. Serve topped with fresh arugula.