Chicken Breasts with Green Pumpkin Seed Mole

Inspiration: My favorite cookbook is Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless. Everything that I’ve ever made with his name on it has been gold. B and I wanted to spend a whole Saturday evening making a more elaborate Mexican meal, so we knew right where to turn.

What we Loved: I don’t think that I can adequately describe how much we loved this recipe. It was one of those meals that we knew was special after taking just one bite. The chicken breasts were simply sauteed, and they really paired perfectly with the amazing mole sauce. The dominant flavor of the sauce was the nutty pumpkin seed flavor, but then there were so many other elements thrown in there, too. Fresh cilantro, hot peppers, sweet tomatillos, and the wonderful spices of cinnamon and cloves. The consistency of the sauce was creamy and buttery from the pumpkin seeds, almost reminding me of something like a pumpkin seed butter. Like every other Rick Bayless recipe that I’ve tried, this was really just perfect.

Helpful Hints: I only realized after I had already made my sauce that the directions stated to stem and seed the jalapeno peppers. I just threw the entire peppers right into the food processor. Oops. I was worried that I had ruined the sauce by turning it into something unbearably hot, but in the end it was just fine and had a perfect amount of spice. That being said, I don’t know what the sauce tastes like with seeded peppers, so I suppose whether you seed your peppers or not should depend on your preference for how spicy you’d like the sauce to be.

Chicken with Green Pumpkin Seed Mole
Source: Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless

I made a lot of adjustments to the recipe to suit my preferences. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

For the Chicken
2 chicken breasts, butterflied and cut in half
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

For the Mole
1 cup pumpkin seeds
2 cups chicken broth
12 oz tomatillos, husked and washed (about 8 large)
2 jalapenos, stemmed and seeded
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 handful fresh cilantro
1/8 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 black peppercorns
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch ground cinnamon

For Garnish
pumpkin seeds

1. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan until browned. Add the pumpkin seeds to a mini food processor, and grind to a fine powder. Be careful not to process for too long, or the seeds will begin to form a paste. Mix the powder in a bowl with 1 cup of the chicken broth, and set aside.

2. Simmer the tomatillos and peppers in a pot of salted water for 10-12 minutes. Drain.

3. Place the cumin, peppercorns, cloves, and cinnamon in a mini food processor or spice grinder, and process to a fine powder.

4. Add the tomatillos, peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro, and spice mixture to a large food processor, and process until smooth.

5.  Heat a drizzle of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the pumpkin seed mixture to the pan, and stir constantly for 4-5 minutes until the mixture is thickened.

6. Add the tomatillo mixture to the pan. Stir to incorporate, and cook for 4-5 minutes to thicken.

7. Add the remaining 1 cup of chicken broth to the pan. Stir, and simmer partially covered for 30 minutes.

8. Salt and pepper the chicken breasts. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a second saute pan, and saute the chicken until cooked through.

9. Serve the chicken with the sauce. Garnish with pumpkin seeds and cilantro.

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Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Inspiration: This is one of those recipes that I’ve seen floating around everywhere, and I’ve always wanted to try it. Forty cloves of garlic? Really? How could you not want to try that?

What we Loved: There were so many good things about this recipe that I don’t even know where to begin. The chicken was so crispy and browned on the outside and ridiculously moist on the inside, and the garlic cloves melted in your mouth just like butter. I couldn’t believe how tender they were, and their mellow roasted flavor was amazing. Forty cloves of garlic seems like a lot, but it’s really not. Cooking the garlic for so long really mellows out it’s flavor and leaves you with cloves that have such a wonderfully browned and mild flavor. If I had to pick a favorite part of this dish, though, I think it would be the gravy. B and I both agreed that it was really just perfect. It had so much rich, salty, garlicy, roasted chicken flavor, and you could really taste the thyme and rosemary that cooked with the chicken, too.

Helpful Hints: This was my first time carving a raw chicken. I was nervous to do it, but I watched a handful of YouTube videos and took my time, and I felt pretty proud when I was all done and had eight nice cuts sitting there :) I think the biggest thing to remember is that you really have to use a good knife and use some force when cutting the chicken, getting through the bones, etc. I found the how-to videos to be really helpful, so I recommend watching some if you’ve never done it before! And as for the recipe itself, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but the only thing I would change next time would be to add more garlic (!). I really loved eating the whole roasted cloves alongside the chicken, and after using some to make the gravy, saving some for leftovers, and splitting the rest with my hubby, I wished that I had some more. Next time, I might make chicken with 60 cloves of garlic :)

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
Source: Annie’s Eats, originally from Cook’s Illustrated

I made a few changes to the recipe. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

1 whole chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
Kosher salt and black pepper
3 large heads garlic (about 40 cloves), separated into cloves and peeled
1 small onion, roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
¾ cup dry white wine
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter

1. Place the garlic and onion in a small baking dish. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover tightly with foil, and roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, shaking the dish after 15 minutes to toss the contents. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and roast for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

2. Heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium high heat in a 12-inch skillet. Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Place four of the chicken pieces skin-side down in the pan, and cook them for 5 minutes without disturbing them. This will create a golden brown crust. Flip the pieces, and cook for another 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken pieces to a platter, and then repeat the process with the four remaining chicken pieces. Remove the second batch of chicken from the pan when it’s browned.

3. Off the heat, add the white wine, chicken broth, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf to the pan. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a spoon to loosen the browned bits. Place the chicken pieces back into the pan, skin-side up. Add the garlic mixture, placing it around the chicken in the pan sauce.

4. Place the pan in the oven, and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of one of the breasts registers 170 degrees F. Remove the pan from the oven, and transfer the chicken to a serving dish. Using a slotted spoon, scatter the garlic cloves over the chicken. Reserve 10 cloves of garlic on a separate plate. Cover the chicken with foil to keep warm.

5. Drain the pan sauce through a mesh sieve into a smaller sauce pan. Clean the sieve, and then place the reserved 10 garlic cloves into the sieve. Using a spoon, smash the cloves in the sieve and push the resulting paste through it into the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring to incorporate the garlic. Whisk in the tablespoon of butter, and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

6. Serve the chicken with the garlic cloves and pan sauce.

Chicken Saltimbocca

Chicken Saltimbocca

Inspiration: Chicken saltimbocca is one of those recipes that I heard about a while ago and have been wanting to try ever since. For some reason, though, it just never got made, probably because it requires sage, which is an herb that I rarely buy. I recently began compiling a list of recipes/foods that I really want to try, and putting these recipes down on paper has really proven to be a great way to remember to make them!

What we Loved: I actually made this recipe twice within the last few months. The first time, I made a pan sauce with white wine and butter, and the second time, I served the chicken without a sauce. While both were great, I’d say that I really enjoyed the chicken without any sauce better. The simple flavors of the meal really shined that way. The chicken was nice and moist with a great brown crust, the prosciutto was crispy and salty, and the sage added just enough of an earthy herb flavor. Sage isn’t one of my favorite herbs, but I found that this meal provided  just the perfect amount of sage to really let the flavor of the herb shine without being overpowering. I’ve got a serious addiction to salty food, so I really enjoyed the great saltiness of this dish, too. And it’s always great to have another simple chicken recipe up your sleeve!

Helpful Hints: If you’d like to make a pan sauce for this recipe, just take the chicken out of the pan when it’s done cooking and add a bit of white wine. Scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, incorporating them into the wine, and then swirl in a tablespoon or so of butter. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve. Make sure that you use a dry white wine, as a sweet wine will give the entire meal a sweet flavor.

Chicken Saltimbocca
Source: Original recipe, inspired by learning about chicken saltimbocca from other places

2 chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
4 thin slices prosciutto
5-6 sage leaves, minced
Black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

1. After cutting the chicken breasts in half, season them with black pepper. You won’t need any salt, as the prosciutto is very salty.

2. Sprinkle the minced sage on the chicken. Wrap each chicken breast half with a piece of prosciutto. Press the prosciutto into the chicken so that it sticks.

3. Heat a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in a saute pan. When it’s hot, add the chicken to the pan. Don’t worry – it won’t stick! Saute for 3-4 minutes, and then flip the chicken. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Roasted Chicken with Aji Verdi Sauce

*Photos and content updated October 2011*

Inspiration: I’ve mentioned before that we get a whole chicken as part of our CSA delivery every month. I”m always on the lookout for unique roasted chicken recipes!

What we Loved: The aji verde sauce is what makes this meal. It turns a normal roasted chicken recipe (which is great in its own right) into something completely different and unique. The sauce is a touch spicy from the jalapenos, and it’s very creamy and salty from the Cotija cheese. The best part is that it’s so fresh, vibrant, and green, which is really delightful on your palate. The bright flavors of the peppers and cilantro pair so well with the rest of the meal. I served the chicken and sauce over cauliflower rice mixed with sauteed onions, butter, and cilantro, and I loved how the sauce seeped down into the rice as we ate. Brandon noted that he loved this meal because it was a really great change of pace for roasted chicken, and I completey agree. If you’re looking for something a little different than a typical roast chicken, then this is a great recipe to try.

Helpful Hints: If you can’t find Cotija cheese, the closest substitute that I can think of might be feta, because it has a similar crumbly texture to Cotija and also has that nice saltiness. (As an update – feta works great! The end result is very similar to [if not better than] using Cotija cheese. Since I prefer to have leftover feta hanging around the house instead of Cotija, and since feta is easier to find, I will probably stick to using feta in the future.)

Roasted Chicken with Aji Verde Sauce
Source: Adapted from Sunday Nite Dinner, originally from Food Network Kitchens Cookbook

For the chicken
1 3-5 lb chicken
Kosher salt

For the sauce
3/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/3 cup Cotija cheese or feta cheese
3 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded, and diced
1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Pat your chicken dry, and sprinkle with Kosher salt. (I’m very liberal with the salt, as in this recipe, but you can ease back on the salt if you’re not keen on it. The aji verde sauce is plenty salty, especially if you use Cotija). 

2. Roast the chicken at 450 degrees until the temperature of the chicken reaches 170 degrees, approximately 1 hour.

3. Remove the chicken from the oven, cover with foil, and allow to sit for 15 minutes.

4. While the chicken is sitting, make the sauce. Combine the cilantro, Cotija or feta, jalapenos, and garlic in a food processor. Add a good drizzle of olive oil and about the same amount of water. Process until everything is combined into a smooth sauce. You may need to add extra oil and water until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.

5. Serve the chicken topped with the sauce.

Mi Pueblo Chicken Soup

Inspiration: When we were in college, B and I had a favorite, cozy little Mexican restaurant called Mi Pueblo. It was our favorite place in the entire city, and I have to admit that the waiters and waitresses recognized us when we walked in the doors. Living in dorms without any good food to eat, we really looked forward to our Mi Pueblo date nights, and they’re probably my very best college memories. We still consider Mi Pueblo one of our favorite restaurants, even though we live in a different city now. When you ate at Mi Pueblo, they always served a really simple chicken soup before your meal that came to be something that B and I always looked forward to. After making chicken stock recently, I wanted to make a chicken soup with the stock, but I couldn’t think of anything too creative since we no longer eat carbs – meaning no potatoes, no rice, no noodles, no dumplings, no pastas, etc. B suggested making a simple soup just like the soup at Mi Pueblo, and I thought that it was a fabulous idea.

What we Loved: This soup was exactly what we were hoping it to be. It’s a simple soup with a deep, rich broth; hearty pieces of tender chicken; soft, light vegetable flavors of onions and carrots; and a wonderful earthy hint of rosemary and thyme. It’s easy to prepare, it’s heartwarming, and it’s delicious. Plus, for us, this soup has the added benefit of being nostalgic. It’s always great when you can create that sort of feeling at your dinner (or lunch) table.

Helpful Hints: I would not recommend making this soup with a store-bought chicken stock. The stock is the main ingedient, and a homemade stock really has a ton of flavor that store-bought stocks don’t have. This soup might fall flat if you were to use a store-bought stock.

Mi Pueblo Chicken Soup
Source: Original recipe, but inspired by Mi Pueblo

12 cups homemade chicken stock
3 cups shredded chicken
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped
1 sprig rosemary, leaves removed and chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste

1. Add the stock to a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, carrots, onion, garlic, thyme, and rosemary.

2. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper. You will need a lot of salt, approximately 2 teaspoons, but maybe more. Season a little bit at a time, until the soup reaches the desired level of saltiness. If you accidentally add too much salt, you can always correct the saltiness by adding some additional stock or water to the pot.

Chicken Stock

Inspiration: B and I joined a meat CSA in November, and as part of our share each month, we get a whole chicken. Starting in March, we’re getting a larger share and will be receiving two whole chickens per month. That’s a lot of chicken, and it’s a lot of opportunity for homemade chicken stock! I imagine that I’ll be trying out several stock recipes, and this was our first one. I really think that it’s such a great thing to put every bit of a chicken that you eat to good use. The chicken meat itself  can make several meals, and the rest of the chicken can provide you with a freezer full of stock to use in future meals. I really don’t think that there’s a better way to appreciate your food and the animal that gave it to you than that.

What we Loved: B and I absolutely loved this chicken stock. It’s so flavorful, and it’s definitely much better than any stock that I’ve ever bought from the store. There are just layers of flavor, from the meaty and rich chicken flavor to the great herb taste of the rosemary and thyme. And this stock just smells wonderful, too! It really does have such a homemade, quality flavor that store-bought stocks don’t have.

Helpful Hints: If you use the chicken skin or other fatty parts of the chicken while making the stock (which I did here, throwing every little bit that I had into the pot), it will result in a fairly greasy stock. As advised in the original recipe, put the chicken stock into the fridge overnight to cool completely, and this will allow the grease to rise to the top and solidify a bit. Then you can scrape off most of the fat and separate your stock into smaller containers for freezing. For planning purposes, this recipe makes about 10-12 cups of stock. I bought a bunch of 2-cup storage containers, so that I could freeze my stock and take small portions out of the freezer as I needed them.

Chicken Stock
Source: Love and Olive Oil

I changed the recipe a bit. I omitted the celery, parsley, and madeira wine, and I changed some of the seasoning amounts. After eating our first meal with this chicken, I took the skin off the leftover meat, removed the meat from the bones, and shredded it for soup. We had a lot of extra clean bones and skin for this reason, so I threw them into the pot as well. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

1 whole chicken carcass (+ any extra bones, skins, etc., if desired)
Extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, roughly chopped
3 carrots, roughly chopped
4 whole cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
1 gallon (16 cups) cold water

1. Heat a drizzle of oil in a large stock pot (I used an eight quart pot) over medium heat. Add the carrot and onion, and saute until softened and beginning to brown, approximately 10 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute.

2. Add the herbs and spices, and season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the chicken carcass and any extra chicken pieces. Pour in the water a cup at a time, filling to one inch below the rim of the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high, until the liquid just begins to bubble. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and let the stock maintain a low, gentle simmer.

4. Simmer uncovered for 2-4 hours. Remove from the heat.

5. Strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer into another large stockpot, discarding all of the solids. Allow the stock to cool completely until the fats separate. I cooled my stock in the refrigerator overnight.

6. Skim as much fat as you can from the surface of the stock.

7. Divide the stock into freezer-safe containers, and store in the freezer.

Chipotle Chicken Soup

Inspiration: As B and I have been cutting carbs out of our diet, we love to take soups for lunches during the work week. There seems to be an endless variety of low-carb soup recipes out there, and having a nice, hot bowl of soup midday is such a warming treat in these cold winter months! I bought a few handy soup thermoses, and I’m always on the lookout for new soups to try. As chipotle peppers are one of our favorite ingredients, this soup sounded interesting and looked fantastic!

What we Loved: This soup is great because it reminds me of a classic, comforting chicken soup, but at the same time, it’s a little bit different and has a nice, spicy kick and a little bit of a Southwestern feel. This appeals to me, because I’m always looking for new and different recipes, yet I always feel a little bit of a pull toward classic favorites, too. This recipe is the best of both worlds! I loved the taste of the fresh cilantro and the heat from the chipotle, and I loved the hearty chicken flavor of the broth. I tend to make a lot of thicker soups or stews, so I really appreciated the lightness of this soup as well.

Helpful Hints: This soup recipe is really straightforward, so I don’t have much advice in terms of preparing it. My only thought is to make sure that you aren’t too generous with the chipotle peppers, if you haven’t cooked with them before. When I was new to cooking with chipotles in adobo, I was always (regretably) tempted to throw in more than the recipe called for. But they’re extremely hot, and one small pepper is more than enough for this soup!

Chipotle Chicken Soup

Source: We Heart Food, originally from Cooking Light

I made only a few changes to the recipe, omitting the celery (because we don’t like it) and the potatoes (to eliminate the majority of the carbohydrates). Here’s the recipe as I made it.

Extra virgin olive oil
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced with 1 teaspoon of the adobo sauce
2 cups onion, chopped
1 cup carrot, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground oregano
6 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken broth
2 small chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt

1. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chile, adobo sauce, onion, carrot, cumin, oregano, and garlic. Cook until the onion is tender, approximately 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Add the broth, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the carrots are tender.

3. Remove the pan from the heat. Use an immersion blender or a food processor to puree the mixture until smooth. Return the pan to the heat, and stir in the chicken, cream, and cilantro. Simmer for 5 minutes, and then season with the salt, adding more to taste, if necessary.