This meal is not difficult to cook. On the contrary, if you know how to saute a few boneless, skinless chicken breasts, this meal is downright easy.
The first time I try to time the cooking for dishes I’m making for the first (and sometimes the second) time, I get a little frazzled. Invariably, something takes longer than I think it will, and my whole plan goes to hell in a handbasket.
Chicken and rice. A simple dinner, no?
Okay then, chicken with a roasted pepper cream sauce and green poblano rice. Still pretty easy. It should be stress-free. And yet, I ended up a little frazzled.
It’s my stove’s fault. I swear. If I had 2 big burners (rather than 1 big and 3 small), things would have gone more smoothly. But! Because it took about 3 times as long to bring less than an inch of liquid to a simmer, courtesy of being stuck using a small burner, my timing was thrown off.
If I only had myself to cook for, big deal. But when I invite a friend over, and tell him dinner should be ready around 6, I feel the pressure.
I tried using my stick blender on the cilantro/poblano/chicken stock mixture. It struggled. There were big chunks and long sprigs to deal with, plus not that much liquid to assist. I tipped the pan a bit and banged the blender around. My goal? To finish the blending before B arrived, as he loves nothing better than to make fun of the mess I make in the kitchen while I cook. I hurry, I rush, I finally mutter “Screw it!” and leave it partially blended. The rice will have texture, I rationalize. Then I pour the liquid into my measuring cup from hell (the one that spills everywhere upon emptying), quickly wipe out the pan, add oil…and nothing happens.
Out of habit, I had turned off the burner. (Insert curse word.) I drum my fingers as I wait first for the pan to reheat so I can add the onions and rice, then for them to reach the point where I can add the cooking liquid. I glance at the clock, praying I can add the liquid before B arrives; the last thing I needed was for him to walk in just as chunky green liquid spilled everywhere.
Whew! I made it.
The rice was covered and cooking away when B arrived around 6. I warned him that dinner would be a bit later than I thought, thinking he would settle in front of the tv until I finished cooking, like he normally does. I had just put the chicken on, and I hadn’t yet blended the cream sauce, so I still had a few things to do. Instead, he settled in the kitchen and in one of those rare moments, became Mr. Talkative.
I tried to listen. Really, I did. But I was more worried about cleaning the stick blender, then hooking it up to the mini food processor component to blend the sauce, all while keeping an eye on the chicken. And trying to listen to stories about college basketball. (I think it was Rutgers. I’m pretty sure…) At that point, I put him to work seasoning the poblano cream with salt and pepper.
Finally, dinner was done.
And it was good. The rice was as good as I remembered, the chicken and poblano cream a nice way to make chicken interesting again. Even better, the chicken was cooked perfectly, despite my running around like a mad woman. As I said, there’s nothing difficult about this meal. For me, timing things is the most difficult part about cooking. That’s why I usually cook one new thing and plan the rest of the meal around things I could do in my sleep. I had a mental time-line that was simply a bit too rigid.
But now, I have a couple of tips if you plan to cook this meal, just so you don’t get asked if you need to take a shower after cooking dinner, because your face is a bit on the shiny side. (I kid you not, he really did ask me that.)
1. Make the sauce ahead of time. From roasting the chili pepper to blending the sauce, you can do this a day or two in advance, when it’s convenient for you. Simply rewarm the sauce slightly over very low heat, or just serve it at room temperature over the chicken.
2. Make the sauce after the chicken is cooked. Yes, you will still want to have roasted the poblano ahead of time, since that takes awhile if you’re doing it in the oven like me (instructions included below), but you can start the onions and garlic cooking away while the chicken cooks, then finally blend everything up while the chicken is resting.
3. Remember, this meal can actually be quite forgiving as far as timing goes. (This part is what I should have remembered.) Chicken tastes good even after it’s cooled a bit, and the rice can sit in the pan (just remove the lid when it’s done cooking) for awhile and still remain warm.
Chicken with Poblano Cream
recipe from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast
3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons neutral cooking oil
1 poblano chili pepper
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
1. Roast the poblano. Heat the oven to 375*F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Toss the pepper onto the pan and pop it into the oven for 15 minutes. With a tongs, grasp the pepper by the stem and rotate a 1/4 turn and pop back in the oven for another 15 minutes. Continue until all sides are blistered and the skin has puffed up from the meat of the pepper, about an hour. Remove from oven, cool 5-10 minutes until you can handle touching it with your hands. Pull the top out of the pepper by the stem, then cut the pepper open to remove the ribs. Cut into pieces and set aside.
2. Make the sauce. Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened. Remove from heat. Add poblano and cream, stir to combine. Transfer to a blender and process until relatively smooth (there will still be some texture to the sauce). Thin with water if needed.
3. Cook the chicken: Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium to medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Cook on each side until nicely browned and the juices run clear. Remove to platter and cover loosely with foil for 10-15 minutes.
Serve chicken with a spoonful or two of poblano cream and green poblano rice, if desired.