Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How I Work, and A Twitter-Inspired Dinner: Roasted Poblanos and Chicken in Cream Sauce

For me, inspiration comes from all kinds of places.  I have never been one to want for ideas of what to do, and am constantly renewed by the world around me in general and the internet in particular.

I've been using Twitter (I'm @culinarybliss) for a while now and have found it to offer its own unique set of voices on food.  One voice I've enjoyed following is that of Rick Bayless, the chef from Chicago who is famous for his use of Mexican foods. (Here's his twitter)  My inspiration for this dish came from a contest Rick's running where he describes a recipe in 140 characters or less and the best versions by his followers get rewarded with signed copies of his books.  We cooked the first recipe and it was so good we cooked it again but modified it to use what we had around.  It's a great way to cook your greens and even though it contains cream, it's really not too much and goes a long way for flavor and texture.  This general technique is easy to adjust, so use what you have around.  Thus, the amounts here are approximate and you should judge based on what's right for your version.

Now that I've talked about inspiration, I thought I'd take this opportunity to show you how I work in the kitchen before I share today's recipe with you.  My little prep station is where I spend a huge amount of my time and I like to have it just so before I dig in to work on a recipe.  I got this Ikea kitchen cart used from Craigslist and it's my main work station.

I have a few large cutting boards that I rotate.  The rule of thumb for cutting boards is the biggest you can find that will fit on your space.   I always keep a damp towel under my board so it doesn't slide around.  This makes prep so much easier.  I also keep a wet cloth so I can wipe down my board and knife after each ingredient.  On the surface I also keep my salt (in the tea cup for easy pinching), my utensils, and a mortar and pestle (seriously worth it. I use it alllllll the time).  Someday I'm going to mount that phone, so just pretend it's not there.

Learn more about how I work after the break

If you listen to some people, home cooks shouldn't bother with mise en place.  They say cutting things up before cooking is a waste of time and most home cooks don't need to.  I disagree and almost always have all my ingredients prepped ahead of time.  This is for my sanity, but I also like my hands and attention to be free while I'm actually cooking in case I need to do something I didn't anticipate, or drink beer.  So, I bought a bunch of cute little bowls and use them to keep all my ingredients together and on hand before I start cooking. Here's most of the mise en place for this dish.

 Sometimes I use auxiliary lighting in the form of an airplane desk lamp because my kitchen is too dark, even with the light from my hood.  Here, I'm midway through cooking this meal.  You can see the mise en place bowls half empty on the back right of the cart. 

If you're a blogger, I'd love to see what your primary work space looks like!

Here's the recipe, adapted by me.

Roasted Poblanos and Chicken in Cream Sauce

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, or the protein of your choice
2 fresh poblano peppers (here's the wiki if you need help finding them)
2-4 small potatoes, chopped
5-7 tomatillos, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 fresh chili (optional), minced or crushed
3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed 
1/2-1 c. stock
1/2-1 c. cream, half and half, or milk
1 bunch greens, collards or kale, thinly sliced
1 lime, cut into wedges

Begin by roasting your peppers in the oven.  Lots of people roast their peppers over an open flame, but I find using the oven much easier.  Roast at 500 degrees, or as hot as your oven will go, for around 15 minutes, or until the skins are blistered and somewhat black.  As soon as they're done roasting, put the peppers into a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.  Let these sit until they're cool and they'll be much easier to peel.  Running cool water over them can help if the seeds are very sticky.  Once they're all clean slice and chop them into 1 inch pieces.

In a sauce pan, fry up your chicken breasts, well-seasoned.
Remove and set aside for later.  Once cool, cube or shred the chicken.

In the same pan, add a little oil.  Then add your chili and garlic mixture.  I always do this in the mortar and pestle, as you can see above, and this alone is enough reason to buy one.  You don't have to touch the chili OR the garlic, and that's kind of a big deal.  Let these steep in the oil over medium heat for just a minute, not long enough to brown.  
Then, add the veggies.  You can add the potatoes here, or you can fry them in another pan at the same time.  (You can see this is what I chose to do if you look at the photo above. It's the pan on the right with a screen over it to prevent splatter.)

Once things are soft and translucent, add the greens,the cream, and the stock.  Your potatoes will still need to cook a bit, so make sure everything is just covered and cooks at a simmer.  This is how you should decide how much liquid to include.  You might need to add a little water if everything isn't as cooked as you want when the liquid gets to the correct consistency.  Here's the end result in the pan:

and in a bowl.  Squeeze a healthy dose of lime juice on top before serving.  If you like cilantro this would be a great place for some.

Steamy.  Somehow this spicy dish tasted perfect last night, even in the heat.  

If you don't want to use potatoes or want to stretch the sauce even further, you can serve this over rice.  It's spicy and creamy, sweet, and tart.  It quickly used up a lot of the veggies we had sitting around.  Plus, it reheats very well.

Oh, check out the bottom of this post!  To the left of the comments section you can see a really cool new set of buttons which allow you to share this post on your favorite sites, from gmail to facebook to twitter.  

OH also, I started a facebook page for this blog!  If you like my photos and food, check out this page.  I've been uploading tons of pictures and it has become a very easy way to talk outside of individual posts.  If you 'like' that page you'll see a lot more updates and have more of a say in what goes on over here!

Finally, I have a very exciting post planned for this week's Simple Lives Thursday, so please come back then!  Until next time, show me your work space!


Lara Alexander said...

This looks like my kind of recipe! I roast peppers over the open flame of my gas stove, then pop them in a ziplock bag to sweat.
I agree that prepped cooking goes smoother - especially if you have kids in the kitchen. I have a set of glass nesting bowls from William Sonoma that I use for food prep.

Ally @ Sweet & Savory said...

I added those same icons to the bottom of my posts! So very clever of blogger:)

This dish looks fabulous. I've heard so many good things about Bayless, I need to try one of his recipes!

Diana@Spain in Iowa said...

Alicia, this looks wonderful! I to enjoy Rick Bayless and will have to check out his contest on twitter. How fun :) You've inspired me to show you my workspace, it's not fancy though, lol!

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