Chipotle Chicken

I think I’m having east coast withdrawal syndrome. In the form of seasonal food cravings, that is. In addition to the urge to hibernate, I’ve been fiercely craving hearty winter stews, even though the weather here in San Francisco has hit 70 or more a few times this week. In a pleasant departure from chili, bean soups, and lentils and refried beans which have been in heavy rotation these past few weeks, I was excited to stumble along this most delicious chicken chipotle casserole type thing. This smoky, spicy, savory, and hearty dish pretty much fulfilled my every craving.

After spending the day in the bookstore reading cookbooks all day long, I must admit that more often than not I head to the internet to find ideas for dinner. I’m a big fan of Martha Stewart’s website, and her Everyday Food Blog is a great source for easy weeknight meals – I found a version of this recipe with rice there, and decided to give it my own twists by changing up the grain. Israeli couscous, a type of little round pasta – goes great with the spicy chicken and chipotle peppers.

Chipotle Chicken with Mixed Grains
adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food
Serves 4

This recipe takes minimal prep time (about 15 minutes), but takes about an hour, including two 25 minute blocks that are completely unattended, so you will have plenty of time to check your email, watch a tivo’ed show, empty the dishwasher, play some cards, or whatever you want to do to wind down from the day.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (1.5 to 2 pounds)
coarse salt (I use Maldon), and ground pepper
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced (or 1 if you want a little less kick)
2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup long-grain white rice, or mixed grains*
Optional: Lime wedges and Cilantro, for serving

*I used a mix of long grain white rice (a quarter cup was all I had left in the pantry since I’ve mostly switched over to brown), and added 3/4 cups of Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain blend, which includes israeli cous cous, orzo, garbanzo beans and quinoa, and it ended up being so delicious that I think this is the way to go.

1. Take out a big pot or dutch oven, and heat the oil on medium high heat. Then, working in batches, brown the chicken thighs, and set aside on a plate, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. You want to work in batches so that the chicken browns – if the pan is too crowded it’s going to end up steaming them. This should take about 6 minutes or so, and you can start chopping the onions while the chicken cooks.

2. In the same pan, reduce the heat to medium, add your onions, and saute them for about five minutes until they start softening. Add your garlic, cumin, and chiles, and cook for about 3 minutes to let the garlic soften slightly. Add in your tomatoes, a teaspoon of salt, and stir for 3 more minutes. Finally, add a cup of water to the pot, and dump the chicken and juices back in, cover, turn the heat down slightly and let simmer for 25 minutes.

3. After 25 minutes, move some of the chicken to the side, and stir in rice and grains, making sure they are coated and submerged in the liquid, otherwise they won’t cook! Put the chicken back over, put the lid back on, and cook until rice and grains are cooked, about 25 more minutes.

4. Serve with lime wedges, cilantro, and a little sour cream or yogurt to cut the spice if you need it. Goes wonderfully with cheese quesadillas filled with Pepperjack, and also is delicious reheated or cold the next day for lunch.