Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

The other night I wanted to make something different, but didn’t want to think about it too much. It had to be simplistic, not too fussy, but not boring either.

I found this recipe for baked chicken with roasted tomatillo sauce on Serious Eats. They got the salsa recipe from Rick Bayless’s Salsas that Cook. When I think of Rick Bayless, I think of Chicago and a long weekend I spent there with two girlfriends, Teresa and Andrea, from Arlington VA. It’s a special memory because it was the last time I got to be with my friend Andrea who died a few months later – cancer.

We had a great weekend together. One night we had dinner at Topolobampo and saw Rick Bayless in the flesh, well, in his chef’s jacket. I’ve always loved visiting Chicago but now the city and the O’Hare terminal where I said good-bye to Andrea will always be even more special to me. I could write a whole blog post about Andrea; she had an amazing spirit and a zest for life. “You can sleep when you’re dead,” she used to always say to me when dragging me out to some fun event. As cliché as it may sound, she truly did grab the gusto.

Back to the kitchen. I don’t cook with tomatillos that often. Honestly, I forgot about them as an option. But I rediscovered, when making this salsa, how tasty they are. They’re in season from May to November, but peak in August. I’m going to take advantage while I can, maybe by making this salsa again.

This dinner fit my lazy specifications. It was quick to make, not Rachael Ray quick, but easy enough to throw together. Roast some veggies, chop them, mix them up with cream, dump it on chicken and cook. Pretty simple.

I didn’t think the sauce was that hot, so if you like spicy heat, add another serrano or two. If you can’t find serrano peppers, use poblanos, jalapenos or whatever you can find, but adjust the number of peppers according to their heat. I just happen to have the Scoville scale ready for you. Poblanos and jalapenos aren’t as hot as serranos, but they’re bigger. So good luck with that math.

mexican bayless baked chicken tomatillo salsa cream sauce recipe

Not much to look oh, but tasty

Baked Chicken with Roasted Tomatillo Cream Sauce

You’ll need a sheet pan (baking sheet), food processor or blender, medium bowl and baking dish.

  • 1/2 pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed and halved
  • 3 good-sized cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
  • 2-3 serrano peppers, stemmed
  • 1/2 onion, cut into wedges
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Preheat broiler. Spread tomatillos, garlic, peppers and onion on a sheet pan. Broil until charred and soft, turning once during cooking, about 2-3 minutes per side. Keep an eye on them. To prevent the garlic cloves from burning, I covered them with the tomatillos when I turned everything over. After you take the pan out of the oven, reduce the heat to 400.

Once the vegetables have cooled slightly, put them in a food processor with the cilantro. Pulse until finely chopped but still a bit chunky, not a puree. Add a tablespoon or two of water to get it a bit more saucy. If you don’t have a food processor or blender, just chop it all by hand and mix water in at the end. Season with salt.

In a medium bowl, stir together the tomatillo salsa and the cream. Put the chicken in a baking dish that holds everything snugly in one layer and cover with the tomatillo-cream sauce.

Bake the chicken until just cooked through, 25-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken.

Original recipe: Baked Chicken with Roasted Tomatillo Cream Sauce, Serious Eats

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