Pollo a la Crema con Quelites a la Bayless (my way)
Rick Bayless is undoubtedly the most well-known proponent of Mexican cuisine in the U.S. Thanks to his research and documentation of authentic Mexican recipes more Americans have become comfortable adding Mexican fare to their everyday menu. Sure, there are other talented chefs and experts in the field of Authentic Mexican cooking, including Barbara Hansen, Diana Kennedy, Susana Trilling, Zarela Martinez and her son Aarón Sanchez. And fresh new faces like Marcela Valladolid, Patricia Jinich, and Sue Torres to name a few. But it is Chef Bayless who has made Mexican cuisine cool.
Before he was a Top Chef Master he was a PBS star. As a teen, I’d spent most Sunday mornings watching a line-up of culinary greats. I’d begin with Martha Stewart, move on to the The French Chef and end with Mexico: One Plate at a Time, this being my favorite. In each episode Chef Bayless would introduce a regional dish as he casually roamed the bustling open air markets of Oaxaca or the zócalo of Mexico City where he’d sample menudo, carnitas and molletes. I could smell the mole, see the chaoyte and nopales, and taste the salty, crispy carnitas. Chef Bayless was living my dream! As a young child my madrina had introduced me to food, culture and traditions from the heart of Mexico and Chef Bayless was enhancing my love and curiosity for all things Mexican, especially the food.
Although I immensely respect Mr. Bayless’ expertise, it is difficult for me to follow a recipe note for note. Recipes are guidelines, not rules. So one should be willing to stray from these guidelines to suit their personal tastes. Last week I made Chef Bayless’ recipe for Pollo a la Crema con Quelites with a few tweaks, of course.
3 chicken breasts (3 cups shredded chicken)
1/2 yellow onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
Roast the poblanos and jalapeños directly over an open flame or under a broiler. Flip regularly so they evenly blister and blacken on all sides, about 5 – 8 minutes. Wrap with a clean kitchen towel or place in a plastic baggy until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Remove charred membrane, stem and seeds. Rinse to remove any stray seeds or bits of skin. Slice into 1/4- inch thick strips. Set aside.
Rinse the chicken under cold running water, pat dry, then lightly salt both sides. In a large skillet, heat a Tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add 2 minced cloves of garlic and 1/2 chopped onion. Cook for about 2 minutes, until aromatic. Add the chicken to the pan in one layer. Cook until brown on one side, about 8 – 12 minutes, flip and reduce heat to medium. Cook on the other side until browned and so juices run clear when you slice into the meat, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and shred using two forks.
Scrape any bits of onion, garlic and chicken loose from the pan. Add remaining garlic, onion, poblano, jalapeño and spinach and cook on meduim heat for 2 minutes. Add shredded chicken and thyme, cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken broth OR bouillon plus water. Add the heavy cream and simmer for 15 minutes, until mixture has reduced by about half. Serve with hot corn or flour tortillas.