I was never the type to skip to the back of the book to see how it turns out, but I can’t help dropping a spoiler here: the end of this story is my new absolute-favorite-of-all-time chicken recipe. Our tale began when a friend emailed and said she made a delicious chicken recipe she found online. She thoughtfully included the link for Honey Dijon Chicken Thighs, assured me that I would love it, and said I had to try it. I think she’s right, and I will (try it and also love it, I’m sure). In fact, as I was reading the recipe I was mentally checking off ingredients – check, check, check – yes indeed, I had everything I needed to put it together that very day.
But then (rising action here, if you are plotting the plot as we go)….I started clicking around in the same website, Our Life in the Kitchen (by the way, what a nice blog!), and that is when the real protagonist emerged: please allow me to introduce our main character, Chicken Thighs with Tomato Bacon Gravy. At this point its personality develops as all good characters do, and the story evolves into a combination thriller, romantic comedy, and fantasy. I added chipotles in adobo to the tomato bacon gravy for a serious zing of flavor excitement, we REALLY loved it, and it’s funny what a difference a little addition like that can make to turn an already good recipe into something downright magical. There’s something about the smoky flavor combination of chipotles and bacon that does supernatural things to ordinary chicken and tomatoes, and if this recipe were a book I bet it would be a bestseller. Not only that, we’ve included a side dish and vegetable suggestion to round out the meal, and in the next few days we’ll publish a sequel to use the leftovers in another main dish that is every bit as good as the first one.
Smokin’ Hot Chipotle Chicken with Creamy Bacon Tomato Gravy
Adapted from the Chicken Thighs with Tomato Bacon Gravy recipe by Our Life in the Kitchen
- ¼ pound bacon, diced
- 1 small onion, diced (I like a sweet onion for this recipe, but red would also be nice)
- Boneless skinless chicken pieces (I used two breast halves and two thighs and that was enough for two very generous servings – like I said, we really liked it – plus a six-serving yield from the follow-up recipe coming soon to make use of the leftovers; if you want more than two big servings the first day, just add a couple of additional chicken pieces, and the rest of the ingredient quantities can stay the same)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons olive or corn oil, if needed
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 14.5 can chopped tomatoes
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup water
- 2-4 chipotles in adobo, minced
- Salt to taste, if needed (wait until the end to salt, because you might not need it with the saltiness of the bacon)
In a dutch oven or large heavy frying pan with a lid, brown the bacon chunks over medium heat until they are crisp (don’t use a nonstick-coated pan, because you want to build up a nice layer of crusty drippings that you’ll later deglaze and turn into fabulous gravy). While the bacon is frying, mix together the cumin, coriander, and pepper and rub it into the chicken pieces (I cut the chicken pieces in half and also split each breast portion horizontally because they were quite thick). Remove the bacon pieces but leave the drippings in the pan; brown the diced onion until it is nicely caramelized and remove from the pan.
Now brown the chicken pieces, adding a little olive or corn oil if the remain bacon drippings don’t look like enough to do the job (resist the temptation to move the chicken pieces around in the pan right away – let them start to get brown first and then you’ll be able to turn them without having the meat stick). After both sides are brown, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the chicken is done and tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces to a plate (the bacon and onions could go on the same plate instead of using a separate bowl like I did).
Sprinkle the flour over the drippings in the pan and let it cook for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes with their juice and use a metal spatula to scrape up the browned layer of drippings that is sticking to the pan. Blend in the milk and water, and break up the tomato chunks a little by mashing with a fork (or use an immersion blender). Taste as you go while you are adding the minced chipotles – I used four and the result was very spicy (and we do like it hot), so you might start out with two or even one if you are serving the dish to little ones….if you don’t use a whole can of chipotles, they keep for a long time in the fridge and you can also freeze them individually with a little adobo in small snack-size plastic zip-top bags.
Return the chicken, bacon bits, and onion to the gravy mixture, spooning some of gravy over the chicken pieces, and cover with a lid. Let the chicken simmer on very low heat for another 10-20 minutes while you are finishing up the rest of the meal. Taste a bite to see if it needs a little sprinkle of salt, then serve with rice with fried plantains and a green vegetable or salad.
Rice with Fried Plantains
- 1 firm plantain, sliced thinly
- 2 tablespoons olive or corn oil
- ½ cup chopped leek or onion
- 1 cup long-grained rice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Pinch of saffron (mine comes in a pre-measured 1/100 gram packet)
- 2½ cups hot water
Fry the plantain slices in the oil, turning to cook both sides until they are golden and crispy (you can use the same pan you’ll cook the rice in, doing the plantain slices in batches if they won’t fit in a single layer). Remove the plantain slices and hold at room temperature.
Add the rice and chopped leeks or onions to the pot and stir to coat with oil. Cook, stirring frequently, until many of the rice grains are golden and the leek or onion is tender (you can prepare the plantain and rice up to this point ahead of time, or during the time you are browning the bacon and onions for the chipotle chicken). Grind the salt and saffron threads together in a mortar or use the back of a spoon to grind against the side of a small round cup or bowl.
When the chicken has about 20 minutes to go, add the saffron and salt to the rice and rinse the mortar or cup you ground the mixture in with the 2 ½ cups hot water, pouring it over the rice pan to get all of the saffron residue into the rice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Let the rice cook for about 15 minutes or until it is done and fluff with a fork. Top each serving with slices of fried plantain.
Sautéed Broccoli Stem
This is a quick and delicious way to use the part of a broccoli head that is often discarded. One good-sized stem is enough for two servings.
Cut the florets from the stem and reserve them for another use. Slice off the dried end of the broccoli stem and hold the stem upright on a cutting board. Use a paring knife to thinly peel the stem, then cut the stem lengthwise into several sticks and slice thinly. If it doesn’t look like the stem will yield as many servings as you want, cut up some of the florets to add as well.
Sauté in a little olive oil until the pieces of broccoli stem are tender-crisp and lightly browned, about five minutes. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and serve.
The recipe we’ll post next time is perfect for an easy Cinco de Mayo meal – besides the leftovers from today’s recipe you’ll need some flour tortillas, a sweet potato, and some milk. As a friend of mine often exclaims after a particularly good meal, “good groceries!” Come on back!