Towards the end of April into the early part of May, Mexican food takes center stage in our home for Cinco de Mayo. We think about all our favorite dishes and try out new things, but it’s always a little awkward with the way the seasons work because in my mind Mexican food goes hand-in-hand with summer. Some of the best produce for Mexican food--tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos—are all hot weather garden items, and we won’t harvest any until August.
So for the next several days I will cast my eyes longingly in the direction of all the out-of-season produce that’s running $3.99 a pound and up, reminding me once again why we grow our own and preserve what we can. Of course those hothouse vegetables just won’t taste the same since they’ve been picked before ripe. There’s nothing better than a sun-ripened tomato still warm and fresh from the garden, so we wait.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some good Mexican food, and in fact this dish is perfect for cool weather because spinach loves cool temperatures. This is one of our favorites from Rick Bayless, a smoky spicy dish with perfectly cooked chicken breast, still juicy and tender, not dried out, just remember to stick closely to the cooking time.
[Updated September 9, 2010.]
CHIPOTLE CHICKEN WITH CREAMY SPINACH
- small bowl
- large glass dish with lid (or plastic wrap)
- 9x13 (or similar size) broiler-proof baking dish
- 4 warm dinner plates (So the chicken doesn’t get cold while you cook the spinach and sauce.)
- 3 to 4-quart saucepan
- 2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo (finely chopped)
- 1¼ cups Crema Mexicana or heavy cream or crème fraiche
- 4 medium-large boneless skinless chicken breast halves (trimmed of fat)
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 6 cups stemmed spinach (rinsed and patted dry)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- In the small bowl, stir together the chopped chipotles and Crema Mexican. Smear all over the chicken breasts, then cover and refrigerate for several hours.
- Turn on the broiler and let it get very hot. Lay the chicken breasts in the baking dish, then place about 6 inches under the broiler and cook until good and brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and drizzle the rest of the cream around them, not on top. Set the pan back under the broiler and cook until the chicken is deep golden and no longer feels squishy when pressed, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn off the oven. Don’t forget.
- Place one chicken breast on each warm plate and keep them warm in the oven while preparing the spinach and sauce. They will only be in the oven for a few minutes, so don’t panic.
- Scrape the broiled cream mixture into the saucepan and add the broth and spinach. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir nearly constantly until the spinach wilts and the cream reduces, about 3 minutes. Taste and season with a little salt.
- Divide the spinach among the 4 plates and spoon the sauce around the chicken and spinach. Serve immediately.