I am a rule follower, according to a personality test I took a few years ago, disinclined to break tradition.
Obviously the test didn’t dive deep into my cooking philosophy.
Adapting recipes has become second nature to me after years of cooking.
It’s not necessarily that the original ingredients and directions are wrong. They’re just wrong for me: my tastes, my ingredients, my simplistic cooking style or my penchant for little clean-up afterward.
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My kitchen sometimes is more like an experimental lab than a smooth-running production plant.
I showcase my successes in this column, rarely the mishaps. But, even the disasters guide my forward progress as I read recipes.
“Don’t try that one; it won’t taste good,” I hear in my head.
Other times the voice says, “This dish is tempting, but has too many steps. There’ll be a lot of dishes afterward. Can I make it simpler?”
Sometimes the conversation is launched with a sentence that starts with two words: “What if…?”
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That cerebral exploration lead to transforming a puzzling recipe with great flavors into the following recipe for Creamy Green Chile Chicken. Sharing the adaptation process may inspire you to take liberties with other recipes you see.
The original recipe “Chicken Angelina” in the Junior League of Albuquerque’s cookbook “Simply Simpático: A Taste of New Mexico” (1981) had tempting flavors of chicken breasts simmered in a scratch-made cream sauce spiced with diced green chiles.
But, it had some steps that seemed unwarranted. The skin on the bone-in chicken breasts was to be removed, and then the chicken browned in butter, followed by baking in the oven. The chicken is topped with a sauce made by heating the green chiles in the sauté pan with diced onions, flour, chicken broth and cream. All that is then whirled in a blender and poured over the chicken before going into the oven.
I revamped the recipe, based on rethinking its techniques.
Usually a chicken is browned to crisp the skin and add appealing color. So, why not just cook the skinless chicken breasts in the oven and skip a step?
Or, even better, why not use boneless, skinless chicken breasts – or thighs – cut into-bite-sized pieces? They’ll cook quicker sautéed in a skillet.
As for the sauce, prepare it in the skillet too and skip the pureeing. Those ingredients are not off-putting if cooked until soft but still intact. That means fewer steps and not having to clean the blender afterward.
I also experimented with the ingredient measurements because the original sauce was too thin and runny to my liking.
The result is a creamy, mildly spicy chicken entrée that can be served over pasta, rice, polenta or riced cauliflower.
It’s a weeknight, budget-friendly dinner option that will take about 30 minutes to prepare, cook and serve, if you are proficient at prepping the ingredients as you cook.
Give the recipe a try. Or, let it inspire you to come up with your own variation.
Share your favorite recipes or food-related historical recollections by emailing Laura Gutschke at email@example.com.
Creamy Green Chile Chicken
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2-2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2-3), cut into 1-inch chunks (or, substitute chicken thighs)
1/2 teaspoon Goyo Adobo Original All-Purpose Seasoning (or other favorite all-purpose blend)
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1 (4-ounce) can green chile peppers, diced (recommend hot to stand up to the cream)*
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded Colby Jack, panela or queso fresco cheese
Four servings of cooked rice, pasta or polenta for serving.
1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for about 2-3 minutes.
2. Add chicken to skillet and sauté, stirring occasionally, until chicken is starting to brown on all sides. Season chicken with all-purpose seasoning, garlic, pepper and salt. Add green chiles. Stir and cook about 1 minute.
3. Sprinkle flour over chicken and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add brother and stir. When blended, add cream. Cook for about 5 minutes, until heated through. If necessary, reduce heat to prevent cream from boiling. Serve immediately over pasta, rice, riced cauliflower or polenta, with cheese on top. Yields 4 servings.
* Substitute one (7-ounce) can of hot salsa verde for the green chile peppers for a more spicy entree.
Laura Gutschke is a general assignment reporter and food columnist and manages online content for the Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.