Tuesday, September 3, 2013

skillet fajitas with hatch rajas con crema & sopa de papas y rajas con crema

I sit here with my belly full.  Taking in the moment of eating such a simple and absolutely delicious lunch; pure elation and fulfillment.  I enjoy experiencing eating moments such as these.  Especially when I prepare it, sit down at my own will, in my own chair and enjoy the simple pleasure of nourishment.  But then again I'd be as big as this house if I felt so gushingly toward every meal.

As I was spooning through the velvety texture of my soup, I couldn't help but to think of my friend, "Practically Canadian Lee".  With one bite I knew this soup would hit her Tex-Mex, chile-loving soul.  A product of leftovers, I simply simmered red potatoes in chicken stock, added the rajas con crema from the previous night's fajita dinner, stirred in a little bit of half-n-half for a beautiful silky texture, added salt and pureed it with my handy immersion blender.
I added a few leftover bites of fajita meat to my bowl and ate.  I finished, then I ate a little bit more.  Then I made myself set the bowl in the sink.  But then my finger scooped a little bit of soup out of the pot just for one last tiny lick.  And then it did it again.  And again.  And again!  Until I finally gained composer and walked out of the kitchen.  What a heathen I am!
I must not leave out the origin of my lunch which was last night's dinner.  Cook's Illustrated's Skillet Chicken Fajitas is probably my favorite new recipe of the year.  This recipe is simple, the chicken is juicy, tender and flavorful and I would like to say very comparable to a fajita dinner in a restaurant.  Serve with rajas con crema, fluffy tortillas and your favorite fillings and you will provide your family a bang-up, delicious meal.

So, "Practically Canadian Lee", here is a belated birthday gift to you.  May you enjoy a fajita dinner amongst friends on a cool Michigan autumn day and then cozy up to a mug of soup the next.

Skillet Chicken Fajitas
serves 4

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
4 garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded to 1/2-inch thickness

Rajas con Crema
Rajas literally means "strips" and is a traditional accompaniment hailing from the southern and central regions of Mexico.  It is traditionally made with poblanos but here it is made with the late summer seasonal favorite, hatch chiles.

3-4 hatch chile peppers, stemmed, halved, and seeded
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup half-n-half
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Flour tortillas, warmed
Pickled Vegetables
Lime Wedges

1.  FOR THE CHICKEN:  Place 3 tablespoons oil, lime juice, garlic, paprika, sugar, salt, cumin, pepper, and cayenne together in a plastic gallon bag.  Squish to combine.  Add chicken and toss to coat.  Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 60 minutes.

2.  FOR THE RAJAS CON CREMA:  Meanwhile, adjust one oven rack on the lowest position, one in the middle and the other on the highest position and heat the broiler.  Arrange chiles, skin side up, on aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and press to flatten.  Broil until skin in charred and puffed, 4-10 minutes, rotating halfway through cooking.Transfer chiles to a bowl, cover with plastic, and let steam for 10 minutes.  Rub majority of skin from poblanos and discard; slice into 1/4-inch strips.

3.  Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking.  Add onion and cook until charred and just softened, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic, thyme, and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.  Add half-n-half and cook, stirring frequently, until reduced and half-n-half lightly coats onion, 2 minutes.  Add chiles, lime juice, salt and pepper and toss to coat.  Transfer vegetables to bowl, cover, and place on middle oven rack.  Wipe out skillet with paper towel.

4.  Remove chicken from marinade and wipe off excess.  Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in now empty skillet over high heat until just smoking.  Add chicken and cook without moving it until bottom side is well charred, about 4 minutes.  Flip chicken; transfer skillet to lower oven rack.  Bake until chicken registers 160 degrees, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes; do not wash out skillet.

5.  Slice chicken crosswise into 1/4-inch thick strips.  Return chicken strips to skillet and toss to coat with pan juices.  To serve, spoon few pieces of chicken into the center of warmed tortilla and top with spoonful of rajas con crema, cilantro, vegetables and other accompaniments.

Sopa De Papas Y Rajas Con Crema 
(Potato and Rajas Con Crema Soup)
 A soup made from leftover charred onions and peppers and simmered potatoes.  A true recipe made just by "eyeballing it".  Simple.  Filling.  Delicious.
serves 3-4

3/4 pound red skinned potatoes, washed, halved and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 tablespoon butter
Chicken Stock
1/3-1/2 cup leftover rajas con crema
3-4 tablespoons half-n-half
leftover chicken fajitas, optional
  1. Saute potatoes in butter until coated.  Add chicken stock until potatoes are just covered (not in total submersion).  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.  Cover and cook until potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add leftover rajas con crema and half-n-half and puree using a blender or immersion blender.  Add more chicken stock and/or half-n-half to achieve your preferred cream soup consistency. (Stock will thin your soup, half-n-half will add body and a velvety texture)
  3. Adjust seasonings. Ladle into bowls, add a touch of half-n-half for richness, top with chopped chicken and cilantro if desired.

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