Chicken Monterey

This post is long overdue.

But you know what?  I used to stress and worry about posting late, or skipping a week here or there, or only having one recipe to post instead of two.  But now I realize that although I’m sure that you’re all sitting at your computer, or staring at your computer screen, or constantly refreshing your ipad, just to be the first to see my newest post… it’s not a big deal if I miss one or two or four.  If you’re a long-time reader, you’re going to check back occasionally anyway and you’ll be delighted if there are any new posts, and you aren’t terribly disappointed if there’s nothing new.  Got it?  Am I right?

Good.  Thought so.

So all of that said, I actually made this recipe a few weeks ago and didn’t find myself with the time or inclination to post it then, but I decided to post it now anyhow.  Just after the Superbowl (yes, it was that long ago), I had leftover cilantro, pasta sauce, salsa, and a mighty taste for rice and beans.  We had dinner with Gina, Peter, Molly and John the night before, and John made the most delicious rice and beans I’ve maybe ever tasted.  And I had this idea to use sweet and herbal rice and beans as a base for a crispy piece of chicken.  And then it occurred to me that I could use the rice and beans as a replacement for the pasta that usually sits under Chicken Parmesan.  Mix some salsa with the pasta sauce to make a spicy tomato sauce, and top it with a mellowing Monterey Jack cheese, finished with a few leaves of cilantro.

And what to call it?  I thought about Crispy Chicken with Spicy Tomato Sauce + Beans and Rice, but that felt, well, more than a little convoluted.  So I settled on a description which describes the dish simply, but doesn’t say everything.  Sometimes it’s better to show than to tell.


Difficulty
easy
Serves
8
Time
90 min

Ingredients

FOR THE RICE & BEANS

  • 1 cup dry red kidney beans, soaked overnight and rinsed
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • The juice of 1 lime (about 1-2 tbsp)

FOR THE CHICKEN

  • 1/3 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp chili powder, separated
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

FOR SERVING

  • 10 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
  • Hot sauce (optional)
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, for serving (optional)

In a large saucepan, cover the soaked beans with water.  Bring them up to boil, then reduce heat to low.  Cook for 1 hour, then add the rice, bay leaf, peppercorns, butter, cumin, and about 4 cups of water.  Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, or until rice is tender.  Stir in salt and lime juice… taste and continue to add salt until the flavors balance.  Set this mix aside.

Set up a dredging station: on one plate, whisk together the flour + 1 tsp chili powder; in a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk; in a third bowl, whisk together the panko and the other 1 tsp chili powder.  Dredge the chicken thighs in the flour, then egg, then panko, shaking off excess at each step.  Once they’ve all been dredged, refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, or up to 35, to help the breading set up a bit.  In a large skillet, heat up just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Pan-fry the chicken until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

To serve, plate a bowl of the rice and beans, then top with chicken, then some of the sauce, then cheese.  Heat in the oven until the cheese melts, about 3-5 minutes.  Top with cilantro and hot sauce, if desired.

I have to be honest that the rice and beans turned out a little over-wrought… the peppercorns, which I thought were going to be so elegant, turned out to be hard to find after it was cooked, and could have just as easily been ground pepper.  The lime got lost when juiced into the rice and beans… would have been better to finish each bowl with a squeeze of fresh lime.  The only trick I’ve learned with dry beans and rice is that you shouldn’t bring salt anywhere near the beans while they soak or cook, and that you should salt them to taste after the whole thing is done.  Makes a world of difference in terms of texture and cook time.

That said, the chicken is crispy and yummy, the spicy tomato sauce is pretty wonderful, and the cheese smoothes it all out.  If you don’t like cilantro, that’s cool… just sub in some green onion or fresh parsley.  Just something bright and fresh to finish the dish.

When it’s all said and done, this is a success.  Maybe not my absolute favorite, but still pretty good.

Happy cooking!

Comments are closed.