Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mexican Chicken Stacks

There is no such thing as Mexi-can’t food.   There is only Mexican.   Cheesy? Yes.  But there must be something about the word, “Mexican”.  Put it in front of any other type of food and it’s as if you can’t go wrong.  It reminds me of good mash-up music.  Overlay two separate things and somehow it becomes a perfect union.  How else could Mexican lasagna, Mexican burgers, Mexican ice cream, or Mexican pizza work so well? With a best friend visiting for the weekend, it was time for my own Mexican mash-up. 

I started with a slice of warm cornbread right from the oven.   This would be my cornerstone – I could build from here.  Cheese acted as the melty mortar for my Mexican stack.  Then brick-red Chili Tomato Sauce added a touch of crimson color and a fiery heat.  But I was careful to cool things down before they burned down the house.  The Lime-Grapefruit marinated chicken and even a few slices of avocado would be perfect touches.  Finally, I added the arugula, which made for a peppery, crunchy roof for this now towering Mexican Chicken Stack.   

Each bite was a symphony of flavors.  A full chorus of tastes and textures sang wildly as I dug through my stack.  It looked much like a deconstructed Taco Casserole, but tasted so much more gourmet.  I could taste every different section of the stack on its own, but all the parts worked so harmoniously with the whole.  I would recommend this to anyone who craves freshness and values making food from scratch. 

Mexican Chicken Stacks
- The layering really depends on your preference.  Mine went as follows: cornbread, cheese, tomato sauce, chicken, and arugula.  However, next time I think that I would switch the chicken and arugula and add avocado slices or sour cream to the very top.  I have also considered adding chipotle peppers to the Chili Tomato Sauce.  I have included my recipes for the Chili Tomato Sauce and the Lime-Grapefruit Chicken.  The cornbread I used was from Smitten Kitchen.  There is lots of room for variation in this recipe, so be creative!

Chili Tomato Sauce
2 T olive oil
½ cup onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
4 T ground chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper, ground
1 (28 oz) can tomatoes, diced (do not drain)
1 cup chicken broth

1.        Heat a large pot over medium heat until hot, add oil. 
2.       Add onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, or at least until onions are translucent.
3.       Add garlic; continue to sauté over medium heat for about 3 more minutes. 
4.       Add chili powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper.   Stir until aromatic – about 1 minute. 
5.       Add tomatoes and chicken broth and bring to a boil. 
6.       Reduce temperature to medium heat. 
7.       Reduce the sauce down by about half, or until the sauce thickens (about 15-20 minutes).

Lime-Grapefruit Chicken
Juice of 2 limes
Zest of 2 limes
Juice of 1 grapefruit
1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
Salt and pepper
Sugar or honey, to taste
Jalapeno, finely diced
2 green onions, finely sliced
2 chicken thigh and leg quarters, bone-in

1.       Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. 
2.       Use half of the marinade to add to the chicken; reserve the other half for a sauce for the chicken after it has been cooked.
3.       Marinade chicken for at least 30 minutes.   
4.       Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350˚ F.
5.       Bake chicken until juices run clear, about 30 minutes. 
6.       Remove chicken from bone, and shredding it.
7.       In a medium sized bowl, add the reserved marinade to the cooked chicken and refrigerate, covered, until ready to eat (up to one day).   

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