Chipotle Braised Chicken & Rice

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Chicken thighs have always lived in the shadow of the chicken breast, and I have to admit that until recently, that’s where I thought they belonged. My mom never made thighs when I was growing up, and I remember being skeptical in college when the dining hall seemed to sneak them into every chicken dish. But then I started cooking with them at home, and it only took me a couple of recipes to realize I had it all wrong. Thighs are so much moister than breasts, and you know how sometimes the outside of a chicken breast is perfectly seasoned and delicious, but the inside is totally bland and dry? Not so with the humble thigh. It absorbs flavor down to the bone and is much more forgiving than a breast when it comes to cooking time. And they’re less expensive, too? I’m sorry I ever doubted you, chicken thigh.

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This Chipotle Braised Chicken and Rice is my take on Arroz con Pollo, the Spanish / Latin American dish of baked chicken and rice.  While my version could hardly be called traditional, it’s a little punchier and smokier than the classic thanks to poblano and chipotle peppers. And with fire-roasted tomatoes, chicken stock, and almost a can of beer, the braising liquid turns into the most delicious sauce.

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What I love about this recipe is that everything cooks in one pot. You brown the chicken thighs, then sauté the vegetables, then braise everything together, and finally, add the rice directly to the pot.  It’s easy enough for a weeknight when want you something special for dinner, but you don’t feel like a big ordeal and a sink full of dishes. (Does anyone ever feel like that?) But it’s the toppings that elevate this from a weeknight staple to dinner party food. 

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I serve the chicken and rice in shallow bowls topped with sliced avocado, a big dollop of sour cream, a slice of lime, and chopped herbs. (Cilantro if you like it, parsley if you don’t.)  The toppings make the whole thing fun to eat and are also a great balance to the heat in the dish.  Make a big batch of margaritas and some guac to start, and you have a perfect menu that’s a total crowd pleaser. And thanks to my new BFF chicken thighs, your party won’t break the bank either. 

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Chipotle Braised Chicken and Rice


Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (2½-3½ pounds total)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ cups chopped yellow onion (1 large)
  • 1 cup (1/2-inch diced) poblano pepper (1 large)
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 cup light-colored beer, such as Modelo
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed, fire-roasted tomatoes, such as Muir Glen
  • 2 tablespoons diced chipotle peppers in adobo (2 peppers)
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce, from the can of chipotle peppers
  • 2 cups good-quality chicken stock
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 lime, halved through the stem and sliced crosswise 1/4-inch thick, for serving
  • sour cream, sliced avocado, and chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium (11-inch) Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels and sprinkle both sides liberally with salt and pepper. Place four chicken thighs, skin side down, in the pot and cook for 6-7 minutes without moving, until browned. Turn the pieces over and cook, skin side up, for 3-4 minutes, until browned. Remove to a plate and set aside. Repeat with the remaining four thighs.

Drain about half the fat from the pot, reduce the heat to low and add the onion, poblano pepper, garlic, cumin and oregano. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the peppers are tender. Add the beer and cook for 1 minute, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, chicken stock, and 2 teaspoons salt and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, then add the chicken thighs, along with any juices that have accumulated on the plate.

Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Add the rice, stirring gently to make sure all the rice is submerged in the braising liquid, and return to the oven for 25 more minutes, covered, until the rice is almost tender and the broth has thickened. Set aside, covered, for 10 minutes. Stir in the lime juice, then serve immediately in shallow bowls, topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, a lime slice, and chopped parsley or cilantro.


Baked Goat Cheese with Balsamic Glazed Figs

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Did you ever notice that no matter what else you serve at a party, if you put out any kind of warm, melty cheese, it will be devoured in about thirty seconds? This Baked Goat Cheese with Balsamic Glazed Figs is no exception. It’s a serious crowd pleaser and a lighter alternative to baked Brie or Camembert. And with fresh rosemary, dried figs, chopped pistachios and a generous drizzle of honey, it’s the perfect festive appetizer for a holiday spread.

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I love fresh figs, but with their short season they can be hard to find. Dried figs, plumped up with balsamic vinegar, honey and fresh orange juice, are just as sweet and delicious.  I spoon them onto warm goat cheese flavored with rosemary and chili flakes for a spread that’s savory, sweet, and a little spicy. If you can find Mike’s Hot Honey or another spicy honey, it’s especially good drizzled over the goat cheese just before serving. 

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Serve this right from the oven (on a hotpad!) with plain crackers or crusty baguette slices. Then take a step back and watch it disappear before your eyes. In fact, you might as well make two while you’re at it! I’m making these for a Christmas brunch this weekend and am planning on doing exactly that. 

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Baked Goat Cheese with Balsamic Glazed Figs

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces plain, creamy goat cheese, softened at room temperature for 30 minutes
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup dried Calimyrna figs
  • 1 tablespoon honey, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon shelled roasted and salted pistachios, roughly chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer) combine the goat cheese, cream cheese, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and salt. Beat for 2 minutes on medium-high speed, until smooth and lightly whipped.

Transfer to a small (7 or 8-inch diameter) ovenproof skillet or shallow baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes until puffed and lightly browed around the edges.

Meanwhile, remove the hard stems from the figs and cut them into quarters. Combine the figs, honey, vinegar, and orange juice in a small saucepan. (The figs should fit snugly in one layer.) Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the liquid has reduced to a thick glaze, about 8-10 minutes.

Carefully spoon the figs and any remaining liquid onto the center of the goat cheese.  Sprinkle the pistachios over the figs, drizzle the cheese generously with honey, and serve hot directly from the baking dish with pita chips or thin slices of baguette.