Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cazuela de Pollo is Simply Budget Friendly Chicken Casserole with a Tex-Mex Spin

It seems that as I travel around the country most every place has their own version of Mexican food.  However, I learned to love Mexican food while living in Dallas - the home of truly inspired and elevated Tex-Mex food.  In fact the renowned chefs who popularized Southwest cuisine, Dean Fearing and Stephan Pyles worked together at The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas for decades serving their amazing interpretations of truly elevated South-of-the-Border dishes.  So for me the clean flavors, the beautiful presentation and the balanced spicing of this style of Mexican food is the version I gravitate to when creating my own dishes.

So this week I'm transforming one of those chickens I purchased on sale at Whole Foods into 3 different South-of-the-Border meals for you to enjoy!  Each of them is really special, totally delicious, takes very little time and offer loads of nutrition!

Just like with the last chicken, I started with a 3 pound whole organic chicken.  I prepared a rub to season it, and then I roasted it with lots of veggies, quinoa and adzuki beans (creating a wonderful roasted pilaf right in the roasting pan) for the first night's dinner.  Over the next few day's I'll transform the left-overs into 2 other dishes I think you will love.  Each of them looks so different that no one will ever guess you are using left-overs!

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, or you simply want a meatless dish, you can use the same rub and create these dishes with tempeh.  The secret to making your tempeh take on these flavors more intensely is to apply the rub to all sides of the block in the morning and marinate it all day.  Then bake according to the directions for the chicken.

I started by creating a dry spice rub that is absolutely filled with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herbs and spices!  Its deep red hues add a look and feeling of decadence to your roasted chicken.  You can always apply the rub directly on top of the skin and call it enough, but I really like to apply it under the skin so the chicken absorbs the flavors more fully.  Plus I remove the skin before serving so I don't want to dispose of all that flavor.  However, I do like to roast the chicken with its skin on to keep it from drying out during its time in the oven and remove it just before carving.

Rojo Rub Especias
2 teaspoons Mexican seasoning*
1/2 teaspoon cacao powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Thoroughly combine dry spices, mustard, lime juice and cilantro to make a paste.

Since you will be removing the skin later, to make this simple make a cut in the skin along the breast bone and separate the skin away from the breast.  Using your fingers separate it from the legs and thighs. 

Coat the chicken with the spice paste, replace the skin and apply remaining paste to the inside and outside of the chicken.  Allow chicken to marinate in the rub while preparing the veggies for your cazuela.

*If you do not have a favorite GF Mexican seasoning blend here’s one you can make:

GF Mexican Seasoning Blend
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dry cilantro
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano

Blend thoroughly and store in an air-tight container up to 1 year.

Cazuela de Pollo
This is a truly amazing one pot, roasted, chicken and veggie dish that will save you tons of time and stretch your food budget while feeding your body and soul!  The chicken is succulent, the veggies tender, the quinoa and beans are well seasoned and the total dish is so pretty to serve!  The herbs and spices are powerful anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories, the veggie combo is loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber.  The beans and quinoa provide texture, flavor, fiber and lots of protein.  I can assure you that this is a meal fit for a dinner party or an easy weeknight dinner!
Serves 6

2 cups Muir Glen crushed fire roasted tomatoes
1 cup Very Veggie Juice
1 cup soaked and sprouted Adzuki beans or 1 15 ounce can well drained
1 1/4 cups quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery – 2 stalks
3 cups thinly sliced red onion – 1 large onion
2 teaspoons roughly chopped garlic
3 cups zucchini in 2 inch pieces
1 large red or yellow pepper diced
3 cups butternut squash in 3/4 inch dice
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons lime juice

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large covered casserole or baking dish, layer the tomatoes, juice quinoa and beans, making certain that they are completely covered.  Now layer each veggie as you slice or dice it.  Sprinkle with lime juice, salt, chili powder and black pepper.

Nestle the chicken in the center of the pot and roast 15 minutes uncovered.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325, cover your dish and roast an additional 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow the chicken to rest 15 minutes before carving into pieces.  This time allows the natural juices to redistribute, ensuring your chicken will be tender and juicy.

Meanwhile, warm your serving platter, spoon out the veggie, quinoa and beans making a bed for your chicken.  Garnish with cilantro, lime wedges or pico de gallo for a bit of fresh texture.

I hope you and your family or friends enjoy this one as much as I do!  Remember to watch for the remaining recipes using the left-overs from this meal later in the week!

Dr. P

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