Another Mexican Feast
by Mark R. Vogel

         I love all kinds of ethnic cooking.  But when I want a really hearty meal I find myself returning to Latin fare more than any other cuisine.  And that’s why this is yet another Mexican feast!  It begins with chicken burritos made with a creamy sauce from poblano peppers and spinach.  It’s served with spicy refried beans and the coup de grâce, a pitcher of margaritas.  It doesn’t get much better than that. 

 

CHICKEN BURRITOS WITH CREAMY POBLANO-SPINACH SAUCE

 

For the poblano-spinach sauce:

 

3 poblano chiles, divided, (two for the sauce and one for the chicken burritos)

1 jalapeno chile

1 large handful baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup milk

1 cup chicken broth

Salt and pepper to taste

 

For the burritos:

 

2 large, boneless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper to taste

Vegetable oil, as needed

1 poblano chile from the sauce recipe above

½ teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon cumin

6 flour tortillas (or substitute corn tortillas and make enchiladas instead)

Grated cheese such as Monterey Jack, or a supermarket “Mexican cheese blend,” as needed

 

            Fully pre-heat your broiler.  Slice the stems off the three poblanos and one jalapeno and then cut the peppers in half vertically.  Remove the seeds.  Place the poblanos and jalapenos, skin side up on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Broil until the skins have blackened.  Remove from the broiler to cool.  Turn off the broiler and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the spinach into a blender.  When the peppers have cooled, remove the skins.  Place two of the poblanos and the jalapeno into the blender.  Cut the remaining poblano pepper into thin strips and reserve.

            Heat the butter in a saucepan.  Add the onion and on low to medium heat cook the onion until soft.  Do not brown the onion.  Add the garlic when the onion is almost done.  Add the flour and cook an additional minute or two.  Slowly whisk in the milk and chicken broth and continue to cook and whisk until the sauce thickens, about five minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour the mixture into the blender with the spinach and chiles.  Allow it to cool somewhat and then blend it.  Reserve the sauce in the blender.

            Butterfly the two chicken breasts by cutting them down the center parallel to the cutting board.  Season both sides of the breasts with salt and pepper.  Heat some vegetable oil in a large skillet until it starts to smoke.  Sear the first side of the chicken until fully browned, flip and sear the other side.  Remove the breasts and cut into thin strips.  Don’t worry if they’re not cooked through to the center as they will be added back to the pan to cook more.  Reheat the pan, adding more oil if necessary.  Return the chicken to the pan as well as the one reserved poblano that was cut into strips.  Add the chili powder and cumin.  Sauté a few minutes until the chicken is fully cooked and the poblano has softened. 

           

To make the burritos:

 

            Give the reserved sauce in the blender another whiz to mix it.  Pour some of the sauce into the bottom of a 9 X 13 baking dish and swish it around to cover.  Divide the chicken/poblano mixture amongst six flour tortillas.  Place a tortilla in the microwave for about ten seconds just to soften it.  Add 1/6 of the mixture to the center of the first tortilla.  Pour a little of the sauce over the chicken and then roll the burrito.  Place it seam –side down in the baking dish.  Repeat with the remaining five tortillas.  When finished pour the remainder of the sauce over the rolled burritos.  Sprinkle the burritos with cheese.  Place the baking dish into the oven until the cheese melts.  Serve with the refried beans and some margaritas, (recipes below).

 

BASIC REFRIED BEANS

 

Vegetable oil, (or even better), lard, as needed

1 small onion, chopped

1 poblano pepper, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 can pinto beans with their juices

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon achiote

Salt and black pepper to taste

Optional dried, ground cayenne or habanero pepper to taste

 

 

            Heat the oil or lard in a large skillet.  Add the onion and poblano and sauté.  When the vegetables are almost soft add the garlic.  Meanwhile empty the can of beans with their juices into a blender.  When the vegetables have softened, add them and their cooking oil, and the spices into the blender with the beans and puree.  With a rubber spatula, scrape out the mixture back into the skillet.  Cook until the mixture has thickened to your desired consistency.

Like so many recipes, alternatives abound.  The lard will absolutely impart more flavor but vegetable oil works as well.  Adjust the peppers and spices to suit your heat preference.  If you’re not a fan of heat, substitute some bell pepper for the poblano and ease up on the chili powder.  The consistency of the dish can vary as well.  Puree the mixture thoroughly for a silky texture or briefly for a more rustic presentation.  Finally, additional/alternative spice options include Mexican oregano, coriander, epazote, or cilantro. 

 

MARGARITA

 

This recipe will produce a small pitcher of margaritas.  Change the amount accordingly but use a ratio of 1.5 parts tequila, .5 parts triple sec, and 1 part lime juice.

 

12 oz. tequila

4 oz. triple sec or for a blue margarita use Blue Curacao

8 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice

 

          Whiz the ingredients in a blender.  Add ice to the blender if you prefer a frozen margarita.  Take a lime wedge, slice it through the center and slide it around the rim of your margarita glasses.  Then dip the rim in kosher salt.  Add ice to the glass, (if not making the frozen variation), a lime wedge and serve. 


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