Thursday, July 19, 2012


When I spotted tomatillos at the farmer’s market, I immediately craved salsa verde. The trouble is, I only have one recipe that uses it. Sure, that recipe is awesome, but I was supposed to be having a sedate week while recovering from a bout of busyness, and I’d taken a sworn oath to myself not to undertake any complicated cooking projects. In my book, enchiladas count as complicated. Make sauce, make filling, make a mess of the kitchen trying to fill and roll up all those tortillas. Salsa verde is easy, though—just roast and puree!—and of course there are many other uses for it. What I wanted was an efficient salsa verde delivery vehicle, without resorting to just eating chips and salsa for dinner. This idea from Simply Recipes fit the bill perfectly. Drown chicken breasts in salsa verde, bake, top with cheese, serve over rice. I substituted quinoa instead, and let me tell you, quinoa mixed with salsa verde is an excellent thing. Chicken baked in salsa verde is an excellent thing. Leftover salsa verde eaten with a spoon is also an excellent thing, but let’s keep our focus on this recipe.

I didn’t change a thing; with only four ingredients, there wasn’t much to change. I suppose you could use storebought salsa verde if there’s one that you really like, but since the salsa is the main event here, I strongly suggest making your own. As I already mentioned, it’s super easy, and you can make it up to a few days ahead of time if necessary. (You only need to make a half-recipe, but I went ahead and made the full 5 cups; we just ate the extra with chips later in the week.) You could substitute boneless, skinless chicken thighs if you like, but you may need to cook them a few minutes longer. I usually prefer thighs, but the breasts were good here—cooking them in the salsa keeps them tender. I was also thinking that you could probably shred the chicken after cooking and dump the whole mess on a taco or tostada or something, for a delicious change of pace.

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1¼ to 1⅓ pounds)
2 cups tomatillo salsa verde
4 ounces grated pepper Jack cheese
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the chicken breasts in half to yield four total portions. (I did this horizontally, but I just realized that the original recipe does it the other way. I think I’ll stick with my method, because cutting them more thinly means that they stay well submerged in the salsa.) Place the chicken pieces in a single layer to cover the bottom of an 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish.

2. Cover the chicken pieces completely with the salsa verde (if there is exposed chicken, it will dry out). Place the baking dish in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. (If you have a meat thermometer, cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees.)

3. Meanwhile, place the quinoa in a saucepan with 2 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Remove dish from oven, sprinkle the cheese over the chicken, increase the oven heat to 400 degrees, and return the dish to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly.

5. Remove from oven. Serve chicken and sauce over quinoa and sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro.

Serves: 4
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

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