Have you ever made tacos or burritos--or anything, really--with grilled or sauteed chicken all shredded up in it and been disappointed that it was too dry or not soft enough or not shreddy enough and just not like the kind they use in Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants? Well, I have. I love crispy chicken, and I am a fan of Maillard Reactions, but sometimes I want my chicken Not to fight back. To shred into little fibers that are moist and soft and blend well with refried beans without poking the inside of my mouth with little pointy brown bits.
Anyway, last week we received a boatload of peppers in our produce box. Enormous jalapenos and a couple of purple bell peppers and some big, long, fat green guys that might have a name. Give me a couple of peppers, and I'll probably cut them in strips and add them to a stir fry, but when presented with a Very Ton, I become Uncertain what to do with the bounty. Then, my brain thought: stuffed! Enormous jalapeno poppers and normal-sized stuffed bell peppers. Plus, why not stuff the nameless ones, too?
This also seemed like the Correct Time for Mexican flavors. And non-poky shredded chicken. And since I wanted shredded chicken--not diced, chunked or sliced, but shredded--I figured my best bet was braising (minus the browning step). Plus I'd also have some stock to use in a few different ways. Once I had the stock made, it really was a pretty simple matter of splitting and deseeding and stuffing the peppers.
Oh, about the stuffing. I saw a lot of recipes that included egg and/or breadcrumbs, but I didn't want to make Meatloaf-in-a-Pepper. It's too hot out right now to have something that dense, so I just tossed a few ingredients together with a bit of the chicken stock (useful already!) and used that as the stuffing.
In cooler months, I might consider using more of a binder, but the non-bound filling was just perfect in this hot weather As a matter of fact, if you make stuffed peppers frequently, I am now going to encourage you to try leaving out your usual binder. I think you might like how light the dish becomes without it.
So, here's the run down:
- Make stock with whole chicken (or Parts)
- Cool chicken in broth. Shred meat.
- Strain broth for Future Use.
- Make stuffing.
- Stuff peppers.
- Decide to make some cilantro-lime rice to go with the peppers. Use the stock as the cooking liquid.
Here's how I made the stock:
I bought a pack of organic grilling chicken. Which meant two enormous breasts and four legs. I don't want to see the chicken that died to give me that assortment...
Anyway, I tossed them--skin and all--into a Dutch oven along with a chunked up onion, a couple of whole cloves of garlic, organic chicken stock and cold water to barely cover. I seasoned the whole deal with a fair amount of cumin, a bit of salt and pepper, and a couple of whole chipotles in adobo. I brought everyone up to a boil then reduced the heat to low-ish and simmered, partially covered, for about 3 1/2 hours.
I let the chicken cool in the liquid and then chilled the whole pot overnight. It set up like chipotle chicken jelly. It was pretty exciting.
The next morning, I got rid of the chicken skin and shredded all the meat. It separated into perfect Mexican restaurant shreds--lovely. Hooray for braised chicken! I refrigerated the meat for Later use, heated the stock just a bit to De-Jelly it and then strained it. Back in the fridge that went, too.
And that brings us to T Minus 90 Minutes Until Dinner.
- 3 ears sweet corn, cut from the cob
- 1 can black beans, well rinsed and drained (or cook your own--you'll need about 2 cups of cooked beans)
- 1-2 tomatoes (depending on how many you have or how much you like them), peeled, seeded and diced
- about 2 cups shredded chicken (dark, light or a mixture of the two)
- ½ cup chicken stock perked up with some lime juice (I used some of the chicken cooking liquid)
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- cumin, to taste (I used about 2 teaspoons)
- shredded pepper jack cheese (or cheese of your choosing, enough to stir some into the stuffing and to top each pepper liberally)
- 6 medium bell peppers, tops cut off and seeds removed (or any mixture of peppers you have. If they won't stand up on their bottoms like bell peppers, just cut them in half and remove the seeds and membranes)
- about ½-2/3 cups of chicken stock for the baking dish
- chopped fresh cilantro for garnish (only if you like it)
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Mix together the corn, black beans, tomatoes and chicken with enough stock to moisten the mixture.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper and cumin.
- Stir in some shredded cheese (use what you like. Even though I used pepper jack, I promise not to be upset).
- Season the empty peppers with a bit of salt and pepper.
- Loosely pile the filling into your peppers, and arrange them fairly snugly--but not tightly--in a 9"x13" baking dish.
- If you have extra filling, just evenly distribute it among the peppers, piling it up as necessary.
- Top each pepper with some more shredded cheese, and pour in stock to just cover the bottom of the pan by maybe ¼".
- Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the peppers are soft-but-not-falling-apart and the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with your favorite Mexican-ish Condiments.
And there you have it.
The cilantro rice was really good, too. I just cooked basmati rice (it's what I had) in the chipotle chicken stock, lime juice, salt and pepper. Once it was cooked and right before serving, I stirred in a ton of fresh cilantro.