chicken

Chicken Riggies

If you have ever been to Upstate New York you likely to be familiar with Chicken Riggies.  This is one of those great regional American recipes that seems to have evolved over time and become ubiquitous.  Every time I go to visit family I try to get my hands on this Italian American dish that is simultaneously sweet, spicy, creamy and satisfying.  Since today is my dear Aunt Janice’s birthday I thought it would be fitting to take a stab at my own version of this Upstate classic in her honor.  She has been one of my best cheerleaders during this blog and even got me my very own A Capitol Contessa apron!

This isn’t a light dish but those folks in Syracuse and Rochester deserve some hearty comfort food given the winters they have to endure.  I have searched and searched for lots of different versions – just like most American dishes people take the base recipe and make it their own.  Rachel Ray (Upstate New York girl) has done a version on her show that I have tried but it didn’t quite do it justice.  Some sleuthing found that the addition of sherry really adds a subtle sweetness that is great with the hot peppers and cream.  I also tossed in some spicy arugula at the very end to add some green (that cancels out the cream right?) and add another layer of flavor.  Happy birthday Auntie Jan – sending lots and lots of love your way.

Oh and apologies for not posting on Wednesday – I was traveling internationally for work and didn’t quite get my act together.  It was my first missed post which I think is pretty good but I promise I won’t make a habit out of it!

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Chicken Riggies

  • 1 pound of chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper (or approximately 10 mini bell peppers), sliced
  • 8 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or less if you don’t want it as spicy)
  • 6 to 8 hot pickled peppers (like pepadews), sliced
  • 1 cup sherry
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 pound rigatoni (riggies!)
  • a couple handfuls of arugula
  • grated parmesan

Heat the largest skillet you have over medium high heat and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the chicken and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes or so until the pieces are browned and just about cooked through.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and add more oil if you need it.  Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, fennel seeds, and crushed red pepper.  Sauté until the onions and peppers soften and they take on a little color, about 5 minutes.  Add the pickled peppers and cook for 1 minute.

Use the sherry to deglaze the pan and cook down for another minute or until most of the sherry has cooked off.  Carefully add the crushed tomatoes (try not to splatter yourself) and chicken, then stir everything together until combined.  Meanwhile boil water and cook the rigatoni in salted water until tender, about 7 minutes.  While the pasta is cooking let the sauce cook down over a low simmer.  Add the cream to the sauce, stirring it in until everything is nice and pink.  Drain the pasta and stir it all together (if your pan isn’t big enough just pour the sauce over the rigatoni in a larger bowl).

Stir in the arugula so it wilts into the dish and serve with parmesan.

Chicken and Rice Summer Salad

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Sometimes I can really over romanticize meals and entertaining.  I blame it on years of Martha Stewart magazine spreads of perfectly coordinated but yet spontaneous gatherings.  Then Pinterest came along and just about ruined me.  The never-ending stream of precious parties (thrown by actual event planners I might add) makes me ache to be that pulled together and cool.  Picnics in particular have a certain allure – everyone gathered around a giant blanket eating individually portioned food, drinking champagne and always an adorable dog or kid thrown into the mix.  So every summer I am desperate to create a picnic but usually it’s deemed too hot or too buggy (why is no one in those magazine spreads shown dousing themselves in Off??).  Last year I finally got my chance with a fall trip to a Virgina vineyard – I made a lovely spread for Patrick and our friends Dave and Ashley, right down to the monogrammed bags.  People at the vineyard kept asking at what gourmet shop we had bought such awesome  lunches – I was beyond proud of myself.

Just a couple of weeks ago opportunity struck again – we were staying in our friend’s house on the Eastern Shore and didn’t feel like shleping a ton of food up with us to cook.  They have a great picnic table by the water so I created a greek themed picnic dinner complete with this Chicken and Rice Summer Salad.  I wanted everything to be served room temp and easy so I rounded out the menu with olives, pepadew peppers, the greek caprese salad I posted in the Caprese Twists post, store-bought hummus and pita.  The salad really was the star with carmelized shallots, tender zucchini and the punchy dressing.  This salad is perfect for picnics or for bringing into work for lunch, as it gets better with a little time.  I was nervous to dress it too soon so I packed the dressing separately and dressed it before eating but we had leftovers the next day and they were delicious so if you want to go ahead and dress it by all means.  Hope you all can squeeze in some more picnics before the end of the summer!

Chicken and Rice Summer Salad 

  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 2 small zucchini or 1 large, grated
  • 2 chopped fresno chilis (or 1 jalapeno seeded), chopped
  • 2 cups of cooked white or brown rice
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts (poached or from a rotisserie chicken), shredded
  • 4-6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced or grated
  • the juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the shallots and cook for approximately 5 minutes until nicely browned and carmelized.  Remove with a slotted spoon and reduce the heat to medium.  Add the zucchini and season with salt and pepper – add more olive oil if needed.  Grating zucchini is a “grate” trick – it makes them really quick cooking and easy to incorporate into pasta sauces, salads like this one, or soups.

Cook for 5 minutes more until the zucchini are no longer raw, have softened and most of the liquid has cooked off.  In a small bowl whisk 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice and zest, dijon mustard, garlic and honey together with salt and pepper.  In a larger bowl combine the shallots, zucchini, rice, chicken, and fresnos.  If you are serving right away toss with the dressing.  If it seems a little dry you can drizzle it with a bit more olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.  If you are making it ahead you can keep the dressing separate and store for up to 3 days in the fridge, then toss before serving.

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Aji Amarillo Sauce

I hope you all enjoyed the rundown of Ocopa, a terrific Peruvian place here in DC.  This place is right in my neighborhood but if you are not so lucky I thought I would follow it up with a Peruvian recipe of my own.  One of the things Peru is most known for, at least here in the US, is their terrific rotisserie chicken that they serve with super flavorful dipping sauces.  There are a bunch of to-go chicken spots in the DC metro area and each has their own recipie for their aji amarillo sauce (translates into yellow chili pepper sauce) that is carefully guarded and never given out, even to super nice food bloggers.  Google didn’t really help me much, as many of the recipes I found on there either relied too heavily on the pepper paste or had too much mayo.  After a lot of tries I think this comes pretty close to what I was looking for but will leave it to all of you to judge.  Yes, you do have to go out and buy aji amarillo paste to make this.  However, it’s incredibly good and lasts forever in the fridge.  You can find it at a lot of supermarkets these days in the latin foods section, but if not there are lots of brands online.  My favorite brand is Doña Isabel and they sell it on LaTienda.com, a super dangerous website with lots and lots of yummy things.  They even provide a bunch of recipes so you know what to do with that left over paste.  Mental note – I must get to their brick and mortar store in Williamsburg, VA.  Traditionally as I said this sauce would be served with a rotisserie chicken that had been marinated in Peruvian spices.  Since I don’t have my own rotisserie I  either just go out and buy one and serve the sauce alongside, or grill up some chicken.  I like this Food and Wine marinade that approximates the flavors nicely.  Last time I served this sauce, Patrick wanted tacos (I know I know) so we did a Peruvian Mexican hybrid and used the sauce as a salsa with the grilled chicken, some flour tortillas and grilled veggies.  I used yellow peppers, and served the quinoa salad on the side with yellow corn – yellow taco night. Delicious.

Aji Amarillo Sauce

  • 2 green onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons aji amarillo paste
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup light mayo
  • 1/4 cup cilantro

Combine everything in the food processor and puree until smooth.  Season with salt and pour into a bowl.  This will last for a week in the fridge.

Chicken Enchiladas

I know I have mentioned our Fiesta Friday tradition.  I am not sure exactly when it got started but it did come about pretty organically.  I realized I was doing tacos and margaritas on Fridays a lot because it seemed like such a great way to cap off the week.  Of course then I made the mistake of naming it and making it a thing so DSC04503that my husband, friends and colleagues were asking me every Friday what was on the menu for Fiesta Friday.  The pressure was on and while I like the idea of a fiesta to unwind after a long week, cooking a full meal can also be daunting after a week of work.  I knew enchiladas would be the answer to this problem.  Somewhat time-consuming to make but they freeze great and can be cooked right from the freezer so basically all you have to do when you get home on Friday is turn on the oven and pour the margs.  I got the cooking method for this one from Cooking Light magazine but the rest is a creation of my own.  Cooking Light often has great ideas on how to freeze things or do them in advance but I find a lot of their recipes almost too dumbed down.  That’s why its good to scavenge inspiration from a variety of sources – meals eaten in restaurants, magazines, friend’s cooking etc.  This recipe is a chameleon –  make it with shredded pork instead of chicken, tomatillo sauce instead of enchilada sauce, swap the corn for beans – you get it.  I made my own enchilada sauce but guess what?  Totally not worth it – turns out this is one of those times that the store-bought is just as good, if not better.  I would budget 2 enchiladas per person but if you were super hungry then someone could easily polish off 3.

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Chicken Enchiladas 

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 5 chipoltes in adobo, chopped
  • 4 ounce can chopped green chilis
  • 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups corn kernels (frozen is fine)
  • 4 scallions
  • chicken from 1 chicken breast, shredded (I used rotisserie chicken or you could roast 1 skin on bone in breast)
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded jack or cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (do this even if you are freezing them as you need to par bake before freezing).  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the chipotles, green chilis, tomatoes and corn.  Turn up the heat to medium high and cook for approximately 8 minutes until everything has combined and some of the liquid from the chilis and tomatoes has cooked off.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chicken and scallions.  Remove from the heat.

Spray the pan or pans with cooking spray and put the enchilada sauce in a shallow bowl.  Microwave the tortillas for 20 seconds (do 6 at a time so they stay warm).  Microwaving the tortillas makes them more pliable and easier to stuff.  Spread several tablespoons of enchilada sauce on the bottom of the pan/pans to cover with a thin layer.  Dip a tortilla into the enchilada sauce and shake off the excess.

This is a messy job so just get into it.  Stuff the tortilla with several tablespoons of the chicken mix and fold over the two sides.  If you have over stuffed the tortilla theends won’t meet, so then just scoop out a little and keep moving.

Put into the pan with the seam side on the bottom.  Keep going with the rest of the tortillas – if you are making two pans, 6 tortillas will fit in each.  Don’t worry if you have to squish them in to fit, it’s actually better if they are tightly in the pan.

Microwave the second batch of tortillas and repeat until there are no more tortillas or stuffing.  Spoon over any remaining enchilada sauce and then cover with cheese.  If eating now: bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  If freezing: bake for 15 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Once room temperature, tightly cover with foil and freeze.  Then to reheat bake it straight from the freezer at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.  I baked one to eat immediately and one to freeze which was perfect.

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