Southwestern Style Improv

A couple days ago I had the privilege of teaching my first ever weekend cooking class at a local Williams-Sonoma store, thanks to an invitation from my new BFF, Pam Wilson.  We did several grilling recipes that produced some yummy results, and a good time was had by all.  So tonight on my way home from the office I stopped, as I so often do, at my usual grocery to brainstorm some ideas on what to make for dinner — I love the challenge of making it up on the fly.

As I was wandering around the store in a bit of an uninspired fog, I decided to riff on some of the dishes we had made during the class, which included ground turkey sliders with avocado and roasted poblano, and Mexican-style grilled corn.  I wasn’t feeling turkey, and I had forgotten to buy a can of the rub we used to season the corn, so I had to improvise.  The result was a Southwest grilled chicken with roasted poblanos and my own take on the grilled corn.  I also whipped up an impromptu guacamole for good measure.

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The chicken is quick and easy, and the corn even more so.  Here are your ingredients for the chicken …

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Juice of 1 fresh lime
  • 2-3 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish

… and for the corn.  By the way, both of these will serve 4 people.

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 4 ears of corn, husked
  • Fresh lime juice

For the chicken, whisk together the oil, dry ingredients, lime juice and chopped cilantro to make a marinade.  Pound the chicken to a uniform thickness of about 1/2 inch, add it to the marinade and toss to coat thoroughly, and let it bask in the goodness for at least 30 minutes.  For the corn, stir together the mayo and dry ingredients in a bowl, and brush a generous coating of the mixture onto each ear.

While you’re waiting for the marinade to work its magic, it’s time to roast the poblanos.  If you have a gas stove, you can place them on the grate directly on the flame, turning with tongs as needed until all sides are more or less evenly charred.  If you have an electric range like me, you can accomplish the same thing by roasting the peppers on a baking sheet about 3″ under the broiler.  When they’re done roasting, put the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic for about 20 minutes to cool, after which you will find that the charred skin peels right off.  Remove the seeds, slice up the peppers and set them aside.

Next you will need to preheat your grill or, in my case, a stovetop cast iron grill pan.  When it’s good and hot, grill the chicken for about 5 minutes per side, and grill the corn for a total of about 10-12 minutes, giving it a quarter turn about every 3 minutes as the char begins to form on each side.  Just be aware that the corn will pop occasionally as it cooks, which can be both a little startling and messy.

Both dishes should get done close to the same time.  Garnish the chicken with some of the roasted poblanos and some cilantro leaves, and give the corn a sprinkle of fresh lime juice.  That’s it, you’re ready to serve.

This entire menu, including the guacamole, came together in under an hour and was, not surprisingly,  delicious.  As you might expect, we munched it down with a big happy grin on our faces.  I hope you will try these and do the same.  Until next time:  Eat well, my friends!

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