Make Your Own Dinner!


Why not?  All the ingredients are before you – the thin tender chicken slices, marinated in lime juice, cumin, chili powder and other Mexican-forward spices.  Then there’s the smoked poblano peppers, also sliced thinly, the rich crema (Mexico’s version of crème fraiche or sour cream) surrounding it taming the heat.  Also present are cooling sprigs of fresh cilantro and lightly spiced slices of pickled radishes.  All this is waiting to be wrapped in fresh corn tortillas, just softened and lightly charred over an open flame.

Thus, you have fajitas, though perhaps in a slightly different format that in the more familiar Tex-Mex versions.  Inspiration for the feast has many parents.  From the Cook’s Country June/July 2019 number comes the recipe for Chicken with Poblanos and Cream.

The Poblanos and Cream is actually a distinct preparation (Rajas con Crema), which a site called The Windy Kitchen detailed, along with instructions for pickled radishes and the concept of enjoying everything in fajita format.   Finally, Epicurious provided information on preparing crema, which Cook’s Country specified but didn’t define.

A word about the pickled radishes.  For one thing, they’re pickled in lime juice, not in vinegar.  That, and the addition of jalapeños, mutes the radishes’ harshness and gives them an almost citrusy profile.  Plus, an overnight soaking gives them a carrot-like hue, as seen below:Pickled Radishes

Also prepared the evening before is the crema, which is sour cream and heavy cream combined with a little salt.  After its components marry overnight, crema is an excellent addition for the hot peppers, softening their bite while retaining their distinct flavor.

Another element is the smokiness the poblanos attain when they’re charred over an open flame, then skinned and sliced.  Here are two peppers, the top one as yet untouched, and the bottom one charred and ready for skinning:Poblanos Before and After

Here’s a shot of the end product, rajas con crema.  Smooth, creamy heat:Rajas con Crema II

All of this comes together, wrapped in a toasted corn tortilla.  In one delicious package you have savory, spicy, creamy, sweet, tangy, and fresh.  Or any combination thereof that whets your appetite.  The individual elements are on the table, here and now.  Make your selections and create your own meal.  The food has been prepared, but it’s your decision what to do next.  Have at it!

*****

Crema

(Cream, Mexican Style)

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Combine ingredients in a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let sit at room temperature for three hours.

If using immediately, serve then and there.  If saving for tomorrow (*1), pour the crema into an airtight container, such as a canning jar with a screw-top lid, and refrigerate.  Set out half an hour before serving to bring back to room temperature.

NOTES:

1 – Definitely recommended.  If you have time, let the ingredients blend overnight to their fullest potential.

*****

Spicy Pickled Radishes

  • 10 radishes, sliced thinly
  • half a jalapeño pepper, seeded then chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (*2)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix everything in a small bowl and let sit at room temperature for half an hour or, ideally, cover and refrigerate overnight.  Drain and serve.

NOTES:

2 – Equal to about three limes.

*****

Skillet Chicken (for Fajitas)

  • 1 and 1/2 pounds chicken breast (*3)
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper

In a medium bowl, mix 3 tablespoons of the oil and all the other ingredients.  Let sit at room temperature for an hour, tossing ingredients occasionally.  While the chicken marinates, make the rajas con crema (instructions below) before moving to the next step.

After the chicken has marinated for an hour and the rajas have been prepared, preheat the oven to 350°.  Place a large skillet over a medium-high flame and pour in the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil.  Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels.  Place the chicken in the skillet in a single layer.  Let cook undisturbed for three minutes, until lightly charred.  Flip and cook undisturbed on the other side for another three minutes.  Place the skillet in the preheated oven and let cook for ten more minutes.

Remove the skillet from the oven and, using tongs, transfer the chicken to a cutting board.  When cool enough to handle, slice thinly on the bias and across the grain.  Serve with lightly-toasted tortillas, rajas con crema, pickled radishes, cilantro sprigs and lime wedges.

NOTES:

3 – I’d recommend a similar quantity of boneless skinless thighs.  They’re moister and are more flavorful than are the breasts.

*****

Rajas con Crema

(Sliced Poblano Peppers in Cream Sauce)

  • 4-5 poblano peppers
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 onion, halved and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch strips (*4)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (*5)
  • 1/2 cup crema (recipe above)
  • juice from half a lime
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste

Using tongs, hold each poblano directly over a high flame on the stovetop, rotating as needed to char the entire surface. (*6)  After each pepper is blackened, place it in a medium bowl.  When all the peppers are done, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let sit for ten minutes.

After ten minutes, rinse each pepper under running water, being sure to completely peel away the charred outer skin. After each pepper is thus prepared, cut off and discard the top half-inch, including the stem.  Bring the pepper back to the running water and be sure to wash away any seeds.  Slice each pepper crosswise into 1/2-inch rings.

Place a medium skillet over a medium-high flame.  Pour in the vegetable oil.  Add onion and cook until charred, about five minutes.  Add the garlic, thyme and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Pour in the crema and cook until slightly reduced, about three minutes.  Add the poblanos and lime juice and cook until the peppers are warm, a few minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, turn off the flame and cover until ready to serve.

NOTES:

4 – A large shallot would be better!

5 – If you can find it, use Mexican oregano; it’s much more flavorful.

6 – Originally, I tried to do this by hand, holding the pepper by the stem.  It’s more efficient, quicker, not mention much safer, to use tongs for this.

12 thoughts on “Make Your Own Dinner!

    1. Thanks so much, Crystal!

      You display good taste in which of life’s offerings you seek. Why would things be any different at the dinner table? As we both chase after the same ideals, it hardly is surprising our interests often coincide.

      In today’s case, roasting the poblanos and the tortillas transforms both. Whether using aa burner or a broiler, the brief but concentrated heat burst adds a magnificent smokiness and a light char. Structurally too, the flame makes both much more pliable. These factors crank the taste up to ten.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Can you get any more gourmet than this? Love it! Especially 5 garlic gloves for the chicken Divine.

    I so love poblanos but haven’t been able to find a single one here in Trinidad. I almost always would use them in place of green bell peppers. Plenty of jalapenos to be found here though!

    Sour cream and heavy cream together? I love how your recipes never hold back on the decadent. Boredom be gone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Decadence…or motivation? Just one recipe, and on weekends, because A) there’s no time for these shenanigans during the workweek, and B) indulging every day would deny the art its panache. A vision to anticipate in the weeks leading up to, and memories to savor in the decades after.

      As for the double creams, guilty, Your Honor. Although, the lime juice does balance the richness, and the extra dash of salt unifies the two elements. Besides, the crema really is a condiment, meant to drizzle the fajitas, not to drench them.

      As for the poblanos, how well do you garden? I should think poblano seeds would do really well in a medium-to-large container, out on the deck or on the patio, soaking up all that sunshine amidst the Trini lushness.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Putting in a garden is something we’ve been wanting to do since coming here… one of those projects that keeps getting put off til another day. Container gardening is doable… not like we don’t have the room. We have plenty of flowers and other plants we’ve started.

        Indulgences here and there must be taken. How boring life would be without it!

        By the way, when are you going to write that cookbook that makes you $$$? That’s what I really want to know! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Do you have a spot around back featuring a lounge chair nestled amidst pots and containers? A perfect outdoor moment, basking in a tropical explosion barely controlled.

        Good thinking about indulgences being crucial to a civilized life. I agree absolutely. Of course. best they be more “there” than “here,” lest they become commonplace. That would not do.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Where lushness, explosive colors and intoxicating aromas live, you’re sure to luxuriate in the heaven you’ve created.

        Before & After.

        Before – shivering through an icy Idaho/New Jersey winter which never seems to end. How can one tiny dent in my bumper cost $2500 to repair?

        After – floating gently into Slumber’s embrace amidst a warm, honeyed Trini outdoor room. How can all this splendor be free? How can….Just…How….Zzzzzz

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Much appreciated, Jenn!

      I love how the ingredients in rajas con crema, for example, interact beautifully. Sure, the poblanos are a little hot (though not majorly so, even by Anglo standards), but the crema’s creamy smoothness warms exactly the opposite reaction. The peppers and the crema compliment each other, rather than mutually cancel. An addition, not a subtraction. Now, there’s cuisine for you.

      As far as your experience goes, Jenn, comfort plus familiarity, times imagination = nostalgia. Not a bad way to enchant your memories, huh?

      Liked by 1 person

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