I met my friend Jessica in my kindergarten class, where she impressed me with her masterful coloring ability and quiet, calm demeanor. It turned out that she lived in my neighborhood, and we were soon hooked at the hip. She’s been one of my closest friends in the world since then (apart from a brief divergence in junior high, when she forayed into hard-core hip-hop while I stuck it out with Cat Stevens). While we’ve both changed considerably since those early coloring days, our paths have been always been aligned, from college in Colorado (her in Boulder, me at Colorado College), to marrying our college sweethearts, to having children within a year of each other, to now living on the east coast, her in Vermont and me in New York. We make it a point to visit each other several times a year, where we bare our souls, giggle like schoolgirls and cook. Jess and her husband Dustin are both awesome cooks and even have their own company devoted to making custom farm tables and kitchen furniture (Vermont Farm Table – check it out). They visited last weekend with their two girls, and while the kids disappeared into the world of dress-up and mama kitty play (it’s a thing), we inevitably ended up in the kitchen, or at least talking about food. Jess is also a busy working mom, and we always trade weeknight meal advice and tips. She shared a new favorite of hers: chicken and tomatillo chilaquiles.
Chilaquiles, for those of you who haven’t tried this most wondrous of dishes, can take many different forms but usually involves a stew-like substance (or even scrambled eggs) tossed with fried tortillas. It’s a meal of wonderful textural contrasts, as some of the tortillas retain their crispiness while others soften and thicken the stew. Jess came up with a dead simple version using store-bought tomatillo salsa and tortilla chips, and I made it for lunch this week during a blustery snowstorm. Let me tell you, it is delicious. Warm, spicy and comforting, and yet at the same time bright, crunchy and crisp, it’s the kind of crave-able meal that can cheer up even the sixth (that’s right, sixth!) snow day in a month. Chicken breasts get poached in tomatillo salsa and are then shredded and added back to the salsa, along with sautéed onion and garlic. Just before serving, tortilla chips are folded in, creating a delicious textural tango. The chilaquiles get topped with cilantro, scallions, avocado slices, crumbled cheese and sour cream. It’s comfort food at it’s most exciting. I suggest making it for a good friend.
Jess’s Chicken & Tomatillo Chilaquiles
- 16- ounces (2 cups) tomatillo salsa (store-bought or homemade)
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 boneless , skinless chicken breasts
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ medium yellow onion , diced
- 2 large garlic cloves , minced
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican oregano)
- 2 heaping cups yellow corn tortilla chips
- Toppings: chopped cilantro , sour cream, avocado slices, crumbled cotija or feta cheese, thinly sliced scallions and toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
- In a medium saucepan, combine the tomatillo salsa and chicken broth. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and nestle them into the salsa mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook, covered, 12-15 minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board or plate to cool. Simmer the sauce until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, shred the chicken and stir it back into the tomatillo sauce. Remove the pot from the heat and keep warm.
- Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the diced onion with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin and oregano. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes longer. Scrape the onion mixture into the pot with the chicken. Do Ahead: The chicken in its sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat before proceeding.
- When you’re ready to serve, reheat the chicken and sauce. Add the tortilla chips and gently toss in the sauce. Divide the chilaquiles between two plates and top with chopped cilantro, sour cream, avocado slices, crumbled cotija or feta cheese, sliced scallions and some toasted pumpkin seeds if you wish. Serve immediately.