Pass the Pasilla!
By Dennis Linden
Just in time for this month’s Cinco de Mayo celebration comes a quick and easy version of a traditional Mexican dish from the kitchen of Cecilia Granados in Melissa’s Marketing Department. There are as many Chicken con Rajas recipes as there are chickens in Mexico, but all share the basic ingredients of chicken pieces and peppers, both cut into strips and then simmered in a cream sauce. Rajas literally means “slices” in Spanish. While this month is a time for special culinary celebrations, Cecilia’s one-skillet preparation is also simple and practical enough to make on a weekday for dinner after a hard a day at the office. However, this writer can attest that it also makes a great pot-luck dish for a large social gathering; I just tripled Cecilia’s measures and it was the hit of the buffet table!
I find roasting peppers on the stovetop intriguingly fun to manage. With my 4-burner stove, I did four peppers at a time, constantly turning each until charred all-around. The process takes as much patience as it does attention. As they finish on the flame, pop the pepper into a sealed paper bag; the steam of the hot peppers will separate the outer skin and makes for easy peeling. Don’t worry about cleaning all the small bits of charred pepper, as they add a smoky flavoring to the overall taste profile of this dish.
Pepper notation: Cecilia’s choice of Pasilla pepper should not be confused with the smaller, darker green Poblano pepper that is often marketed as Pasilla in grocery stores. As a matter of fact, when I shopped for the ingredients for this dish at my own my local supermarket, as if on cue, they had labeled Poblano as Pasilla and vice-versa! While both are mild in their Scoville heat rating, the Pasilla is slightly hotter and, I think, provides just the right balance of spicy to Cecilia’s recipe.
Cecilia Granados has been a member of the Melissa’s team for 14 years. She describes her role as the “go-to detail person” for the entire Marketing Department. “I assist everyone in the Marketing department,” she explained. “I help coordinate the constantly changing seasonal promotions of such a diverse company as Melissa’s just to make sure that everything gets accomplished and on time.”
When not at her desk, Cecilia is an avid reader who is fascinated with other cultures. However her main focus is providing the necessary foundation for the happy and healthy development of her very special baby boy Emmanuel, who was born with Down’s Syndrome. As Cecilia put it: “My passion right now has got to be my family and helping them grow in life.” And if her Chicken con Rajas is any indication of the menu around the Granados household, she is doing a pretty good job feeding them too!
Chicken con Rajas
Makes 4 servings
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 pound Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 White Onion, thinly sliced
1 clove Garlic, thinly sliced
6 Pasilla Chiles
1½ cups light sour cream
Roast the peppers over an open flame, turned continually until charred, then place steaming hot in paper bags to help steam outer skin.
Once cooled, peel outer burned skin, trim off stem, remove seeds and cut into ¼-inch strips.
Slice onion very thin.
Slice chicken breast into 2-inch pieces.
Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium-heat. Add chicken, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, turning often.
Add onion and garlic, stir and sauté for another 5 minutes.
Then stir in the Pasilla strips and cook for 10 minutes more.
Finally mix in the sour cream, bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to low heat, cover and simmer for 10 more minutes.
Chef’s Note: Serve hot with a side of white rice to absorb some of the delish sauce. Enjoy!