A while back I posted about a recipe idea Mike helped me come up with. Cilantro lime chicken. And the kicked up succotash. It was…less than successful. Not horrible, but totally lacking in flavor and texture. I’ve recently had some successes with cooking without a recipe so my confidence has been pretty high. I wanted to try again. And Mike let me. When I got home from work most of the prep work was done so I could basically start cooking.

Let’s think back on the failings from the first attempt. Lack of flavor. Committed the huge sin of underseasoning everything. Lack of texture. The chicken felt boring. The succotash was a little dry due to over cooking. The cheese wasn’t very melty. The jalapenos didn’t quite fit in. I wanted to fix this. I *knew* this recipe could work.

To address the flavor issue I changed up the marinade. We had 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 pounds). I put them in a ziploc bag with 5 ounces of lime juice, a couple of big pinches of lime zest, and a ton of dried cilantro. Okay. A tablespoon, maybe two. Probably closer to 2. We’ll get to the succotash in a bit. The chicken is the star of this one.

To address the texture issue we knew we needed to bread the chicken. I decided to oven fry since it worked so well for the pork chops. This also helped me with time management. I get a little panicky when I have a lot going on so if the chicken took care of itself I had one less thing to worry about so I could focus on the succotash. Since we breaded the chicken I had another opportunity to add some flavor. I double breaded again. The first breading was a cup of Italian bread crumbs, lime zest, cilantro, cumin, ancho chili powder, chipotle chili powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. I basically added the spices to the bread crumbs so that when it was all shaken together I could see little flecks of the different seasonings. I took about an eighth of a cup of this blend and added it to about a cup of panko bread crumbs for the second breading. So it was bread crumbs, egg wash (we added about a 1/2 tablespoon of milk and a big pinch of lime zest to the egg wash), then panko mixture. I did the same cooking method as the pork chops. Cooling rack over a baking sheet, 425-450 degree oven. Flipped the chicken after 10 minutes (and noticed the breading coming off in spots). All told the chicken took about a half an hour in the oven.

While the chicken was cooking I started on the succotash. I sweated about a tablespoon and a half of minced shallots in about two tablespoons of olive oil. When the shallots started looking a bit translucent I added the chorizo (two links removed from the casing and chopped into smaller bits) and browned it with the shallots. Let me tell you. This smelled INCREDIBLE. Shallots have a nice garlicky aroma as they cook. And chorizo just rocks. When the chorizo was browned I removed everything from the pan. I added about a tablespoon more olive oil and tossed in a 10-ounce package of frozen succotash (thawed, actually) and a chopped red bell pepper. I let this cook until signs of browning on the corn and lima beans. I added about 2 tablespoons of lime zest, about a teaspoon or two of cumin, and about a tablespoon of cilantro. When I started getting the browning I was looking for I put the chorizo and shallots back in and warmed everything through.

The chicken came out of the oven, and I have to say I was a little disappointed. The breading was coming off and it looked pale in spots. I hoped it tasted better than it looked. We topped the chicken with a blend of shredded Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack cheeses. Then we added strips of jalapeno that had been give the egg wash and bread crumbs treatment then fried in a little olive oil.

Looking at the dish plated…it looked so much more like I had seen it in my head when I first came up with the idea. Yes, there were flaws with the breading. But. It was incredible. Layers of flavor, a nice crispy texture, just delicious. I am very, very happy! The succotash was awesome, the chicken very flavorful and crunchy.

Improvement ideas for next time:

  • Marinate the chicken overnight. We’re going to do the lime juice, a little bit of olive oil, and lots of fresh cilantro. We’re going to liquefy this mixture and basically coat the chicken overnight.
  • Add the seasonings we put in the bread crumb mixture to the marinade. That way if we lose some of the breading we still get all of the flavors.
  • Dry the chicken off before breading. We think it was too wet for the breading to really stick.
  • Make a batter for frying the chile pepper strips, perhaps go with a hotter chile.
  • More shallots for the succotash. The garlicky flavor would be welcome.
  • One link of chorizo instead of two. It took over the succotash a little so you lost a little of the lime and other flavors.

Despite the little flaws, I am thrilled with how this turned out. The layers of flavor really stood out. Too tired/lazy to actually type up a recipe, I really did kind of wing it tonight.

{March 12, 2012}