Just under a year ago, I found myself at the renowned Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, Oregan browsing the hundreds of cookbooks on display. The process took hours, and just when I thought I was ready to check out, I suddenly had this bizarre desire to procure a Native American / New Mexican / Southwestern cookbook. I don’t know where the impulse came from — I think I’d had a vision of corn and green peppers. Either way, I found a nifty book for $5 called Mark Miller’s Indian Market Cookbook which promised “Recipes from Santa Fe’s Coyote Cafe.” Sounded good to me. Ten minutes later, I was lugging the tome back to my hotel.

It was then that I realized practically all the recipes in this book were super involved. This was a restaurant cookbook, and it called for highly specialized ingredients. Groan. Still, I was determined to make at least one recipe from this book, and now twelve months later, I have finally fulfilled that promise. Last week, I made Roast Chicken Picadillo with Quinoa Grain Salad, Olives, and Caperberries. Was it worth the wait? Answer after the jump…

Things start off with a colorful mis-en-place. In one bowl are garlic, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, and poblano chile. In the other are tomatoes, onion, olives, capers, cinnamon, and water. At this stage in the game, I’m enthused.

The next step is to fire up a spice rub. Into a dry skillet go cumin seeds, dried oregano, black peppercorns, salt, and sugar. Fragrances abound.

A quick whir in my Magic Bullet, and we have a rub.

A happily apply the rub to two chicken breasts along with some extra salt (the recipe only calls for quarter of a teaspoon of salt for the entire rub, and it’s a rub that’s supposed to stretch over four breasts. Seems a bit ridiculous). Anyway, once the extra salt is in place, I brown the breasts in some canola oil on each side for about three or four minutes.

The chicken then goes into the oven for twenty minutes at 350 degrees. In the meantime, it’s time to start some hot sauté action. Bowl #1 goes into the pan, leading to a colorful, garlicky experience.

After three minutes, bowl #2 enters the fray. This leads to all sorts of craziness, especially with the scent of cinnamon wafting into the air. I’m tempted to add raisins to the mix (as many picadillo recipes call for such things), but I decide to be good and stick to the recipe. Also, I have no raisins.

Five minutes later, the colors have faded, but the veggies have become tender. Also, with the oil in the pan and the liquid released, the whole thing has become rather saucy.

I take the picadillo off the heat and add about a tablespoon of fresh parsley. This is all very promising.

The recipes calls for a quinoa salad, which I was going to skip, but then I decided I would be a MAN and do it anyway. The quinoa went into the rice cooker, and once it was ready, I tossed it with scallions, balsamic, salt, and olive oil, as per the recipe. I omitted the basil (had none) and the pine nuts (also had none) but added almonds instead. A strong move, if I do say so myself.

Finally, I plated it all up. Kind of looks like a sheep’s head, if you think about it (assuming the sheep had multi-colored bangs).

And there we are: roasted chicken picadillo.

The Verdict?

Really good! Honestly, it was actually perhaps delicious. The picadillo was really tasty (although, I still would add raisins to it), and the chicken was perfectly cooked. I enjoyed the spice rub; although, my decision to add salt was a smart one. The quinoa also was a lovely addition. It provided both a lovely texture and also a binding element that bridged the chicken and the picadillo.

Call me crazy, but I bet you could use this spice rub on a whole chicken and serve with picadillo, and it would be delicious. Actually, you could probably even use whatever rub you want, and it would taste lovely with the picadillo. The point is this: I was very happy with this dish, and I no longer have buyer’s remorse about the cookbook. Looking forward to other New Mexican dishes to come (perhaps even tamales!).

2 replies on “ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Roast Chicken Picadillo Edition”

  1. Resident of New Mexico here. I bet most of the recipes call for hatch chile… either red or green. You need to get some, and then you’ll be eating real New Mexican food!

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