30 April 2012

Pollo Loco

*Update* I made this on the grill last night and it worked out so much better! Take 4 sheets of tin foil and fold them together so they are 2 wide and 2 thick. Fold up a lip all around, and put it straight on top of the grates on your grill--if you have wire grates with 1" or so spacing like on the top rack pictured below, you might want to make it 3 layers thick; my grates are cast iron with about 1/3-1/2" spacing and this worked perfectly. Spread your charcoal evenly across the whole thing and raise it up almost as high as the charcoal carrier will go. If you have a gas grill, just turn it on as high as it'll go. Add a little bit of oil to prevent sticking, and cook the same way on the grill as you would in the pan, but this way you have a huge surface to work on and you can just throw the mess away! :)

My family frequents this Mexican restaurant in our town, and they make a dish they call "Pollo Loco." It is basically just peppers, onions and chicken charred like for fajitas, and served over spicy rice with some shredded lettuce and a little bit of mozzarella (yes, mozzarella) cheese, tomato and green onions. They serve it with 3 flour tortillas. As simple as it is, it is one of my favorites and I always order it when we eat there. I've been meaning to make it at home for a few weeks now and finally got around to it last night.

Here's what it looked like in the restaurant the last time I ordered it....it came out a little underdone, and kinda greasy...I wasn't real pleased, but it was still pretty yummy. Horrible cell phone pic...sorry....

What you need to make it at home:

Pretend there's a bowl of rice and a can of Rotel in that photo for me, ok?
Shredded iceberg lettuce (I'd much prefer romaine, but who am I to argue?), mozzarella cheese (again, I'd think monterey jack would be more appropriate, but even their menu says they use mozzarella, so....), onion, green onion, tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno pepper, white chile, poblano pepper, (you could really use any variety of peppers you want or can get your hands on....this is what the Safeway near my house had....so I grabbed one of each), tortillas (flour!), chicken breasts--this is about 1 lb, and you can use thighs if you prefer them.

First things first, this is one of those recipes that you cannot prep as you cook, because if you're anything like me, something will burn before you have the next thing prepped, so wash and slice everything before you even heat up your pan. Snip the green onions with scissors and slice up the tomatoes--and set them aside because you want to add these fresh at the end. I wound up using only half of each of the bell peppers, and half of the onion, because it was a LOT once it was all sliced up, and I wanted to actually taste the chicken. haha! Slice the peppers into thin strips--I quartered the bell peppers and then sliced them across the short way into thin little strips. Fillet or butterfly the chicken and slice it into pieces about the same size as the pepper strips, maybe a bit bigger, but not much.

When everything is prepped and ready to go, season the chicken with salt and pepper, and then heat a couple tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a large heavy skillet (cast iron if you've got it...or even a good dutch oven if you don't have a huge skillet) over medium high heat. A griddle would be awesome if you've got one that goes directly onto the stove, too....but I like sides for stuff like this because I'm a messy cook!

Pour a cup of rice, a can of Rotel, and 1 1/2 cups of water in a saucepan (you could totally add taco seasoning or extra cayenne or hot sauce or whatever you like, but I think the rest of the dish adds more than enough flavor) and cook it like you would normally cook rice--bring it to a boil, throw the lid on, turn the heat down and let it simmer for a few mins. Set the rice aside.

While the rice cooks, toss the chicken into your pan first. Cook it a minute or two until it starts to brown, and then add the sliced onion and peppers. You may need a little more oil, add it as necessary. You want that sizzling sound. Stir and cook it all together until everything is slightly blackened--don't be like me and open a beer and walk away while chatting with your husband....because mine was more than slightly blackened (haha!), but it was still good because I was GOING for that charred taste anyway. No seriously, I was...not at all joking.


When everything is cooked to your liking, plate a spoonful of the rice and spread it out to cover half the plate, then take a handful of the lettuce and spread it on the other half. Toss the green onions and tomatoes with the veggie/chicken mix (yeah I just threw mine on top because I'm the only one in my house that will eat a fresh tomato...house full of weirdos, I tell ya!)--I added olives I found in the cabinet, too--and then spoon the veggie/chicken mix over the rice, along with a handful of cheese. Top with cilantro (that I totally forgot to buy...oops!) and serve with warmed tortillas.

mmmmmm....Leftovers for lunch the next day!!!! ;)

Verdict? Even slightly more charred than I wanted, my version was *WAY* better...and for what it costs to eat it at the restaurant, I made enough for 4 people to have for dinner AND lunch the next day. :D

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