Jun 012010

Folks…  I don’t put restaurant recipes on JuicyMaters .Com.  Restaurants tend to use cheap ingredients, cooked too fast and poorly, and generally just don’t impress me…at least not enough to be a recipe in my  “go to” file…that I share with you folks.

That is, I usually don’t put restaurant recipes on the blog…but for this chicken entrée I will make an exception.

I found this dish in a little Mexican restaurant in the North Georgia mountain town of Ellijay.  The restaurant is called El Rey and is owned by a genuinely nice guy…and damned good cook…named Carlos Morales.  Carlos and his wife were trying to come up with something “different” for their menu, and this is what they created.  At El Rey they call it “Pollo Durango” since Carlos’ wife is from Durango, Mexico…  I just call it chicken heaven.

At El Rey this is served, obviously, Mexican style, with Mexican rice and refried beans, but the chicken entrée itself blends with many styles of food, especially Italian.  I can easily see this entrée on a bed of angel hair pasta with steamed asparagus on the side.

OK, let’s start with the ingredients.  You’ll need salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, mushrooms (white button or baby Portobello), spinach, onion, sour cream, and white American and mozzarella cheeses…along with a boneless, skinless chicken breast for each serving.

The chicken and can be cooked in a skillet, but tastes better grilled.  Either way, you need to prepare the dry rub.  Mix equal amounts of salt, pepper, and cumin, and slightly less dried oregano.  Set aside.

Next, prepare the ingredients for the sauce.  Dice an onion (not too fine, but smaller than “chunks”), slice the mushrooms, and cut the cheeses into easily meltable sized pieces.  Rinse and pat dry the spinach.

OK…  Let’s grill the chicken.  Lightly coat the chicken with the dry rub (I don’t actually “rub” a rub into the meat except when smoking.  I sprinkle rub on large pieces of meat or put smaller pieces in a zip lock baggie with the rub and shake it around).  Put the chicken breasts on your pre-heated grill, and cook until done.

Right here you are saying “everyone knows grilled chicken breasts turn out raw or as dried out, rubbery hockey pucks.” Here is a tip to make your grilled chicken breasts moist, tasty, and safely DONE.

This tip also helps satisfy your “gadgetitis” cravings since it adds a new gadget to your kitchen tool chest.

On a charcoal grill, start charcoal on half the grill so the other half gets indirect heat.  On a gas grill leave an area in the center of the grill, large enough to hold the chicken breasts you are cooking, with the burners off.  Light the burners on either side of this area, again providing indirect heat.

Keep yer britches on…here comes the gadget part…

You will need a digital probe thermometer, available for about $15.00 in a good supermarket’s houseware section.

The USDA says poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°, so you should set your thermometer at 165°, right?  Wrong…unless you WANT those flavorless hocky pucks.  Two reasons.  First, at least for me, 165°is too well done.  The nasty little bugs that might be crawling around in poultry, mainly salmonella, are killed at 147, and any temperature above that is safe.  Also, you have to consider “carryover cooking” where the internal meat temperature continues to rise after the meat is removed from the grill.  Given these two considerations, I set my thermometer at 152°.  You will wind up with safe, well done but moist, flavorful chicken breasts…and you thought that was impossible from a grill.  Your back yard barbecue friends will consider you a genius.

You can send me a check later.

Now it’s time to prepare the sauce.  In a skillet, preferably cast iron, on your stove top at medium heat sweat the diced onions in some type of oil (lard, vegetable oil, olive oil) for a couple of minutes.  You want them soft and translucent but not caramelized.  Add the sliced mushrooms and continue to cook for a few more minutes as the mushrooms absorb liquid and soften.  Next, season to taste using paprika, salt, garlic powder, and just a bit of chili powder (or a lot of chili powder if you like it REALLY HOT).

Next, add the white American and mozzarella cheese.  At this point you are thinking, “I want this really cheesy but I also want it smooth.  If I add enough cheese for flavor, it will be too much cheese for texture.”

Not so fast, grasshopper.

That is what the sour cream is for, and that is why the sour cream goes in last.  After all the cheese is melted, add the sour cream and mix it in well, a spoonful at the time, until the texture is smooth and creamy.

Finally, add the spinach for just long enough to wilt it.

Now it’s time to plate your entrée.  Get your grill chicken breasts out of the oven.

I know you had a pre-heated oven to 200°to keep food hot in while finishing meal preparation, right?

Put a chicken breast on your plate and spoon some of that creamy deliciousness all over the top of the chicken breast.

Double, double yum!

Recipe: Pollo Durango

Summary: A Mexican chicken dish that with a few small changes can become an Italian entree

Stuff Needed

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 1 per serving Fresh spinach Baby Portabello or white button mushrooms Onion Sour cream White American cheese Mozzeralla cheese Salt Pepper Cumin Oregano Paprika Garlic powder Chili powder

What To Do With Stuff

  1. First, prepare the dry rub for the chicken mixing together one part each of salt, pepper, and cumin, and one half part oregano. Coat, then shake off excess, each chicken breast with the dry rub. Sear chicken on both sides over a HOT grill or in a HOT skillet, then reduce heat in skillet to medium-low or, on a grill move chicken to indirect heat and cook to an internal temp. of 152 degrees (measured with a thermometer, not guessing). While chicken cooks prepare sauce by dicing (or slicing) an onion and sweat the onion and mushrooms in a skillet with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Add paprika, garlic powder, and chile powder. Continue sweating onions until they are borderline between translucent and caramelized. Add equal parts American and Mozzarella cheese and cook together for 2-3 minutes. Add and stir in sour cream until the sauce reaches desired texture. Taste and adjust spices to taste. Add fresh spinach 1-2 minutes before saucing the cooked chicken, cooking just long enough to wilt the spinach. The cooked chicken should be rested off the heat for 5 minutes, then plated and the sauce spooned over it.

Quick Notes

Plated with Mexican rice and refried beans, with a side dish of Pico de Gallo makes a perfect, slightly different, Mexican dinner. Note that there are no measurements for ingredients except for the dry rub. Spicing should always be done, especially in sauces, to the cook’s individual taste


Leave out the cumin and paprika, and increase the oregano to taste, and plate over angel hair pasta and this wonderful Mexican dish becomes a great Italian dinner.

Cooking time (duration): 30-45

Diet (other): High protein

Number of servings (yield): 2

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: Mexican

My rating:4 stars: ★★★★☆

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Bob is a N Georgia blogger, homesteader, yurt liver, self-sufficiency nutjob, pig farmer, political activist, politician baiter...and the best damn cook you know that doesn't make a living at it.He can be followed onTwitter. You can also "Like" our Facebook page.

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