Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chicken Monterrey

Your neighborhood Chili's restaurant most likely has a version of this dish.. maybe you've tried it?  Well this is the El-cheepo home version.  Much more economical (and yummy) than dressing everyone up, loading up, waiting for the water girl and the menu, and ultimately paying a hefty bill.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Chili's, but hey, money can be tight for most of us.  - and even if money is not the issue, having everyone cook, listen to music, and play with their own toys in your own house is so much more gratifying! ...and I dare say, you probably have most of the ingredients for this dish on hand in the pantry already!
                                                                    Click for Printable Recipe
Ingredients: 
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp McCormick Montreal Chicken seasoning
    • or Steak seasoning
  • black pepper
  • 1/4 c. bar-b-que sauce 
    • I used Bull's Eye
  • 1/4 c. real bacon bits 
    • For convenience, I used the ones in the bag.  And they have a great smokey flavor, too.
  • 1 c. colby and jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 14 oz. can Rotel tomatoes (with green chilies added), drained
  • sliced green onions
Step-by-step:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
Marinate the chicken for about 30 minutes in 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp McCormick Montreal Chicken (or Steak) Seasoning. Just fyi - If you leave the marinade on much longer than that, it can make the meat too salty.
Pound out chicken breasts to flatten evenly. You don't need them like a pancake.  Just even out the thickness* (see Food Nerd Notes at bottom). This will give you a much more even cooking time, since you won't have a fat (undercooked) end and a thin (overcooked) end. Season with pepper. 

Grill chicken until no long pink.  Actually, the weather was terrible, so I just used my grill pan to do this on the stove top. By all means, use your outdoor grill if you prefer. You could also bake or pan saute the chicken, but esthetically, I think they look prettiest when they have the grill marks on them.  

One important thing to remember here, is that you are also going to finish the chicken off in the oven, so you don't need them to be 100% cooked yet.  You don't want to end up with overdone, dry chicken by the time you serve it. Remember that the internal temperature will continue to rise several degrees after you turn off the heat. The recommended cooking temperature for chicken breasts is 165 degrees F, so I turned off the heat at about 155 F, taking into account the continued temperature rise and the additional oven time coming up to finish off the dish.  One of the handiest things I have in my kitchen is a digital food thermometer.  I just stick it in the thicker area, set the target temperature, and go about my business until it starts beeping.  What a wonderful tool to take the guesswork out of something that can cause cooks so much anxiety. (A great idea for a "stocking stuffer," don't you think?)

But anyway, we digress.... now back to the chicken.
Top each chicken breast with one tablespoon bar-be-que sauce*, 1/4 c. shredded cheese, 1/4 c. drained Ro-tel tomatoes, chopped green onions and one tablespoon of bacon bits.
*I'm not the hugest fan of BBQ sauce, so I didn't add the sauce directly to the chicken. Instead, I "painted" it on the plate. But if you and your family enjoy it, add it to the chicken before the other toppings go on.


To me, the nice thing about this recipe (versus the one at Chili's), is that you don't have a long strip of bacon that is hard to cut, and that pulls off the toppings when you attempt to do so.  Using the bacon pieces (whether the ones from the bag, or some crisp bacon that you have crumbled yourself) alleviates this issue.
Place in oven and bake uncovered until cheese is melted (about 5 minutes). I just kept them on the grill pan and put the whole thing in the oven.

This picture is with the BBQ sauce on the plate.
This is how I actually prefer mine - with a dollop of sour cream.  

The end result is a tender, juicy chicken with a nice smokiness and southwestern flavor to it.

Method:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Marinate the chicken for about 30 minutes in 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp McCormick Montreal Chicken (or Steak) Seasoning. Just fyi - If you leave the marinade on much longer than that, it can make the meat too salty.
Pound out chicken breasts to flatten evenly. You don't need them like a pancake.  Just even out the thickness* (see Food Nerd Notes at bottom). This will give you a much more even cooking time, since you won't have a fat (undercooked) end and a thin (overcooked) end. Season with pepper.  Grill chicken until no long pink.  Actually, the weather was terrible, so I just used my grill pan to do this on the stove top. By all means, use your outdoor grill if you prefer. You could also bake or pan saute the chicken, but esthetically, I think they look prettiest when they have the grill marks on them.  

One important thing to remember here, is that you are also going to finish the chicken off in the oven, so you don't need them to be 100% cooked yet.  You don't want to end up with overdone, dry chicken by the time you serve it. Remember that the internal temperature will continue to rise several degrees after you turn off the heat. The recommended cooking temperature for chicken breasts is 165 degrees F, so I turned off the heat at about 155 F, taking into account the continued temperature rise and the additional oven time coming up to finish off the dish. 
Top each chicken breast with one tablespoon bar-be-que sauce*, 1/4 c. shredded cheese, 1/4 c. drained Ro-tel tomatoes, chopped green onions and one tablespoon of bacon bits.  I'm not the hugest fan of BBQ sauce, so I didn't add the sauce directly to the chicken. Instead, I "painted" it on the plate. But if you and your family enjoy it, add it to the chicken before the other toppings go on.
To me, the nice thing about this recipe is that you don't have a long strip of bacon that is hard to cut, and that pulls off the toppings when you attempt to do so.  Using the bacon pieces (whether the ones from the bag, or some crisp bacon that you have crumbled yourself) alleviates this issue.

Place in oven and bake uncovered until cheese is melted (about 5 minutes). I just kept them on the grill pan and put the whole thing in the oven. I actually prefer mine with a dollop of sour cream. The end result is a tender, juicy chicken with a nice smokiness and southwestern flavor to it.
Order the Menu Musings Cookbook!
 
Looking for more great recipes?  Feel free to browse through my Recipe Index for tons of ideas to make for your family... most with step-by-step photos.  But here are a few to get you started:
Cajun Crawfish Bread

Stuffed Peppers

Mahogany Glazed Chicken

Cream Cheese Stuffed Pear Dumplings

Spinach and Apricot Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Food Nerd Notes:
Why you should pound out the chicken breasts. Could it be that some of you are ignoring this step when you encounter this directive in a recipe? Don't. The technique is super easy, and there are several things you accomplish that you will like! Foremost, the first thing you accomplish when you pound out the chicken breast, is to make it thinner. This increases the surface areas allowing you to more thoroughly season/spice/bread the meat, helps tenderize the chicken, and gives you a faster cooking time.  As a slight-of-hand, it also gives you the appearance of larger portions (since they will spread out).  This tricks you into thinking you are eating more than you are, allowing you to feed more people.  So overall you have faster, well seasoned, hearty portions! What's not to like about that?!

Be sure you have your surface covered with plastic wrap.  You can use one large one that can be doubled back over the top of the chicken, or two pieces - one for the bottom, one for the top.  You could also use a large zip top bag. If you can help it, you don't want to pound directly on the chicken without this layer of plastic "protection" because the chicken will be much more likely to tear.

To pound the chicken, you can use a mallet made for this duty, a heavy skillet, a rolling pin... I've even used an empty bottle (beer/wine) in a pinch when cooking at someone else's house (think back to those grad school days) whose kitchen was clearly not set up for cooking much of anything.  For this recipe, I merely wanted to even out the thick and thin ends of the breast.  For some other recipes, such as piccata where you need a really thin result, I sometimes cut the breast into medallions first, then pound each one out individually.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for this recipe! I made it tonight using my homemade BBQ sauce which made it a "Sommersized" recipe and it turned out very good. My husband asked what to call it so he could ask for it again by name. This will be added to our WOE (Way of Eating aka diet) supper rotation.
    I look forward to making more of your recipes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you SO much for your kind "review." You've absolutely just made my night!

      Delete
  2. Wow! I can't wait to make this!!! U are a very good cook. And I also luv how u are so thorough with your directions...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Please let me know how it turns out for you.

      Delete

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