Spicy Baked Chicken with Toasty Arbol Chile Salsa and Peaches

July 14, 2009 · 17 comments

in chicken/poultry,dairy-free,healthy,mexican/tex-mex

I got Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless for my birthday and, that night, I flipped through most of the book, mentally dog-earing over half of it.  I’m a big Bayless fan – I find his recipes to be pretty easy and with a short list of (good) ingredients.  Not to mention, I had a really great experience at Topolobampo. I  really need to go back ASAP!

One thing Bayless does in this book that I enjoy is that he will give you a recipe for something, and then add a “riff” on that recipe at the end. It could be an ingredient swap-out, or a way to take something like a salsa and use it as a meal.  The riff on his Toasty Arbol Chile Salsa (baking it with chicken thighs) stood out to me immediately because, as you know, I am a big, big fan of the chicken thigh.  Plus, the salsa recipe sounded simple and spicy.  I love arbol chiles!

One taste of the salsa and I was in love. It was just so simple. Three ingredients and a quick whir in the food processor? Easy peasy. Ok, so there are actually four ingredients, apparently.  See, I *completely* missed the part about the garlic.  I didn’t realize it was in the recipe until I went to type this. D’oh! I really did love the salsa as is, but I’m sure it would be even better with the garlic because I kind of think that everything is better with garlic.

Rick Bayless says you should use skin-on chicken for the best flavor, but I really don’t think it’s necessary. I actually tested this theory by using 4 skin-on thighs and 4 skinned thighs (all bone-in). I actually prefered the ones without skin because, to me, if skin isn’t crispy there’s no point. Now, of course the fat from the skin renders and makes the sauce more delicious so that is one reason to use the skin. But I think using bone-in thighs really helps with that, too, and using half skin-on more than did the trick.

While I loved the salsa, I didn’t think it penetrated the chicken enough during baking. It was more like a chicken with a sauce than something that was cooked altogether. Next time, I’ll marinate the chicken in the salsa for a little bit before baking it. That said, the leftovers the next day were really, really good. No doubt the flavors had more time to mingle overnight.

Spicy Baked Chicken with Toasty Arbol Chile Salsa and Peaches

Serves 4
Adapted from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

8 bone-in chicken thighs or 4 bone-in chicken breasts
1 batch arbol chile salsa (recipe follows)
2-3 diced peaches or 1 peeled and diced mango

Arbol Chile Salsa
1 Tbsp. canola oil
15 dried arbol chiles (1/4 oz.), stemmed
3 cloves garlic, peeled
4  tomatillos, husked and cut in half
water
salt

Preheat the oven to 400.

To make the salsa:  Roll the arbol chiles between your fingers to loosen the seeds, and then break them in half with your fingers to shake as many seeds as will come out easily. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Add the chiles to the hot oil. Turn occasionally until they have changed color slightly and are aromatic, about a minute.  Use a slotted spoon to move the chiles to a food processor or blender, leaving behind as much oil as possible.

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel, and then set it to heat on medium-high. Add the tomatillos, cut-side down, and the garlic.  When the tomatillos are well-browned, about 4 minutes, turn everything over and brown the other side.  Add to the food processor/blender and pulse to combine with the chiles. Add some water (I added about 1/3 cup) and salt (I used about 1/2 tsp.) to get your desired taste and consistency.

To make the chicken: Lay the chicken in a large baking dish, and then pour the salsa over it (or, you could marinate the chicken in the salsa for a while before making this, which is what I will do next time). Scatter the diced peaches or mango across the top.  Bake until cooked through, about 40-50 minutes.  Skim the fat from the sauce, and then lightly mash in the peach/mango.  Serve the chicken with the salsa.

 

 

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

bridget July 14, 2009 at 9:32 am

It’s such a relief to read a blog entry about chicken thighs! They’re so superior to the breast. And I completely agree with you about chicken skin too – it’s all about the crisp.

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Peter G July 14, 2009 at 10:15 am

This looks nice and hearty Elly…and I totally agree with you about chicken thighs in these dishes.

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Katie July 14, 2009 at 10:39 am

What a creative mix of flavors! And it looks sooo good!

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Joan Nova July 14, 2009 at 11:11 am

Great mix of flavors and while the question of whether skin on enhances the flavors is up-in-the air, skin off reduces the calories so you made the same choice I would have (especially if it’s not crispy!)

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Meghan July 14, 2009 at 11:27 am

I really like Rick Bayless too. I’ve only been to Frontera but want to try Topolobampo soon. Did you see him on Top Chef Masters? This recipe looks fantastic! I love chicken thighs too, and like you, I’d prefer the skinless ones.

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Ivy July 14, 2009 at 11:51 am

The dish sounds delicious and regarding the skin although I never eat the skin even if it is crispy, however, I do believe that the skin adds a lot of flavour to any dish.

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nina July 14, 2009 at 2:53 pm

I know the skin is bad for you, but oy the skinless and boneless breasts are so…mmmm tasteless???? Yum!!

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arimou0 July 14, 2009 at 3:40 pm

What I like about Bayless is that he travels to Mexico to research his books and recipes which gives them a pretty authentic feeling. There’s a Mexican dish I make fairly often called entomatado. The sauce is very similar to this because it uses tomatillos, which I love. Hmm that sounds like a great dinner!

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maria July 14, 2009 at 7:10 pm

Wow, that first pic of the plated chicken is absolutely mouthwatering! I love crispy skin and leave the skin on depending on just how fatty our meals have been that week!

Really love all parts of this dish and am tempted to buy that book.

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ash July 14, 2009 at 7:50 pm

oh my goodness, this looks fabulous!!

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Erin July 14, 2009 at 10:42 pm

This looks fabulous! I love Mexican food, so I’ll have to check that book out!

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Cate July 15, 2009 at 2:39 am

I usually leave the skin on because I believe it improves flavor…but I may try taking it off now. I definitely prefer using bone-in chicken.

I’m jealous you’ve eaten at Topolobompo… I’m a huge fan of his books and I’d love to try his restaurant!

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Jessica July 15, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Wow! How beautiful! Looks delicious!

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elra July 15, 2009 at 11:22 pm

Delicious, really look delicious. I have that book and lucky enough had been to his restaurant as well. I’ll have to check out the recipe.

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Laura July 16, 2009 at 8:49 am

I can’t imagine the flavor explosion that this equates too in your mouth. Looks delicious!

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Elizabeth F. July 18, 2009 at 9:27 am

Wow – this look extremely flavorful! I can’t wait to give it a try!

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aupamexi August 14, 2009 at 3:18 pm

rick is the man… I like what he is doing to promote mexican foods other than burritos and tacos… we got so much other stuff..

I have seen variations like this one, but never with peaches, so I will give this a try tonite, in some parts of Mexico even when making a torta “sandwich”, fruits are added with the meats, plums especially.

I will leave u another comment on this recipe.

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