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 recently. 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! I’m not really into fruit with meat (and peaches are actually one of my least favorite fruits) BUT they added some sweetness to the dish and were a good counterpart to the heat.

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.

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