In the early 1800s, when Methodist pastors were circuit riders covering vast territories on horseback, they would stop wherever a friendly (hopefully) household would take them. The compensation for a “meeting,” complete with sermon, was often not money, but rather food. I can imagine the German pastors who were among the first non-Catholics to preach in the Trans Pecos, traveling through the dusty, sparse reaches of Southwestern Texas, coming across this Mexican-influenced chicken dish, perhaps as payment for a wedding ceremony. The food would have been the best available, and this dish – aptly named The Padre’s Pollo, could have been just what the good book called for. Enjoy!
4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup onions, chopped
4 button mushrooms, sliced
4 oz. green chilies, chopped
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 dash salt
At the very end, add…
1/2 cup chicken stock
In a bowl, mix the cinnamon, chili powder and black pepper. Dredge the chicken breasts through the mixture. Set aside momentarily.
Place the ingredients for the sauce in a large, deep skillet; now place the chicken on top of everything. Cover the skillet and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Checking the temperature of the chicken with a thermometer, continue cooking until the bird reaches 185 degrees. By keeping the whole thing covered, the chicken stays nice and juicy.
If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, cook for ten more minutes, then stab the chicken with a knife. If the juices run clear, you should be good. After dinner, go get a thermometer. Really. They aren’t that expensive.
Once thoroughly cooked, set the chicken breasts aside, covered to help them stay warm. Use a handheld immersion blender and pulse the solids until they are like a finely ground salsa. Add the chicken stock and heat until boiling. Reduce heat and stir until it reduces to the consistency you desire.
Put the chicken over a steaming hot bed of rice. Top everything with the savory gravy. Pour a glass of Merlot and enjoy the evening. If you get the urge to saddle up and head toward Mexico, bring a serape…and some of The Padre’s Pollo!