No. 104 & 105: Spicy Chipotle Grilled Chicken & Mexican Caesar Salad

We started off the weekend right. Mr. McCormick's slow pitch softball team had a win in the first game of the season.

This particular team has won the Berkeley Rec League Championship the last two years in a row. Needless to say, expectations are high. They're a competitive group. Sometimes more in attitude than actual play ... but fun to watch.

Thanks to the win (and the fact that it's the weekend), we woke up Saturday morning in a happy, productive mood. Before heading off for our respective activities (real softball game at Cal and a wedding shower) we were already prepping chicken, cleaning, menu planning and blogging away.

Spicy Chipotle Chicken

After a week of eating steak, it was time to move on to new flavors and use the rest of my chipotle chiles. This Epicurious recipe sounded spicy and delicious.

Ingredients

1/4 cup canned chipotle chiles in adobo
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces*
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

*You could sub any combination of preferred chicken parts here. We used two very large boneless breasts, about 1 1/2 pounds.

To make

Combine chipotles in adobo, olive oil, and garlic cloves in processor and puree until paste forms. Add chopped onion, chopped cilantro, paprika, ground cumin, chili powder, and salt; process until onion is finely chopped.

Transfer 1/4 cup chipotle mixture to small bowl; cover and refrigerate. Arrange chicken pieces in a large glass baking dish. Spread remaining chipotle mixture all over chicken pieces.

Spread

Cover and refrigerate overnight (or in our case, I made the paste in the morning and put the chicken in the fridge all day).

Spray grill rack or pan with nonstick spray. Prepare barbecue/pan at medium heat. Grill chicken until cooked through, moving to cooler part of grill as needed to prevent burning and brushing with reserved marinade during last 5 minutes of grilling. Transfer chicken to platter and serve.

Mexican Caesar Salad

While searching for a fun side, this creative salad sounded like a great accompaniment to our spicy chicken.

Ingredients

Cilantro Pepita Dressing
1 (4 ounce) can of chopped green chilies*
2 tablespoons roasted pepitas (pumpkin or squash seeds)*
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 dash ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon grated Cotija cheese
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons water

*I didn't have chiles but did have a large jalapeno which was a good sub. If you can't find pepitas, you can sub sunflower seeds. Not quite the same, but pretty close.

Salad
2 corn tortillas
Vegetable oil
1 large head romaine lettuce, rinsed and spun dry
1/3 cup crumbled Cotija cheese
1 roasted red pepper, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup pepitas (roasted pumpkin or squash seeds)

To make

Place all dressing ingredients except cilantro, mayo and water in a food processor.

In processor

Blend about 10 seconds, then add cilantro and blend until smooth.

Place mayonnaise and water in a small bowl and whisk until combined. Add the blended ingredients and mix thoroughly. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate. This dressing will keep for up to three days in the fridge.

Cut tortillas into match sized sticks.

Cut strips

Heat oil in saute pan over med-high; fry tortillas until crisp. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

FInal chips

Chop lettuce into bite size pieces and toss in a large bowl with half of the crumbled cheese, roasted peppers, pepitas and as much salad dressing as you wish. Top with the remaining cheese, roasted peppers, pepitas and fried tortilla strips.

The results

The flavors of these two recipes had a great marriage, but man, was it a spicy combination!

Plate

Mr. McCormick added his chicken to his salad and I kept mine a bit more separate, but we loved all the terrific textures/flavors coming together. Crunch from the pepitas and the tortilla strips, creamy flavor from the cheese, slow heat from the chiles and adobo.

We made wayyy too much dressing for two people, but we have some more romaine in the fridge and I'll be making more spicy caesars this week.

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