October 17, 2016

Steven's Special: mexican chicken and queso rice

At least once a week. 

That's how often my family goes out to our favorite Mexican restaurant just down the street. And what beckons us to frequent so often? What could possibly be so good that we have.to.have.it every few days? Steven's Special. An entree of creamy, queso rice with spicy strips of seasoned, grilled chicken stirred in. It's served with optional soft flour tortillas in the event that you get the itch to roll it into the tortilla and eat it. But most of us just eat it straight up. Every bite.

So I decided to make my own version at home to satisfy our regular (out-of-control) craving. And while my version is unique in its own right, it's awful good and mighty close to our cantina favorite! My Steven's Special rendition has lots of fresh ingredients and fixins too which we L-O-V-E. I'm telling ya. This recipe is sure to become a family favorite!

serves 4-6

-for the taco seasoning-
4 Tablespoons chili powder
4 teaspoons cumin
4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 chicken breasts, halved lengthwise making 4 cutlets
2.5 cups water
2.5 cups 5-minute white rice
1 large shallot, minced
2 cups whole milk
Juice of one can Rotel tomatoes with green chiles (juice only)
1 Tablespoon garlic paste (or grated fresh garlic)
1lb queso blanco Velveeta, cubed
3 Tablespoons jarred chopped jalapenos with juice (or 4oz chopped jalapenos)

Garnish with sour cream, avocado, tomatoes, and cilantro.

Mix the taco seasoning together and season both sides of the chicken breasts. Allow to sit for 10 minutes so the seasoning will really flavor the meat. Work on the rice and the prep for the queso while the chicken marinates in the rub. Grill on a hot preheated grill for 3 minutes on both sides. Remove from grill, cover with foil, and allow to rest. 

In a saucepan, heat water until it boils. Stir in rice, cover, and allow to simmer on low heat until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed saute pan with a lid, saute the shallot over medium-low heat in a little olive oil. Saute until just tender. Pour in whole milk and the juice from the Rotel tomatoes, and stir in the garlic paste. Allow to come just to a simmer, then add the cubes of queso blanco cheese. Cover with lid and allow to melt into the warm milk. Keep heat below medium and allow time to melt. Stir occasionally. Stir in chopped jalapenos with their juice. Taste and adjust. Keep covered on low heat.

When the chicken is grilled, the rice is cooked, and the queso is melted, stir the rice into the queso. Slice the chicken very thinly. Spoon a plate with cheesey rice, to with sliced chicken, and garnish with sour cream, sliced avocado, chopped tomatoes, and cilantro. Serve with warm tortillas if you choose.