What to do when winter gives you cabin fever? El Pollo Loco Roja!

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted.  I hope to change my frequency in the future.  I have some wonderful cookbooks to try out, some intriguing recipes from the internet to play with, so there should be new posts more often.  I’m also purchasing a new (used) higher quality camera in the very near future, so the photos on my blog should be even more stunning.  It takes HD quality videos, so The Roommate just might be able to convince me to do a cooking video one of these days.  Maybe.

Aside from falling even more in love with roasted vegetables — something I will post about at a later date when I make some more — I haven’t spent this winter making too many new dishes.  Then for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been down with the Crud — you know that lovely mixture of sore throat, congestion, coughing, in and out of fever, achy, sweaty mess that keeps you from sleeping because the cough is one of Doom and won’t go away?  Yeah, that’s what I’ve been fighting for the last three weeks.  Doctors don’t really give you prescriptions for that.  You just have to take Day and Nyquil, allergy meds, gargle with warm salt water, ibuprofen, and drink lots of hot tea with honey.  The only pleasant part of that list of cures is the hot tea with honey.  That and the fact that my sister and The Roommate let me sleep a lot to get better.  I’m on the mend, and more importantly, I’m back to cooking.

Including a new recipe that’s similar to one other with some definite tweaks.  I dreamt the idea one night, and I woke up thinking it sounded fantastic.  It’s very close to A King without his Crown — Cornless King Ranch Chicken, in fact.  I’m calling it El Pollo Loco Roja — The Crazy Red Chicken.  You’ll understand why when you see the ingredients and the photos.

Actually, you’ll notice that I changed from using “Ingredients” to a term called “Mise en place,” which means to “put into place.” Recently, one of my best friends brought me a copy of Anne Burrell’s first cookbook, Cook Like a Rock Star, and this is how she lists her ingredients along with how to prep them because she said (and I agree with her) that the best way to cook is to have all the ingredients out an prepared before you start cooking.


2 large chicken breasts, cut in half, pounded out thin (this should feed four)

2-4 garlic cloves, minced small

1-2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup lime juice (can substitute zest of one whole lime and the juice of two limes)

Kosher salt

1 can of enchilada sauce (mild, medium, hot for your tastes)

1/2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 cups grated mild cheddar cheese


1. Cut the chicken breasts in half (I usually cut them lengthwise from top to tip, but you could cut them from side to side, too).  If lengthwise, you’ll have to slice down the middle to butterfly them then cover them across with plastic wrap and use the flat side of your meat tenderizer to pound them until they’re thin.  Make them as even as possible.  This helps the chicken to cook quickly and evenly.

2. Sprinkle the chicken with kosher salt (to taste, but as I’ve been learning from all the cooking shows, make it somewhat generous).  Now, I just salted one side, but you can do both.  After you do that, place the chicken into a bowl with the minced garlic and chopped cilantro then pour the lime juice over it.  Mix it together with your hands to make sure all the chicken is coated with the salt, juice, cilantro, and garlic.  Now I realize that some people hate cilantro (I feel so bad for you! I love fresh cilantro, it’s so clean and good!), so you don’t HAVE to use it.  Also if you’re allergic to garlic, you don’t have to use it.  You could instead use minced onion or shallots.

3. Now, if you’re going to serve this with rice, you should’ve already started your rice cooking.  Once your chicken is prepped (and you can let this marinade for a while, actually, but you don’t have to), you can heat the vegetable oil in your pan.  While it heats, you can clean up your cutting board — as I’ve said, I love cleaning up as I go along because that’s fewer dishes after dinner.  Once the oil is hot enough, place the chicken into the pan.  Don’t crowd it or it’ll be harder to cook.  Make sure all the cilantro and garlic are in the pan, but there shouldn’t be a lot extra of the lime juice.  You want the chicken to brown a little, and too much liquid (juice) will just steam it instead of pan-searing it.

4. Once the chicken is starting to brown and is most of the way cooked, open up your can of enchilada sauce and pour it over all the chicken. Let it pool inside the pan. Use your tongs to turn the chicken to make sure all sides are coated. Cover it with the pan’s lid and turn the temperature down to medium to let it simmer the rest of the way until it’s done.

5. Uncover the chicken and add the grated cheese on top of the chicken. Lower the temperature, cover again, and let the cheese melt completely. Some will melt into the sauce. This is not only okay, it’s nummy. You’re going to add the sauce on top of the rice, so you get these melty cheese bits in with your rice and sauce that just makes it sooooooooooo wonderful.

6. When it’s done, plate up your chicken and rice, add sauce to the rice, and serve with a light, cold salad of some sort. We’ve eaten it twice now with cucumbers and tomatoes in Olive Garden’s Italian dressing. This is a great way to have chicken enchiladas without the tortillas to make them really heavy, especially if you’re watching your carbs or can’t have them because of gluten sensitivity or allergy.


Now, as a note.  I tagged this as gluten-free because this doesn’t use tortillas.  However, after looking at the ingredients on the cans of enchilada sauce, there is some corn starch and wheat gluten.  In fact, this is the ingredients list for the Hill Country Fare that I used (it’s an HEB specific brand): Water, Tomato Paste, Modified Food Starch, Dried Red Chile, Soybean Oil, Sugar, Salt, Hydrolyzed Corn Protein, Citric Acid, Spices, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Autolyzed Yeast.  The ingredients list for the Old El Paso brand, which is the standard brand that can be found in most grocery stores is this: Water, Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Modified Corn Starch, Dried Red Chiles, Soybean Oil, Sugar, Salt, Monosodium Glutamate, Citric Acid, Hydrolyzed Corn Gluten, Soy Protein and Wheat Gluten, Onion Powder, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Spice, Garlic Powder, Red Pepper.  So if you’re gluten sensitive, you might still be able to use these.  I don’t know.  If you’re actually allergic, probably not so much, but there are recipes all over the internet for homemade enchilada sauces, and even though most involve making a roux, you can probably substitute gluten-free flour for that.  Those who are allergic to corn or garlic will probably have to make homemade sauce, too.  I don’t think you can find a canned sauce without those two ingredients unless health food stores sell brands that are corn and garlic-free.

If you want/need to avoid carbs, you could serve it with cauliflower rice or just the salad.  You will have a lot of extra sauce, though, but you could just have that on the chicken, or if you’re just trying to be low carb, fix less rice (or brown rice) or just have some cooked corn tortillas or even low carb tortillas as a side to sop up the sauce.  Believe me, the sauce is one of the best parts.  Don’t let that go to waste!

Buen provecho!


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