One of my favorite meals in the world is Leo Maya's Chicken with Green Sauce, a recipe Mario Batali shared with Serious Eaters a few years ago. It's simple, direct, and aggressive. Tomatillos are blended up with lime juice, cilantro, and serranos, then poured into a large pot with a chicken thighs. It's a perfect dish for those tired of bland chicken dishes. It works better as a humble family meal than some kind of elegant feast.
So I nearly lost it when I came across this recipe in Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday, because it seemed like the grownup, elegant cousin. The ingredients don't differ too much, but the process of cooking them does.
The chicken is well-browned. The onions are cooked to a golden brown. Overall, it's more balanced, and there is a pleasant glow instead of a fierce burn. It's kind of missing that unhinged gluttony of Leo Maya's—but sometimes this is what I'm in the mood for.
- 2 fresh poblano chiles
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts ( about 1 1/2 pounds total)
- 1 large white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husked and rinsed
- 1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 to 3 tablespoons Mexican crema, heavy cream, or creme fraiche
Blacken the skin of the pobanos by sitting them over the burner on your stove. Turn regularly until evenly blackened, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a plastic bag to steam for 15 minutes.
Pour the oil into a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Season the chicken breasts with salt, and then place in the skillet. Cook until well browned, about 2 minutes a side. Set aside.
Meanwhile, blend the tomatillos and cilantro. Pour this into the skillet when the onions are done. Cook until it is very thick, about 8 minutes.
Add the broth, poblano strips, and the crema. Stir well, and season with a teaspoon of salt. Return the chicken breasts to the skillet. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the chicken is completely cooked, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Serve the chicken with the chile and onion sauce.