Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pinterest You Win Again

Now that November is here and I realize I am not even halfway to my goal of trying new recipes, I figure I have to be doing some serious cooking. Except serious cooking requires planning and shopping and actually thinking about what you are going to cook more than 20 minutes before supper time. It is a trait I do not possess, so now I am going to have to force myself to think in advance. ( Since most of our meals are on the fly we tend to have very simple fare most of the time. I am not one of those cooks who worries about the number of ingredients, but I do like things that use few pots and utensils. I guess that is why I am so reluctant to think ahead. I can throw something on the grill, toss a salad and heat up some bread and everyone is satisfied and clean up is minimal. Measuring and mixing and blending and all the steps most recipes require means extra washing and added mess. I am not a fan.) I guess I have to get over the K.I.S.S. attitude and get with the program or surrender.

Tonight I tried a recipe which uses a recipe found on Pinterest. The original recipe I pinned is Cafe Rio Dressing. I am unsure exactly what Cafe Rio is ( assuming it is some sort of Tex/Mex joint in Utah) but it has a large and vocal fan base. I thought the dressing sounded tasty so I made it and The Hub and I used it on a couple of those tossed salads I mentioned earlier. It is a delicious take on the basic ranch dressing.

Cafe Rio Dressing

2 cups prepared ranch dressing, bottled or homemade ( I cheated and did the semi homemade Hidden Valley buttermilk dry mix)
1 small bunch cilantro, large stems removed (about 1/2 cup chopped cilantro)
2 large or 4 small tomatillos
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 T fresh lime juice
1 tsp. Green Tabasco sauce or 1 diced jalapeno pepper

Prepare Ranch dressing according to directions on the package or recipe you're following and set aside.

Remove large cilantro stems, then wash leaves and spin dry or dry with paper towels. Add cilantro to food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until finely chopped. (If you don't have a food processor, I'd chop all ingredients well by hand and then blend dressing in a blender.) I used the blender and it worked well. The dressing is just a creamy smooth concoction of good eating!

Add tomatillos, garlic, lime juice, and Green Tabasco or chopped jalapeno to the food processor and pulse until ingredients are finely pureed. Add the 2 cups of prepared dressing and pulse just a few times, until ingredients are well combined. Chill dressing for an hour or two and serve.

I followed this recipe to the letter, using 4 small tomatillos and the diced jalapeno. After it sat overnight, we had some on a very basic salad of lettuce, cukes and tomatoes. It was delicious. The tomatillo and lime add a nice acid kick to the ranch. It brightens up the flavor to a whole new level. I admit to being a cilantro lover, so, for me the flavor was perfect and including the jalapeno added just enough heat that Son3 who does not like things hot pronounced it delicious with a kick. If he were not eating with us, I would probably add a half pepper more.

The link to the webpage with the dressing recipe also had something called Cafe Rio Chicken and Cafe Rio Rice, both of which combine with the dressing on a plate to create one of the house dished at Cafe Ri

Cafe Rio Chicken

1 small bottle Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
3 cloves garlic—minced
5 lbs chicken breast

Cook all together in a crock pot for 4 hours, shred meat and cook 1 additional hour.

Ok I admit I did not look at this in time to serve it as suggested. In fact I had my usual 20-30 minutes from start to finish to get this on the table, so it was punt time. I poured a little of the Italian dressing ( for the record I never ever use Kraft but did have some Ken's on hand) In an enamel Dutch oven ( high heat) and plopped 4 chicken breasts in it. While the bottom was searing I sprinkled the chili powder, cumin, minced garlic and 2 teaspoons of ground dried cilantro on the chicken. When the bottom was browned I turned the breasts over and let them sear more on the other side, then added the remainder of the dressing ( about 1/2 bottle for the 4 breasts). Put the lid on and turned the heat down to med/low. It popped and sizzled for about 20 minutes. (Until the rice was ready) Since it did not have the advantage of slow cooking, we ate it as a whole piece of chicken.

The taste was very good and the chicken was surprisingly moist. I will do it again and soon, but will make sure to put it in the crock pot for that super long cook time.

Café Rio Rice

This recipe is for the entire 5 lbs. of chicken breasts. I used considerably less for the 4 we had for supper

3 c water
4 t chicken bouillon
4 t garlic –minced
½ bunch cilantro
1 can green chiles—or equivalent fresh
¾ t salt
1 T butter
½ onion
3 c MInute Rice ( I used brown Minute Rice

Blend cilantro, green chiles and onion together in food processor. Bring water to a boil and add all ingredients, simmer covered 30 minutes.
Call me a slacker if you must, but the only thing I did to the rice was to cook it in 3 cups of chicken broth rather than water. Why? Though I had everything sitting out on the counter, I forgot to add them. Even if had remembered I was not going to blend them all together. I planned to just mince it finely. What can I say? We ate rice cooked in chicken broth. It tasted like chickeny rice.

To form the dish you should have a toasted tortilla per person. I had tortillas but I did not want to open the pack for just 3 tortillas so we left that off. Put the tortilla on a plate and put the rice overlapping 1/3 of the tortilla. Top the rice with 1/2 cup of black beans. ( Punt again- no black beans so kidney were substituted.) Place the chicken on the next third and finish the tortilla circle with chopped lettuce. Drizzle the Cafe Rio Dressing over each component and serve immediately.

Son3 pronounced it one of the best chicken meals he has had in a long time and we all agreed this dish will become a standard in our meal rotation. Like I said earlier I will cook it a long time so the flavors can meld, but it was delicious as it was. I can only imagine the flavors slow cooking will bring. I look forward to it.

I guess I also look forward to the mega cooking I am going to do, but I don't know when I can start. Son2 is coming to town tomorrow for a whirlwind football game visit (Roll Tide!) so we will be eating out this weekend and next week we leave for a trip to NYC. I should download some cookbooks to the Kindle and read them on the plane. I might be inspired!

p.s. Anyone have suggestions for a delicious NYC meal?

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