M. Andrew Gordon

Cran-exico Chicken

In Main Dish on October 23, 2009 at 6:46 am

Let’s say you’ve got most of the remainder of a package of chicken thigh in the fridge, a stray avocado, several beets, leftover Cranberry BBQ sauce, and a few other odds and ends.  What do you make for dinner?  I’m not sure about you, but I started to think of a quesadilla and this is what came up with.

I figured I would cook the chicken in a flavorful sauce and shred it because I wanted to cook all of the chicken and not worry about handling all of those thighs multiple times.  So that immediately led me to think of a quesadilla although I briefly toyed with the idea of some sort of chicken ragout.  So, a quesadilla it would be.  To help infuse some smoky and spicy flavors, I toasted several dried poblanos to add to the mixture.  Then I browned up the thighs and added a can of whole tomatoes, a sliced onion, two cloves of garlic, and the cranberry sauce.  A liberal dose of ground pepper and salt later and I was free to turn my attention elsewhere.

Beets & Avocado

Beets have a distinct and present flavor and they’re crisp, or at least when raw.  For those unfamiliar with the raw beet, get acquainted sometime.  They’re perfectly delicious though potentially a greater staining liability.  Anyway, it seemed a good match for the chicken as it would provide flavor and texture – a nice, solid crunch.

And finally, the avocado: I must say that putting avocado and beet together was a bit of a revelation.  Believe it or not, they behave remarkably well side-by-side.  For this I just made an extra simple guacamole, cubing the avocado and tossing it with lime juice, sea salt, and pepper.  Let’s be clear, though: this is not a definitive guacamole, although I do subscribe to the minimalist guacamole camp.  For this dish I was just looking for a quick garnish for an already flavor-dense dish.

Cran-exican ChickenOnce the chicken was cooked, I removed the thighs to cool and put the pot on the stove, cooking the braising liquid until reduced.  Pulling the meat from the bones, I put it back in the pot and got ready to make my quesadillas.

This is exactly the sort of meal that caused me to start this blog.  It’s a somewhat bizarre concept, I followed no recipe, and essentially just threw it altogether.  A week later I would try to remember what it was that I had done to make it in the first place.  Well, now I know.  While I very much enjoyed the quesadillas, I wonder if I will ever make anything like this again.  I do know that the thought the chicken being replaced with grilled duck glazed in the Cranberry BBQ sauce passed through my mind as I ate it.  Perhaps this is destined for a reinvention.  We’ll see.

Chicken:Finished Quesadilla

  • 2 dried poblanos
  • 8-10 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin removed
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 28oz can whole tomatoes
  • 1 cup Cranberry BBQ Sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic


  • 1 large beet, peeled and shredded
  • ½ lime
  • 1 tbsp honey


  • 1 avocado
  • ½ lime
  • Sea salt
  • Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Tortillas
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.  Heat heavy ovenproof pot over high heat.  Slice open poblanos and remove all seeds.  Toast over high heat until fragrant and darkening.  Remove.
  2. Add olive oil to pot.  Season thighs with salt and pepper and cook in batches until browned.  Place all chicken in pot, pour in tomatoes with juices, cranberry BBQ, onion, and garlic.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Transfer to oven and cook for about 1 hour.  Check halfway through and stir contents of pot.
  3. Combine juice of half a lime and honey.  Stir in beets and set aside.
  4. Remove flesh from avocado and dice.*  Add juice of half a lime and a generous sprinkle of sea salt and pepper.  Stir, mashing some of the avocado.  Set aside.
  5. When chicken is cooked, remove from pot and let cool.  Place pot on stove and bring to a boil and simmer until liquid is reduced.  When chicken was cool, pull from bones and place back in pot to warm.
  6. Heat heavy skillet.  Add generous spoonful of chicken, spread smaller amounts of beets and guacamole over chicken and fold tortilla in half.  Cook in skillet for several minutes per side, until tortilla is toasted.

*The easiest way to get to the flesh of the avocado is to cut in half lengthwise, cutting around the pit not through it.  Then, twist apart the two halves and the pit will be sitting in one half.  Give the pit a good solid “wack” with the cutting edge of the knife and the blade should sink into the pit.  Twist the blade and the pit should easily be removed.  You can then push over the top, non-blade side of the knife to remove the pit.  A soup spoon will help loosen the flesh from the skin at this point.


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