Yin and Yang Chicken Wraps

Sometimes I crave very spicy food.  And by sometimes, I mean about once a week.  I don’t always act on the impulse but when I do, I go all out.

I’m not the kind of person that goes around bragging about eating super-hot-spicy peppers and I’m not the kind of guy that likes to trick people with wickedly spicy food.  I just like the stuff.  Spicy food makes me happy.  It brings me peace when I need it.  I tend to crave very spicy food after a stressful day at work.  I feel as though I can burn away a bad day with blistering hot food.  Sometimes I just want something very spicy for no reason at all.  Like I said, I just like the stuff.

I call this Yin and Yang Chicken Wraps because it exists in perfect balance.  Admittedly, it contains things that are not so healthy yet, it contains things that are very healthy for you.  Think of it as the dichotomy of Good and Evil.

Good:  mango, chilis, lettuce, carrots, onions, cilantro, garlic and sour cream.

Evil: fried chicken, flour tortillas and mayonnaise.

Without evil, could we appreciate good?  Without good, could we perceive evil?  Oh yes, this is going to be some very philosophical food!

Another aspect of yin and yang provided by this recipe relates to taste sensations.  Spicy and Soothing. 

Spicy: all of the peppers and hot sauces

Soothing: mango, lettuce, sour cream and cilantro.

This recipe is relatively quick and easy to make.  In fact, if you pare it down to the core, it’s really just fried chicken strips with hot sauce and some vegetables, wrapped into a large burrito.  The ingredients may change, based upon what I have at hand.  Since I am growing chili peppers in my garden, I have lots of ways to bring spicy heat and bold flavors. 

red habaneros

Habaneros are the key in this particular recipe.  If  you have never tried fresh habanero, you should try them.  Be careful, though.  Habaneros are VERY spicy.  Slice a tiny sliver from a fresh habanero and pop it into your mouth.  Bite once and spit it out.  You will get a big dose of heat from the spice but not so much to knock you down.  You will also get to experience a most unique chili flavor.  There’s no other chili pepper like the habanero.  The taste is vibrant and unlike any other chili I have tasted.

If you want to try cooking with habanero but are concerned about being blown away by the excessive heat, try adding a slice or two to a stir fry.  Stir it with other items in the wok and pull it out after 10 or 15 seconds.  You will get the flavor and some of the heat.  If you like it, add a little more but beware, you can always add more habanero to a dish but you can never take it away.  Once it imparts its heat, you can’t undo it.

Notice that I also use ghost pepper powder.  Ghost pepper (Bhut jolokia) makes the habanero seem sweet and innocent, by comparison.  Ghost peppers provide extreme heat and very little flavor.  Any flavor a ghost pepper might provide is hidden behind screaming fire.  I grow ghost peppers and dehydrate them and grind them into a powder. 

A word of warning:  set your dehydrator outdoors or in a ventilated, open garage.  The fumes are practically lethal.  And, once in powder form, the ghost pepper is as strong as mace.  I’m serious.  You should use latex gloves and a mask and goggles when working with dried ghost pepper.  I don’t, but I should.

The way I use ghost pepper in this recipe gives some spice to the chicken but, after frying, the spiciness dissipates remarkably.  You will get a bigger kick from the habanero and jalapeño…believe me. 

If you want to make a tame version of this, skip all of the peppers and hot sauce and use everything else.

Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts

2 Tbs garlic powder

2 Tbs paprika

2 cups flour

3 Tbs cornstarch

2 eggs

1/3 cup cooking oil

1 mango, peeled and chopped

3 habanero chilis, thinly sliced

3 jalapeños, sliced

1 tsp ghost pepper powder (optional)

¼ onion, thinly sliced

½ cup cilantro

½ cup carrots, sliced

1 cup lettuce, julienne sliced

1 Tbs Salt

4 burrito sized flour tortillas

Ingredients for the sauce:

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup sour cream

3 Tbs sriracha hot sauce

Mix the sauce (mayonnaise, sour cream and sriracha).  Set aside

Additional sauces (for adventuresome risk takers):

Louisiana hot sauce

Habanero hot sauce

Directions:

Prepare the vegetables and set aside.

Lay the chicken breasts on a cutting board and slice them scallopini-style.  Hold the chicken breast in place with the palm of your hand.  Slice the breast in half horizontally, starting at the thickest end and work your way to the thinner end.  Dust the chicken with paprika and ghost pepper powder.

Prepare the flour dredge by whisking the flour and cornstarch in a large mixing bowl. 

Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and let the chicken rest in the bowl for 10 or 15 minutes.  The flour will mix with the moisture on the surface of the chicken and the chicken will become tacky, to the touch. 

While the chicken rests, add the cooking oil to a skillet and set the heat to medium. 

Mix the eggs in a shallow dish.

Dip the chicken in the egg and then dredge the chicken in the flour mixture again.  Shake off excess flour and lay the chicken in the hot oil.  Do not crowd in the pan.  You will probably need to fry in two batches.

Since the chicken has been sliced in half, it will cook quickly.  Turn the chicken after a few minutes and turn again.  Keep turning the chicken every few minutes until the chicken is crisps and becomes golden brown.  Remove to a paper towel lined plate.  Sprinkle a little salt on the chicken.  Slice the chicken into ½“ strips.

Warm the burrito sized tortillas in a microwave oven until they are soft and pliable. 

Lay a tortilla on a clean work surface.  As you prepare the wrap you will want to lay everything down horizontally.  Smear some of the sauce in the center of tortilla.  Lay the vegetables, herbs and mango down on top of the sauce.  Lay some chicken on top of the vegetables.

Add hot sauce, if desired.

Wrap the tortilla by folding the sides inward, toward the middle and roll the tortilla.

Serve with your favorite drink.  Milk, if you want some relief from the heat.  Beer, if you’ve had a particularly rough day.

Summer Cold

“Summer cold”.  Now, that’s an oxymoron! 

I haven’t come down with a cold during the summer months in a long time and this one came at me quickly and with a vengeance.  I slept for two days and, on the few occasions I got out of bed, I staggered around the house like Frankenstein’s monster, wandering aimlessly from room to room, only to collapse back into bed after a few minutes. 

At one point, during a semi-lucid moment, I thought it would be “fun” to submit a post about my favorite chicken broth recipe but I was so exhausted that my fingers refused to type and my brain was operating on emergency reserve power.  I really don’t have a favorite chicken broth recipe, but I like to think that I do, when I’m sick. 

I’m feeling a little better now…still drained of energy but at least my brain is firing on more than one cylinder. 

So, let’s see if I can reconstruct the broth I made while I was feeling ill.  I’m glad I took a few pictures because I can barely remember making this, even though it was only a few days ago!

Ingredients:

4 cups chicken broth (I used boxed chicken broth)

1 handful of dry, wide, Thai rice stick noodles (why, why, why?)

1 small jalapeño

2 habaneros

A tiny bit of thinly sliced onion

1 garlic clove

¼ cup fresh spinach

1 Tbs soy sauce

1 lime

Directions:

Use a mandoline to slice the chilis and garlic.  I couldn’t tie my shoes because I was so deliriously sick but did that stop me from using a razor sharp kitchen instrument…heck no!  Slice the lime into quarters…again with the sharp tools!  Set these aside before you hurt yourself.

In a 4 quart pot, add the chicken broth and simmer over medium/low heat.  Add the garlic and soy sauce.  Add the Thai noodles.  Simmer for a few minutes.  Hover over the stove for a moment before realizing that the noodles will probably take FOREVER to cook.

Walk away and forget that you are cooking something.  Go back to the kitchen for a glass of water and remember that you have something on the stove.  Check to see if the noodles are soft.  They probably won’t be.  Lean over the broth and slowly breath in through your nose and out through your mouth several times.  Toss a sliver of habanero or jalapeño into the pot and keep breathing.  This is the therapeutic part of the program.  You may not enjoy the broth when it is done but you will at least have had a moment to clear your sinuses!

Once the noodles have softened, Pour the broth into a large bowl.  Add the spinach, onion and as much of the chilis as you dare to.  Squeeze some lime juice into the broth. 

Why on earth did I add the Thai noodles?  The darn things are so wide and slippery that they defy chopsticks, forks and spoons.  The only way I could eat them was to slurp them from the bowl.  And, since I was sick, that was totally acceptable.

¡Salsa Picante!

My garden is at its zenith.  This summer has provided a rare, but welcomed, balance of sunshine, heat  and rain.  I haven’t watered the garden in over two months and I haven’t used any pesticides or fertilizer.  Nature has been kind to me, this season!

This week’s harvest provided four gallons of tomatoes and lots of different varieties of peppers.  That means it’s time to make salsa!   This recipe will make 4 quarts of salsa and, now that I have made it, I wish I would have doubled or tripled the batch.  This is not a quick process…be prepared to spend a more than a couple of hours prepping the vegetables and cooking sauces.  The end result is definitely worth the work.  I plan on giving one or two quarts away to friends and keeping the others for my family.  I don’t know why I even bother canning the stuff, since my family and I can gobble down a quart in a day or two.  But, I will try to hide a quart and bring it out as a surprise, long after summer has gone. 

Aside from the optional habanero and tabasco chiles, I consider this to be a basic salsa.  The proportions listed in the recipe should produce a “medium” heat salsa.  If you want to tweak this recipe, I suggest roasting or smoking one or more of the items.  For example, you could put the jalapeños on the grill and smoke with some mesquite wood, or you could char the onion and tomato over hot coals, or wrap the head of garlic in aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes.  Any of these things will add a new, distinct profile to your salsa. 

I stared at the habaneros and tabascos for a long time and finally decided to pass on them.  I would love to include them but I believe the end result would have been too spicy for some folks.  I will dice them and sauté them in a little tomato sauce and add it to my private reserve!

For this recipe, I made the tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes.  If you don’t have access to fresh tomatoes, canned tomato sauce will work just fine. 

Ingredients:

1 gallon diced tomatoes

2 cups diced onion

2 cups diced bell pepper

1 ½ cups diced jalapeño

Juice of 2 limes

1 head of garlic (about ¼ cup) minced garlic

3 habanero chiles (optional)

8 tabasco chiles peppers (optional)

½ gallon tomato sauce

2 cups vegetable stock (reduced to sauce)

Directions:

See my previous post to make the vegetable stock reduction: https://toothpicktales.com/2019/08/11/a-conversation-on-conservation-and-consideration/

Heat the tomato sauce in a large uncovered pot on the stove.  If you are using the vegetable stock, add it now.  Simmer at low heat while vegetables are prepared.

Chop vegetables into small pieces.  Tomatoes should be about ½” pieces and the onions and chiles should be cut into ¼” pieces.  Strain the juice from the tomatoes and set aside. 

Add all ingredients to the sauce.  Cook uncovered for one hour.  Turn the heat off and add the lime juice and stir to incorporate. 

I have to confess, I did not cook the salsa long enough and I forgot to add the lime juice when I made this.  Within a day after canning, juice started creeping out of the jars.  When I unscrewed the ring the lid popped off, from the pressure inside.  I dumped the salsa back into a pot and cooked it at a low boil for 30 minutes and then added the lime juice.  I have canned it again and I hope that does the trick.  If not, I will come clean and relay the sordid details!

Sanitize canning jars.  I use a bleach and water solution.  The bleach to water ratio should be 2 teaspoons of bleach to 1 gallon of water.

Lay empty canning jars, lids and rings in the kitchen sink, after plugging the drain.  Fill the sink with 3 gallons of boiling water.  Add 6 teaspoons of liquid bleach.  Remove the jars after two minutes and allow them to air dry. 

Fill the jars with salsa and leave about ½” air space at the top.  Cover the jar with the lid and secure by gently tightening the ring with your fingertips. 

Immerse the jars in boiling water and pull them out after 15 minutes and allow them to cool on a cooling rack.