A Latin-inspired meal: not just your plain old chicken and rice

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The result, a delicious and easy Latin feast that took less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook (not including marinating time). No cookbooks or culinary school degree needed for this one- just a hint of cooking know-how and foodie pizzaz. Watch out, Rachael Ray, I'm hot on your heels.


Quick Kicked Up Latin Chicken and Rice


(Serves 2)


Yellow Rice:


1 tablespoon olive oil


2-3 cloves garlic, minced


1 cup short- or medium-grain rice (not brown or wild rice)


1/2 packet Sazon Tropical with annato and coriander


1 cup dry white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)*


1 (14 oz.) can chicken or vegetable broth


Salt and pepper, to taste


Mojo Chicken with Caramelized Onions and Bell Peppers:


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (thawed out if frozen, duh)


1 1/2 cups Mojo marinade


1 teaspoon dried oregano


1 teaspoon garlic powder


2 teaspoons each salt and pepper


1 tablespoon olive oil


1/2 white onion, sliced into strips


1 green bell pepper, core removed and sliced into strips


1/2 cup dry white wine*


Roasted Asparagus:


1/2 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed (about 12 medium-sized stalks)


1 tablespoon olive oil


Salt and pepper, to taste


Garnish:


1 scallion, sliced


2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped


1. Marinate the chicken breasts in the Mojo, oregano, and garlic powder in the refrigerator for at least an hour.


2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a medium-sized pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and let cook for minute, the add the rice, stirring to coat in oil. Add half the packet of Sazon and stir. Pour in wine and broth, add salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. When it comes to a boil, lower to med.-low heat and let simmer, partially covered. Stir occasionally.


3. After you get the rice to the simmering stage, heat a large saute pan over med-high heat and add olive oil. When pan is hot, add the chicken breasts and cook on each side for about a minute or two, or until you get a nice golden-brown color on both sides. Turn down the heat, remove the chicken and place it on one side of a baking sheet (leaving room for the asparagus on the other side of it).


4. Add olive oil to the saute pan, raise heat to medium, and add the onion and bell pepper. Saute for a few minutes and when they start to soften, add the wine. Let cook about 7-10 minutes, turning down the heat halfway through cooking time. (Don't forget to stir that rice!)


5. While the pepper and onion cooks, toss the asparagus with the olive oil, salt and pepper, and put in on the same pan that the chicken is cooking on. Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Cook for 5 minutes, stir around, then cook for another 5 minutes. When the onions and peppers are caramelized, remove the pan from the heat.


6. When the rice is cooked, turn off the heat. When the asparagus looks cooked (it should have a "roasted" look to it and not be tough), remove the baking pan from the oven and check to see if the chicken is cooked all the way through (if not, remove asparagus from pan and throw it back in the oven until cooked).


7. Serve the chicken on top of the rice, topped with the caramelized onions and peppers, and the asparagus under the chicken or beside it. Garnish with chopped cilantro and scallions.


*Hopefully, you save some of that wine you were cooking with to enjoy it alongside your tasty Latin meal.


Check out my blog, Culinary Piracy, and follow me on Twitter!

When thinking of recipes to make to post on the site, I rack my brain looking at food magazines, and foodie sites and blogs for inspiration. But I've come to find, through trial and error, that my best looking and tasting dishes are almost always done as a spur of the moment thing.

I especially love a challenge, like trying to make a meal with what I've got in the refrigerator or pantry- sometimes working with plain and boring items, and sometimes very interesting ones. Which leads me to how I made this meal.

Picture the scene: I'm over at my boyfriend's house trying to make dinner last week and he hadn't stocked up on groceries in awhile (typical). I go through the pantry and refrigerator, scavenging and turning on my creative juices to come up with something for a well-balanced meal. I've got these basics- frozen chicken breasts (thank goodness he buys a ton when they're on sale), rice, asparagus (luckily, still pretty fresh) an onion, and a green bell pepper. Protein, starch, a green vegetable, and garnish- perfect. Lucky for him, he's dating a foodie with culinary degree and a flair for thinking on her toes when it comes to meal time. So I grabbed a packet of Sazon Tropical seasoning and a bottle of Mojo marinade I'd stashed over there for times like these (also easy to find at your local grocery store and great pantry staples) and a bottle of white wine, got out the tools and got to cooking.

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