Summer Chicken

with Cilantro, Vodka-lime Salsa, and Avocados
I got this idea on a hot, sunny San Francisco day in October (not bragging, we just don't get normal summers out here). I'd been out driving around and had people coming for dinner, and thought something cool and refreshing would hit the spot, and starting thinking about salsas and limes and avocados.

Recently, when I was re-testing this recipe, the guests I had over were watching tv while I was in the kitchen, and a certain young hotel heiress' sex tape was being discussed, as well as night vision cameras. My guests thought that I should use that to name this dish, but my lawyer suggested that I don't (at least not in this forum)...

Regardless of that, this dish is terrific for a hot summer day, and presents all kinds of holding patterns for you to take a break from cooking.

For 4

Ingredients

2 # Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
2 T Fresh Cilantro (loosely chopped)
1 t Cumin
Salt
Pepper
Dash of Red Pepper Flakes
1 Lemon (the juice from)
1 T Olive Oil
1 T Butter
1 Cup Rice
2¼ Cups Water
2 Avocados (halved, peeled, and sliced)

Vodka-lime Salsa
4 Roma Tomatoes (chopped)
2 Shallots (diced)
6 Cloves of Garlic (diced)
2 Cerrano Peppers (diced)
1 t Cumin
3 T Fresh Cilantro (chopped)
½ Cup Ketel One Vodka
4 Limes (the juice from)
Pepper
Salt

Directions

First off, you'll want to make your vodka-lime salsa, so it can marinate in the fridge for a hour or two. Put your tomatoes, shallots, garlic, cerrano peppers, cumin, cilantro, vodka, lime juice, salt, and pepper into a bowl, and mix it all together with a spoon, making sure that the tomatoes are all fully covered with the liquid so that they nicely marinate. Put this in the fridge. And voila, your first holding pattern. As alluded to above, this should marinate for at least an hour. It can marinate for far longer than that, so you can make it well in advance, and/or if you're entertaining and your guests aren't quite hungry at "one hour", no worries. Relax, pour another cocktail, crack open a cold beer, light up a smoke, and enjoy your company.

OK - next up is the chicken. Rinse your chicken breasts under cold water, and slice them into about ¾ inch wide strips. Crack some black pepper over them, and sprinkle some salt over them. Set a sauté pan on the stove over medium-high heat, and put your olive oil and butter into the pan, along with some red pepper flakes. As the oil and butter start to melt, lay your chicken breast strips into the pan, and sprinkle 1 t of cumin over the strips. After about 4 - 5 minutes take a pair of tongs (or a fork) and flip the strips (roughly in the order you put them into the pan) to cook the other side. Add in your 2 T of chopped cilantro and your lemon juice, and reduce the heat to medium. After about another 5 minutes, flip the strips again and move them around in the pan, to insure that all of them get cooked. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and continue to sauté for another 10ish minutes. When that's done, kill the heat.

The beauty of this meal is that it's just as good room-temperature or cold as it is warm. So at this point you can either start your rice, or drop into another holding pattern.

When you're thinking about serving, you should get your rice going. Put 2¼ cups of water into a stock pot and onto the stove to boil. When it hits the boil, pour in your cup of rice, stir with a fork, cover, and reduce the heat to low. You'll want to stir this every so often to make sure the rice doesn't stick. After about 20 minutes your rice should be done - kill the heat.

Again, you can happily be in a holding pattern at this point. The rice will stay a decent temperature for up to 15 minutes or so (since it's covered).

Alrightee, you're hungry, your guests are hungry, let's eat. This is the only point at which there's not really a holding pattern, as we're going to cut the avocados (which, like bananas and apples, begin to brown once the air gets in contact with them). To cut your avocados, take a sharp knife (like a chef's knife) and cut into it lengthwise, until you feel the blade hit the core/nut of the avocado. Carefully roll and cut, keeping your blade on the nut. When you've come full circle (avocado) with your cut, remove your knife, and holding the avocado in one hand, with the other, twist it so as to remove the two halves. To remove the nut from the avocado, holding the half that has the nut in it in one hand, carefully take your knife in the other hand and quickly tap the blade into the nut. This should allow you to give it a twist and pop it free from the avocado. Now just carefully peel the skin free by running your finger tip under the edge of the skin, and breaking it away.

Cut your avocado halves into 8 slices each.

To serve, lay 8 avocado slices onto each plate, point out from the center of the plate, creating a starburst (kind of). Next, using a ⅓ of a cup measuring cup, form your rice into little rounds, and place on the center of the plate (on top of the center parts of your avocado starburst). Now take and lean four pieces of your chicken against the rice, pointing inwards (dividing the plate into quarters). With a spoon, portion little dollops of your vodka-lime salsa on two sides of the plate, and then drizzle some of the vodka-lime over the entire plate (especially the chicken and rice), and a scattering of the salsa around the rim of the plate as garnish.

Enjoy!

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