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Spicy chicken poblano stew with polenta puts a Mexican spin on Italian food. With only 389 calories per serving, this is a hearty weeknight dish. Shredded chicken is stewed with smoky poblanos and onions in a garlicky tomato sauce with adobo. Served over a creamy sweet porridge of polenta, which is a nice contrast of sweet and spicy!
Polenta is traditional to Italy and in many ways similar to the grits a staple here in the south. The main difference between the polenta and grits is the corn. Polenta is ground from yellow corn, while grits are ground from white corn. The most noticeable difference is the texture: polenta is much coarser, whereas grits are finer.
This is the very first time I have ever cooked polenta (gasp!). I’ve had it served to me in a couple of local restaurants and fell in love with it. I really like the sweet, creaminess of polenta. It pairs beautifully with spicy food, especially this spicy chicken poblano stew. I am only just beginning to love polenta, but from what I understand, it pays to buy the good stuff, so for this recipe I purchase a bag of Bob’s Red Mill, Organic Corn Polenta Grits. I was a little nervous about not following the recipe on the bag, which called for water and not milk, but the adapted version for this recipe worked very well.
The Spicy Heat
If you shy away from spicy food, do not be alarmed by the chiles in this dish. The poblano chiles become smoky and lose most of their intensity when roasted and tender. A lot of the heat and spice can be taken out with the seeds and veins after they are roasted. Most all of the heat in the dish comes from the adobo sauce. The adobo sauce adds some additional smokiness and spice to the tomato mixture, so if you don’t like too much spice, leave out the adobo sauce and the stew won’t be so fiery. If you really like fiery spice, then you may want to add a finely chopped chipotle to the mix of this Spicy Chicken Poblano Stew with Polenta, so you can really appreciate the sweetness of the polenta.
It is also worth mentioning that while preparing the poblanos isn’t labor intensive, it does take some time. Most of the time is idle time while waiting for the roasting and the cooling/sweating process. I usually prepare my poblanos ahead of time. I like to prepare them on the weekend when I have more time. Then they are ready to pop into my dishes during the week. To make the prep work go faster, consider preparing the poblanos a day or two ahead of when you plan on making this spicy chicken poblano stew with polenta. The roasted poblanos refrigerate well and they are ready to use on demand.
I also roasted the chicken at the same time as I roasted the poblanos and had it ready to go into the dish also. I’ve been doing a lot of my recipes lately using prepared ahead ingredients for weeknight meals. It’s all about time savings if you know what I mean!
To me, this fusion recipe has the perfect balance of bold spicy Mexican flavors, chipotle and poblano peppers with creamy sweet polenta, so I did very little variation from the original recipe.
Do you like polenta? How about spicy food? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below!
Spicy Chicken Poblano Stew with Polenta
- 2 to 3 poblano chili peppers
- 2 tablespoons olive oil + more for oiling peppers
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
- 4 to 6 medium garlic cloves minced
- 15 ounce can diced tomato
- 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles in adobo
- kosher salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 4 to 6 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast grilled or roasted and shredded
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup uncooked polenta
- cilantro for serving (optional)
ROAST OR CHAR POBLANO PEPPERS: The poblanos can be prepared a day or two ahead of when you plan on making this dish. They refrigerate well!
- Roast the poblanos under a broiler, turning every 2 to 3 minutes for a total of 10-15 minutes, or until charred and tender. Once charred and hot place them in a bowl covered with plastic wrap or you can place them in a plastic bag, close it tightly and let them sweat for 10 to 20 minutes. Unwrap; remove skins and seeds. Coarsely chop peppers.
- In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, oregano, garlic and a pinch of salt; sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, or until onions are soft and translucent.
- Add the diced tomatoes, adobo sauce, and season with salt, to taste; simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in peppers, cooked chicken and squeeze in the lime juice; cook 2 to 3 more minutes or until slightly thickened.
- Pour the milk into a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; add polenta and season with salt, to taste. Whisk constantly, cooking for 2 minutes, until thickened.
- To serve, divide the polenta equally into 4 shallow bowls; top each bowl of polenta with a ¼ of the chicken mixture. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro (optional).