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Chicken and Squash Blossom Rolls (Pechugas Rellenas con Flor de Calabaza)

Mexico’s native squash provides cooks with an almost year-round supply of the vivid golden yellow flowers. In this dish the delicate flowers are added to a robust combination of corn and roasted poblano chilies, all enrobed in a thin slice of chicken.

To roast the chilies, use long-handled tongs to hold them over a gas-stove burner until their skins are evenly blistered and charred, about 5 minutes; or roast directly over a very hot charcoal or gas grill. Alternatively, roast under a preheated broiler, turning occasionally, until evenly blackened and blistered, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the chilies to a paper bag and let stand for 5 minutes before peeling.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish 
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves 
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels 
  • 1/4 cup safflower or canola oil 
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped 
  • 6 poblano chilies, roasted (see note above), peeled, seeded and deveined, then cut into 1-inch strips 
  • 3 cups chopped squash blossoms, pistils and stems removed 
  • 1/2 cup epazote or fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped 
  • 1 cup chicken broth 
  • 1 Tbs. chicken bouillon granules 
  • 1/2 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature 
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream 
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro (optional) 

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Butter a small baking dish.

One at a time, place the chicken breasts between 2 sheets of waxed paper and pound evenly with a meat mallet until about 1/4 inch thick. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

If using fresh corn kernels, bring a small saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat, add the corn and cook until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain well and set aside. If using frozen corn kernels, thaw briefly.

In a fry pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and chilies and sauté until quite soft, about 5 minutes. Remove half of the chilies to use for the sauce and set aside. Add the squash blossoms to the pan and sauté until wilted and well seasoned, about 10 minutes. Add the corn kernels and epazote, and season with salt and pepper. Stir well and remove the pan from the heat.

Center 3 Tbs. of the filling on each of the chicken breasts. Gently roll and secure with a toothpick. In a fry pan over medium heat, melt the 4 Tbs. butter. Add the chicken rolls and cook, turning as needed, until the rolls are golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Carefully transfer the rolls, toothpick sides down, to the prepared baking dish and add the broth. Transfer to the oven and bake until the rolls are cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, combine the remaining chilies, the bouillon granules, cream cheese and cream and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a small saucepan and warm over very low heat until ready to serve.

Remove the toothpick from each chicken roll, place the rolls on a platter and cover with the sauce. Garnish with the 3 Tbs. cilantro and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Mexico, by Marilyn Tausend (Time-Life Books, 2000).