Today we have an entrant for the first course of the Diced! competition. Contestants were instructed to create or find a recipe for an appetizer, soup or salad containing the following ingredients: Dried Cherries, Cream Cheese, Chicken Breast and Nilla Wafers (or another vanilla flavored wafer). They were instructed to make their dish and create a blog post about it, including pictures. You can help determine who advances to the next round. After the last post, I will post a poll where you can vote for contestants to move on. Vote for the post you like the best. You can vote because of the inventiveness, the yummyness, the use of ingredients, the quality of the writing and pictures or for any other reason. The poll will be active for one week only. Check back and vote. In the event of a tie, the Ranting Chef will choose who advances. More information about Diced! can be found here.
Today’s contestant, Josh hails from Beaumont, Texas and brings a little kick to his first round Diced! post. A Creative Director by day, Josh is a father of 3, former Marine, and lover of great food art. His love for experiencing new and unique cuisine inspires a passion for recreating in his own kitchen. Josh blogs over at Some Dudes Kitchen. Check it out. Here’s Josh…
Cilantro Chicken Skewers w/ Tangy Cherry Queso
Until about 6 years ago my concept of Mexican food was a late-night bean burrito and a stale churro at Taco Bell. Then we moved from Chicago to San Antonio and my eyes, and palate, were opened. I’m still not a big fan of Tex-Mex, but anytime I can find some truly authentic fare from across the border – I’m in!
Now I’ll admit, this recipe doesn’t even come close to authentic, but…it certainly has some flavors inspired by our friends to the south. And as part of the DICED! competition rules, I’ve integrated 4 key ingredients, along with a few others that help tie it all together. The 4 key ingredients are:
- Chicken Breast
- Nilla Wafers
- Dried Cherries
- Cream Cheese
Two challenges right off the bat were, 1) how to use the cookies, and 2) how to keep it an appetizer and not an entree. While chicken is an easy ingredient, it’s a little common for an appetizer. The options I came up with were to either use the Nilla Wafers as a crust (like in a quiche), or as a binder. I decided on the latter.
In the spirit of the competition, I decided to go with my first attempt and not go back and adjust anything; I also waited to cook until the day submissions were due just to amp up the urgency. So here we go!
In a blender (or food processor), begin with the following:
- Solid handful of cilantro, my handful is a loose 3/4 cup.
- (2) boneless/skinless chicken breast, uncooked
- (12) Nilla Wafers
- (4) scallions, topped and tailed
- (3) garlic cloves, peeled
- (3) Tbsp Olive Oil
- (1.5) Tsp Salt
- (1/2) Tsp fresh cracked pepper
Drizzle about (3) Tbsp olive oil in a non-stick fry pan over medium-high heat. Using a spoon, form chicken mixture into balls a little smaller than a golfball.
Olive oil will begin to smoke at about 375 degrees, once this happens, add meatballs being careful not to overpopulate the pan.
Continue to cook meatballs on all sides, turning as a golden brown crust develops. You may have to reduce the heat slightly to avoid burning, depending on your stove.
Once meatballs are browned on all sides, remove from pan and set aside on a paper towel. To check doneness, cut one in half – notice the great color!
To prepare the dipping sauce (which I called Tangy Cherry Queso), begin by deseeding and finely chopping (2) jalapeño peppers.
Next, finely chop 3/4 cup dried cherries. This can be a little tricky as the sugars really make them stick to your knife.
In a medium bowl, add the peppers and cherries to 8oz cream cheese along with the juice of a 1/2 lime.
Finally, strip some lemon grass stalks until they’re the size of skewers and cut one end at an angle to assist in piercing meatballs.
Gently place one skewer in each meatball
To serve, place one chicken skewer atop a dollop of queso mixture. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
The salt, lime juice, and pepper help balance the sweetness of the cherries and cookies. The Nilla Wafers act as a binder for the meatballs, while the cream cheese is a nice delivery vehicle for all the tangy flavors. Hope you enjoy!