Monday, April 22, 2013

Poor Man's Chicken Monterey

Perhaps a better title for this dish would have been "Hurried Man's Chicken Monterey."  Either way, this is not the elegant and involved sort of Chicken Monterey that you can find on other Internet sites. This is just one of those quick main dishes that a person can make when one hasn't even had the time to defrost the meat before preparing a meal.  Unfortunately, with my busy schedule this happens sometimes, and "Poor Man's Chicken Monterey" can be a delicious solution to the problem.  I think that this recipe would be handy for unexpected company, too.

The first thing to do is melt a little butter (about a Tblsp.) in the bottom of a skillet for which you have a tight-fitting lid.  If you are a conscientious objector when it comes to butter, you could use a little olive oil or (gasp!) go completely rogue and use a modern non-stick pan without any fat.  Do this right over the firebox.

Next, place pieces of boneless chicken in the hot butter.  Ideally, you would have had time to defrost these, but I've made this several times when that wasn't the case, and everything works just fine.  Sprinkle the tops of the chicken pieces with the seasoning of your choice.  I was in a hurry and unashamedly used Mrs. Dash.

Frozen pieces of chicken placed in the hot butter and seasoned
with a little Mrs. Dash.  These are boneless thigh pieces that
we buy in bulk at Sam's Club.   Did you notice my well-loved
Magnalite skillet?  It belonged to Great-Grandma Gladys.  She
died before I was born, but I have a few pieces of her cookware.
Leave the skillet over the fire and cover it tightly.  The chicken will begin to cook, thawing as it does so, and the steam trapped in the pan will speed the process.

At this point, you could begin to fry one slice of bacon for each piece of chicken that you are cooking. In the pictures below, we used pre-cooked bacon which had been given to us.

A glimpse of the chicken after the lid has been on for awhile
and it has been turned once.
Turn the chicken so that it can brown a little on both sides, watching carefully that it doesn't get too dry.  I add a little hot water from the teakettle every once in a while to make sure that there is always plenty of steam to speed the cooking.  You don't want to flood the chicken because then it won't brown at all, and you want the subtle change in flavor that browned meat gets.  However, you really aren't out to fry the chicken either.

Once the chicken has browned a bit on both sides, you can move the chicken away from the fire to a much lower heat to continue cooking until it is done, keeping the lid on the skillet.  For the boneless thighs that you see in the picture, they were basically cooked by the time they had gotten to this point, but keep in mind that they were considerably thinner than what a chicken breast would be, for example.  I always cut into the thickest piece of chicken to see if the juices run clear in order to tell whether it is cooked.

The chicken is completely cooked and has been moved over
to the coolest part of the cooktop near the reservoir.
Once the chicken is completely cooked, place quarter-inch slices of Monterey Jack cheese atop each piece. 
Thick slices of Monterey Jack cheese on each piece of chicken.
Replace the lid on the skillet to let the cheese begin to melt.  Once the cheese has started melting, place strips of cooked bacon on top of the cheese.

Cooked bacon strips added to the top of the chicken and cheese.
Return the lid to the skillet long enough to let the heat and steam inside of the pan heat the bacon and let it stick to the cheese.  This takes very little time.  The chicken is now ready to be served.

Poor Man's Chicken Monterey, a brown rice and mushroom pilaf
that I concocted (which Nancy tasted and spit out and I considered
delicious) and fresh pineapple wedges: our noon dinner two
Sundays ago.

Here are some variations of this dish that we think have been successful:

1. Instead of bacon, sliced, canned mushrooms make a delicious and low-fat (but not low-sodium) substitute.

2. When they are in season, a slice of ripe tomato between the chicken and the cheese is very appetizing.  Wait to put on the cheese until the tomato has cooked a little, though.  I have also used home-canned, whole tomatoes in the same manner and had good results.

3. I have eaten a similar, fancier version of Chicken Monterey that was cooked under a broiler where slices of artichoke hearts were put on top of the chicken with the slice of fresh tomato.

As I've done it here, this dish is embarrassingly easy, but it is a tasty main dish for a busy day.


  1. My post has nothing to do with Poor Man's Chicken Monterrey (sorry), but rather with wood-burning in general. Have you ever heard of building an upside-down fire?

    If so, how well does it work in a wood-cook stove?

    If you haven't heard of it, it's supposed to result in a cleaner, more thorough burning fire, and might lend itself well to use in a wood stove:

    1. Welcome to my blog, Mr. Amberson!

      Actually, I had read about the upside-down fire building method quite a while ago, but I had never remembered to try it until you commented here.

      I saw your comment this morning and thought I'd give this method a try, so I let the fire go out during the day. I tried the upside-down method once I got home this evening. I thought that I had put plenty of paper in on top, and it did result in less smoke, but it unfortunately resulted in less fire, too. In fact, "no fire" would be a more accurate description.

      Since I had everything in the firebox and couldn't very well pull it all back out again, I crumpled up more paper and tried again. This time, it worked.

      I'm not sure why it didn't work the first time. It does take more kindling to start a fire this way, and it certainly took a lot longer for the fire to take off; therefore, I'm not sure if there is that much of a difference in the total amount of smoke expelled by the fire. The fire also needed more poking and prodding than usual. I'll keep experimenting and let you know how it goes!