What’s for Dinner

The past couple weeks, for many reasons, we’ve had a lot of shameful dinners. Either we’ve run aground on our budget or I’m traveling for work or we just didn’t have the will to get it going because no one eats it anyway. We’ve had a lot of Tombstone pizza (or ‘Timstone’ as Greta calls it). Water’s Edge Pizza. Stouffer’s pizza. Notice a theme?

Barrak’s go-to dinner during sorry weeks like these is a microwaved cheese tortilla filled with jarred, jalapeno slices and whatever lunchmeat we have. I like to cut up an apple and sidle up to the island with a butter knife and a jar of Skippy Natural.

But we did have one good homemade dinner: ‘Casa Lupita’ chicken.

This dish is what I call a ‘slop.’ A slop is served with a ladle, usually on rice, most times in a bowl. It usually involves a creamy sauce and vegetables cooked well past done. There’s no knife and fork action. No tedious sawing. Just you and your spoon. I love a good slop.

Casa Lupita chicken gets its name from a Mexican restaurant we used to go to when I was in junior high. The place was a decent drive so my mom set out to re-create the dish at home. She made it many times and now it reminds me of home, not some Mexican joint. She dictated the recipe to me over the phone when I lived in L.A. I took it down on one of those little recipe index cards.

It’s basically a tomatoey, creamy stew of white chicken, a package of fresh, sliced mushrooms and onion slices made fragrant and spicy with palmfuls of cumin, oregano and cayenne, one critical bay leaf, a 1/3 cup of sherry and the juice of one lemon. The sauce is made with chicken broth and a whole can of tomato paste (probably a cup or less). At the end, you stir in a big dollop (OK, like half the carton) of sour cream to turn the stew from juicy red to orangey.

The sherry and lemon juice are key to give it depth and tang.

Lately I’ve been making this dish with a package of chicken tenders instead of three chicken breasts. True to their name, they’re more tender! It all gets chopped up anyway so no one is the wiser.

Also, for the first time, I made the dish one night right up to the sour cream part, then dumped it all in the slow cooker, and let it stew all the next day. Then I added the sour cream when I got home. The chicken was super-tender.

You serve this delectable slop on rice. I like to throw chopped cilantro on top if I have it. Also, dipping a buttered Hawaiian sweet roll in the spicy Mexican sauce never hurt anyone.

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