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by meg

My great grandmother, who grew up on a farm in rural North Carolina, vividly remembers when chicken was a special occasion dish. She would go outside, catch a hen, kill it, pluck and eviscerate it, and cook it for Sunday dinner. These days, she tells me she's perfectly happy to pick up a chicken at the supermarket.

For those of us who have always known chicken as something easy and cheap, it's easy to romanticize the barnyard scenario. While it is most certainly messier, more time consuming, and more difficult, it feels perhaps more honest. Many of my generation are a little sheepish at the thought that we've been taking all this for granted for so long, and while the quest for an honest chicken often resembles something out of Portlandia, we really do want to know where our food comes from!

Whenever we buy a farm-raised heritage chicken, we like to stretch it. They're quite a bit more expensive than supermarket chickens, and for good reason. Making the meat last, and using every last bit seems especially important with this kind of bird.

The first night, we like to roast the chicken using the so-called Zuni Cafe method--salting the chicken a day ahead of time, and roasting it at high heat. It crisps the skin nicely, and the meat stays incredibly moist. But then come the leftovers.

I've never been able to reheat cooked chicken to my satisfaction--it always has a "leftover chicken" flavor that I don't care for. And so I like to use the chicken in other dishes rather than trying to just eat it as-is. This time, I used it as part of a filling for poblano peppers.

Softening the poblanos takes quite a while in the oven. If you have a microwave, I suggest using it. Place the peppers in a microwave-safe dish, pour in a small amount of water (just a couple tablespoons, really), and cover the dish with plastic wrap. Poke a few holes in the plastic and microwave on high until the peppers are soft. The time will vary depending on your microwave, so cook it in two-minute increments. Once the peppers are soft, cut a slit in each one to allow the steam to escape. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, scrape out the seeds and stuff.

Other delicious things to make with peppers: Fermented Louisiana-Style Hot Sauce, Homemade Chipotles en Adobo, Pan Bagnat With Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper

Chicken and Bean-Stuffed Poblanos
Serves 5

Preheat the oven to 375F. Place in a baking dish:
           5 poblano peppers
Bake until the poblanos have softened (alternatively, microwave, as discussed above, until tender). If you start to bake the poblanos and then make the filling, the poblanos should be ready when the filling is finished.
Heat in a large skillet over medium:
           1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Add and cook, stirring, until tender:
           1 medium onion, chopped
Add and cook for 2 minutes:
           3 cloves garlic, minced
           1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
           1 tablespoon chili powder (or use 1 teaspoon ground red pepper, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
           1/2 teaspoon salt (add less if the beans are canned)
           1 ripe tomato, chopped
           1 1/2 to 2 cups (or 1 can) beans with cooking liquid
           1 to 1 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken
Simmer, stirring, until the sauce is thickened and the mixture is fairly dry. Turn off the heat and set aside. Cut a slit lengthwise down each poblano and scoop out the seeds. Stuff the peppers with the bean-chicken mixture. Sprinkle over the top of the peppers:
           4 ounces pepper jack cheese, grated
Return to the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Serve with:
           Chopped green onions
           Chopped cilantro

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