Yucatan chicken

Growing up my family sometimes ate unconventional meals. Unusual foods. Things like chicken with green chiles, raisins, and cilantro—but I’ll get to the details in a minute.

I don’t recall exactly when the epiphany struck that we weren’t your average white-bread-without-crusts-sandwich people. Was it the Thanksgiving when we had paella instead of turkey? Or it could have been the summer my mom and her neighborhood friends signed up to be consumer testers for the Juiceman II. Each sticky day they liquified a different variety of produce—apples, oranges, canteloupes—all fine and good until they offered me a glass of kale juice.

Or it could have been that fateful day in the fourth grade when other kids pulled out Twinkies and Ho Hos wrapped in shiny foil, and I reached for my Save the Planet lunch sack and pulled out… grapefruit shish kebobs. They looked uncomfortably like raw chunks of salmon. For the record, in fourth grade, Twinkies = cool. Grapefruit on a stick = weird. Yeah. I was that girl.

Yucatan chicken in a skillet

But this recipe proves that different can be delicious, too. Why it’s called “Yucatan” chicken or the precise origins of the dish have been lost along with the original newspaper clipping mailed by my Grandma Dixie or Aunt Alison. I can only say that the spice of the green chiles, the sweetness of the raisins, and the crunch of the pine nuts elevate the chicken to a memorable, savory meal.

Yucatan chicken is a regular in the family repertoire. Excluding spaghetti, this was the first meal I ever cooked for friends in college—with a crucial culinary error. I was mortified when a friend asked as delicately as possible: “Um, Katie, is it supposed to be pink in the middle?”

Don’t do that. Be sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked before serving. You want a nice crisp crust—better than in these photographs—before you add the lemon juice, chiles, and raisins. Lastly, burning pine nuts is a costly mistake, so I prefer to toast them in a dry cast-iron skillet on the stovetop where I can keep an eye on them.

Yucatan chicken

Yucatan Chicken

Recipe courtesy of Sue Clary

4 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless

½ cup flour in a plastic bag

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup butter

1 cup of lemon juice

1 small can of green chiles, diced

½ cup raisins

½ cup pine nuts, toasted

¼ cup cilantro, finely sliced

Place a chicken breast in a Ziploc bag and pound with a mallet or rolling pin until about ½-inch thick. Then shake the chicken breast in the bag with flour until it is coated. Repeat the process until all chicken breasts are coated with flour.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a sauté pan. Cook the chicken until browned on both sides. Add the lemon juice and continue cooking until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle. Add the green chiles and raisins and allow to cook for a couple minutes more so the raisins plump up.

Serve the chicken breasts topped with the raisin-pepper sauce and garnish with cilantro and pine nuts.

Serves four.