Monday, February 22, 2010

Southwestern Chicken: a Foil Dinner Recipe

Today on Serious Eats: Banana Nut Oatmeal and French Toast Oatmeal. Both easy, both tasty, both make we want to eat right now.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I camped. A lot. I was a Girl Scout, see. And when I wasn’t pushing Thin Mints on the unsuspecting elderly, I was deep in the woods, playing Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board and doing everything I could to avoid roaming packs of Daddy Longlegs.

I was also eating, as freakishly tall 13-year-olds are wont to do. Back then, my troop’s campsite meals were limited to sandwiches and granola bars, along with the occasional S’more-a-thon.

However, as we got older, we also got smarter, and began booking a large cabin with a fully functioning kitchen. (Note: I grew up on Long Island. This still counted as roughing it.) Spaghetti dinners became much more common than burgers and dogs. As approximately 400% of Long Islanders are at least part Italian, this was greatly appreciated.

Honestly (and I’m positive my leader will know for sure), I don’t remember ever cooking anything in a tin foil pouch, over a campfire or otherwise. I wish we had, though, because this Southwestern Chicken from would have been great. With only four major ingredients, it’s stupefying in its simplicity, but rewarding in its … uh … tasteicity.

Baked in the oven at a high temperature, the salsa steams the chicken, keeping it pleasingly moist without overcooking. It flavors the dish, too, meaning the higher the salsa quality, the better the meal. While you could definitely serve Southwestern Chicken with rice or a salad, the corn and beans make it a fairly complete dinner. I give it a foil-packed thumbs up.

Readers, do you have any favorite foily meals? I have Reynolds wrap, and I’m not afraid to use it. There’s a nation of eager Girl Scouts out there waiting for your suggestions. (And for you to shoo the spiders away. *shudder*)

If you like this recipe, you might also like:

Southwestern Chicken
Serves 2
Adapted from

2 12x18-inch rectangles aluminum foil
2 5-ounce pieces boneless skinless chicken breast (or, 1 10-ounce breast cut in half)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/2 cup chunky salsa, medium heat

1) Preheat oven to 450°F.

2) Generously salt and pepper both sides of each chicken breast. Place each smack in the middle of its own sheet of tin foil. Top each with 1/4 cup beans, 1/4 cup corn, and 1/4 cup salsa.

3) Seal the packets. Bring the long ends together and double fold them. Then double fold sides. Don’t make them too snug – make sure you leave some space in there for steaming.

4) Bake 35 minutes. Remove from oven and give the foil a minute or two to cool. Release your chicken and serve over rice.

NOTE: Thinner cuts of meat will cook for less time. Mine was about 1-inch at its thickest part.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price Per Serving
269 calories, 2.4 g fat, 6 g fiber, $0.98

2 5-ounce pieces boneless skinless chicken breasts: 312 calories, 3.4 g fat, 0 g fiber, $1.06
Kosher salt: negligible calories, fat, and fiber per serving, $0.01
Freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, and fiber per serving, $0.01
1/2 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed: 114 calories, 0.4 g fat, 7.5 g fiber, $0.19
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed: 76 calories, 0.6 g fat, 2.3 g fiber, $0.20
1/2 cup chunky salsa, medium heat: 35 calories, 0.3 g fat, 2.1 g fiber, $0.50
TOTALS: 537 calories, 4.7 g fat, 11.9 g fiber, $1.97
PER SERVING (TOTALS/2): 269 calories, 2.4 g fat, 6 g fiber, $0.98

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Emma said...

Oh my this sounds amazing, and so convenient. It reminds me of my favorite crock pot meal - two chicken breasts, can of black beans, can of corn, cup or so of salsa in the pot for four hours. Top with some cream cheese at the end for creaminess = awesome Southwestern meal. I'll bet your foil version is just as amazing, and in 1/8 the time!

KitschenBitsch said...

This looks so amazing and easy for an after-work dinner... I may try this, making the packets in advance so my lazy and exhausted self can just toss them in the oven.

Also, I also posted on oatmeal again today. I think we need to get together and write the Complete Oatmeal Cookbook for the Culinarily Adventurous and Semi-Health Conscious. But the title won't fit on the jacket. Dang.

Claire Dawson said...

Joy of Cooking, of all things, has an excellent foil packet recipe for Mediterranean Chicken.

To make four packets, you chop the following:

20 black olives
8 sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
4 TBS fresh basil
(I also like to put in a little 7 ounce can of artichoke hearts, myself)

Mix it all together in a little bowl with 1 TBS olive oil.

Place each chicken breast on a piece of foil, spread 1/4 of the mixture on top, and fold the foil over to seal. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes, and let rest for 5 minutes after removing from the oven.

Comes out to 215-250 calories a packet, depending on how big your chicken breasts are and whether you use artichoke hearts.

They're great - and every time we have them, I make your Creamy Parmesan Orzo to go alongside. Man, I love that recipe. Yay Cheap Healthy Good! (Apparently I'm in hyper-fan-girl mode right now. You'll have to forgive me.)

wosnes said...

I was going to say I do the same thing in the crock pot, but I see Emma beat me to it. I don't add the cream cheese, though. I have one recipe that calls for it and one that doesn't.

If there are leftovers, I shred the chicken and add everything to a pot with 4 cups chicken stock. Maybe add a pinch of cumin and/or oregano and possibly more salsa. Top with cheese and serve with tortilla chips, if desired.

Becky said...

On the website for Reynolds, they have a bunch of recipes for foil packets. I tried one for a dijon chicken and one for some kind of green bean and potato side (I do remember there were green beans involved, at least!), and both were delicious.

Jennifer I said...

Fish also works well -- take a piece of cod or other mild tasting fish, cover with lemon/pepper seasoning, cut up some tomatoes, and yummy!

Anonymous said...

I made this for dinner tonight. So quick and so yummy! Def a new favorite :)

stephanie said...

My favorite foil meal is Girl Scout Potatoes -- onions, garlic, potatoes, butter and spices wrapped in foil and set in the oven to bake (or over an open fire).

Doug said...

An interesting twist to this would be to give it a Cuban slant and see if rice could be incorporated (aka beans and rice).

Dan said...

I make this dish all the time ... it's my go-to easy meal! It's great with a few jalapeno slices thrown in, too! One thing to be careful of when you open the tin foil after baking is that a lot of the juice from the salsa will splash everywhere. It's a good idea to unfold one corner of the tin foil and drain the excess juice before plating.

MRM said...

I made this for dinner tonight as a jump start to eating healthier. This was super easy, super quick, and came out absolutely amazing!

Thank you for such a great recipe. Definitely a chicken recipe I will come back to again and again!