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Recipes: Three global takes on chicken that will spice up weeknight meals

Chicken Cutlets With Avocado-Poblano Sauce.Connie Miller/of CB Creatives

Around the world, a weeknight chicken dinner is so much more than bland, rubbery chicken breast. Inspired by the green mojo we found in the Canary Islands, we garnish pan-fried cutlets with a rich blender sauce of avocado, cilantro, almonds, cumin, and lemon juice. In Peru, it’s often escabeche, which soaks cooked chicken thighs in a vinegary marinade spiked with ají amarillo paste and cumin, adding bright flavors without the acid altering the texture of the meat. And in Japan, boneless thighs become teriyaki donburi, rice bowls topped with sliced chicken glazed in a sweet-savory sauce and a quick cabbage slaw.


Chicken Cutlets With Avocado-Poblano Sauce

Makes 4 servings

Classic mojo verde from the Canary Islands is a sauce made by blending cilantro and/or parsley, garlic, green peppers, cumin, and oil. But on Tenerife, the largest of the islands, we learned a different version of mojo verde, one that included avocado and almonds that gave the sauce a creamy, velvety richness. We adapted that sauce for pairing with simple sautéed chicken cutlets seasoned with cumin.

The cutlets should be no more than ½-inch thick or they won’t cook as quickly and evenly. If yours are too thick, place them between two sheets of plastic wrap and gently pound them with a meat pounder to an even ½-inch thickness.

2 medium (6 ounces total) poblano chilies

3 teaspoons ground cumin, divided

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

4 5- to 6-ounce chicken breast cutlets, each ¼- to ½-inch thick

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and chopped

1½ cups lightly packed fresh cilantro, divided

¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons grape-seed or other neutral oil

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat, char the poblanos, turning them occasionally, until blackened all over, about 15 minutes. Transfer them to a small bowl, then cover and let steam for 10 minutes; reserve the skillet. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix 2 teaspoons of cumin, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Season the chicken on both sides with this mixture; set aside.


Peel, stem, and seed the chilies, then add them to a blender along with the remaining 1 teaspoon cumin, the olive oil, half the avocado, 1 cup of cilantro, the almonds, the lemon juice, and ¼ teaspoon salt. With the machine running, stream in ‚ cup water and puree until smooth. Taste and season with salt, then set aside.

In the same skillet over medium-high heat, warm the neutral oil until barely smoking. Add the chicken in a single layer and cook until well browned on both sides, 4 to 6 minutes total, flipping once halfway through. Transfer to a platter. Spoon about one-third of the sauce over the chicken, then top with the remaining avocado and the remaining cilantro. Serve with the remaining sauce on the side.

Peruvian-Style Tangy Chicken With Red Onions and Bell Pepper (Chicken Escabeche)Connie Miller/of CB Creatives

Peruvian-Style Tangy Chicken With Red Onions and Bell Pepper (Chicken Escabeche)

Makes 4 servings

This chicken escabeche is seasoned with ají amarillo, an orange-yellow chili ubiquitous to Peruvian cuisine. In the United States, the chilies are difficult to find fresh, but ají amarillo paste, sold in jars, is available in some well stocked markets and specialty stores. The fruity yet earthy flavor of ají amarillo is an important part of this dish, but if you cannot find the paste, use 1 or 2 seeded and finely minced jalapeños. Serve with garlic rice, slices of steamed sweet potato, and peeled and halved hard-cooked eggs.


Regular chili powder should not be substituted for pure ancho chili powder. Regular chili powder is a spice blend, whereas ancho chili powder contains only ancho chilies.

2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed, trimmed, and patted dry

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 tablespoons grape-seed or other neutral oil, divided

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

4 medium garlic cloves, minced (1 tablespoon)

2 tablespoons ají amarillo paste

1 tablespoon ancho chili powder

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

3 medium red onions, halved and sliced ¾-inch thick

1 large orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and sliced into ¼-inch strips

1/3 cup white wine vinegar

Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of oil until barely smoking. Add the chicken in a single layer and cook on each side, without disturbing, until deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until a skewer inserted into the largest thigh meets no resistance, 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and cover with foil. Bring the cooking liquid to a boil over high heat and cook until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl or measuring cup and set aside.

In the same pot, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium until shimmering. Add the garlic, ají amarillo paste, ancho chili, and cumin, then cook, scraping the bottom, until browned and fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the onions, bell pepper, 2 teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper, then add the vinegar. Cook, stirring, until the onions have begun to soften and the sauce is just thick enough to coat the vegetables, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the reduced broth, bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring, until thickened to a glaze, about 5 minutes.


Pour the sauce and vegetables over the chicken. Let rest for 10 minutes, then serve.

Chicken Teriyaki Rice Bowls (Teriyaki Donburi)Connie Miller/of CB Creatives

Chicken Teriyaki Rice Bowls (Teriyaki Donburi)

Makes 4 servings

Contrary to popular belief, “teriyaki” refers not to a sauce, but a technique. Meat is seared or broiled, then given a lustrous shine with a glaze of soy, mirin, and sugar. In this recipe, our adaptation of one taught to us by Japanese-cooking expert Elizabeth Andoh, chicken thighs are briefly marinated and tossed with a little cornstarch before they’re cooked in a skillet. “Donburi” is a reference to deep, usually ceramic, bowls, as well as to the food typically served in those bowls: rice with various toppings. To complement the chicken and add texture and freshness, we also throw together a simple cabbage slaw.

Be sure to drain the chicken before coating it with cornstarch. Excess liquid will cause splattering during cooking.

4 tablespoons sake, divided

4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce, divided

1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces


¼ cup mirin

2 teaspoons white sugar

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

1½ cups finely shredded green cabbage

3 medium scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

2 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar

¼ teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons cornstarch

4 teaspoons grape-seed or other neutral oil, divided

3 cups cooked Japanese-style short-grain rice, hot

In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons of the sake and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Add the chicken and toss. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan set over medium heat, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon sake, 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, the mirin, and the sugar. Cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Off heat, stir in the ginger; set aside.

In a medium bowl, toss the cabbage and scallions with the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce, the rice vinegar, and the sesame oil. Set aside. Drain the chicken in a fine-mesh strainer. Wipe out the bowl, then return the chicken to it. Sprinkle with the cornstarch and toss to coat.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat, warm 2 teaspoons of the oil until barely smoking. Add half the chicken in an even layer and cook, without stirring, until well browned on the bottom and the edges turn opaque, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook without stirring until well browned on the second side, about another 3 minutes. Transfer to a clean bowl and repeat with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the remaining chicken.

Wipe out the skillet, then return the chicken to the pan. Pour in the soy sauce-ginger mixture and stir to coat. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the liquid is syrupy and the chicken is glazed, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Divide the rice among 4 bowls. Top with the cabbage mixture and chicken.

Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.