It was Fall of 2015 and we entered the So Cal Chef Open at the Pechanga Casino, where chefs battle it out for two awards: The People’s choice and the Pinnacle Award. The proceeds are donated to the Oak Grove organization, which provides living facilities for at-risk youth.
The People’s choice award is based on votes from attendees, who are provided two tickets to vote. A small box full of tickets holds your fate. The vote for the Pinnace Award is determined by a group of industry Judges. They judge on taste, creativity, the use of local ingredients, and overall presentation.
We had entered the competition twice before and had won the people’s choice both times. This time I wanted to win both awards. I was nervous but determined to win The Pinnacle Award, which is the highest form of achievement in the eyes of your peers.
My win would define a goal I’d had for myself as a Chef. I wanted it badly because prior to this I’d never felt ready. Just an insecurity.
I was three years into my career as a chef. I’ve always felt vulnerable in my career, partially because our sense of accomplishment depends heavily on the opinions of others. We want you to love our food.
For days I wasn’t sure what I was going to prepare, and I was stressing out. I exhausted myself with different ideas and passed out on the couch. I went into a deep sleep and dreamed this dish into fruition. I woke up and scribbled a sketch of it onto a piece of paper.
Pollo en Nogada
Pollo en Nogada is a chicken dish inspired by the popular dish Chile en Nogada of Puebla. For this recipe, I stuffed a chicken breast with a chile relleno filled with melted cheese, fruit, and nuts, wrapped in bacon, and topped with a Goat cheese sauce.
Immediately, I knew that I had a winner! When I made it for my son, Peter, he felt like it reminded him of Fall, the comforts of home. He was thrilled and inspired. As a single mother, my purpose in life is to get that reaction from him.
The day of the competition came and that night, we won! It was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.
I really wanted this for myself.
If you’ve read my story, The day I became a chef, you know that being a chef wasn’t my first career choice.
This win validated all of the sacrifices, hard work, and sleepless nights where I questioned my culinary talents.
Being a chef is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I truly found myself in a profession that connects me to so many wonderful, talented people.
I recently participated as a guest celebrity chef at the Villa Del Palmar Resort in Loreto and was very happy to share this dish with their guests during their Culinary Fests Chef Week. Another reason this dish is so special to me. Provecho!
Pollo en Nogada
Yield: 4 servings
Pollo en Nogada is a spin on a traditional Mexican dish made of poblano chiles stuffed with picadillo. For this recipe, I stuffed a chicken breast with a chile relleno filled with melted cheese, fruit, and nuts, wrapped in bacon, and topped with a Goat cheese sauce.
- 4 chicken Breast
- 12 oz Dried fruit
- 2 large Pasilla Chile
- 12 oz. Menonita cheese
- 12 slices of Bacon
- 12 oz Chopped nuts
- Minced Cilantro for garnish
Goat cheese sauce:
- 4 cups Heavy whipping cream
- 1 oz of Tequila Reposado, Brandy 2oz or Bourbon
- 100 grams Goat cheese
- 100 grams sugar
- 100 grams Pecans
- Butterfly the chicken breast and pound it until it is thin.
- Soak the dried fruit in warm water and rehydrate
- Roast the Pasilla peppers, peel and remove all seeds. Cut into strips.
- Lay the chicken breast on a clean surface. Add a spoon of the fruit, Menonita cheese, chopped walnuts, two strips of Pasilla peppers. Fold the chicken to enwrap the mixture and then wrap the chicken with two strips of bacon. Secure with toothpicks.
- Heat oven to 350 F.
- Place the chicken on a baking tray and bake for 40 minutes until it reaches an internal temperature of 180F.
- For the sauce: Blend until the liquid is smooth. Pass it through a chinoix or a strainer.