A Southwestern-flavored Saturday Night

The poblano pepper and corn give this meal a Southwestern flavor. To go with the Southwestern theme, I made an Avocado Mousse and served it with blue corn tortilla chips as an appetizer. I chose the salad for the contrast of orange and cranberries with the spiciness of the poblano peppers; pecans are native to North America but seem to be especially prevalent in southern foods and desserts.

The cinnamon in the chocolate torte gives this dessert a Mexican flair.

Featured ingredient: poblano peppers

Poblano peppers are thought to originate from the state of Puebla in central Mexico. A mild variety of chili pepper used in Mexican and Southwestern cooking, they have thick, dark-green skin and a wide base that tapers to a point. Roasting brings out their lovely flavor and makes them easy to peel.

You can replace poblano peppers with  red or yellow bell peppers instead; the flavor is different but also delicious.

Prep and Cooking Guidelines

When entertaining, I plan for the appetizer ready for when the guests arrive and to serve dinner an hour after the invitation time. However, if our guests include Bolivians or others with a flexible sense of time, I serve dinner one hour after the first guests arrive.

  1. A couple of days prior to the dinner party:
    • Review the shopping list and check off items you already have in your refrigerator or pantry.
    • Buy groceries.
  2. The day before:
    • Make the Avocado Mousse and refrigerate it, covered, in the bowl.
    • Make the Mexican Chocolate Torte; you can make the glaze the morning of the dinner party but do it at least four hours before guests arrive.
    • Make the Poblano Chili Sauce the day before.
    • If you have the time you could also cook the wild rice and quinoa pilaf the night before. That makes two less pans to wash the day of the dinner party. You can make it all the way, and refrigerate it covered.
  3. Wash as you go. Don’t let all the bowls and measuring cups, spoons and saucepans pile up in the sink.
  4. If possible, set the table the night before. Otherwise, take out all the dinner plates, dessert plates and flatware, napkins and serving platters and spoons to avoid hunting for things when people are arriving.
  5. The day of the dinner party:
    • Prep the chicken breasts. Place the pyrex dish, covered, in the refrigerator.
    • Prep the salad and the salad dressing.
    • Take the Poblano Sauce out of the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature.
    • Set up your beverage station; make sure you have ice (I say that because I have forgotten before and had to kindly request a dinner guest run out and pick some up!)
    • Run and empty the dishwasher at least two hours before guests will arrive.
  6. An hour before guests arrive:
    • Set the table if you haven’t already done so, and double check your serving platters and spoons
      • Appetizer
      • Chicken (You can serve it directly in the pyrex dish. For a more elegant dinner, I place the chicken pieces on a pretty serving platter.)
      • Small bowl or saucer for the Poblano Pepper Sauce
      • Rice and Quinoa (You can use a bowl or a platter)
      • Salad
      • Cake knife
    • Carefully flip the Avocado Mousse out of the bowl and onto a platter, place the tortilla chips around it.