You know you’re from California if you are a Mexican food snob. Yes, I know other states have a lot of Mexican influences in their cuisine, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. Just kidding! (not really)
Living in such a multicultural area has some awesome benefits, one of which is having easy access to a lot of great ingredients that you may not find elsewhere. When I was growing up, finding stuff like feta cheese was downright impossible and the best you could hope for in something like salsa was some red goo that looked more like spaghetti sauce with jalapeño chunks in it. I’m no expert, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this kind of salsa wouldn’t cut it in a traditional Mexican home.
Fresh salsa is far superior in flavor and pretty easy to make, but sometimes (okay lots of times) time is not my friend. Usually time abandons me when I have a craving for something that requires time to be on my side. So rude. Thankfully I have easy access to jumbo jars of fresh salsa, so I can “cheat” and satisfy my cravings. But it’s not chips-n-salsa that I’m wanting. It’s this chicken dish.
It started long ago with a jumbo jar of fresh salsa that was verging on being not-so-fresh and I didn’t want to waste it. I had some fresh chicken just waiting to be that night’s dinner. And then it hit me (no, not the chicken, the idea). In a flash, I had dinner prepped and my salsa dilemma solved. Easy, peasy, chicken cheesy. It’s a saying. Well, now it is.
Cheesy Salsa Chicken Recipe
- Chicken pieces, any kind, skin on or skinless (I had about 6 lbs. leg quarters)
- Fresh salsa, homemade or purchased
- Grated cheese, best kinds are Cheddar, Colby Jack, Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, or be more authentic with Queso Fresco
Preheat oven to 400 F. Lay your chicken pieces down in a shallow roasting pan. Scoop fresh salsa onto the chicken and smooth over the top. You are not aiming to submerge the chicken in salsa, but to have a liberal covering. If you are using skinless chicken, you may want to add a little olive oil to the salsa first.
Bake the chicken in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and no pink remains in the meat. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the desired amount and type of cheese you want over the pieces. Return the chicken to the oven for just a couple of minutes until the cheese is melted.
You will likely have a lot of liquid in the pan. Pour some of this over the chicken when serving. Any extra can be saved for a variety of yummy options like using it in place of water when making rice or as a base for a vegetable soup. Too much flavor to let go down the drain! Don’t forget to save any bones to make broth for great tasting soups!