Pollo en Crema (Chicken in Cream): Simple, homey, lightly spicy and deeply comforting, this saucy chicken dish is perfect over hot cooked rice, quinoa or wide egg noodles.
We home cooks in Southern California use a lot of different pepper varieties, what with the influence of so many different cultures mixing and mingling in our communities, markets and restaurants.
We’re comfortable with bell peppers in our stir-fries and salads, with mild Padron chiles in our Chili Mole , Hatch chiles in our salsa , cornbread  and even our cranberry sauce , the hotter jalapeno in our Tuna Mac and Cheese , and the fiery Red Savina in our dip .
But chiles, with their wildly varying heat levels, can be daunting and a bit scary, especially if you don’t know what level of heat to expect. For many of us, the hottest pepper on Earth – the scorpion chile pepper – is but a funny punchline to a joke. We have no intention of challenging ourselves to eat one, no matter what the bet is.
So a cookbook that highlights more than 30 types of peppers, ranging from sweet bell peppers to blazingly hot bhut jolokia chile peppers is very welcome here, indeed!
“The Great Pepper Cookbook: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing and Cooking with Peppers ,” by Melissa’s Produce, arrived just in time for Cinco de Mayo, and the whole hotsy-totsy spring and summer potluck and entertaining season.
It offers explanations, recipes and inspiration to use chiles for more than simple heat. Each variety has its own personality, flavor profile and best uses. For example, cooks need to know when to use dried chiles and when to use fresh, for best results.
But the star of the entire lunch, in my not-so-humble opinion, was Pollo en Crema. There were raves around the room for this simple, homey dish created by Melissa’s test kitchen chef Raquel Perez. She enjoys it at home, and spoons the sauce over rice and places the chicken atop it.
If she were my relative, I would require she bring it to each and every potluck meal. For eternity. Raquel, will you be my sister?
This is a winner-winner chicken dinner, and I’m ready for dinner!
Above, I have put leftovers on a bed of cooked red quinoa, with sliced avocados on top, for dinner!
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Disclosure: Melissa’s Produce provided a copy of the book for review.
This post was originally published April 19, 2014, and has been refreshed and republished.