Originally created 10/06/04

Southwestern chicken is flexible dish



Lift the lid off a simmering slow cooker and you'll often find a bubbling beef stew or pot roast, but the slow cooker can cook up much more than beef.

This week's recipe for Southwestern chicken, corn and black beans is a snap to throw together for a slow-cooked simmer, and the dish can be served in a bevy of ways.

The recipe involves almost no prep work. Four boneless, skinless chicken breast halves can be cut into strips, or you can substitute 1 pounds of chicken tenderloin fillets and put them right into the slow cooker. I've even prepared the dish successfully using frozen chicken tenderloin fillets straight from the freezer. (Just cook on low for eight to 10 hours if you use the frozen chicken.)

Salsa and taco seasoning give this dish terrific flavor. Just use your favorite salsa; we like a medium-heat variety at my house because we're serving children and adults. I like to purchase large containers of taco seasoning, which makes it simple to measure out the single tablespoon in this recipe, but if you purchase the seasoning in pouches, you'll need about half a pouch.

A can of rinsed and drained black beans makes this dish especially hearty. The beans are added to the slow cooker along with the chicken, and they break up a bit as they cook.

The mixture can cook all day on low or for about four hours on high. About 20 minutes before serving, a can of drained whole-kernel corn is stirred in to heat through. I like to add the corn at the end so that it stays crisp.

The flavorful chicken, corn and bean mixture is a great filling for flour tortillas. You can add your favorite taco toppings such as shredded cheese, lettuce, diced tomato and salsa and sour cream. It's also delicious over cooked white or Mexican rice.

The dish can become a hearty Southwestern chicken soup by adding four cups of reduced-sodium chicken broth. Add the broth when you add the corn, cover and cook for about one hour on high to heat it up well. Crush tortilla chips over each serving and top with a dollop of sour cream. You also can combine chopped fresh tomatoes, onions and cilantro for a quick pico de gallo that is a wonderful topping for the soup.

Any leftover chicken mixture can be served another night as a sublime topping for pasta. If you've used the mixture as a topping for tortillas or rice, thin it with chicken broth and whipping cream before reheating in the microwave or in a saucepan on top of the stove. Toss the mixture with hot cooked pasta and sprinkle each serving with shredded cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese and chopped fresh cilantro.

Southwestern chicken, corn and black beans

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into strips (about 1 pounds)

1 cup salsa

1 tablespoon taco seasoning

1 15.25-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 15.25-ounce can corn, drained

Flour tortillas or cooked white rice, for serving

Spray ceramic vessel of slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Add the chicken, salsa, taco seasoning and black beans and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for four to six hours. Twenty minutes before serving, stir to break up the chicken strips, and then stir in corn. Cover and cook until corn is heated through.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutritional information (per serving):

290 calories, 3.23 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 56 milligrams cholesterol, 27 grams protein, 21 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 522 milligrams sodium.One medium 6-inch flour tortilla adds an additional: 97 calories, 2 grams fat (0 grams saturated), 0 milligrams cholesterol, 2.61 grams protein, 17 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 143 milligrams sodium.

Nutritional analysis completed by the Richmond County School Nutrition Program, in conjunction with the Augusta Area Dietetic Association.

Coming next week:

Grape tomatoes and fresh basil are available in supermarkets year-round. In just minutes the two can become a tasty sauce for cooked pasta.See Karin prepare the recipe at noon Tuesday on WJBF-TV (Channel 6).

Write to Karin Calloway in care of The Augusta Chronicle Newsroom, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903. Or send e-mail to karin.callaway@comcast.net. You can find previous Quick Cooking recipes through the online archive at AugustaChronicle.com/karin.