While preparing for a Mexican Cookery Class I was giving last year I came across this lovely recipe and although this post has been long in the making (tweaking the method quite a lot), I knew when I found it that it was a definite winner. I wanted an easy to prepare dish that would use a Mexican ingredient from My Mexican Shop. It had to be quick, no more than 15 minutes preparation time, and about 30 to 35 minutes cooking time. I went through all of my Mexican Food books and a big fat NADA was all I got... until I found this little booklet my mam gave me last time I was in Mexico.
The recipe was very, very vague, I assume that's what the Great British Bake Off technical challenge recipes look like: ingredients and a rough method, no cooking times, no fancy or detailed instructions, just a 'make the dish' general feel to it. Alan tried to talk me out of using it as I hadn't tested it before and I was modifying the recipe, but the whole thing made so much sense to me. I was familiar with all the ingredients and having done some research on the cooking method I thought the dish would be perfect. These are the results and I must say I'm delighted. I had never given much thought to steaming chicken, but I tell you, I'm going to incorporate that cooking method for chicken a lot more now. The meat was so moist and tender, it was nearly like a Barbacoa of chicken. Quick, easy and on the day a total success.
In a bowl combine orange zest, orange juice and achiote paste until everything is dissolved forming a ruby marinade. I used a fork, but achiote is quite lumpy, so be prepare to put some elbow grease or use the blender.
Arrange the chicken fillets in a shallow dish, season with salt and pour the marinade over them making sure every piece of chicken is coated well. Let them rest for 10 minutes.
While chicken rests, get on with prepping the banana leaves; using scissors, cut the banana leaves in equal squares of about 25 cms (10 inch). You will need one square per chicken breast, but cut a couple of spare ones in case there is breakage and you need to overlap two leaves. Set them aside and prepare a steamer by filling it with some water (the same way you would if you were steaming potatoes). Bring it to boil and lower the heat so the water just simmers.
Take a chicken breast and place it in the middle of one of the banana leaf squares. Pour a spoonful of the marinade over it, fold the banana leaf to wrap around the chicken breast forming a parcel, the same way you would fold a burrito. You can use a second leaf to reinforce if needs be. Use some kitchen string to tie around the banana leaf to keep everything in place and repeat this step until all six chicken breast are parcelled in. I've put together a quick photo presentation to show you how I did it.
Lay the parcels carefully on the basket of your steamer, put the lid on and steam the chicken for 35 - 40 minutes or until fully cooked.
Take the parcels out, you will see that the banana leaves have changed colour slightly, from a deep green into a brownish autumnal colour. Open the parcels making sure the chicken is cooked and serve all the juices with it.
This chicken can be eaten in tacos by shredding it and filling soft warmed corn tortillas with it, top your tacos up with some lettuce and red onion thinly sliced. I also love it with a portion of Mexican Red Rice or Mexican White Rice. Either way, you will enjoy how quick and tasty this recipe is.