Cutline: Karen Boughton with Heather Gardia, VP of Food and Beverage, and the “Grill Master” Gabriel Segovia, both of El Pollo Loco.

El Pollo Loco opened its first Houston-area restaurant the week of Oct. 6 in Sugar Land with more to open by the end of the year, including one in our neck of the woods to open early 2015! It will be located at 9632 FM 1960 West in Humble. Even if you haven't traveled to the original El Pollo Loco in California, you will surely be impressed with the quality and creativity of this multi-location restaurant company. On Aug. 21, Central Market was the location of an exclusive El Pollo Loco menu tasting. El Pollo Loco is pronounced “L Po-yo Lo-co” and is Spanish for “The Crazy Chicken.” At the event, guests enjoyed a preview of their from-scratch prepared signature citrus-marinated fire grilled chicken and entrees. The history of this company is amazing. The first restaurant opened in Los Angeles in 1980 using an original family recipe. It features an authentic recipe for fresh chicken marinated 24 hours in special herbs, spices, garlic and fruit juices, and then fire-grilled to perfection. Now there are more than 400 restaurants. The family recipe has not changed, but the new and inviting other menu items are spot on and bound to get our diverse Houston population begging for more restaurants. The new ingredients and recipes are in part the work of classically trained chef and VP of Food and Beverage Heather Gardia, and the continued use of only fresh ingredients including the chickens! Welcoming the guests were the VP of Marketing Mark Hardison and Grill Master Gabriel Segovia, who also came from Los Angeles to be on hand to cook the birds. For more information, go to elpolloloco.com or to tweet it, #houstonwehaveapollo. Easy Guacamole 2 ripe avocados 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 1/4 cup minced red onion 2 jalapeños seeded and minced 3 tablespoons cilantro (leaves only), finely chopped 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper 1/2 ripe tomato, seeded and chopped DIRECTIONS: Cut the avocados in half and remove the seed. Scoop out the avocado meat and put in a medium-size mixing bowl. Coarsely mash the avocado; it should be a little chunky. Sprinkle with salt and lime. Add the chopped onion, cilantro, black pepper and jalapeños. Mix gently, sprinkle more lime or lemon juice on top and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until time to serve. Gently add tomatoes, stir and serve with chips of your choice. Note: Try this easy guacamole dip at your next get-together … always a crowd-pleaser. El Pollo Loco Chicken Tortilla Soup 2 quarts salt-free chicken broth 64 ounces shredded El Pollo Loco chicken (one whole bird skin and bones discarded) Fresh corn kernels cut from one cob 1 medium fresh poblano pepper roasted and diced 8 ounces pico de gallo from El Pollo Loco 1 cup fresh carrots diced 1/4 inch thick 1 cup fresh celery diced 1/4 inch thick 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crushed 1 teaspoon or to taste ground coriander seed 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice Salt and pepper to taste 2 cups of corn oil (for frying tortilla) GARNISH 1/2 cup quest cotija (Hispanic cheese, grated) 1 ounce of fresh cilantro, chopped and stems discarded 1 pint corn tortilla strips(cut 8 tortillas into 1/4 inch strips) DIRECTIONS: Shred meat off the bones of a whole El Pollo Loco chicken. Discard bones and skin; cool if necessary. Roast poblano pepper over an open flame on stove or in a hot pan until the skin is charred and blistered evenly. Place in a paper bag and allow to steam to cool. While the pepper is cooling, wash and dice vegetables (carrots, celery, cilantro) and set aside. Cut corn off cob and set aside. Destem and seed the roasted poblano pepper and scrape off skin with knife. Dice into quarter-inch pieces and set aside. Grate the cotija cheese and set aside. Heat corn oil to approximately 350 degrees. Fry tortilla strips in oil in a 6-inch deep sauce pot or deep fryer. Use enough oil to slightly submerge the strips. Cook for about 60 seconds or until crispy, but don't let them get too dark. Remove from oil and drain well on paper towels. Set aside. In a medium sauce pot, combine the broth,all vegetables (except cilantro), and eight ounces El Pollo Loco's pico de gallo salsa and seasoning. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to simmer and add shredded chicken; simmer another 20 minutes. Immediately prior to serving, squeeze in fresh lime and stir. Pour soup into warm bowl. Garnish each serving with a generous dose of tortilla strips, fresh chopped cilantro and Queso cotija, if desired. Enjoy! HELPFUL HiNTS Try adding slices of fresh avocado or increase the spice with some roasted habanero chile. Cutline: Karen Boughton with Heather Gardia, VP of Food and Beverage, and the “Grill Master” Gabriel Segovia, both of El Pollo Loco.

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