Posts Tagged ‘chicken’

Five-Spice Chicken & Orange Salad

May 25th, 2010

Five-Spice Chicken & Orange Salad

Week 2, day 3 of My Eating Well Challenge.  I am behind on blogging, but not on cooking!

What a delicious and refreshing salad! The sweet and savory five-spice seasoning is nicely paired with oranges and a tart mustard and cider vinegar dressing. I was a little concerned the combination might taste like Christmas, but the Asian-inspired flavors are quite subtle. Crisp peppers and onions brighten the dish. I disagree with some user comments on EatingWell.com that recommend doubling the rub recipe; I feel that would overpower the other flavors. The recipe as-is is well balanced.

Five-Spice Chicken & Orange Salad
From The EatingWell Healthy in a Hurry Cookbook
View the recipe and nutritional information on EatingWell.com.

6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon five-spice powder, (see Note)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
3 oranges
12 cups mixed Asian or salad greens
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup slivered red onion
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Combine 1 teaspoon oil, five-spice powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Rub the mixture into both sides of the chicken breasts.

2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts; cook until browned on one side, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn them over and transfer the pan to the oven. Roast until the chicken is just cooked through (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 165°F), 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board; let rest for 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, peel and segment two of the oranges (see Tip), collecting segments and any juice in a large bowl. (Discard membranes, pith and skin.) Add the greens, bell pepper and onion to the bowl. Zest and juice the remaining orange. Place the zest and juice in a small bowl; whisk in vinegar, mustard, the remaining 4 teaspoons oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the salad; toss to combine. Slice the chicken and serve on the salad.

Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Creamy Chive Sauce

May 22nd, 2010

Chicken with Creamy Chive Sauce

Week 2, day 2 of My Eating Well Challenge.

Sauces can make a plain dinner something special, and this one is no exception. This dish is reminiscent of French bistro fare. The pungent mustard is tempered by the sour cream and stock. I was surprised that the shallot and chive did not give the sauce too much onion flavor, and in fact we would have liked a bit more. Next time I would try this with slivered green onion. Roasted fingerling potatoes were the perfect medium to sop up the luscious sauce.

Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Creamy Chive Sauce

From the EatingWell Healthy in a Hurry Cookbook
View the recipe and nutritional information at EatingWell.com.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (about 1 pound), trimmed of fat
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup chopped chives, (about 1 bunch)

1. Place chicken between sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or heavy skillet until flattened to an even thickness, about 1/2 inch. Season both sides of the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place 1/4 cup flour in a shallow glass baking dish and dredge the chicken in it. Discard the excess flour.

2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, cover and keep warm.

3. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring constantly and scraping up any browned bits, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon flour; stir to coat. Add wine, broth and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil, stirring often.

4. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until heated through and no longer pink in the center, about 6 minutes. Stir in sour cream and mustard until smooth; turn the chicken to coat with the sauce. Stir in chives and serve immediately.

Ham & Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

May 12th, 2010

Ham & Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast

Week 1, Day 2 of My Eating Well Challenge. On my way home to cook dinner, I was wondering why I chose this recipe. It’s not as if it’s anything very remarkable. Stuffing chicken breasts is something one learns the first week of culinary school, or about once-a-week on the Food Network or PBS cooking shows. Maybe it was because it  had ham and cheese. Maybe because I wanted to see what EatingWell.com would do to make this frequently fat-laden dish not so fat-laden. In any event, I’m glad I made it, since it tastes indulgent and makes a great presentation.

One wouldn’t think that sauteing a breaded chicken breast in just a teaspoon of oil in a nonstick pan, and then finishing it in the oven, would create such a beautiful crispy crust, but it does, and the chicken stays juicy. There’s not much cheese filling (the photo on their website, which I only saw after I had made the dish, is a little misleading), but the flavor of the ham and mustard is so intense, it tastes like just the right amount.

The only issue I had, as with the previous day’s recipe, was salt. If you wish to leave it out for dietary reasons, that’s fine. However, I’d suggest putting at least a half teaspoon to a teaspoon of salt into your breadcrumbs. For the crumbs I used three slices of whole wheat sandwich bread pulsed in the food processor with the salt. Next time I might take the opportunity to add some dried herbs, a bit of garlic powder, or paprika to the crumbs.

Ham & Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts
From The Essential EatingWell Cookbook
View the recipe and nutritional info. at EatingWell.com.
Makes 4 servings

1/4 cup grated Swiss, Monterey Jack or part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons chopped ham
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, (1-1 1/4 pounds total)
1 egg white
1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Use a baking sheet with sides and lightly coat it with cooking spray.

2. Mix cheese, ham, mustard and pepper in a small bowl.

3. Cut a horizontal slit along the thin, long edge of a chicken breast half, nearly through to the opposite side. Open up the breast and place one-fourth of the filling in the center. Close the breast over the filling, pressing the edges firmly together to seal. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts and filling.

4. Lightly beat egg white with a fork in a medium bowl. Place breadcrumbs in a shallow glass dish. Hold each chicken breast half together and dip in egg white, then dredge in breadcrumbs. (Discard leftovers.)

5. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts; cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Place the chicken, browned-side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the chicken is no longer pink in the center or until an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F, about 20 minutes.

Tarragon and Mustard Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping

April 20th, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping

Necessity is the mother of invention. With Chef Loryn being temporarily out of business, and not having a Griggstown pot pie (my favorite) on hand , the temperature dropping from the 70s to the 50s, and in want of some comfort food, I set out to make my own chicken pot pie. One that could be made relatively easy on a weeknight. Earlier in the day I had been leaning toward a pork chop with a mustard tarragon sauce. I couldn’t make up my mind, so why not infuse my chicken pot pie with the flavors of tarragon and mustard?

At the market on the way home from work, I expeditiously found all the ingredients for the pot, but what about the pie? Pot pie may be fully encased in pie crust, puff pastry, or topped with a biscuit topping. Puff pastry was out of the question due to the defrosting, not to mention the fat content. Pie crust can be a little tedious, and I generally find pre-made crust not savory and thick enough for a pot pie. That left me with a biscuit topping.

For some reason, the market I was in had no biscuit mix. Not even a pop-the-can biscuit was to be found. I did find some frozen biscuits, which looked absolutely luscious when I read the description, and I thought would be charming if I made the “pies” in individual ramekins, topping each one with a biscuit. Then I read the nutrition information. Weighing in at nearly 300 calories with 9 grams of saturated fat each, well, that’s not exactly the semi-healthy direction I had started out in. I wandered around the market with those biscuits in my cart for a full 10 minutes. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Should I? Shouldn’t I? Wait a minute. Biscuits!

Remember the Cream Biscuits from December? The ones that were so easy to make? Why not use that recipe? And so I, very reluctantly, put the luscious looking frozen biscuits back on their shelf and went home with the ingredients for my filling. I am so glad I did, because my pot pie was wonderful.

The aroma and flavor of the vegetables, chicken, herbs, and creamy sauce are pure comfort food. The bite of the vegetables, the tenderness of the chicken, the creaminess of the sauce, and the biscuit layer provide a ton of texture, and the top adds buttery-ness without making the dish overwhelmingly rich.

Tarragon Mustard Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping
Serves 6 – 8

– 2 russet potatoes
– 2 tablespoons butter
– 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
– 3 strips bacon, cut crosswise into thin strips (lardon)
– 1 cup shallot, diced
– 1 large carrot, diced
– 3 ribs celery, diced
– 2 teaspoons canola oil
– 1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs, cubed
– 1/2 cup dry white wine
– 2 cups chicken stock
– 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, minced
– 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
– 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 1/2 recipe Cream Biscuits (click link for recipe)

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

1. Fill a saucepan with cold water. Dice the potatoes, put them in the saucepan, and bring the pot to boil. Boil the potatoes until they are just fork tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander, but do not rinse them. Set aside to cool.

2. While the potatoes are simmering, blend butter and flour together with your fingers to make a paste. Set aside.

3. In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper towel with a slotted spoon and set aside.

4. Drain all but a tablespoon of the fat from the sauté pan. Add the shallot, carrot, and celery to the pan, with a large pinch of salt  and a few grinds of pepper to taste, and sauté until the shallot is translucent and the vegetables are becoming fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Pour the vegetables into a bowl and set aside.

5. Heat the canola oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and sauté until it is cooked through. Add the chicken to the bowl with the vegetables.

6. Over medium-high heat, pour the white wine into the sauté pan and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine by at least half.

7. Pour in one cup of the chicken stock, and reduce the stock and wine to at least half again. Pour in the last cup of chicken stock and reduce until there’s about a cup of liquid in the pan.

8. Break off about a tablespoon of the flour/butter mixture and whisk it into the pan. Continue to whisk until all lumps are gone and the sauce is thickened, just a couple of minutes. If the sauce is not thick enough, repeat with a bit of the flour/butter mixture at a time.

9. When sauce is thickened to the consistency of cream, stir in the tarragon, rosemary, and mustard. Taste, adding more herbs or mustard if you prefer. Pour this mixture over the vegetables and chicken, add the crisped bacon, and stir altogether. Place mixture into an oven-safe, deep casserole dish.

10. Prepare 1/2 recipe Cream Biscuts. Pat the dough out to fit the size of your casserole. Using a bench scraper or large, flat spatula, place the dough on top of the filling, patting the dough out to the edges of the casserole dish.

11. Brush the top of the biscuit dough with melted butter, or cream if you prefer.

12. Place pot pie in the oven and bake until top is golden and the pie is bubbling around the edges, 20-25 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes, and serve hot.

Weeknight Roast Chicken

January 19th, 2010
Roast Chicken and Green Beans

Juicy Roast Chicken and Green Beans

I know I said I’d cook more using recipes from my vast collection of cookbooks, but it was just one of those days. At work, tired, wanting something healthy and delicious to eat for dinner, but not wanting to cook. I knew I needed something to blog about, but whatever; the blog post could wait. I was thinking perhaps I’d pick up a rotisserie chicken from the local rotisserie chicken place or from Whole Foods and be done with it. No pans to clean, no carving, no hassle. That’s when I ran across a blog post by Michael Ruhlman, “America: Too Stupid To Cook,” and hung my head in shame.

The point of Mr. Ruhlman’s article is a bit different than this post, which is meant to give weeknight cooking a bit of perspective, but worth noting. Briefly, Mr. Ruhlman’s point is that Americans are made by the media to feel as if they aren’t talented enough to put a meal on the table unless it comes from a microwaveable box, or if they are specifically told a recipe is easy. I can’t agree with him more. Even shortcuts from shows like The Food Network’s 30 Minute Meals may overwhelm many. We never seem to have all the ingredients, and frankly it seems like so much work. To some, watching Rachael Ray, the show’s host, make one meal in her perfectly-organized kitchen with plenty of counter space is akin to watching a short-order cook assemble 20 breakfasts simultaneously. It’s daunting, and makes people uncomfortable in their own kitchens. (Note that I disagree with Ruhlman’s putdown of 30 Minute Meals. Watching Ms. Ray cook, or for that matter exist on this planet, may be akin to enduring nails on a blackboard (my thoughts, not his), but for the most part the show provides relatively-healthy, well-rounded recipes, that do involve “real cooking.” More power to her producers if the show actually does motivate some people to get past their fears and into their kitchens to cook.) Mr. Ruhlman goes on to state, “…the notion that cooking is hard and that it takes a long time and we’re just too stupid to cook is wrong.”

Which brings me to my point. Left to their own devices with only an oven and a piece of meat, I’m pretty sure anyone can figure out that they need to turn the oven on and put the meat inside the oven to cook it. But because people are hammered by TV, websites, magazines, and cookbooks with a million techniques, they become frightened and don’t cook at all. A million questions are then asked: What temperature do I cook the meat? It doesn’t matter much – either a low temperature for a long time or a higher temperature for a shorter time. Do I need to marinate? Nice, but not necessary. What about seasonings? Salt and pepper do just fine. When is it done? When it is cooked. Really, stop worrying! Block out the noise in your head. Do what feels right. Our grandparents did not have the luxury of meat thermometers, or ovens that told (or even held) an actual temperature, or a bookstore filled with hundreds of cookbooks, or exotic ingredients just a click away. They simply put real food on the table. That’s what we should aspire to.

To continue with the story of the chicken, my personal shame after reading Mr. Ruhlman’s article came not from a feeling that I couldn’t cook. My shame came from knowing that I can cook a perfectly delicious, healthy meal, without much trouble, and that I was choosing not to because I was tiiirrreeed. I’ve been choosing to do this for most of my adult life, and I should have learned by now that this is a terrible waste on so many levels. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re going to go the fast-food route, a rotisserie chicken is possibly one of the best options. But for me, someone with easy access to good ingredients, who knows how ridiculously simple it can be to roast a chicken, it seemed silly. I was about to spend too much money for too little food, with questionable nutritional value, for poultry that was probably raised in a factory. I decided I would get over myself and roast a chicken.

But, wait. Why just one chicken? Roasting one chicken is just as easy as roasting two, and if I roasted two I could make chicken salad the next day. And then if I had two roasted chicken carcasses, I could make quite a bit of chicken stock, which could go into soups and sauces. All of this would come from maybe 45 minutes of hands-on work all told. Here’s how it went:

Roast Chicken:

  • On my way home from work, I purchased two small chickens, about 2.75 lbs. each. (I find smaller chickens remain far more moist than their bigger siblings, and they feed my family of three perfectly.)
  • As soon as I arrived home, before I even changed my clothes, I turned the oven to 475 degrees F.
  • While the oven was heating, I cut two peeled medium onions, a couple of unpeeled carrots, and two stalks of celery into large chunks, threw them into a roasting pan, drizzled some olive oil, salt, and pepper on them, and tossed the vegetables with my hands. This would serve as the rack for the chicken, and provide some additional flavor. If I had potatoes, those would have gone in too, and I would have served roast potatoes with my chicken. But I had no potatoes, oh well. Next time! (Have no vegetables? No worries, leave them out.)
  • I patted the chicken dry with paper towels. I cut two lemons in half and shoved one half of a lemon into each of the chickens. The other halves I squeezed over the chicken and vegetables and tossed into the pan. (I love lemon with poultry, and I nearly always have lemons in the house. If you don’t have lemons, don’t worry about it – skip ‘em!)
  • I shoved a half handful of rosemary and thyme in the cavity with the lemons. (I have rosemary and thyme plants in my home. You could also use a couple of tablespoons of dried herbs. Any combination of herbs is good here – oregano, sage, etc. Or you could skip the herbs altogether should you not have any at hand or are feeling particularly lazy.)
  • I drizzled olive oil on the chickens, then some salt and pepper, gave them a good rub down, and tied their little legs together. (I only truss a chicken to keep the leg meat from shrinking off the bones, and it keeps the birds shape nicer. If you have no twine, or have little inclination, it is not necessary.)
  • I put the roasting pan with the vegetables and the chickens into the oven and immediately turned the temperature down to 400 F.
  • For the next hour and ten minutes, I changed into more comfortable clothes and fiddled about on my computer a while. I figured I should check the birds for doneness just about an hour after I had put them in the oven. No need – I actually smelled a distinct difference in the aroma of the house. I ran downstairs, tested the thigh meat with a meat thermometer and pulled the birds out to let them rest. (No thermometer? Pull the leg away from the body just a bit and see if the juices run clear. No pink juice means they’re done!)
  • While the chickens were lying about, I put a bag of frozen green beans in the microwave to steam per the directions, dumped them in a bowl with a bit of butter and salt.
  • I then carved the chicken, and we ate. (“Carved” sounds more elegant than it was, which was more like tearing it apart with my hands. Chickens this small stay pliant and nearly fall into pieces.)
Roast Chickens Ready for Roasting

Roast Chickens Ready for Roasting

Roasted Chickens

Roasted Chickens

Ultimately, the only thing you *need* here is an oven, a chicken, a roasting pan, and some salt and pepper. I know some people would not use salt at all, but that’s completely against my culinary principles.

If you want to make things complicated, possibly the best roast chicken I’ve ever made was the one from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook. You can see an adapted recipe here. This will require salting the chicken a day ahead, preheating a pan, searing the breast, etc. It is not difficult, and it’s definitely worth cooking, but it’s not necessarily something I’d want to tackle during the week.

The next evening I made chicken salad from the second chicken. This cranberry walnut version is a delicious recipe that takes only a few minutes to make. Chicken salad is super easy – it’s just diced chicken tossed with a perked-up mayonnaise dressing.

Two days later I made chicken stock. I pulled the skin/fat off the backs of the carcasses, cut some carrot, celery, and shallot (I didn’t have onions) into pieces, bundled some thyme and a bay leaf, put it all in a pot and covered it all with cold water. I left it on a high simmer for three hours. Because we did such a good job eating the chicken, there was very little protein or fat to skim off. I would up with four quarts of beautiful chicken stock!

Two chickens, several meals, and a valuable lesson learned. It truly didn’t take much effort to feed me and my family a few wholesome meals, and it cost significantly less money than take-out. So while I’ll continue with the cookbook experiment, you’ll definitely be seeing these toss-it-together weeknight recipes as often.