Showing posts with label chicken. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chicken. Show all posts

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Good gravy!

I saw Jamie Oliver's post on weekend roasts (how traditional!) and they sounded very good. I don't do roasts much anymore since they are either a.) fatty or b.) expensive, or both. But I still love the taste of a great roast chicken, and the one on his site looked mighty delicious (the recipe is here.)

But when I rolled over to his recipe for gravy and saw he had out the sieve, I went uh-oh. And sure enough, he had the drippings being skimmed of fat and then flour added to the liquid. That process almost always results in lumps.

For really good gravy that has a good color and no lumps, first make a roux. For each cup of liquid you have (I'm assuming you've simmered the neck and giblets while the chicken was cooking or have some good quality stock plus the defatted part of the drippings from the pan), put 1 tablespoon of the fat you skimmed off from the drippings into a large cast-iron skillet on medium heat until it's almost smoking. Add a like amount of flour and stir the mixture constantly until it's a deep brown, turning down the heat if it's browning too fast (if it burns, you will need to throw it out and start over). When it's a very deep brown, whisk in the liquid, turn up the heat a bit and bring it to a low boil. When it thickens, remove from the heat and serve. The only lumps would be the dripping solids and some bits of vegetable, and if you want it perfectly smooth, sieve your dripping liquid before adding to the pan.

I rarely use a sieve. Bring on the full taste!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Green burgers are fowl - and very tasty

Photograph ©2013, Lori Korleski Richardson
Turkey Spinach Slider on baguette
The average turkey burger makes most people wonder if perhaps a veggie burger would have been a better choice for healthful eating. Turkey is extremely bland, but when mixed with more flavorful ingredients, it steps into the background and takes on the flavor of the other items in the pot.

I saw this recipe by Sue Li on epicurious.com, but since we were trying to cut out bread from our diet, I didn't try it for a while. What I finally hit upon was serving them not on slider buns or small dinner rolls, but in Boston or butter lettuce cups. They were so good!

Since then, I've made them with the following substitutions: Using half spinach and half chard; using all chard; using chard and arugula; using ground chicken instead of turkey; upping the cumin to 1 teaspoon, and using a shallot instead of scallions; and freezing the raw burgers, then putting them frozen into the pan. I must say, they were all excellent, and I really can't tell you which I liked best.

This recipe says it makes 4 servings, and that's about right with the lettuce cups. But with the bread, my husband and I were filled up with two apiece.

I think the secret is not to overcook them (if you're worried they might not get done enough, make them thinner in the middle when you pat them out or use an instant read thermometer and keep cooking until they reach an interior temperature of 170 degrees).

If you do put them on a bun, or as we did, pieces of horizontally sliced baguette, try the spread that follows. It really kicks it up a notch!

Photograph ©2013, Lori Korleski Richardson
The dozen sliders on a cookie sheet, ready to freeze.
Turkey Spinach Sliders
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients
1/2 bunch flat-leaf spinach, thick stems removed, leaves chopped (about 4 cups)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 pound ground turkey
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil (can spray patties lightly if grilling)
12 slider buns or small dinner rolls, split, lightly toasted (for serving)
Your favorite condiments

Instructions
Combine spinach, scallions, garlic, turkey, and cumin in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Using a fork, mix gently just to combine. Form turkey mixture into 14 1/2"-thick patties.
If grilling, heat grill to very hot, place patties on grill, oiled side down, then turn down to low. Proceed as below.
If cooking on stove, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, cook patties until golden brown and cooked through (resist the temptation to press down on patties with your spatula while cooking), about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Serve turkey-spinach patties on buns with mayonnaise, onion, and whatever other condiments you prefer. For a gluten-free dish, serve the patties on top of a salad.

Patties can be formed 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before cooking.

Lori's note: Besides the alternatives noted in the post above, I just put the spinach, scallions (or shallot) and garlic in the food processor and chopped everything fine before mixing it all with the turkey and cumin.

Lori K's Fantastic Green Spread
Makes about a cup

Ingredients
1 cup of packed arugula
1 ripe avocado
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and quartered (or 2 mild jalapeños)
Cooking wine (optional)
Pepper to taste

Instructions
Mix first five ingredients in food processor; add wine until sauce is smooth. Add pepper to taste. Spread on buns, or on burgers in lettuce cups. Will keep for several days, and it stays a bright green.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mex to the max, revisited


Photo by Kate Miller, stolenmomentscooking.com
Last night, I made chicken taquitos, one of my favorite quick and easy meals (I usually have a bag of chicken tenders in my freezer because they thaw quickly and always taste great).

I blogged about how to make these several years ago, but I came up with a time- and paper-saving tip, so I thought I'd share the recipe again.

If serving with rice and beans, your beans should be cooked and on low, and you should start the rice before assembling the taquitos, since rice will stay warm up to 30 minutes after it’s done.

Lori K’S Easy Chicken Taquitos
Serves 2

Ingredients
6 corn tortillas
Oil
6 chicken tenders or 2 chicken breasts, cut into 3 strips each
Garlic salt
Cumin
Chili powder
Salsa or guacamole for dipping

Instructions
Heat about a quarter-inch of oil over medium heat in a frying pan that’s just a little larger than the tortillas.

Put the tortillas in a tortilla warmer or wrap them in a clean dishtowel. Microwave for a minute.

Season the chicken tenders or strips with a light dusting of the spices. Roll up each piece of chicken in a softened tortilla and secure with a toothpick.

Put three taquitos in at a time, seam side down. Brown on all sides (the toothpicks can come out after the first side is browned). The chicken will be thoroughly cooked, yet tender and moist inside. Drain on a paper towel. Keep the first three warm while cooking the rest.

Serve hot with the salsa or guacamole.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mediterranean chicken

This recipe, which I've used successfully for years, is tasty enough to serve over white rice for company, and can be made more authentic by using thighs instead of breasts and serving over couscous. Earlier this week, I used chicken tenders, which cut the cooking time by more than half. I also used a spice I picked up in Old City Jerusalem, za'atar, instead of cumin, and it was even more delicious, if that's possible. If you don't have apricot halves, use prunes (also known as dried plums). And if you have an olive tapenade open, substitute 4 tablespoons of that for the dozen olives.

The photo of the za'atar pyramid was taken by Jim Richardson last summer in Israel.


Mediterranean Chicken Breasts
Serves 6

Ingredients
6 boneless chicken breast halves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup dried apricots, plumped for 30 minutes and drained
1 1/2 cup dry white wine or unsalted chicken broth
12 brine cured, pitted green olives

Instructions
Season chicken with salt, pepper and cumin. Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook until browned, turning chicken over every 2 minutes. Remove chicken and place on plate. Cover with foil to keep warm. Add garlic to skillet and cook for 30 seconds. Add apricots, wine, broth and olives to skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high and simmer until sauce is thickened, about four minutes. Add chicken back to skillet and cook until sauce is thickened and chicken is cooked through, 20-30 minutes. Divide chicken breasts onto plates and spoon sauce over chicken.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jambalaya, bayou, mio-my-o



(whoever posted this did not include the lyrics. You can find them HERE.)

I hope everyone had a relaxing Presidents Day. I ate a little leftover jambalaya (made with smoked turkey sausage and Virginia ham, which required ditching the salt and using more cayenne pepper) for lunch and if you're new to this blog, you probably haven't gone back far enough to try my "use whatever you have handy" jambalaya. Since today's Fat Tuesday, the day where you are supposed to use up everything you're not suppose to eat or drink during Lent (fat, rich meats, alcohol), I thought I'd post it again.

Unfortunately, Episcopal tradition has Shrove Tuesday pancakes, so that's what I'll be eating tonight. If you're in Charlottesville, join us for them at St. Paul's Memorial Church on the Corner at 6 tonight. They're not Cajun, but they are very good, and a parishioner usually provides real maple syrup from Vermont for the meal.


Lori K's generic jambalaya
Serves 6

2 large California bay leaves (or 4 small ones)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon gumbo filé (ground sassafras leaves, optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup of diced smoked sausage (andouille, kielbasa or turkey) or smokey ham
1 cup raw chicken, duck, pork or seafood
1 onion (about a cup)
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup diced bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups uncooked rice (long grain or converted)
4 cups chicken, duck, turkey, seafood or vegetable stock

Thoroughly combine the spices (all the ingredients before the oil) in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet over high heat and add the meats (if using seafood, add it near the end of the cooking time). Cook for 5 minutes, then add the vegetables and the spice mix. Cook until everything is browned, about 10 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pan well, and add the rice. Cook another 5 minutes, then add the broth. Bring to a boil, cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir well, remove the bay leaves, and serve.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What a jerk! Chicken, that is

As I mentioned yesterday, I cooked some jerk chicken for the Canterbury students on Sunday night. I used a turn-of-the-century (2002) recipe from Gourmet (I so miss that magazine, but thank God for epicurious.com).

The word "jerk" comes from the Peruvian term for dried strips of meat charqui. Jerk in Jamaica refers to the seasoning (which varies, but always includes allspice, lime, sugar and habanero peppers), the method of preparing the meat (a daylong marinating, in which the meat is poked all over to let the marinade permeate it), and the cooking over fire (unfortunately, I don't have access to pimento wood, which adds extra flavor the Jamaican dishes).

 Given that it was a church dinner in Virginia, I felt that the spice may be too intense for the crowd. So I increased the amount of chicken, scallions, garlic, onion, lime, soy sauce and olive oil by 5, but kept the spices to the amounts shown below. The marinade tasted very hot, and I wondered if just 4 habaneros for 40 people still were too many. But the chicken cooked up to be very juicy and spicy, but not mouth-searing in the slightest, and the students seemed to enjoy it immensely.

Another note: I used our usual barbecued chicken technique to insure that the meat cooked through: I used only boneless, skinless thighs, and cooked them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes before throwing them on the grill.

Jerk Chicken a la Gourmet 
Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

For jerk marinade:
3 scallions, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
4 to 5 fresh Scotch bonnet or habanero chile, stemmed and seeded
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons salt (I omitted this; soy sauce is quite salty)
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons black pepper
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

 For chicken:
4 chicken breast halves with skin and bones (3 pounds), halved crosswise
2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks

Accompaniment: papaya salsa (the papayas looked horrible and I couldn't locate canned, so I went without this) 

Instructions

Make marinade:
Blend all marinade ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Marinate and grill chicken:
Poke chicken with a two-tined fork all over. Divide chicken pieces and marinade between 2 sealable plastic bags. Seal bags, pressing out excess air, then turn bags over several times to distribute marinade. Put bags of chicken in a shallow pan and marinate, chilled, turning once or twice, 1 day.

Let chicken stand at room temperature 1 hour before cooking.

To cook chicken using a gas grill:
Preheat burners on high, then adjust heat to moderate. Cook chicken until well browned on all sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust heat to low and cook chicken, covered with lid, until cooked through, about 25 minutes more.

To cook chicken over charcoal:
Open vents on bottom of grill and on lid. Light a large chimney of charcoal briquettes (about 100) and pour them evenly over 1 side of bottom rack (you will have a double or triple layer of charcoal). When charcoal turns grayish white and you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack for 3 to 4 seconds, sear chicken in batches on lightly oiled rack over coals until well browned on all sides, about 3 minutes per batch. Move chicken as seared to side of grill with no coals underneath, then cook, covered with lid, until cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes more.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Making something healthful unhealthful

California Avocado Commission

Why do restaurant chefs just pile on the calories, after they've created something that sounds right and healthful? Case in point:

CHOPPED SALAD
Recipe Provided By Chef Kevin Gin, Bridges in Danville, CA
Serves: 4
Ingredients
12 ounces grilled chicken breast, diced medium
6 ounces crisp cooked smoked bacon, chopped small
8 ounces fresh avocados, diced medium*
4 petite hearts of romaine, chopped (about 2 cups lightly packed)
8 small tomatoes (2" diameter), cut in quarters
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon mixed herbs
Creamy Basil Dressing (recipe follows)
Instructions
Marinate the cut tomatoes in the olive oil and mixed herbs for about 10 minutes.
Toss the chopped romaine with the Creamy Basil Dressing. Divide the mixture between 4 serving bowls.
Top each bowl with chicken, avocado, bacon, and tomato. Serve.
*A large Fresh California Avocado weighs about 8 oz.

Creamy Basil Dressing
(Yield: 1 1/4 cup)
Ingredients
8 ounces sour cream
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ ounce fresh basil, chopped
Instructions
Whisk all ingredients together.


Now tell me, how does the dressing make this salad any better than if you added a couple of basil leaves and a squeeze of lemon? Why add cream and sour cream to a basically healthy dish?

A side note: Bridges is a fine restaurant, and if you're ever in Danville, you should check it out. If you don't plan a trip to this East Bay burb anytime soon, you can see the restaurant in the movie "Mrs. Doubtfire."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Light "fried" chicken

Roast chicken is a treat, but most of the fat comes from eating it with the skin on. That's what makes cheap chicken parts, like chicken wings, so yummy. Frying wings adds even more fat to them, and breading them adds fat AND carbs. Want to put on weight fast? Bucket of buffalo wings coming up.

So when I'm not roasting the whole bird, I either buy my chicken parts with the skin off, or take it off when I cut up the bird before freezing the individual parts.

But you can have crispy, fried-like chicken with just a fraction of the calories. I served this with a salad of mixed greens, orange peppers, grape tomatoes, feta and toasted pine nuts, a dish of orzo/vermicelli (recipe tomorrow; it was very easy and cooked while the chicken was in the oven) and a side of peas. The peas were frozen - my tip for cooking them is to put them in a bowl, season to taste, put a plastic cover over them and microwave for 2 minutes or until steaming hot. Don't use water, and don't overcook them. And use the young peas, petit pois, instead of the larger kind. The larger kind may cost a little less, but they tend to be mealier and the skins tougher.

Lori K's oven-fried chicken breasts
Serves 2

Ingredients
Dried bread crumbs
Salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, smoked paprika
2 egg yolks
2 chicken breasts
Olive oil spray

Instructions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put a light layer of breadcrumbs on a plate and season them well. Beat the egg yolks until smooth. Wash and dry the chicken breasts, then brush one side with the yolk, lay on the crumb plate, brush the other side and flip. Make sure it is well-coated with crumbs. Place on a rack set over a shallow roasting pan. Repeat with the other breast, adding more crumbs and seasonings if needed. Top with a little extra smoked paprika. Spray lightly with olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes; turn pan around (or if browning too fast, flip) and bake for another 5 minutes. Serve.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Roast chicken done Holly's way

A good roast chicken is one of life's most sublime pleasures, a crisp-skin package with meltingly tender meat, releasing a bit of wonderous broth in every bite.

My usual method is to season the chicken well – salt or garlic salt, pepper, paprika (smoked or plain) maybe put a little rosemary under the skin and stuff with a lemon – spray with olive oil, start it at 475, then turn the oven down to 325 and cook for an hour or so. I never baste, never open the oven door while cooking. I love crispy skin.

I check the temp in the breast since that's what I eat first; it should be at least 160 degrees (the temp continues to rise as it sets out of the oven) and never more than 165. Overcooking is what usually dries out poultry.

Letting the chicken rest when it comes out of the oven is another key to a moist chicken; minimum 10 minutes to let the juices absorb back into the meat (that works with all meats, by the way). Before serving, I check the temp on the thigh; if it's not up to 165, I remove the legs and put them back in the oven, keep the breast warm, serve the salad. They are usually cooked just right by then.

But I'm always open to new ways of roasting chickens: I love the Zuni Cafe method, and I'm eager to try THIS ONE my friend Holly just posted on her blog, which uses butter and celery. Do you have any favorite roast chicken recipes or tips to share?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chicken processing slipping

Our chickens: Ruby Cheryl, Betty and Veronica
Considering the prevalence of chicken sold by parts in the grocery stores, it must be the rare person who cuts up a whole chicken these days. Yet whole chickens are by far the most economical, especially when they are on sale for 59 cents a pound. You get the parts you like, separate them yourself and freeze them in portions that you know you can use, and put the remainder in the stockpot with some carrots and celery, a bay leaf and onion and garlic if you like. It tastes better than any stock I've bought in a can or box.

I'm no math whiz, but here's a breakdown of costs, all this week's prices at Harris Teeter:
4 chickens @ $0.59 = approximately $12

If you bought the parts:
4 large whole chicken breasts @ $4.99 per pound = approximately $24
16 chicken wings = $1.50 (about a pound)
8 chicken thighs and legs @ $3 per pound = approximately $12
4 quarts chicken broth (using backs, necks etc.)  $2 quart = $8

Total: About $45

Savings: $33 (less what you put your labor at)


Notice I didn't price out the hearts, gizzards and liver. For one thing, three out of the four livers were a sickly yellow-orange, not the brown-burgundy of a healthy liver. And you only get one each of everything, at the most, so the amount is negligible.

And the liver isn't the only thing that wasn't right with this batch of chickens; one didn't have the oil gland removed from the tail. No big deal for me, since I wasn't roasting the chickens, but could have spoiled the dinner if I had popped it in the oven without noticing. Also no big deal was the number of pin feathers and broken shafts, since I like my skinless chicken. But seeing feathers on a piece of roasted chicken really puts me off.

A tale of two tails
The photo at right shows a tail with the oil gland on, right, and how it should appear with it removed, left.

Don't know how to cut up a chicken? A step-by-step guide can be found HERE.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Stocking up on stock

The one sign that's hard to pass up in a grocery store is "Whole fryers, 59 cents a pound." On sale, they sit like little plastic-wrapped, slightly lumpy bowling balls. They are sold as fresh, but they are darn near frozen, maybe a degree or two above. Still, they going into the cart, four at a time.

Spatchcocking a chicken
Once home, I line them up and begin to cut.

I usually spatchcock two of them: I take them out of the bag, put the neck, heart and gizzard in the stock pot, set the liver aside, rinse and dry the chicken well, take a pair of kitchen scissors and cut up each side of the backbone, which then goes in the stock pot, too. Flatten out the birds, season and  put the two of them in a 9x13-inch glass casserole, put in a 450-degree oven for 45 minutes or until the juices run clear. They come out beautifully brown and easy to carve.

The cooked, flattened chicken
Meanwhile, the other two are separated into wings, thighs and breasts; everything else goes in the stock pot, skin and all. I add a couple of bay leaves, some pepper corns, a couple of carrots and an onion. I cover the parts with water, bring to almost a boil, then turn it on low to simmer for several hours until the meat is falling off the bones. I then strain the broth and put it in the fridge to separate the fat. I pick off whatever meat looks good for chicken salad or soup and throw the rest out. I usually end up with at least 4 quarts of broth and enough chicken for about 10-12 dinners for two, not counting soup.

I usually fry the livers in a little olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic, then eat them on toasts. If you don't have a cholesterol problem, they are good for you, high in iron and other nutrients: thiamin, zinc, copper and manganese, and Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and folate.

The entire process usually takes me about an hour and a half, not counting the time it takes to simmer the broth.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Palestine on her mind


You probably heard all about the hot water Helen Thomas got herself into with her comments about Palestine. But did you see the Springfield, Ill., State Journal-Register item about her submission to a Women's National Press Club cookbook back in 1961?

The recipe is "Palestine Chicken."

Thomas, 89, was a longtime White House bureau chief for United Press International, columnist for Hearst Newspapers, first female officer of the National Press Club, first female member and a president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, member of the White House Press Corps and is the author of five books.

On May 27, she was outside a Jewish Heritage Celebration Day event at the White House, when she was asked by a rabbi (with a video camera) for a comment on Israel. Thomas said, “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.”

She resigned from Hearst Newspapers, and her entertainment agency dropped her.

No word yet if she's thinking of another cookbook.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Salad days

Fresh salads with crisp new greens, with just a light dressing, with nothing else to hide the taste of Mother Nature's first offerings, are truly a gift to gardeners and friends of gardeners.

You can't make a meal out of them alone, but they do make a good basis for a simple supper: the warm salad.

The greens and the cheese are cold here; everything else is at room temperature or slightly warm. The coq au vin refers not to the classic slow-cooked dish, but just that the chicken breasts are cooked in wine.

Warm Coq au Vin Salad
Serves 2 as a main dish

Ingredients
2 cups of torn greens
1 cup red wine
1 cup chicken broth
2 dried hot peppers or 2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 bay leaf
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and any ligaments
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
12 grape tomatoes, cut in half
2 ounces feta cheese cubes
1 red bell pepper, roasted, skinned and sliced
Salt, pepper and extra oregano to taste

Instructions
Wash, dry and tear the lettuce; wrap in paper towels and put on a plate. Chill.
Combine the wine, broth, dried hot peppers or flakes, peppercorns, teaspoons of oregano and salt, and bay leaf in a saucepan big enough to hold the liquid and chicken breasts. Bring to a full rolling boil. Add the chicken breasts. Cook for 10 minutes, turn off the heat and leave in the warm liquid for about 5 more minutes or until firm. Remove from the liquid to a plate.
As the breasts are cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and season with a little pepper. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes. They should have released their liquid when you uncover them; cook until the liquid evaporates, then remove to a plate to cool.
In the salad bowl, place the tomato halves and feta cheese cubes, and the rest of the olive oil. Add salt, pepper and oregano to taste. Add the sweet red pepper strips, and the mushrooms when cool. Slice the chicken breasts against the grain into rough strips and add to the bowl. Add the chilled lettuce. Toss, adjust seasoning if needed and serve.
Variations:
If you want a heartier dinner, use a cup of arugula instead of the lettuce and toss with a cup of cooked tiny green lentils and 4 ounces of pasta (shells, bowties or orzo) cooked and cooled a little. You may need to increase the amount of olive oil a bit, and perhaps add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.
If you have time, coat the chicken with lavender salt and marinate a couple of hours before poaching; decrease the salt in the liquid.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tangy Tuscan chicken

Toward the end of October last year, I published a method for easy preserved lemons (if you missed it, click on the orange words and you'll be taken to that post with the recipe). Now that your lemons are quite soft and ready to use, you may be wondering what else can benefit from this tangy condiment.

This week's Washington Post food section has a yummy recipe for Tuscany chicken, cooked on a Tuscan grill in the fireplace. If you don't have one, you can still make this chicken on the stove in a large, well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, weighting the chicken with foil-covered bricks or even a slightly smaller skillet; or on your grill, if you haven't stored it away for the winter. Just be careful and keep the heat rather low, so that the chicken cooks through before its outside is charred.

If you would like to make an aioli dipping sauce for the chicken, remove 2 tablespoons of the marinade before mixing it with the chicken and combine it with 3/4 cup mayonnaise. Refrigerate until ready to use.

MAKE AHEAD: The lemon-garlic paste can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated. The chicken should marinate for at least an hour or as long as overnight.

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 preserved lemon wedges
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, needles removed from the stem, stem discarded
  • 4 medium garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 3- to 4-pound chicken, butterflied
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red chili pepper
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:

To prepare the marinade for the chicken, place the lemon wedges, garlic, rosemary and olive oil in a blender. (A food processor may be used, but the blender makes a more pastelike mixture.) Blend on low speed, just until coarsely chopped. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Butterfly the chicken by cutting along the backbone on both sides and removing the bone. Place the chicken breast side up on a stable surface; press down on both sides of the breast and pull out the legs to flatten the chicken. Place the chicken on a shallow platter, skin side down. Rub the cavity of the chicken with one-third of the marinade and season with half of the crushed chili pepper, salt and pepper. Turn the chicken over and rub the remaining two-thirds of the marinade over the chicken to coat the skin. Season with the remaining half of the crushed chili pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and as long as overnight.

Meanwhile, prepare a fire in the fireplace. It should be hot, but allow the flames to subside before you begin cooking. Have ready a Tuscan grill (see headnote).

Place the flattened chicken on the Tuscan grill, skin side up. Place the grill in the fire in an area where there is the least amount of heat, so the chicken won't burn before it is thoroughly cooked. Place 2 bricks covered in aluminum foil (or other heavy weight) on top of the chicken to keep it flat. Cook for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove the bricks, turn the chicken over and put the bricks back on top of the chicken. Watch the fire carefully. As the embers burn down, move the grill around or adjust the grill's height to allow the chicken to cook evenly. You will also need to watch for flare-ups and move the grill if the heat is too high. Cook, turning the chicken over every 10 minutes or so and adjusting the grill as needed, until the the skin is lightly charred, the chicken is flattened and an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thigh area reads 170 degrees. Cooking times will vary, but it should take 30 to 45 minutes.

From Alisa Barry, owner of Bella Cucina Artful Food (www.bellacucina.com).

Tested by Bonny Wolf for The Washington Post.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cajun without a cookbook

Growing up with a Cajun mother, you'd think I would have been eating gumbo, jambalaya, étouffée and blackened steak every night. But no. My mother was a wonderful cook, but my Polish father, with one exception, pretty much called the dinner shots. That one exception was steak night; my mother insisted that we have rice, not potatoes, when she cooked steak, and the au jus flavored the white long-grain rice.

So it wasn't until I latched onto a copy of Paul Prudhomme's "Louisiana Kitchen" that I began eating Cajun food regularly at home. Oh, it was great; finally I didn't have to wait to go to Polly's or some other little greasy spoon near Elton (my mother's hometown) to get my Cajun food fix.

But any cookbook should be a road map, not commandments chiseled in stone. Take my jambalaya last night. Prudhomme has a ham and sausage jambalaya, a rabbit (or chicken) jambalaya, a chicken and tasso jambalaya. They are all pretty good, but most of them call for some tomato sauce or canned tomatoes. That just exposes Prudhomme's New Orleans training; most Cajuns do not cook with tomatoes, most Creoles do.

Tasso isn't expensive in Louisiana; but in many other places, it's rare and dear. And that defeats the purpose of Cajun cooking: making what's available taste wonderful. Tasso, for those of you who aren't familiar with Louisiana ingredients, is a smoky seasoning meat not unlike ham.

What is available here in Virginia is ham chips. They are fairly smoky, very salty, and work well as seasoning. I also had a pack of chicken thighs from the last time I cut up a trio of chickens. Voilà! I could work with that.

Lori K's jambalaya with chicken thighs and Virginia ham chips

Ingredients

Seasoning mix
3 California bay leaves, broken in half
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground sassafras leaves (filé)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
10 ounces Virginia ham chips
6 chicken thighs (bone in)
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup chopped bell peppers
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 cups uncooked long-grain or basmati rice
4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Instructions

Combine seasoning mix ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large cast iron skillet, heat the oil until it begins to smoke; add chicken breasts and cook until browned on both sides. Turn down the heat a little and remove chicken pieces to a large ovenproof casserole. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cook the ham until it sizzles and add the vegetables and seasoning mix, stir well and continue cooking until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the rice and cook another 5 minutes, scraping and stirring the mixture. Put the broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Put all the contents of the pan into the casserole with the chicken. Add the broth, and put in the oven. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove bay leaves and serve immediately.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fast and French

French food, for most people, conjures up hours in the kitchen, striving for perfection of sauces and presentation. Not so for Jacques Pépin, born and kitchen-trained in France. He wrote "Fast Food My Way" (Houghton Mifflin, $30, 250 pages) five years ago, and although it's not a beginner's cookbook (there are no notes on basic cooking techniques), most of the recipes are, as promised, fast - which translates as uncomplicated and straightforward. Pépin also has included many menus, which is a great help in balancing out a meal.
It's a small book, but has lovely and inviting photographs by Ben Fink, all in bounce-off-the-page color.
The cookbook has a wealth of vegetable recipes and salads, and a few recipes for most kinds of seafood and meats. A substantial dessert section includes a tiramisu that is not unlike the one I hit upon when assembling one for a dinner for 100, and I'm sure it is just as delicious.
The recipe I used last night was definitely a winner: chicken breasts with garlic and parsley. Pépin says he adapted the idea from a traditional French way of cooking frog legs. Well, if he can adapt, so can I. I didn't have parsley, but my basil is loving this cool, wet weather, and I love the way it works with garlic and lemon.

Fast chicken breasts with garlic and basil
(adapted from "Jacques Pépin: Fast Food My Way")

Ingredients
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (organic preferred; each about 7 ounces, cut into 1-inch cubes)
2 tablespoons rice flour (Pépin=Wondra)
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (Pépin=parsley)
1 tablespoon butter (Pépin=2 tablespoons unsalted)
1 lemon, quartered

Instructions
Dry the chicken cubes with paper towels and toss them with the flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet until very hot but not smoking. Add the chicken cubes and cook in one layer turning occasionally, for about 3 1/2 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the garlic and parsley in a small bowl. Add the butter and the parsley mixture to the skillet and sauté for 1 minute longer, shaking the skillet occasionally to coat the chicken. Divide among 4 plates, add a wedge of lemon to each plate and serve within 15 minutes.

Editor's note: Want this cookbook? Click on the photo or the name of the book to go to Powell's Books; it's $21 there.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Chickens rule the roost

Whenever I see whole chickens on sale, I usually buy four.
The largest and plumpest I roast Zuni Cafe-style, which makes a pretty good dinner for three or four people.
The other three I cut up and divide thus: chicken wings (tips go into the stock pot); skinless chicken thighs (perfect for mole or gumbo); skinless whole breasts; livers, to be sautéed and then saved for Cajun boudin or dirty rice; and everything else goes into the stock pot.
To make a good rich stock, about 3 quarts from the trimmings, I season the pot with a little salt; peppercorns; a bay leaf; the middle of a celery stalk, with leaves; and a carrot or two; then cover with water. This is brought to almost a boil, then turned down low to simmer, usually overnight, or until the meat is close to falling off the bones. After cleanup from the Zuni chicken, I throw the drippings and whatever bones are left into the pot, too.
I usually drain the stock while it is still warm, but don't strain it through cheesecloth until I need to for certain recipes. I chill it and skim off the fat (I save the schmaltz for a while, in case there's some cookbook recipe that calls for it, but I usually end up pitching it, since I limit the amount of animal fat in my diet). I measure out the broth in several size containers: 1 cup, 1.5 cup, 2 cup and 3 cup; then I label and freeze.
Then comes the most time-consuming part: I pick out any choice meat that's left, which is usually about a quart bag full, and label it for a later chicken soup. That goes into the freezer, too, unless I'm making soup that day.
If you aren't taking out your garbage in the next couple of hours, put the remains in a bag and freeze it. Then dump the frozen bag in the garbage when you take it out.
I've tried to get my cat interested in the gizzards and hearts, but so far, no luck. I use a lot more of the chicken when I have a dog.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Zuni chicken tonight!

Photograph from SmittenKitchen.com

One day, driving home from work, NPR had a most engaging story about, of all things, a roast chicken from a restaurant we had just visited in San Francisco, the Zuni Cafe. I came home, packed up my husband and drove straight to the restaurant. Apparently, half of San Francisco had the same idea, so we didn't get seated until almost 9. But oh, was it worth it.

Flash forward a few more years, and I reviewed "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook." To my surprise and delight, it was light years ahead of most chef-based cookbooks; Judy Rogers actually wanted to teach folks how to cook in her delicious manner, not just impress potential customers with her brilliance. I tested the chicken at home and it quickly became one of my favorites, with or without the bread salad she paired with it.

I'm going to try it again tonight, and hope that my badly exhausted kitchen doesn't fill with smoke.

The original recipe is several pages of small type and instructions; this version was adapted by SmittenKitchen.com and I think it gives you the idea quite well.


Zuni Cafe’s Roasted Chicken
Adapted from the cookbook from the Zuni Cafe, San Francisco

Serves 2 to 4

One small chicken, 2 3/4 to 3 1/2-pounds
4 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage, about 1/2 inch long
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 to 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
A little water

Season the chicken: [1 to 3 days before serving; give a 3 1/4 to 3 1/2-pound chicken at least 2 days]

Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Be thorough — a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown.

Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using your finger, shove an herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.

Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper. Season the thick sections a little more heavily than the skinny ankles and wings. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone, but don’t otherwise worry about seasoning the inside. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.

Prepare your oven and pan: [Day of, total time is 45 minutes to 1 hour]

Preheat the oven to 475°F. Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle (we used a 12-inch cast iron frying pan for a 3 1/2 pound chicken). Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle.

Roast the chicken: Place the chicken in the pan in the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over — drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes.

Rest the chicken: Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from the roasting pan, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it.

Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings. You can let it rest while you finish your side dishes (or Bread Salad, below). The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools.

Serve the chicken: Set a platter in the oven to warm for a minute or two.

Tilt the roasting pan and skim the last of the fat. Place over medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken, and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape to soften any hard golden drippings. Taste — the juices will be extremely flavorful.

Cut the chicken into pieces, spread on the warm platter (on top of the Bread Salad, if using).

Capitalize on leftovers: Strain and save the drippings you don’t use, they are delicious tossed with spätzle or egg noodles, or stirred into beans or risotto. You can also use them, plus leftover scraps of roast chicken, for a chicken salad.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Summer time, and the dinners are easy

As summer wears on, salads are a good option for dinner. I had a nice salmon salad at The Nook on the C'ville downtown mall last Sunday night, with a deck-of-cards-size piece of fish, nice fresh lettuce (tossed with just a bit too much dressing) and shredded parmesan cheese. It seemed more appropriate for the weather than the meatloaf, but let me tell you, if you're hungry, that meatloaf plate at The Nook can fill you up in no time.

But foodies can't live by salads alone. That's why grills were invented. You just need to make sure it's not something that takes a lot of time or attention (have mercy on the griller in the heat). If you're doing chicken, make it boneless breasts or thighs, flattened. Oil that portobello mushroom cap good to keep it from drying out, and season it on the gill side, with a mist of oil to keep it from sticking right before you flip it (otherwise, that's the side that can really soak up the oil and add a meatlike proportion of calories to your meal). Or go for sausage; I like to boil ones that have fresh pork or chicken in them first, just a little, to make sure that the center cooks through. It also serves to firm them up if you want to split them for extra grilling taste.

And split zucchinis were made for the grill. Season the cut side with pepper and garlic salt, spray with oil and grill face down first. Flip over after 5-6 minutes and cook until they are the doneness that you like as you finish up the rest of the dinner.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dining in San Diego

Photo © Lori Korleski Richardson

Alexander's (3391 30th St., San Diego) manages to look cozy even with an all-white interior. Or maybe it was we who were cozy, seated six to a corner booth more suited for four. Because of the squeeze, they offered us two free appetizers.
We decided on the grilled salmon and baked brie cheese, topped with pesto and sun dried tomatoes, served with garlic bread ($12.25) and the ensalada caprese: fresh mozzarella layered with beefsteak tomatoes and basil, with extra virgin olive oil and oregano ($9.25). Both were exceedingly well-prepared and delicious.
The pastas run from $10.50 to $16.50 and the portions are huge. The pizzas, said to be among the best in town, are pricey - $14 to $21.50 for 13-inch pies. The entrees run from $20.25 for the chicken dishes to $26.25 for the filet mignon and garlic shrimp; the fish for the night was halibut and was cooked to perfection. The desserts all looked great, but only one among us felt like he had any room left after the main course. The waiter thoughtfully brought spoons for all of us, however, and we all had at least a bite of the apple pie and the smooth housemade vanilla ice cream.
The bustling place, the frenetic pace, and the attentiveness of Alexander to our dishes made the somewhat scattered and inconsistent service seem like more of a distraction than a major annoyance.