Weekly Winner: One-Pan Peanut-Poultry-Potato ‘Palooza!

peanut chile chickenPeanut butter and chicken are like that unlikely paired odd couple you know.  “What do they see in each other?”  “How does that work? They’re nothing alike”.  Perhaps the answer is as easy as: They simply bring out the best or unexpected in each other.  Such is the case with Crispy Peanut-Chile Chicken with Sweet Potatoes.  While you maybe wouldn’t automatically think to combine spicy chiles, chicken, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and peanuts….once you do, you will understand the magic.

This unexpected recipe comes from Fine Cooking Magazine.  It comes together fairly quickly and easily –everything cooks in the same pan (easy cleanup!) so is quite doable for a weekday meal but also different enough and presents nice enough for a company dish.

Crispy Peanut-Chile Chicken with Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter, creamy or chunky
  • 2 Thai bird chiles, minced (keep the seeds from one of them)
  • 5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2-1/3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (about 6 cups), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 lb.)
  • 7 oz. cherry tomatoes (about 1 cup)
  • 2 oz. (1/2 cup) shelled roasted, salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Procedure:

  • Thoroughly combine the peanut butter, chiles, 3 Tbs. of the oil, the lemon juice, 2 tsp. of the garlic, and 3/4 tsp. salt in a gallon-size zip-top bag. Lightly sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt, and then add to the marinade. Refrigerate for 1 hour, massaging every 15 minutes.
  • Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 375°F. Heat the remaining 2 Tbs. of the oil in a large ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, on medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, the remaining garlic, 2 Tbs. cilantro, and 1/2 tsp. salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and the garlic is fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the sweet potatoes. Cover the pan, and cook until the sweet potatoes just start to soften, stirring once, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  • Remove the lid from the skillet, and add the tomatoes. Remove the chicken from the marinade, and place smooth side up over the tomatoes, spooning marinade on top of each. Scatter the peanuts over the chicken, and then transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, about 30 minutes.
  • Heat the broiler on high, then cook until the top of the chicken and the peanuts turn light golden, 1 to 2 minutes, watching closely so that it doesn’t burn. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving, sprinkled with the remaining cilantro.
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Weekly Winner: Not Your Average Tuesday Night Chicken Dinner

glazed chickenI think chicken breasts get a bad wrap.  Yes, the can be bland and boring but that is not their fault!  It’s the fault of whoever cooks them!  Done right, they can be an easy, nutritious, and downright tasty go-to dinner pick.  Treat them right and they will reward you with a delectable, low-fat, protein-rich meal.  Because they are such a blank canvas, they take well to aggressive seasoning.  And this sweet-spicy combination is the perfect example.

Glazed Chicken Breasts with Currant-Pistachio Couscous, comes from Cook’s Country Magazine.  It brings the heat with harissa, but tempers it nicely with the apricot preserves.  It’s a super easy, uniquely different one-pan dinner that I’ll be making frequently this spring.

Glazed Chicken Breasts with Currant-Pistachio Couscous

Serves 4

2 Tbsp apricot preserves

1 Tbsp harissa

5 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1/4 cup dried currants

1 tsp grated lemon zest plus 2 Tbsp juice

1 garlic clove, minced

1-1/2 tsp salt, divided

4 (6 to 8-oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed

1-1/2 cups water

1-1/4 cups couscous

1/2 cup shelled pistachios, toasted and chopped.

Procedure:

  1. Combine apricot preserves, harissa and 1 tablespoon oil in bowl.  Transfer one tablespoon harissa mixture to second bowl and stir in currants, lemon zest and juice, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 3 tablespoons oil.
  2. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Cook chicken until golden brown and meat registers 160 degrees, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to cutting board, brush all over with harissa-apricot mixture (without currants), and tent with foil.
  3. Bring water to boil in now-empty skillet over high heat.  Stir in couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in pistachios and harissa-currant mixture.  Slice chicken 1/2 inch thick and serve over couscous.

Weekly Winner: Just in time for Chinese New Year – minus the pig :-(

Teriyaki meatballsI’d like to think I had this all planned out.  That I knew that yesterday was the Chinese New Year and that, traditionally, one ate noodles, mushrooms, and greens for luck, health and prosperity.  I mean, in theory I knew all this… I just didn’t realize that yesterday was actually the Chinese New Year AND that it was the year of the pig!  I do love me some pig!  As luck would have it, I had planned this dish for dinner anyway.  Had I really thought it all out, the meatballs would have obviously been made from pork.

This recipe from Cook’s Country for Teriyaki Meatballs caught my eye.  When I realized they were chicken meatballs, I almost didn’t read any further.  To me, chicken meatballs are usually a sad excuse for a ball of meat.  Bland, dry, not worth the effort of rolling out.  But right away they explained that these were different.  They figured out a way to pack flavor, structure and moisture into these little gems.  Yes, they did!  The homemade teriyaki sauce was also a revelation — not gloppy and sickeningly sweet like a lot of bottled versions.  Just thick enough to glaze the tender, tasty meatballs.

I decided to serve them on Udon noodles which I get frozen from my favorite Asian market, but obviously these would be awesome on rice, on other noodles, or simply served with toothpicks as appetizers.

Teriyaki Meatballs

Makes 40 bite-sized meatballs

Ingredients:

For the meatballs:

6 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and chopped coarse

1-1/2  cups chopped green cabbage

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Salt & pepper

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger

1 pound ground chicken

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

4 scallions, minced

3 Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro (I used parsley)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil

For the sauce:

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar

1/2 cup mirin

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin on the bias

1 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted

Procedure:

  1. For the meatballs:  Adjust oven rack to the upper-meddle position and heat oven to 400F.  Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray evenly with vegetable oil spray.  Combine mushrooms and cabbage in food processor and pulse until chopped into 1/4 inch pieces, about 8-10 pulses.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add mushroom mixture and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes.  Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Transfer to large bowl.
  3. For the sauce:  Wipe now-empty skillet clean with paper towels. Whisk cornstarch and vinegar in small bowl until combined; set aside. Bring mirin, water, soy sauce, and sugar to boil over high heat. Whisk in cornstarch slurry, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; transfer 3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce to mushroom mixture.  Let mushroom mixture cool completely, about 15 minutes. Cover skillet and set remaining sauce aside.
  4. Add chicken, panko, scallions, cilantro, parsley, egg, sesame oil, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to cooled mushroom mixture and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined.  Divide chicken mixture into 40 portions, about 1 tablespoon each.  Roll between your wet hands to form 1-1/4 inch balls and space evenly on prepared sheet in 8 rows of 5.  Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  5. Uncover sheet and bake until meatballs are firm and bottoms are lightly browned, 15-20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through cooking.  Rewarm sauce over medium-low heat.  Add meatballs to skillet and toss to coat with sauce. Sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds and serve.

 

 

 

Weekly Winner: Simple, Sumptuous Sumac-laden Supper

Couscous ChickenThis was a fascinating dinner I made last night.  On the one hand, it’s a super easy one-pot meal. On the other hand, it was uniquely complex and exotic-tasting with just a few ingredients.

Toasted Pearl Couscous with Chicken and Chickpeas was a perfect cool evening, post-holiday meal — warm and comforting, yet healthy and nourishing.  The foreign feel of this dish comes from a rather large amount of sumac which is both cooked in the broth and added at the end for a final flourish.  Sumac has a slight citrusy taste and also a mild numbing effect on the tongue without adding any heat.  Just tasty goodness in a bowl here.

The recipe comes from Milk Street and because it comes together so quickly and is made up of items I almost always have on hand, I think I’ll be making this a bunch this winter.

Toasted Pearl Couscous with Chicken and Chickpeas

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 cup pearl couscous

1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced

kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 Tbsp tomato paste

3 tsp ground sumac, divided

1 cinnamon stick

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and halved

2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on a diagonal

15-1/2 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 tsp grated lemon zet, plus 1-1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 cup lightly packed fresh mint, chopped.

Procedure:

  1. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering.  Add couscous and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl.
  2. In the same pot over medium-high, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering.  Add the onion, 2 teaspoons salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are well-browned, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the tomato paste, 2 teaspoons of sumac and the cinnamon, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the chicken, carrots, 3 cups water and the couscous.  Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce to medium-low and cook until the chicken is opaque when cut into and the couscous is tender but not mushy, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in the chickpeas and the lemon zest and juice, then remove and discord the cinnamon stick.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Stir in half of the mint and transfer to a serving bowl, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon sumac and the remaining mint.

Weekly Winner: Sensational Soup, part Deux

Chicken Peanut SoupI am definitely on a soup kick lately.  This usually happens about now as I grow tired of salads and warm weather food and want to “cozy up” with something warmer.  Soup always does that for me and this soup, Indonesian Chicken and Peanut Soup, has it all — noodles, curry, peanut sauce, and just the right amount of heat.  Yummy does not even begin to cover it.  This soup is downright sumptuous.

The recipe comes from Fine Cooking, and thanks to rotisserie chicken and quick-cooking rice noodles, you can be curling up with this bowl of comfort in no time.

Indonesian Chicken and Peanut Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 8 oz. rice vermicelli noodles
  • 1 Tbs. coconut or safflower oil
  • 2 large shallots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbs. curry powder, preferably Madras
  • 4 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup well-shaken canned coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter, preferably all natural
  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce; more as needed
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 8 oz.)
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or small cilantro leaves (on hubby’s and for photo purposes only)
  • Asian chile garlic paste, such as sambal oelek (optional)

Procedure:

  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until just starting to brown, 3 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 10 seconds. Add the broth, coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, and sugar, and whisk until the peanut butter is fully incorporated. Add the chicken and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add the lime juice, and season to taste with more soy sauce and pepper.
  3. Divide the noodles among four serving bowls. Ladle the hot soup over the noodles. Garnish with the cilantro and chile paste, if you like. (trust me, you’ll want some sambal!)

Weekly Winner: Conquering the Perfect Thigh – chicken, that is!

IMG_0853I love bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs,  but rarely am I able to prepare them perfectly. They are either underdone, overdone, flabby skinned or the skin rips off and sticks to the pan when I go to turn them over.  The struggle is real!! But still, I keep trying.  I’ve tried nonstick pans, I’ve tried broiling (to avoid turning), I’ve tried grilling … you name it, I’ve attempted it, with varying degrees of success but never anything near perfection.

So when I saw the recipe for One-Skillet Chicken with Buttery Orzo from Bon Appetit magazine, I was skeptical.  But as usual, I was drawn to the picture of perfectly bronzed, crispy-skinned chicken thighs.  I would give it one more try.  Can I just say…….. NAILED IT!

If I can do it, you can too.  I think the secret is the cast iron skilled and a cast-iron will not touch them for a good 7-8 minutes (I literally had to leave the kitchen so not to be tempted to poke around and mess with them).  Finishing them in the oven makes sure they get cooked all the way through.

One-Skillet Chicken with Buttery Orzo

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 pounds total), patted dry

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided

1 fennel bulb, chopped, plus fronds, chopped

1 leek, white and pale green parts only, chopped

8 oz orzo

1/3 cup dry white wine

2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Rain salt and then some pepper all over chicken.  Heat 2 Tbsp butter in a medium cast-iron skillet over medium-high.  Nestle chicken, skin side down, in skillet in a single layer with no gaps. Cook until meat is opaque around the edges and skin is deep golden brown, 6-8 minutes.  Turn chicken skin side up and transfer skillet to oven; bake, uncovered until chicken is cooked through, 10-15 minutes.  Transfer chicken to a plate.
  2. Set the same skillet over medium; combine fennel bulb and leek in skillet and sprinkle in some salt and pepper.  Cook, tossing occasionally, until leek is looking golden around the edges, about 5 minutes.  Add orzo and cook until pasta is darkened (it will take on a brown hue) to a nice nutty brown in spots and toasty smelling, about 3 minutes.
  3. Pour in wine and cook, stirring, until liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute. Add broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting broth absorb before adding more, until orzo is tender and broth is mostly absorbed but pan is not dry, 10-15 minutes.
  4. Remove skillet from heat, taste and add more salt and pepper to your liking; mix in lemon juice and remaining 1 Tbsp butter, then chopped fennel fronds.  Serve chicken on top of orzo and finish with lemon zest

Weekly Winner: Sumptuous Saag (say what?)

IMG_0433I seem to be entering a “green” period with my cooking, and I’m not talking about eco-friendly, organic or anything like that. I’m talking color.  Everything I’ve been making is green!  This started a few entries back with my Broccoli Bolognese. Maybe it’s my yearning for a sign of green (aka spring) outside, but whatever the reason, I’m just warning you – you’ll be seeing a lot more green here in the coming weeks.

This week’s “greenery” comes in the form of a Saag.  Chicken Saag to be exact.  Prior to making this, the only saag I was familiar with was Saag Paneer which is a spinach-cheese curry dish from India.  So apparently “saag” is the spinach-curry part of the dish.  Call it what you want, but I’ll just call it dang tasty.  This recipe for Chicken Saag comes from Fine Cooking Magazine and is about as warm and cozy a dish as you could possibly ask for.  The green helps remind us that spring has to get here eventually.  But in the meantime, a nice warm bowl of this will help me survive.  My apologies to Kermit, but apparently it really is easy being green.

Chicken Saag

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

Kosher salt

1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 2-inch piece ginger, minced

1/2 jalapeno, minced (about 1 Tbsp)

20 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and lightly squeezed of excess liquid

2 Tbsp finely chopped scallions

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Procedure:

  • In a medium bowl, combine the garam masala, cumin, paprika, turmeric, and 2 tsp salt.  Add the thighs and rub all over with the spice mixture.  Let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
  • Put the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the thighs and cook, flipping once or twice, until just cooked through, 6-8 minutes (its okay if they stick a bit and tear because you’ll be cutting them into pieces). Transfer to a plate; they will cook more later.
  • If the pan looks dry, add a little more oil.  Then add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up any bits, until the onion becomes translucent, about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno, and cook, stirring occasionally, 1 minute.  Add the spinach, scallions, and cream, and cook until the spinach is tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cut the thighs into 2-inch pieces.  Add them and any accumulated juice to the pot and stir.  Cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as necessary, until the chicken is fully cooked, about 3 minutes.  After that, the dish can sit on a low simmer for up to a half-hour and will only taste better for it.  Season to taste with salt. Add the cilantro, toss well.  Serve.

 

 

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