Weekly Winner: All Rise for Arroz Con Pollo

Arroz con polloIt seems every cuisine has their take on chicken and rice.  It’s just good, wholesome comfort food regardless of how it is prepared, or what else is included in the dish.  Perhaps the interpretation that I am most familiar with is the Mexican Arroz con Pollo.  This, is not that version.

I recently found this recipe for Spanish Arroz con Pollo in Cuisine at Home magazine.  The Serrano Ham, sherry, saffron and smoked paprika give this Arroz con Pollo its “flamenco flair”.  If there’s such a thing as a “Classy Casserole”…. this is it.

Arroz Con Pollo

Serves 8

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil

3 oz Serrano ham, diced

2 cups diced yellow onion

2 Tbsp minced fresh garlic

2 dried bay leaves

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp crumbled saffron threads

1/2 cup dry sherry

2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 15-oz can diced tomatoes in juice, well drained

1 lb chopped cooked chicken

1 cup medium-grain rice, rinsed and drained

2/3 cup chopped pimento-stuffed green olives

1 jar sliced pimentos (4 oz) drained

1 cup frozen green peas

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 Tbsp. slivered almonds, toasted

1 Tbsp chopped orange zest

Procedure:

  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Heat oil in a pot over medium until shimmering; add ham and cook until crisp, then transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
  • Add onions, garlic, bay leaves, paprika, and saffron to oil; sweat, covered, over medium heat, until onions soften, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, increase heat to high.
  • Deglaze pot with sherry, scraping up any brown bits, then reduce until nearly evaporated, 5 minutes.  Stir in broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil.
  • Stir in chicken, rice, olives, and pimentos; season with salt and pepper, then return to a boil.  Immediately transfer mixture to a 9×13-inch baking dish, cover with foil, and transfer to the oven.
  • Bake casserole, covered, 25 minutes.  Remove foil, stir in peas and ham and bake 10 minutes more.
  • Combine parsley, almonds, and zest; sprinkle over Arroz con Pollo.

Weekly Winner – My New Go-To Grilled Chicken – Lovely & Lacquered

sprite chickenWho doesn’t love grilled or barbecued chicken?  Done right, it’s a thing of beauty.  Too often; however it is done wrong…. horribly wrong.  Scorched, flabby, half raw, dry — you name it, I’ve achieved it on the grill.  Truth is, it is not easy to grill skin-on, bone-in chicken.  Which is why I was skeptical when I came across the recipe for Lemon-Lime Lacquered Grill Chicken from Milk Street Magazine.

What was their secret for picture-perfect poultry perfection?  Pop! Yep, lemon-lime soda (along with a whole lot of other tasty additions).  While apparently Filipino in origin, this will now become Donna’s Chicago Chicken.

Lemon-Lime Lacquered Grilled Chicken (Inihaw Na Manok)

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3/4 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup ketchup

1/3 cup soy sauce

6 Tbsp packed light or dark brown sugar

6 medium cloves garlic, peeled

4 bay leaves

1 Tbsp black peppercorns

Kosher salt

1 cup lemon-lime soda, such as Sprite or 7Up (I used Sprite)

3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, thighs and/or drumsticks, trimmed and patted dry (I only used thighs and drumsticks)

1 Tbsp lime juice

Procedure:

  1. In a blender, combine the vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, bay, peppercorns and 1-1/2 tsps. salt.  Blend until well combined and the bay leaves are broken into tiny bits, 15-30 seconds.  Pour the mixture into a large bowl, then stir in the soda
  2. If using chicken breasts, use a sharp chef’s knife to cut each in half crosswise.
  3. Cut 2 or 3 diagonal slashes about 1/2 inch deep through the skin and meat of each piece of chicken.  Add the chicken to the marinade and turn to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  4. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect cooking.  For a charcoal grill, spread a large chimney of hot coals evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents and the lid vent.  Heat the grill, covered for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the grates.  For a gas grill, turn all burners to high and heat, covered, for 15 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate; leave the primary burner on high and turn the remaining burner(s) to low.
  5. While the grill heats, transfer the chicken to a large plate, allowing the marinade to drip off.  Pour the marinade into a medium saucepan, bring to a simmer over medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1 cup, about 20 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and set aside.  Set aside 1/3 cup for serving; use the remainder as a basting sauce.
  6. Place the chicken, skin side up, on the cooler side of the grill. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Generously brush the pieces with basting sauce, then re-cover and cook until the thickest part of the breasts, if using, reaches 160F or the thickest part of the thighs and drumsticks, reach 175F, another 15-20 minutes.
  7. Brush the chicken with the basting sauce, then flip the chicken skin side down onto the hot side of the grill.  Cook until deeply browned, about 1 minute.  Brush the bone side with more basting sauce, then flip a final time and cook until deeply browned, about 1 minute more.  Transfer skin side up to a platter and let rest for about 5 minutes.  Serve with the reserved sauce.

 

Weekly Winner: Fabulous, Fuss-Free “Fried” Chicken – and a killer sauce

magic chickenI just got back from a trip to Denver where I had one of the top five Fried Chicken experiences in my life.  Totally amazing, crispy, crunchy, soul-satisfying chicken.  Not diet-friendly however.  But hey, that’s what vacation is for – to indulge.

Now that I’m home and trying to “recover”, I wanted to try this recipe for Magic Crispy Chicken that I came across in Bon Appetit.  I’ve tried different versions of “oven fried” chicken before and while they are easier and less messy than traditional fried chicken, they seldom deliver on taste and crunch satisfaction.  This version does.  Make extra of the dipping sauce…. you’ll want to put that on just about everything!

Magic Crispy Chicken

Serves 4

1 large egg yolk

3 Tbsp plus 1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 Tbsp  plus 1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1-1/2 tsp kosher salt plus more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1-1/2 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 large)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1 Tbsp honey

Pinch of cayenne

3 Tbsp finely chopped chives

Procedure:

  1. Place rack in middle of oven; preheat to 450F.  Whisk egg yolk, 3 Tbsp mayonnaise, 1 Tbsp mustard, 1-1/2 tsp salt and several grinds of black pepper in a large bowl until smooth.
  2. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. With a knife parallel to the cutting board, slice breast into 1/2″-thick cutlets.  Place in bowl and turn with tongs to evenly coat.  Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium.  Add a pinch of panko.  If tiny bubbles appear instantly, the oil is hot enough.  Add remaining panko and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Let panko cool in pan about 5 minutes.
  4. Place a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet.  Using tongs, place a piece of chicken in panko and pat all over with panko, pressing firmly to adhere.  Lightly shake off excess and place chicken on rack.  Repeat with remaining chicken, spacing evenly apart on rack.  Discard any remaining panko.
  5. Bake chicken until cooked through and breadcrumbs are deep golden brown, 10-15 minutes.  Let cool slightly.
  6. Stir honey, cayenne, and remaining 1/4 cup mayonnaise and 1/4 cup mustard in a bowl; season with black pepper.  Add chives to sauce.
  7. Serve chicken with sauce alongside for dipping.

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.

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.

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