Weekly Winner:  Move over Miso — it’s Tahini’s turn

I always think its funny how certain ingredients are suddenly hip.  You can’t flip through a food magazine or watch a cooking show without seeing four or five references to them.  Turmeric, Sumac, Pomegranate Molasses, and most recently miso have been everywhere and in everything.  It’s not that these ingredients are new or novel, but for some reason, all of a sudden they’ll be rediscovered and flaunted on and in everything.  Now, the latest ingredient to get a new manager and hit the road in shameless self-promotion is….tahini.

Tahini-Marinated Chicken Thighs with Cucumber and Tomato Salad is an excellent use of tahini.  It really doesn’t make the chicken taste like sesame, but ensures that it remains incredibly moist. Also, much like yogurt, it helps make really nice, impressive char marks on the chicken when grilled.  While the recipe calls for the leftover marinade to be used as a sauce for the chicken (and is quite tasty as such) I think next time I might mix it into the rice to make it a bit creamier and more interesting.

The recipe comes from Cooking Light Magazine and is also a nice introduction to the warmer weather we’re finally having in Chicago.  The chicken gets grilled outside and a tomato and cucumber salad just always screams “summer” to me. Hurry up and make this recipe before tahini become “so last month”!!

Tahini-Marinated Chicken Thighs with Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

CHICKEN:

1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste), well stirred

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons grated lemon rind

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 garlic clove, finely grated

1 small shallot, finely grated

8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 lb.)

Cooking spray

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

SALAD:

1 1/2 cups chopped cucumber

1 1/2 cups chopped tomato

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups hot cooked brown rice

Procedure:

To prepare chicken, combine first 10 ingredients in a bowl. Place 1/4 cup tahini mixture in a small bowl; reserve. Place remaining tahini mixture and chicken in a large ziplock plastic bag; seal, turning to coat chicken. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat grill to medium (350°F to 450°F). Coat grill grate with cooking spray. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken with salt. Arrange chicken on grill grate; cover and cook 4 minutes on each side or until done. Arrange chicken on a platter; drizzle with reserved 1/4 cup tahini mixture.

To prepare the salad, combine cucumber and next 6 ingredients (through 1/4 teaspoon salt) in a bowl; toss gently to combine. Serve cucumber salad with chicken and rice.

Weekly Winner:  In a Pickle with a Perfect One-Pan Plan for Dinner

Chicken and Potatoes.  It doesn’t conjure up thoughts of an exotic feast. Yet last night those two humble ingredients (along with one not-so ordinary addition) came together to make a truly memorable Sunday Supper.  The secret ingredient is Lime Pickle.  I have never used this Indian condiment before but will definitely be looking for more recipes that calls for it.  It’s spicy, garlicky and tangy and penetrated through the entire chicken thigh making it really juicy and somewhat addictive.

The funny thing about last night’s dinner was that my husband caught a brief glimpse of the recipe on the kitchen counter long before I began making it and was a bit worried.  He thought I was pickling a chicken for dinner!  Maybe next week.

Lime Pickle-Roasted Chicken with Potatoes and Watercress comes from Bon Appetit magazine and is my favorite type of meal to make — put everything on either a sheetpan or, in this case, a roasting pan and forget about it.  Expect for whizzing the marinade up in a food processor prior to cooking, you’ll have nothing to do but sit around and smell the glorious aroma of this dinner roasting away in the oven. If you line the roasting pan in foil as I did — cleanup will take approximately 2-1/2 minutes!  Somehow I think my chicken pickling experiment will make much more of a mess.

Lime Pickle-Roasted Chicken with Potatoes and Watercress

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons prepared lime pickle

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced, divided

½ cup mayonnaise

Freshly ground black pepper

4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 1½ pounds total)

Kosher salt

1½ pounds fingerling potatoes, scrubbed, halved lengthwise

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 bunch watercress, tough stems trimmed (about 4 cups)

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Procedure:

Pulse garlic, ginger, lime pickle, paprika, cayenne, and one-quarter of onions in a food processor until smooth. Add mayonnaise, season with black pepper, and pulse to combine. Scrape marinade into a large resealable plastic bag.

Pat chicken dry; season lightly with salt (the lime pickle is already pretty salty, so use a light hand). Add to bag with marinade, seal bag, and toss chicken to coat. Let sit at room temperature 1 hour or chill up to 12 hours. (The longer the chicken marinates, the more the lime flavor will come through.) Wrap up remaining onion; chill until ready to use.

If chilling chicken, let sit at room temperature 1 hour before roasting.

Preheat oven to 450°. Toss potatoes and remaining sliced onions with oil in a large roasting pan. Add ¼ cup water; season with salt and toss again. Place chicken, skin side up, on top (make sure the pieces have some space between them). Roast until chicken thighs are lightly charred in spots and cooked through, 45–55 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit 10 minutes.

Toss watercress with lemon juice in a small bowl; season with salt.

Serve roasted chicken and potatoes and onions with watercress.

Weekly Winner:  Crispy and Smoky One-Pot Wonderfulness

I love crispy chicken thighs, and I do truly, dearly love any meal that can be completed using only one pan or pot.  Last night’s dinner gave me both of my loves on one plate. Crispy Chicken Thighs with Smoky Chickpeas made for an incredibly satisfying and healthy Tuesday night dinner.

The recipe comes from Country Living and is about the easiest thing you can think of.  Sear some chicken, mix everything up and throw it in the oven until its done.  The real genius here though, is with the yogurt it’s served with.  Just enough cool creaminess to really bring the dish together.

It’s a simple dish – both in preparation, ingredients and execution.  But sometimes simple is the most satisfying – as is this dinner.

Crispy Chicken Thighs with Smoky Chickpeas

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 tsp. canola oil

8 small bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

1/2 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1½ tsp. smoked paprika

½ tsp. ground cumin

1 pt. grape tomatoes

2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed

fresh thyme leaves, For serving

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ c. plain Greek yogurt

Preparation:

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Heat oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook, in batches, skin side down until skin is browned and crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate; reserve skillet.
Add onion and garlic to reserved skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in paprika and cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and chickpeas, and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Nestle chicken into mixture, skin side up.

Roast in oven until the internal temperature of chicken reaches 165°F, 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve sprinkled with fresh thyme leaves and yogurt alongside.

Weekly Winner:  Another Fabulous Foray into Farro

Can I just say that farro rocks??  I am beginning to realize that I have a serious crush on this grain.  While it makes a perfectly fine side dish, I prefer to make it the star and that usually means some sort of grain salad that lets the farro shine.  This is that salad.

Farro, Chicken and Grape Salad comes from Fine Cooking and it is perfect for this time of year.  It can be eaten with the farro and chicken warm for a dinner as we did this week or chilled and taken to work for a hearty lunch.  I suspect I’ll be making this a lot in the coming months — for myself and for several of my clients.

Farro, Chicken and Grape Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

2 cups pearled farro, rinsed and drained

3 Tbsp mirin

3 Tbsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp Asian (toasted) sesame oil

1-1/2 Tbsp minced jalapeño

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

1-1/2 cups green seedless grapes, halved

1-1/2 cups small-diced seedless cucumber

1-1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

Procedure:

  • In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the farro with enough water to cover.  Add 1/2 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the farro is tender but still slightly chewy, 15 to 18 minutes.  Drain.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the mirin, lemon juice, sesame oil, jalapeño, 1-1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.
  • Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook, flipping once, until brown on both sides and just cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes total.  Let rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • Add the chicken and any accumulated juice, the farro, grapes cucumber and dill to the vinaigrette.  Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Weekly Winner:  Crispy, Crunchy Chicken Cutlets — with a great salad

Ramen noodles.  I gotta admit, I love the things. I’ve used them in place of regular pasta for spaghetti-and-meatballs-gone-Asian. I make a mean ramen noodle salad. I love them in soup, and they got me through college as-is with just a bit of cheese sprinkled on top. The one thing I never thought of using them for; however breading. That is until now.

Crispy Ramen-Crusted Chicken with Asian Slaw comes from Southern Living Magazine. Honestly I was a bit skeptical about this since you use the noodles raw. However the chicken turned out amazing. The noodles “cooked” just enough while browning the chicken and the chicken itself stayed amazingly moist. And just in case you’re feeling a little guilty about eating chicken fried in ramen noodles (you shouldn’t be — it’s tasty!) there is a fabulous Asian kale salad that goes with it. The salad, with its honey-soy-lime dressing is the perfect light zesty accompaniment to the rich chicken. This dish, in a word, is a “keeper”. And it gives me a great excuse to stock up on more ramen!

Crispy Ramen-Crusted Chicken with Asian Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 bunch kale (about 8 oz.), stems removed, chopped (about 6 cups)

1 bunch cilantro, chopped (about 1/3 cup)

3 green onions, thinly sliced diagonally

1 1/4 cups matchstick carrots

3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon honey

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 (3-oz.) pkg. chicken-flavored instant Asian ramen noodle soup mix

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 (5- to 6-oz.) chicken cutlets

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped

Preparation

1. Toss together kale, cilantro, green onions, and carrots. Whisk together lime juice, soy sauce, honey, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small bowl; pour over kale mixture, and toss to coat. Set aside while preparing chicken, tossing occasionally.

2. Break ramen noodles into pieces. Process ramen noodles, seasoning mixtures from ramen packages, ginger, and cayenne pepper in a food processor until combined, 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a shallow dish, and set aside.

3. Place each chicken cutlet between two sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, and flatten to 1/4-inch thickness, using a rolling pin or flat side of a meat mallet. Dip each cutlet in eggs, and dredge in ramen mixture, pressing to adhere.

4. Cook half of chicken in 2 1/2 tablespoons hot olive oil in a large skillet over medium until golden brown and done, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Place on a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet, and keep warm in a 200° oven. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken and olive oil.

5. Sprinkle peanuts over kale mixture, and serve with cutlets.

Weekly Winner:  This Dish is Like “Buttah” — Indian Butter Chicken that is.

I’ve made Butter Chicken before.  I dearly love Butter Chicken. Whenever I go to an Indian restaurant, I am hard-pressed to not order Butter Chicken.  I’ve even written about the dish before in this very blog (Murgh Makhanwala) However, as of this week, I have destroyed that recipe and am replacing it with this one – Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken.  Not only is this one tastier, it’s a whole lot easier.  It’s one of those miraculous slow cooker recipes that you literally dump everything in, set the timer, and walk away.  You don’t even need to make rice as it has potatoes right in the dish!  Truly a one-pot-wonder!  If you are lucky enough to have a husband that makes spectacular naan, then even better!!  If not, I’m sure store-bought naan would do nicely.  I wouldn’t know — I have one of those aforementioned husbands.

This new and improved recipe comes from Food Network Magazine.  It couldn’t be simpler or yummier. No overnight marinating, no cutting up chickens, just chop, drop, stir and eat.  Obviously, I left out any semblance of cilantro (except for my husband’s dish and the photo-op, which I begrudgingly sprinkled some on). I have no idea if it’s as authentic as my previous post but truth is, I don’t care.  I like it and it’s simple enough that I can and will make it on a regular basis.

Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken

Serves 4.

Ingredients:

3 pieces naan bread

1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 pound baby red-skinned potatoes, halved or quartered if large

1 Fresno chile or red jalapeno pepper, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced

1 small bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems separated, chopped

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 6)

1 tablespoon garam masala

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 cinnamon stick

1 15 -ounce can tomato sauce

1/2 cup heavy cream

Kosher salt

Procedure:

Crumble 1/2 piece naan into coarse crumbs; transfer to a 6-quart slow cooker. Add the red onion, potatoes, chile and cilantro stems. Arrange the chicken thighs in a single layer over the vegetables and sprinkle with the garam masala, 3/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Dot with the butter and add the cinnamon stick. Pour the tomato sauce over the top. Cover and cook on low, 7 hours.

Uncover and switch to the warm setting or turn off. Gently stir in the heavy cream, breaking the chicken into large chunks; let stand 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro leaves and season with salt. Serve with the remaining naan.

Weekly Winner:  Coming Home to a Cozy Chicken Casserole

My month of crazy travel is over and I am finally home.  I’ve eaten really well over the past month, but very little of it was made at home (hence the lack of blog posts here).  Now that we’re back and here for the duration, I certainly plan to rectify that.

Last night was all about comfort food.  Jet-lagged and just a bit crazed and cranky trying to catch up with laundry and holiday preparations, I needed something quick, easy and most of all comforting.  This Coconut Chicken and Rice Casserole was just the thing.  First and foremost, the picture does not do it justice.  Did I mention I was a bit crazed and cranky?  Yeah, well I didn’t really spend much time on the photo and I almost always take several.  Last night I just wanted to eat.  So trust me when I say it not only tasted great, it looked much better than this!  Also, it should be said that I hate coconut.  Seriously, I do.  However I have learned that I dearly love things made with coconut milk.  To me, they are two totally different entities and have completely different tastes.  That’s why this recipe almost never came to be in this house.  The name totally turned me off initially until I realized that it was referring to the coconut milk used in the rice.  Yes, the original recipe calls for toasted coconut chips as a garnish — but read on and you’ll see that I totally found a better alternative!

But anyway, I digress, back to the actual dish.  Super easy to make.  Totally a one-pot wonder but so flavorful and satisfying.  The brightness of the tomatoes along with the meatiness of the mushrooms elevated it beyond simple chicken and rice, and the coconut milk (as it always does) made it soul-satisfying and cozy.

I just wish I had a better picture.  But trust me … It was much more attractive than this (both on the plate and on the palate).  The recipe comes from Redbook Magazine.

Coconut Chicken and Rice Casserole

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

4 chicken thighs (bone in, skin on)

Kosher salt and pepper

1 large shallot, chopped

8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 14oz can diced tomatoes

1 tsp honey

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp basmati rice

1 13.5oz can light coconut milk

1/3 cup basil leaves, torn, for serving

1/4 cup toasted unsweetened coconut chips, for serving[TRUST ME ON THIS – 1/4 cup or more of French-Fried Onions is a far superior garnish]

Hot sauce, such as Sriracha, for serving

Procedure:

  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Season the chicken with 1 tsp each salt and pepper and add to the pot, skin-side down.  Cook until skin is golden and crisp, about 6-8 minutes.  Flip and cook 2 minutes more.  Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add the shallot to the pot and cook until translucent and tender – about 2 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook until browned and tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and honey and cook until most of the liquid evaporates, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the rice, coconut mil, and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper.  Bring mixture to a simmer and place the chicken skin-side up on top of the rice, taking care not to completely submerge.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until rice is tender and absorbs the liquid and the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  3. Heat broiler to high with oven rack positioned 6 to 8 inches from heat.  Remove lid and place under the broiler.  Cook until skin is crisp again, about 3 minutes.  Serve topped with basil, coconut chips, french-fried onions, and hot sauce if desired.

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