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: 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