Posts Tagged ‘Chicken’
I’m not really one to go to what is commonly thought of as stereotypical college parties. Especially those of a small, nothing-else-to-do town, where everyone from the small, nothing-else-to-do liberal arts college cram into one big house. People, it gets crowded in those houses, and by crowded I mean sweaty and gross and hot. I don’t mean to sound too lame, but just the thought of that gives my claustrophobic self some anxiety.
Considering this, it’s not like I was looking forward to turning 21 almost half a year ago and the freedom of buying alcohol as that big of a deal (not that it’s that big of a deal to underage students around here anyway, but I digress). I figured, eh, I’ve lived 21 years just fine without being able to buy it, not much is going to change just because all of a sudden, one day I can.
Oh, how I was wrong! Once I turned 21, I felt like a different person. A whole citizen, who could do whatever I wanted! No matter if I despised the idea of drinking by myself and the only form of alcohol that doesn’t taste like rubbing alcohol to me is wine and ciders—no, that doesn’t matter at all. The point is that I could walk into any store I’d like, and purchase whatever I wanted in it. I’d walk through the wine aisles in grocery stores and feel satisfied that nothing was out of reach for me. I don’t mean to sound over the top (even though I’ve probably already reached that threshold), but almost began to think in my head that my pre-21-self was a poor, lowly, marginalized person in America who wasn’t extended the full rights that I should be entitled to. It ended up being a very big deal to me, obviously.
Anyway, I buy alcohol sometimes now. Yeah, I’ve become not only the stereotypical college student that has some form of alcohol in the cupboards, I’ve become the greater-yet-stereotypical snobby, cultured college student that snubs my nose at almost all beer but will pretend to recognize different wines. Oh well, that’s how it goes. I like it, because instead of wishing I had some good beer for Waylon and I to drink with the homemade soft pretzels I made last spring, now I can make that happen. When I want to make risotto, I can use white wine, and not just chicken stock. When I want to make coq au vin, key word vin, I actually can. Can you see, now, why this is something of a slight revelation to me? Any recipe is accessible to me. Hopefully you guys will hold me accountable to that and make me actually try experimenting with new things.
Anyway, about this chicken that has vin. Yes, it’s a quick and dirty version of the classic coq au vin Julia Child made famous. I have yet to make or even try this classic version (though I’d really love to one day), so I can’t really accurately compare it to this dish. I’m guessing this one isn’t near as good, but that’s what one gets for having “quick” in the title. It is really easy, though, and I think it’s one of those weeknight dishes that are worth the slight effort you put in. It follows the simple steps of rendering the fat of some bacon until the pieces become crisp, then sauteing chicken breast cutlets in the drippings. Within minutes the chicken is cooked, and you remove it temporarily to brown up sliced cremini mushrooms and shallots. The shallots are sliced through the root end, so hopefully they won’t all fall apart, but we do the best we can with that. Then a fair amount of wine and chicken stock gets added, and that bubbles away until it reduces a bit. At this point, you add in flour to thicken the sauce, nestle the chicken back in amongst the vegetables to warm it back up again and soak in some juices, and before you know it, you have quick, skillet coq au vin.
For how simple and straightforward it is, I loved it. Juicy chicken, delicious sauce and drippings, and all good, classic flavors. It’s one of those things that I’d like to credit myself with knowing how to make, being able to fall back on it when I need a dinner fast (considering I have red wine on hand). This time, I served it with a simple potato gratin, which I loved if only because I find pleasure when all the food on my plate matches up cuisine-wise, but it’d be nice to serve with something to soak up all those juices better—maybe mashed potatoes, crusty bread, or even rice.
One Year Ago: Best Banana Bread
Quick Skillet Coq au Vin
Adapted slightly from Bon Appetit, October 2010
4 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved and trimmed to make 4 cutlets
6 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved or quartered
6 shallots, halved or quartered through the root end
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 heaping tablespoon all-purpose flour
fresh italian parlsey, chopped, to garnish (optional)
Saute bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp and most of the fat has been rendered. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside. Discard all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat left in the pan, if necessary. Meanwhile, pat the chicken cutlets dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add to the drippings in the skillet, and cook until cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.
Add chopped mushrooms and shallots to the skillet, and sprinkle in a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute until browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine, 1 cup of the broth, and the bacon into the skillet. Bring to a boil while scraping all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Reduce slightly to a steady simmer, and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid has been reduced by about maybe a third or so.
Meanwhile, add the remaining 1/4 cup broth in a small bowl with the heaping tablespoon of flour; stir until smooth. Add the flour mixture to the sauce and stir in. At this point you can nestle the chicken (as well as any juices they accumulated) back in the skillet between the shallots and mushrooms. Let the mixture settle and thicken for about 3 or 4 more minutes, until your liking. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, sprinkling with parsley if you’d like.
PS: Also, I gave in—I got an iphone. No matter that I have strictly hated anything smart phone or that one of my favorite quotes is one by Max Frisch, saying “technology is the knack of so arranging the world so that we don’t have to experience it.” What can I say, it just kind of happened. I always end up giving in to everything I at first hate. (Besides Waylon. I always liked him from the beginning.) But, silver lining: I’m probably going to be more active on my twitter, now that I can post pictures of things easily. Just in case you’re interested.
I wouldn’t judge you if you took a look at that big sloppy mess of reddish-looking chicken piled on top of a piece of bread and thought in your head that no, this is not one of those recipes that I will be making any time soon. Let’s both be honest and admit that it’s not the prettiest thing to be posted in the food blog world. And even if it were pretty, we have to face the fact of what it is: chicken salad. Chicken salad, fancied up a little bit with some sort of Spanish twist (however contrived).
But really, when was the last time you made chicken salad, let alone ate it? The only chicken salad I had been familiar with–however theoretically that familiarity is–is the classic mayo-based salad filled with halved grapes and candied pecans. Not the most enticing thing I think, at least to me. I used to think chicken salad was a meal that just wasn’t in my cards.
Cook’s Illustrated started to change my mind about that when they set out to develop a series of chicken salad recipes that weren’t weighed down by mayonnaise but were instead fresher and lighter, with bolder flavors. One variation of chicken salad they ended up developing featured a roasted red pepper vinaigrette base. This, along with the fact that I had a 16-ounce jar of roasted red bell peppers in my cupboards just waiting to be used, was enough for me to enter what I had once considered the forbidden land of chicken salad.
(As a side note, yes I did use pre-roasted, jarred red bell peppers in this recipe. Even though bell peppers are in the height of their season right now. I needn’t express my guilt as a self-proclaimed food-loving and food-trend-following person. Because, to be honest with you, the ease factor outweighs any sort of guilt I feel. If you want, you can of course roast your own bell peppers. Instructions can be found here.)
So I made the chicken salad. And, lo and behold, I liked it. A lot. A lot of credit goes to the roasted red pepper vinaigrette itself—I have leftovers of it in a little jar in my fridge just waiting to be used on salads, or used as a dip for even more toast (still haven’t broken my toast habit). But I think I like it best with the chicken. Something about the acidity of the vinaigrette with the fattiness of the chicken. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which I think I prefer in the case of shredding it up to be eaten cold as a salad. But you may of course use white chicken breasts, if you’d like. Besides that, the other little goodies in the salad–more diced roasted red bell peppers, green olives, and sliced almonds–round out the chicken salad part of the meal. Because, after all, what would a cold chicken salad be without some token crunchy and tasty add-ins?
I am now somewhat pleased to say I might be a chicken-salad convert. I have dreams of packaging it up for a picnic where it’d be piled on top of bread and eaten in the sun. This of course is probably not ever going to happen, but you know, a girl can hope. Still, I consider it a win to be able to sit down for dinner and eat some cold chicken salad and for it to be actually pretty enjoyable. I’m even tempted to press my luck and try out some other chicken salad recipes. The Thai-style variation with a spicy peanut dressing offered by Cook’s Illustrated is particularly calling my name. If I ever get so bold to continue on and try that, I’ll let you know.
One Year Ago: Sweet and Spicy African Peanut Soup
Spanish-Style Chicken Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Serves 4 to 6
I poached the chicken for the salad, just because I thought it was the easiest way to ensure tender and juicy chicken. You may, of course, cook your chicken any way you’d like, though. Or just get a store-bought rotisserie chicken, as the original recipe suggests.
Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 ounces (about 200 grams) roasted red bell peppers, diced (about 2/3 cup)
1 big clove of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs
1 shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
2 medium ribs celery, sliced very thin (about 1 cup)
5 ounces (200 grams) roasted red bell peppers, diced (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 cup chopped green olives
small handful of parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
First, make the vinaigrette. Puree oil, 2/3 cup roasted red bell peppers, garlic, salt and a few big pinches worth of fresh ground pepper in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a glass jar with a lid; set aside.
To prepare and cook the chicken, fill a deep 12-inch skillet with water until the water level reaches about 2/3 the way up in the pan. While you’re at it, throw in a good 1/2 teaspoon or so of salt in the water to flavor it. Bring water to a steady simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, carefully place the chicken in the liquid so that it’s fully submerged and allow to poach, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through. This will depend on the cut and size of meat you have, but for chicken breasts this should take between 15 to 20 minutes, and around 12 or so minutes for chicken thighs. Remove from broth and set aside. Once cool enough to handle, shred the chicken meat into pieces about 2-inches long (discarding any fat or sinewy pieces if necessary). You should have about 5 cups of shredded chicken, more or less. Transfer to a bowl.
Add the shallot, celery, 2/3 cup of red bell pepper, green olives and parsley to the chicken; loosely stir to combine. Add about half the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Depending on how much chicken you have, you may want to add more or less vinaigrette. I’d just keep adding the vinaigrette in tablespoons until the chicken is dressed enough to your liking. Taste for salt and pepper. Sprinkle with almonds, and serve.
It’s back to the routine of school around here. I think this has been equated to what my fellow peers as “the end of summer,” but I sure wouldn’t like to think of it that way. The sun is still shining, I’m still wearing slippery lace tanks and shorts, and I’m still eating salted tomatoes with olive oil and crusty bread for dinner. Sounds like summer, don’t you think? I’m one of those people that tend to like classes and readings and writing essays (in general), so I don’t think I’ve ever thought summer dies when the school year ushers in, anyway.
Some things have changed, though. Like the food I’m eating—out go the luxuries of having access to my parent’s pantry and kitchen, and in come the mainly vegetarian, mainly cheap meals. In the case of this meal, I made it before I left for college when I still had the chance to use my parent’s coal grill in the backyard. My motivation for this meal was plain and simple: I watched an episode of Tyler’s Ultimate on the Food Network. Yes, I know how we, as a part of the food-blog community, mainly feel about the food network, and I’ve talked about it before on here. But I have always, and probably will always, admire and love watching Tyler Florence cook. I think you can tell the quality of some recipes and instructions by the way someone cooks (or even talks about food and cooking). Or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.
Either way, when I saw Tyler Florence shallow pan-frying tender plantain-filled biscuits while seemingly throwing ingredient upon random ingredient into the food processor to make a jerk marinade, I immediately decided I had to make the meal. And when the pantry is well-stocked enough where almost every ingredient is already on hand, make it I did.
The whole meal turned out great, minus a couple errors of execution on my part. The marinade, as expected, was easy to put together: throw long list of ingredients into food processor, blend, pour onto chicken. In terms of cooking it, I think Waylon and I had a too-hot grill, which when combined with a sugar-filled marinade, resulted in some pretty heavy-duty charring on the chicken. Nonetheless, the chicken was delicious, charred bits and all. The flavor is hard to describe, if you’ve never had it before. But some key notes that seemed to shine through were a sweet-tangy-spicy combination due to the allspice, ginger, garlic, scotch bonnet peppers, and brown sugar. When I eat it, I like to imagine that these flavors from Jamaica, as the intersecting point between the spice trades a few centuries earlier, is the result of hundreds of years of voyages, wars, and discoveries. All to come together on my plate in the end! Who would have thought.
The dumplings were, to be short, awesome. Now those might actually be something I’ll be making again around here, even without the luxuries of my parent’s kitchen. You make a biscuit-like dough by cutting butter into flour, and then adding milk a little bit at a time. After sectioning them out into 12 pieces, a little slice of plantain gets stuffed in the middle of each one. When these fry in a shallow layer of oil, the dough puffs out a bit, the bottom and top get golden and crispy, and the whole thing ends up being one big, salted and moist biscuit, with the slightly sweet and creamy bit of plantain in the middle. Once again, this one’s a little hard to imagine, too. Then again, I’m certainly no Tyler Florence in terms of being able to talk about food in such a way that convinces you, makes you, commit to making it. But even if my descriptions or photos didn’t do this meal justice, go out on a limb here and try to imagine a smoky, spicy, sweet chicken paired with a flaky-creamy pan-fried dumpling. It’s hard to beat, especially when it’s still summer.
If scotch bonnets aren’t available, habanero chiles can be substituted. As always, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling the chiles. Especially before touching your eyes! Yikes!
1 4-pound chicken, cut into 6 to 8 pieces
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 a medium onion, roughly chopped
8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced
5 scallions (white and green parts only), sliced
2 limes, juiced
1-2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
2 scotch bonnet pepper, halved
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
Pierce the chicken pieces all over with the tip of a small knife. Transfer chicken to a large bowl. To make the jerk marinade, process the rest of the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Pour the marinade over the chicken, and “massage” into the chicken to ensure all pieces are covered with the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours and up to 2 days.
Let chicken sit at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking. Build a medium-low fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium. Place the chicken pieces on the grill, skin side up. Cook covered, turning often–the sugars in the marinade cause the chicken skin to caramelize and burn faster than normal. Grill until skin is crisp and lightly charred and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest parts of chicken registers 160 degrees F for the breasts, or 165 degrees F for the thighs, 25-35 minutes. Transfer to a platter and tent loosely with foil, and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Adapted from Tyler Florence
Makes 12 large dumplings
The trick with these is getting the middle of the dumpling to lose most of its doughiness while keeping the top and bottom golden brown. Keep the heat lower (but still high enough so that the dough fries in the oil, instead of soaking it up), and make sure to keep a steady layer of oil in the bottom of the pan between batches.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
3/4 cup (preferably whole) milk
1 ripe plantain, peeled and cut into 12 coins
vegetable oil, for frying
Pulse the flour, salt and baking powder in a food processor to combine. Toss in the cold butter pieces and continue to pulse until only pea-sized pieces of the butter remain, and the mixture resembles coarse sand.
Add milk, a little bit at a time, just until it is completely worked into the dough. If the dough still looks a little dry, add additional tablespoons of milk, one at a time, until the dough forms together and starts to pull away from the sides. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and gently press the dough together to make a cohesive ball. Divide the dough into 12 evenly-sized pieces, and gently roll each piece into even balls. Push a slice of plantain into the middle of each ball and pinch the dough around the plantain so it is completely covered by the dough. Gently press each ball flat into a little cake, cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
Set a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add 1/4 cup of vegetable oil. There should be at least a good 1/4 inch of oil in the pan. While the oil is heating up, prick the dumplings all over with a fork. Working in batches, pan-fry the dumplings for about 3 to 5 minutes on each side, until the dumplings are golden and slightly puffy. Replenish the oil as needed between batches to make sure there is a good layer before each frying.
(Also, be careful–it’s an important balance between having a heat that will fry the dumplings, but that won’t burn the sides before the middles have lost their doughiness and have cooked all the way through. It might be helpful to have a tester dumpling.) Once cooked and golden, remove from heat and sprinkle with salt. Serve warm.
I’m not sure what’s so special about this dish. It’s salad and chicken, a meal that god knows I’ve eaten my fair share of throughout my short lifetime. And yet this meal feels pretty special, simply because the salad was placed on top of the chicken rather than alongside it.
Of course, this dish isn’t separated from others singularly by the placing of its parts. It all only really works because the salad is placed on a piece of chicken that’s been pounded flat (a paillard), and the bright flavors of the salad go along with rather than clash with the chicken. What the dish ends up being is basically a mess up crisp-tender vegetables and lettuces like asparagus, snap peas and red bell pepper piled on top of some quick pan-fried chicken that’s seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and whole-grain mustard. To finish, it’s dressed with a light dijon-tarragon vinaigrette, and the whole thing ends up tasting pretty awesome.
Chicken paillard, at its basic level, doesn’t imply anything about being topped with salad but rather just refers to the fact of chicken being butterflied and pounded out thin so that the whole thing is about 1/8-inch thick and pretty wide in diameter. However, judging by the looks of google results when you type in “chicken paillard,” I think it’s safe to assume that a lot of interpretations of this dish have ended up having with some sort of salad piled on the chicken.
This modern day assumption of chicken paillard is quite alright with me though, because I honestly thought making my way through this dish with vegetables and tender chicken and the light and tangy vinaigrette flavoring every bite was really refreshing. I think it’s something that I’m going to be making a lot of this summer, just because it manages to be substantial without being at all heavy. (By the way, a great side to round out the meal are these roasted smashed potatoes, flavored with thyme.) This version, with the flavors of mustard, spring vegetables, and tarragon is courtesy of Nordstrom’s interpretation of chicken paillard, but I’m looking forward to playing around with it more. Feel free to try out differing combinations of vegetables, seasonings and vinaigrettes yourself, depending on what’s in season or what you’re in the mood for. It is important to remember that this, at its core, is a pretty quick and straightforward dish—use whatever flavors in the form of vegetables or already-made vinaigrettes you already have lying around in your fridge.
Nordstrom’s Chicken Paillard
Adapted from Nordstrom’s Entertaining at Home Cookbook
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (at least 1/2 pound each)
3/4 pound asparagus, chopped into 2-inch pieces and ends trimmed
1/2 pound sugar snap peas
4 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
8 ounces mixed baby greens
1 large red bell pepper, seeded, deribbed, and julienned
3 plum or roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped roughly
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1/3 to 1/2 cup dijon-tarragon vinaigrette (recipe below)
Using a sharp knife, butterfly each chicken breast by splitting each breast in half horizontally, leaving about 1/2-inch attached at one end. Working with one chicken breast at a time, open a breast out flat and place between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, pound the chicken gently, beginning from the center and working out towards the edge. Flatten until about 1/8-inch thick and about 6 or 7 inches wide in diameter. Remove the top of the plastic wrap, smooth a piece of parchment over the flattened breast, and then invert the chicken breast and parchment in order to place it, parchment side down, on a large plate to set aside. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts, stacking them all on top of each other on the plate. Set aside and refrigerate until needed.
Meanwhile, blanch the vegetables. Have a large bowl filled with cold water and ice ready. Fill a 3 to 4-quart saucepan two-thirds full of water and a couple large pinches of salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, add chopped asparagus pieces and cook, uncovered, until bright green and crisp-tender without tasting raw, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using a skimmer, remove the asparagus and immediately shock in the bowl of ice water. Once cooled, remove, drain well, and set aside in a large salad bowl. Repeat the same cooking and cooling process with the snap peas.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Over medium heat, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Meanwhile, spread a tablespoon of whole grain mustard evenly over the chicken breast on the top of the stack and season with salt and pepper. Leaving the chicken on the parchment (it helps the chicken to retain its shape while cooking), carefully flip the chicken breast into the skillet, parchment side up. After about a minute of cooking, remove the parchment sheet. Continue to cook the chicken until lightly browned on the first side, about a minute longer. Using a wide spatula, flip the chicken and cook until cooked through, about a minute or two longer. Once fully cooked, transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and keep warm in the preheated oven. Repeat this process of heating a tablespoon of oil in the pan while seasoning the chicken with mustard, salt and pepper, and then cooking the chicken through with the remaining 3 chicken breasts, cooking them one at a time and keeping the cooked chicken breasts warm in the oven.
In a large bowl, combine the greens, red bell pepper, tomatoes, carrot, asparagus and sugar snap peas. Drizzle with the dijon-tarragon vinaigrette to taste—I only ended up using about 1/3 or 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette. Toss it all together gently to coat.
To serve, top the chicken breasts with an equal amount of topped salad. Serve with additional dijon-tarragon vinaigrette on the side (I liked the chicken by itself with it).
Makes about 3/4 cup
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
In a blender or a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the garlic, mustard, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper and process until thoroughly until smooth. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil in a thin, steady stream. Add the tarragon and pulse a couple of times to combine. Transfer to a small container or jar and refrigerate until needed.