Friday, October 30, 2015

Chicken, Three Ways

Cooking dinner, as annoying as it can be sometimes, is one of those rare things that you can actually declare "done." You chop up the ingredients, put them all together, feed it to yourself and/or others, clean it up and mostly forget about it. Maybe later you ponder things you could do to improve it, but there's no revisiting that initial effort -- it's gone, already digested or the remnants put down the garbage disposal. And maybe that's why I like it so much -- because you can literally only move forward. I never really realized that this rule applies to very few things in life.

Regardless, cooking dinner also has its challenges, one of which is the question "What are we having for dinner?" And since chicken is one of those things that [almost] everyone likes, I thought I'd share with you a few recipes that I've made lately and deemed successful. And by successful, I mean this: it was not that hard, the ingredients were easy to come by, it tasted good and we ate all of it. Each of the recipes provide enough for four without leftovers, or two with lunch for both of you the next day.

Top Left: Pineapple Jerk Chicken with Rice (follow the link for the recipe)

I've been making this dish for years now, and it's good served in a bowl, but can also be wrapped in a tortilla for a quick lunch the next day. I suggest taking the following short-cuts:

-Buy chicken that is pre-cut into strips, and then cut it into chunks with kitchen scissors. It is so much easier to get everything the same size this way. Just be sure to clean your scissors thoroughly
-Rather than cooking the rice, buy P.F. Changs Frozen Steamed Brown Rice. All you have to do is microwave it, and it is so much better than any rice I attempt to cook myself.
-Rather than buying fresh cilantro, buy Gourmet Garden Lightly Dried Cilantro. I am constantly buying herbs that I don't end up completely using, and it annoys me. The lightly dried stays good for up to four weeks and is just easier on a weeknight. 
-Rather than chopping up a real pineapple, buy a can of pineapple chunks in juice, drain the juice and use all of the pineapple in the recipe.

Top Right: Crunchy Baked Chicken Thighs with Grainy Mustard & Garlic (recipe below)

This recipe is a relatively new addition to my repertoire, but here  are a few tips:

-Half the cayenne pepper and add ~2 tablespoons of maple syrup.
-Use Gourmet Garden Lightly dried parsley, instead of fresh, for the reasons I've listed above.
-Invest in the rack. This keeps the bottom of breaded chicken from getting gooey and you can also use it for cooling baked goods.

Crunchy Baked Chicken Thighs with Grainy Mustard & Garlic*:

-3 tbsp grainy mustard
-1 tbsp Dijon mustard
-1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
-1 garlic clove, grated
-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
-3/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
-3 tbsp melted butter
-2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
-1 tsp grated lemon zest
-6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
-salt & pepper

-Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
-Combine the grainy mustard, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and cayenne in a medium bowl, In a separate bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, melted butter, flat-leaf parsley and lemon zest. 
-Sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. One-by-one, coat each chicken thigh in the mustard mixture and then dip one side into the breadcrumb mixture. Place on a wire rack set over a baking sheet, with the crumb side of the chicken facing up. 
-Bake the chicken for thirty minutes, remove and serve as desired.

Bottom: Maple-Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potatoes (follow the link for the recipe)

I've been making this chicken occasionally for a couple of years now, and paired with a green salad, it's the perfect Sunday night dinner. It's pretty much perfect as is, but I am much more liberal with the salt and the maple syrup (and you should be, too). We like the drumsticks so much that the next time I make this, I may use drumsticks only.

Hopefully one of these will inspire you to get into the kitchen and declare something DONE! It might actually be more therapeutic than therapy. :) See you next week!

*Recipe Source: Food & Wine Special Collector's Edition Easy Weeknight Dinners (on stands now)

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