Posts Tagged Chicken

Mid Winter Taste of Summer with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

Generally,  I’m a big proponent of eating seasonally and locally, but the months of January through March in New York really test my principles.  Go to your average farmer’s market during these months and it’s all tubers and meats as far as the eye can see with a few very very expensive hydroponic tomatoes thrown in.  I’m one of those people that could live quite happily with only 2 seasons – spring and summer.  So in a flight of fancy and in an attempt to alleviate the culinary boredom of winter, I bring you a recipe for a summery Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto.

The concentrated sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes combined with the savory garlic cloves and pine nuts makes this sun-dried tomato pesto bright and packed with flavor.  This is the ultimate in cooking after work because, if you’re organized, the pesto can be prepared in less than 15 minutes, and it’s extremely versatile.  The most obvious use is as a sauce over pasta.  Another easier use is to spread it on toast and top it with a little mozzarella and basil for those really late nights when it’s too late for a full meal, but you need a little something to quiet your stomach.  If you feel like doing a little more cooking after work, sun-dried tomato pesto is very nice spooned over grilled chicken breasts (bringing total prep time to just under 40 minutes).  Or, you can copy my dinner tonight, which was toasted challah bread topped with sun-dried tomato pesto, a few fresh basil leaves (yes – another out of season cheat, but I’ve really been craving spring lately), and slices of a grilled chicken breast.  It was heavenly and took less than 40 minutes to prepare the sun-dried tomato pesto and cook the chicken.

This recipe makes enough for several meals so with a little creativity you can cook a variety of quick meals after work through the week with very little effort.  Oh and I almost forgot – a spoonful of sun-dried tomato pesto mixed into or on top of scrambled eggs is excellent – although the garlic might not make you very popular in the office that morning!

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

makes about 1 1/2 cups (360ml)

Qty Item
3/4 cup (180ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic
1/2 cup (114g) Basil leaves
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Fresh lemon juice
1 cup (227g) Sun-dried Tomatoes packed in Oil
1/4 cup (57g) Pine Nuts, lightly toasted
1/4 cup (57g) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  1. Toast the pine nuts and then set them aside to cool. Note: the toasting is not critical, but adds flavor; and walnuts make a cheaper substitute for the pine nuts, but will give the pesto a stronger nutty taste.
  2. Drain the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes, rinse the tomatoes with water and pat them dry with a paper towel.
  3. Place all the ingredients except for the Parmigiano Reggiano into a very powerful blender in the order listed. Pack the ingredients down into the blades, then blend on medium speed until the desired consistency is reached (it’s a pesto not a sauce so it should still be a little thick).  The amount of oil varies a little every time I make this pesto depending on the tomatoes used and how carefully I’ve measured everything.  If you find the pesto is too thick and dry to blend properly or for your taste, add more oil by slowly pouring in more oil through the opening in the cap of the blender while the blender is running on a low speed until the desired thickness is reached.
  4. Then add in the Parmigiano Reggiano and blend for a few seconds more.
  5. Store any leftovers in a freezer safe container under a thin film of oil.  It will last about a week or so in the refrigerator or a few months in the freezer.

Note: If you don’t have a powerful blender, you can use a food processor.  If using a food processor, it’s easier to process the dry ingredients together first until you have a very chunky dry paste then slowly pour in the oil through the tube while the processor is running until you reach the desired consistency.

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Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie is an excellent way to repurpose any chicken meat salvaged from making stock or to use up any leftover roasted chicken (click here for a Roast Chicken recipe).  Besides, who doesn’t love a nice hearty chicken pot pie – especially during this time of year when its so cold and miserable out.  Until about a year ago, I found the idea of making my own intimidating.  However, while the ingredient list is a bit long, the process is actually not that complicated.

While they are a little too time consuming to make from scratch on your average weeknight, they freeze and reheat well so make them during some weekend when you have time and then freeze them for reheating during the week. It is for this reason that I recommend storing them in individual serving sized ramekins without the top crusts.  When you are ready to reheat them, pop the frozen pot pies into an oven preheated to about 400 degrees for about 15 minutes then add the top crusts and continue cooking until the crust is golden brown and the filling bubbles.  If the crust starts to get too dark before the filling bubbles, cover the top loosely with foil.  Serve with a nice side salad and you’re good to go for dinner. Read the rest of this entry »

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Because Naked Breasts Aren’t that Interesting

Now, now, this is a cooking blog so this post is not actually about a woman’s breasts, but what to do to make otherwise boring chicken breasts more interesting.  The easiest way is to finish off the sautéed chicken breast with a sauce.  And the key to a good pan sauce is chicken stock. Chicken stock is the real focus of this post, because as the great Chef Escoffier said “Stocks are to cooking what foundations are to a house.”  With chicken stock on hand, you can easily make sauces to give a little boost to otherwise simple preparations of meats; you can make rich soups; you can cook grains in it instead of water to give the grains a little more flavor; and most importantly, you can make those rich braises where the meat practically falls off the bone.

There are basically two types of chicken stock – the delicious kind you make yourself and the crappy kind you buy at the supermarket.   OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh.  If you’re really in a pinch, the commercial varieties will do, just don’t tell anyone and do it knowing that you’ll eventually have to answer to your god for the crime.  Seriously, making your own chicken stock is easy and something you only need to do every couple of months so it’s well worth the effort to do it yourself.

The following is a basic recipe for chicken stock. It makes about  2 1/2 quarts of Chicken stock.  Store it in small freezer safe containers (1 and 2 cup sizes tend to be the most useful) and freeze it until you need it.

Chicken Stock

makes approximately 2 1/2 quarts

Qty Item
3 1/2 Lbs Chicken parts and bones (I like to use a mix of necks, feet, parts of the carcass and an old stewing hen, if available)
3 quarts Cold Water
4.5 oz onions, roughly chopped
4.5 oz carrots, roughly chopped
2 oz celery, roughly chopped
1 Garlic clove, crushed
1 bunch herb stems (4-5 thyme stems with the leave removed, 2-3 parsley stems with the leaves removed, 1 small rosemary stem with the pines removed, 2 Bay leaves)
4-6 whole peppercorns
  1. Trim the chicken parts of excess fat and skin and rinse them under cold water for a few minutes (or let them soak for a few minutes) to remove any blood or debris.  Place the chicken parts in a stock pot (or any pot large enough to hold all the items) and cover with the 3 quarts cold water or as much water as is necessary to cover the chicken.  Bring the water to a boil.  As the liquid comes to a boil, a foam/scum will rise to the top.  Continuously skim off this foam until it stops rising.
  2. Once the foam stops rising, lower the water temperature to a simmer.  Add the remaining ingredients and continue to let it simmer for about 2 hours.  Keep an eye on it every 10 minutes or so to skim off any foam/scum that rises to the top.
  3. After about 2 hours, strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.  Discard the vegetables.  Set the chicken parts aside. At this point, you can cool the stock and prep it for storage, or you can pour it into another pot and continue to boil it down to concentrate the flavor.  I usually boil it down further until about 2/3 of the original amount remains so that I can have a richer tasting stock.  I then usually add a few pinches of salt.

Now that you have some stock on hand, you’re ready to dress those breasts.  And what goes better with chicken than a nice sherry mushroom cream sauce. This Chicken Breast with Sherry Mushroom Cream Sauce can be made in 30 minutes.

While I don’t recommend using the really meaty parts of the chicken, if you did use parts with some meat on them, you should reserve the meat and use it for chicken salads, or this absolutely fabulous Chicken Pot Pie.

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Chicken Breasts with Sherry Mushroom Cream Sauce

Here’s a 30 minute meal that everyone should have in their arsenal.  It does contain cream so it’s not the most heart healthy dish out there, but you can reduce the amount of cream and the sauce still works pretty well.

Qty Item
1-2 Boneless Chicken Breasts
1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1 tblsp Flour
1 tblsp Canola or other Vegetable Oil
1 Shallot, diced (or 1/2 small onion, very finely diced)
1/4 – 1/2 lb. Mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Sherry
1/4 cup Chicken Stock
1/8-1/4 cup Cream
  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Using a mallet or the bottom of a frying pan, pound the breasts to an even flatness. Sprinkle the Salt and Pepper on the breasts and dust the breasts lightly on both sides with flour.
  3. Place a sauté or frying pan that is large enough to hold the chicken without over-crowding over medium heat.  Once the pan is warm, pour in about 1 tablespoon of canola or other vegetable oil.  Once the oil is hot, add in the chicken breasts and sauté on both sides until each side is golden brown.  When the chicken is golden brown on each side, remove the pieces from the pan, place them on an oven safe platter, cover them loosely and place the platter in the oven.
  4. On medium high heat, sauté the sliced mushrooms until the moisture cooks out of the mushrooms and the mushrooms are soft and brown.  Then add the diced shallot and sauté until the shallots are soft but not brown.
  5. Add the Sherry to the pan and stir to scrape up the caramelized bits in the pan.  Let the Sherry cook on medium high heat until the Sherry is reduced by half.
  6. Add the chicken stock and the cream and let it all simmer on medium high heat until the sauce is reduced by about half and the sauce lightly coats the back of a spoon.  Season the sauce with Salt and Pepper to suit your taste.
  7. Reintroduce the chicken (along with any juices that have collected on the platter) into the pan with the sauce for a minute or two and serve.

Note: When sautéing chicken or any meat, it’s important not to crowd the pan with the meat.  If the meat is too close together, it will steam rather than sauté.  When the chicken is sautéing, it’s good if brown caramelized bits collect in the bottom of the pan, but don’t let the pan get so hot that the bottom blackens.  If the bits go from brown to a charred black, clean out the pan or switch pans before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

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A Chicken in Every Pot

A roasted whole chicken is a busy cook’s best most delicious friend.  I say that not because it’s super fast or extremely easy (it is neither), but because if  you cook it on Sunday, you can nibble on it the rest of the week, or with a little more effort, make a variety of meals from it for the rest of the week.  Stay tuned for posts giving suggestions for meals making use of the roast chicken.

A roast chicken is also the ultimate test of a cook’s skill. Making a simple, but kick-ass juicy roast chicken is a real challenge.  To me it is all about what happens before it hits the oven.  By that, I mean brining – wet or dry.

The term brining refers to the process of soaking meat (typically poultry or pork) in a salt solution for a few hours or days.  The way that it works is that the salt tenderizes the meat by breaking down the structure of the muscle of the meat resulting in the meat absorbing water from the brine thereby preventing the bird from drying out in the oven.  If additional spices have been added to the brine, the meat will also be infused with the flavor of the spices.  The term dry brining refers to the process of covering the meat with a dry salt rub.  The way that it works is that the salt draws a little moisture from the bird while simultaneously opening the bird’s pores.  The moisture and the salt mix and work their way back into the bird’s muscles thereby seasoning the bird throughout through osmosis over the course of a few hours or days.  If spices are added to the salt, the spices will also infuse the meat with the flavor of the spices.  The term “dry brining” is somewhat of a misnomer since by definition a “brine” is a liquid salt solution.  As such, dry brining is not really brining at all – it is curing.

Over the years, I have made a lot of chickens and you can get really elaborate with how you prepare  your brines.  For example, you can get creative with spices or even sub in cider or buttermilk to replace the water.  I used to be a devoted experimental briner, but within the last year, I’ve become a pretty big fan of dry brining since the process is far less cumbersome.  I’m still experimenting with dry rub recipes so I’ll post more on that in the future.

For now, here are examples of recipes for both wet and dry brined chickens.  Total time from start to finish might seem a little long, but most of it is passive time when you can get on with the rest of your life.  That’s particularly true if you go the dry brined route.  Either way, these recipes favor Sunday cooking with week-night eating. Read the rest of this entry »

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