All Posts Tagged ‘Chicken

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superbowl sunday: dip extravaganza — zesty guacamole, caramelized onion dip & buffalo chicken dip.

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It’s here. Superbowl Sunday. The most all-American, flag wavin’, gun totin’, bald eagle flyin’, praise the Lord Baby Jesus day of the year (sorry, Independence Day). And even with all of the celebration and the hype, here I sit, a ball of nerves. My father raised me right, and by right, I mean he raised me to be a GODDAMN DENVER BRONCOS FAN. I bleed orange and blue. And yet, I’m just so nervous. I’m fully convinced, irrationally so, that I am a bad luck charm for my favorite team. That I have some ridiculous ability to change the outcome of the game from my couch, from my apartment, all the way from Portland, Oregon. I know. I know. Despite this, I will be watching the game, albeit through hands over my eyes, and I’m guessing my heart rate won’t return to normal until well after the final whistle is blown.

So, in an effort to calm my nerves and distract me from curling up in the fetal position on my couch, I’m spending my time in the kitchen (in full view of the TV, obviously). And what am I making, you might ask?

Well, ALL THE DIPS IN THE LAND, of course. I know buffalo wings are the Superbowl food of choice, and there will be wings on the table today, but I usually rely on the talents of my friendly neighborhood wing joint to handle those (Fire on the Mountain, HOLLAH). But the dips? The dips are all me. And there are three of them. I like a bit of variety in my ‘dip buffet’, if you will, something hot, something creamy, something zesty. Nothing revolutionary here, you’ll be able to find many versions of these recipes all over the place, but why fix something that ain’t broke, am I right? There’s a reason these are classics. And when you up the ante of making them from scratch, well, that’s a winning play in my book (see what I did there?).

All of these beauties can be made in under an hour and they will add some serious delicious to your game day spread. May one or make them all, regardless of your choice, you’ll have something to cheer about.

I’ll be over here cheering for my beloved Broncos, trying to get through the game without passing out or crying.

GO BRONCOS. DIPS NOT DABS, Y’ALL.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Zesty Guacamole
Makes 2 cups

3 large avocados
½ red onion, chopped
2 jalapeños, finely chopped
2 limes, juiced
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Serve with: Tortilla chips

Make the guacamole. Chop the onion, cilantro, garlic and jalapeños and add to a medium mixing bowl. Slice the avocados in half and scoop out the flesh, adding to the mixing bowl. Squeeze lime juice over the top of avocados. Using a fork, mash the avocado and mix thoroughly with other ingredients. Guacamole should be somewhat chunky (horrible word), so don’t mash too aggressively. Once fully mixed, squeeze a little lime juice over the top and cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole (this will prevent browning) and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Caramelized Onion Dip
Makes 2 cups

3 sweet yellow onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cup sour cream
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon white pepper

Serve with: Ruffled potato chips or kettle chips (you need a sturdy chip for this dip)

Make the Onion Dip. Peel the onions and cut in half through the root. Slice the onions thinly into half moons, then add to the skillet with two tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until onions are very soft and translucent. Add vinegar and cook an additional 10-15 minutes until onions are golden brown and jammy. Remove from heat and place onions into medium mixing bowl. Refrigerate onions to cool them quickly

Once the onions are completely cool, add sour cream, mayonnaise, garlic powder and white pepper to the mixing bowl. Mix all ingredients thoroughly, then refrigerate for at least one hour or up to one day prior to serving.

Buffalo Chicken Dip
Makes 3-4 cups

1 rotisserie chicken
8oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup blue cheese dressing
½ cup hot sauce or buffalo wing sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot
½ cup blue cheese crumbles, plus extra for topping
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus extra for topping
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Chopped scallions for garnish

Serve with: Tortilla chips, preferably Tostitos Scoops and celery sticks

Kitchen Equipment: large skillet, 1 large and 2 medium mixing bowls, 1 baking dish, 3 serving dishes

Make the Buffalo Chicken Dip. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the skin from the chicken and discard, then remove all chicken meat from the bones. Roughly chop the chicken into bite sized-ish pieces and add to large mixing bowl. Add cream cheese, dressing, hot sauce, blue and cheddar cheeses and spices to the chicken and mix until thoroughly combined.

Pour mixture into baking dish and spread evenly. Top with additional cheddar cheese and blue cheese crumbles. Bake for 20 minutes until warmed through and bubbling. Remove dip from oven.

Turn the broiler on and move oven shelf into top position. Return the dip to the oven and broil for 3-5 minutes until cheese topping is bubbling and golden brown. Remove from oven and top with chopped scallions. Serve immediately.

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sunday dinner: chicken tortilla stew.

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It is officially one pot season, y’all. OK, I know that’s not an actual season, but it is a favorite time of year over here at Casa Radeke. I don’t know about other parts of the country, but the Northeast has gone full Fall practically overnight, and now all I want to eat are cozy things — soups and stews, casseroles, mac and cheese — basically anything warm and hearty.

Stew probably tops that list as my favorite one pot meal, not only because stews pack a wallop of flavor, but also because I love the cooking process. Having something bubbling away on the stove for hours just adds to the romance of the season, not to mention it makes my house smell insanely good.

This chicken tortilla stews checks all the right seasonal boxes — it’s an easy one pot meal, it’s hearty as all get out, and it packs a variety of delicious flavor, a mix of spice and earthiness and tang that just makes me happy when I eat it.

For my veggie-friendly readers, this is easily translated into a vegetarian meal — just nix the chicken and chorizo and switch out the chicken broth for some vegetable stock. You could also sub the chicken for some mushrooms and/or zucchini if you want to maintain the heartiness of the dish.

No matter how you make it, this one’s a keeper and should carry you through Fall as cozy as your favorite flannel.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Chicken Tortilla Stew
Serves: 6

You will need:
1 pound chicken breasts
3/4 pound chorizo sausage, broken into bite size pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 medium onion, chopped
8 small red potatoes, diced
1 15-oz can chopped tomatoes
1 15-oz can black beans, drained
1 15-oz can kernel corn, drained
2 chipotle chiles, diced
1 quart chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For garnish:
1 sack corn tortilla chips
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 avocado, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
2 limes, cut into wedges
corn tortillas, warmed

Kitchen equipment: large soup pot, small saucepan

Poach the chicken. You could just sauté your chicken as you cook the stew, but I prefer to poach it first since poaching the chicken allows you to get that shredded chicken yumminess that takes this stew to another level. And it only adds about 15 minutes to your overall prep time.

To poach the chicken, place the chicken breasts in a small saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Add two of the smashed garlic cloves and a bay leaf if you have it. Add just enough water to the pan to cover the chicken, then set on high heat on the stove and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 8 minutes. At the 8-minute mark, check to see if the chicken is cooked all the way through; if so, pull ‘em out, if not, cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Once the chicken is fully cooked, shred with two forks and set aside.

Start the stew. Preheat your large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the pan and when hot, add the poached chicken. Lightly brown chicken for about two minutes, then add the other three garlic cloves and the chorizo. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes, breaking up the chorizo as it cooks.

Add the veggies. Add the onions and potatoes to the chicken-chorizo mixture and cook another 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, then stir in the tomatoes, beans, corn and chipotle chiles. Add the chicken stock and bring the stew to a boil.

Reduce and simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. The stew is ready when the potatoes are soft and the broth has a nice spicy tang to it.

Garnish and serve. Here’s where the fun begins. I like to set up a toppings bar with the chips, shredded cheese, avocado, cilantro and lime wedges, and let everyone go wild with the garnishing. If I’m doing it, I would ladle the stew into a shallow bowl, then top with a generous handful of crushed tortillas, a bit of shredded cheese, then a sprinkling of cilantro and the chopped avocado. Top with a squeeze of lime over the stew as a final garnish. Serve with warmed tortillas on the side to sop up the goodness.

This stew will warm you to your core and you’ll be impressed with how much flavor comes out of something that took less than an hour to make. The other great thing about this recipe is it makes A LOT of stew, so you’ll have plenty of leftovers to feed on over the next few days (or months, it also freezes incredibly well). Cozy to the max, all from one little pot. Enjoy!

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sunday dinner: roast chicken & asparagus with rhubarb butter.

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Confession: I keep a list of my 25 favorite words on my iPhone. And it is one of my very favorite things. Words like superfluous, modernity, flibbertigibbet. Effervescent, ephemera, dusk. They roll off the tongue and just bring me such joy. I have always had a certain love affair with language; it consistently amazes me that there is a perfect word out there to describe nearly every situation. I have another list of words that I don’t love, but that’s another blog post for another day.

And my favorite culinary term, you may ask? It is without a doubt, most assuredly: SPATCHCOCK. Say it with me ‘spatchcock’. S-P-A-T-C-H-C-O-C-K. It’s a truly glorious word (thanks, Ireland). And what sounds like something that is decidedly NSFW is actually just a fancy way of describing the removal of the backbone of a chicken so you can splay it out spread eagle style for cooking. When a chicken is spatchcocked, it cooks more evenly, and it helps the leg/thigh meat cook slightly faster than the rest which prevents the breast meat from drying out. Added bonus? Maximum amounts of crispy, salty skin, which is the primary reason we’re doing this anyway, am I right?

To properly spatchcock your chicken, you can do a little Youtube research and figure it out yourself, but I also highly recommend having your friendly neighborhood grocery store butcher do it for you. Grab a whole chicken of your choosing and toss it in his or her direction, then go about the rest of your shopping. By the time you’re ready to checkout, your chicken will be sans backbone and ready for cookin’ with little to no effort on your part.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Roast Chicken & Asparagus with Rhubarb Butter

You will need:

Roast Chicken
1 3 – 3 1/2 pound chicken, backbone removed
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roast Asparagus
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, halved

Rhubarb Butter
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 stalk rhubarb, roughly chopped
Juice of one orange (or 1/4 cup orange juice)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated

Kitchen Equipment: two rimmed baking sheets, small saucepan

With your chicken properly spatchcocked (I just can’t stop saying it), we’re ready to begin, so preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

First, spread out your chicken on a baking sheet skin side up and pat dry with a paper towel or two. A dry chicken is the best chicken and will lead to the crispiest skin; leave any moisture on the bird and the skin will steam in the oven, leaving you with a flabby mess. No one wants a flabby mess, so pat ‘er down good. Set aside to come to room temperature.

Now let’s turn our attention to the rhubarb butter. Chop your rhubarb and combine with the orange juice, honey and ginger in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is soft, about 7-10 minutes. Drain the rhubarb in a small bowl and reserve the cooking liquid. Cool the cooked rhubarb before combining with the butter (I stuck mine in the freezer for a bit to save time). When properly cool, mix the rhubarb and the butter together until fully incorporated and the butter has a whipped consistency.

Now let’s get down to business. Grab the tray with your chicken and the rhubarb butter, and with clean hands, carefully slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making two little pockets, then use a fingertip to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using a small spoon or your hands, insert some of the butter under the skin in each of the four pockets you’ve created. Use the skin to spread the butter evenly, adding more as necessary. Once the butter is applied, add a few sprigs of thyme into each pocket.

Rub the outside of the chicken with one tablespoon olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.

Place your seasoned chicken on the middle rack in your preheated oven, and cook until golden brown and crispy, about 40-45 minutes. A thermometer inserted into the thickest section of the thigh should read 165 degrees when the chicken is properly cooked.

Remove from oven and set aside under a tent of aluminum foil to rest.

While your chicken is resting, turn your oven down to 400 degrees.

Toss the asparagus with one tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread in one layer on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until bright green and slightly charred, about 10-12 minutes. Remove asparagus from the oven and transfer to a serving dish, squeezing a bit of lemon juice over the top for an added kick.

Serve your chicken table side and use the leftover rhubarb cooking liquid as a delicious jus. This dish is bright and tangy, perfect for a bottle of rosé, a bit of a Spring breeze and some good company. Get a little boozy and giggle mercilessly while shouting ‘spatchcock’ to the heavens. It will soon be one of your favorite words too.

Side note: grab a few extra stalks of rhubarb at the grocery store, make this rhubarb compote, and serve it over vanilla ice cream for dessert. BONKERS good. *immediately runs to the store to buy more rhubarb and vanilla ice cream*

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sunday dinner: pan sautéed chicken breasts with creamy mushrooms & shallots.

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We turned a new leaf in New York today. Daylight Savings Time is no longer and it was “aggressively crisp” out of doors (read: it was cold as balls). The wind whipped this way and that, and while the sun shone bright, its warmth was felt by few. I hate to say that winter is right around the corner, but today was the first day that made that feel like a reality.

When it comes to dinner, this weather brings in me a desire for something rich, something heartwarming. I want something along the lines of Thanksgiving dinner but without the three days of prep (Thanksgiving, my very favorite day of the year, is a few short weeks away, and I. AM. PUMPED).

This chicken dish is the perfect answer to my cravings; it’s deliciously full of rich, umami flavor but comes together quickly and easily. Also, BUTTER. Live it. Love it.

Side note: if you double the mushroom/shallot recipe, it’s a killer Thanksgiving side dish. Or any day side dish. YUM.

But I digress.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Pan Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Creamy Mushrooms & Shallots

You will need:

2 chicken breasts
4 tablespoons butter
1 large shallot, thinly sliced into rings
12 oz assorted mushrooms, sliced (such as baby portabellas, shitake, or oyster)
½ cup white wine (or chicken stock)
½ cup heavy cream
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
All purpose flour
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Grab your chicken breasts and place them between two pieces of plastic wrap on your cutting board. Pound the breasts to thin them out slightly using a meat tenderizer or a heavy-bottomed glass. Next, remove the plastic wrap and season your breasts with salt and pepper on both sides. Put a handful or two of flour in a large plastic bag or on a plate, and dredge the chicken in the flour, thoroughly coating both sides.

Heat a sauté pan on medium-high heat and add a few tablespoons of oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken breasts, shaking off any excess flour before adding to the pan, and cook until brown, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside.

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Next, add two of the tablespoons of butter to the same pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften, 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and thyme to the pan with the rest of the butter and season with salt and pepper. Sauté mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until cooked down and soft (add more butter along the way if pan gets too dry).

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Remove the pan from the heat and add the wine or chicken stock to deglaze. Return the pan to the stove and cook down until the alcohol evaporates. Remove the pan from the stove again and add the cream. Return it to the stove, turn the heat down to medium-low and add the chicken back to the pan. Simmer until the mushrooms are tender and the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, stirring occasionally, about 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately.

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I paired my chicken with these babies, one of my very favorite sides EVAH (I worship at the altar of Ina Garten).

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Add your favorite glass of wine and you’re all set with a cozy meal that is rich and earthy and delicious — one that tastes much more complex than the actual execution of the dish.

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I went crazy and made myself a little apple galette for dessert…but that’s a recipe for another day.

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sunday dinner: summer dinner party menu.

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According to the Department of Labor website:

“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

The first Labor Day was celebrated in September 1882 in New York City (we’re early adopters here in the Big Apple), and with what better way to celebrate than…a picnic.

And why not? The farmer’s markets this time of year are positively bursting with gorgeous fruits and vegetables, and the weather is just begging you to spend as much time outside as possible. Throw in the modern upgrade of a three-day weekend, and we’ve got a party, folks.

Consider this menu an elevated version of the original Labor Day picnic. You’ve got your spicy oven fried chicken — a twist on an American classic, paired with roasted corn salad and some simply dressed fresh tomatoes, both enhanced by the addition of freshly chopped herbs. Finish the day with an oat cake overflowing with blueberries and blackberries — a simple, homey treat that highlights the best of the season.

Now, full disclosure here, you don’t have to make all of this menu for dinner. If you want to make any of these individually, you can use any of the following recipes: chicken, corn, tomatoes, blueberry oat cake. But. If ever there was a more perfect combination than these best of summer flavors, I don’t know about it, so I highly encourage you to attempt the full menu.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Spicy Oven Fried Chicken

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cleaned and fat trimmed
1 cup flour
2 large eggs
1 ½ cup buttermilk
1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
3 teaspoons cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
hot sauce
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roasted Corn with Fresh Herbs & Lime Butter

6-8 ears of corn, in the husk
¼ cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (such as basil, sage, tarragon, chives, flat-leaf parsley)
1 large clove garlic, minced
juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Farmer’s Market Tomato Salad

1 container mixed small farmer’s market tomatoes (such as cherry or pear), halved
¼ cup chopped fresh basil, mint and flat-leaf parsley
extra virgin olive oil
white balsamic vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Blueberry & Blackberry Oat Cake

½ stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
¾ cup flour, plus more for pan
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons quick-cooking oats, divided
2/3 cups water
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups mixed blueberries and blackberries
2 tablespoons course sanding sugar

Kitchen items needed: large shallow bowl or baking dish, two large sealable plastic bags, large baking sheet covered with tin foil or parchment paper, metal tongs, 8×8 square baking pan

Prepping and cooking a dinner party menu is all about timing. For everything to come to the table at the same time, it requires a little multi-tasking, and you’re not going to be cooking one thing at a time. You’ll likely be cooking one thing and prepping another with the goal that all is beautiful and ready to be served without spending too much time resting or cooling to a less than ideal temperature. Follow me, and you’ll be a master at this balancing act in no time.

With that in mind, we’re going to tackle dessert first (life is uncertain, etc., etc.). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grab your 8×8 square baking pan and a stick of butter and rub butter over the bottom and the four sides of the pan (do not use the entire stick, this is not Paula Deen’s kitchen). Then, throw a tablespoon or two of flour in your pan and toss it around until the pan is thoroughly coated. Discard the excess flour, tapping the side of the pan a few times. You really only want a thin layer of flour and butter so the cake doesn’t stick to the pan when it bakes.

Measure out 1 cup of oats and combine with the water; set aside to soften.

Grab two large mixing bowls, in one whisk together all the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon). In the other, combine your butter and sugars (granulated and brown) and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes (you can do this in a stand mixer, with a hand mixer, or by hand with a fork, depending on how equipped your kitchen is). Once the butter/sugar mixture is creamy and light in color, add egg and vanilla and stir until just combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in small quantities until thoroughly combined, then mix in the softened oats. Fold in about half of the berries, being careful not to crush them.

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Spread batter in your buttered & floured baking pan, using your spatula to evenly distribute. Top with the remaining 3 tablespoons of oats and the sanding sugar, then top with the rest of the berries. Place on the center rack of your preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean with some moist crumbs. Set aside to cool.

With dessert covered, let’s turn to the chicken. Clean and trim your chicken so any excess fat is removed, and place your chicken thighs in a shallow bowl or baking dish. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and douse each thigh with a few shakes of hot sauce. Cover the chicken with one cup of buttermilk, ensuring that the thighs are completely submerged in the milk. Cover dish lightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate.

Once your cake is out of the oven, turn the temp up to 450 degrees. Grab your corn and trim any excess husk or silk but do not remove the husk completely. Cooking the corn in the husk allows it to roast and steam at the same time, which delivers a sweet and juicy result. Once heated, place your corn directly on the oven rack, using two racks if necessary to ensure no cobs are touching each other. Roast for 30 minutes. The husks will brown and your kitchen will smell a little like a camp fire, but this is no cause for concern. It is merely one stop on the journey to delicious.

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At this point, you’re about half way to showtime, and you look gaaawwww-geous, daaaaahling.

While the corn is roasting, let’s make us some lime butter. Mince your garlic and place in a small mixing bowl. Juice the limes and add to the garlic, and then add the salt and pepper. Melt the stick of butter (in the microwave is easiest), then while whisking constantly, add the melted butter to garlic-lime mixture in a slow stream until completely combined and emulsified. Set aside until ready for use.

When the corn is completely roasted, remove from oven and allow to cool slightly on a baking sheet. Once cool enough to handle, remove husks and using a sharp chef’s knife, remove kernels from each cob and place in a large mixing bowl. Set aside until ready for use.

And now, it’s chicken time. First, turn your oven down to 375 degrees.

Next, grab two large sealable plastic bags — in the first, add the flour and season with salt and pepper; in the second, add the panko breadcrumbs, the cajun seasoning, the smoked paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Take your marinating chicken out of the refrigerator, and using tongs or a fork, remove the thighs from the milk, shaking a bit to remove excess liquid, and place them on a large plate. Dump the marinade and rinse out your dish, then to it add the other 1/2 cup of buttermilk, the two eggs, a few healthy dashes of hot sauce and season with salt and pepper. Whisk quickly with a fork to break down the eggs and combine with the buttermilk.

Now, you’re going to set up an assembly line of sorts in the following order: your plate of chicken thighs, the bag with flour, the buttermilk-egg mixture, the bag with the breadcrumbs, then a large baking sheet covered in parchment paper or tin foil. Using your metal tongs, grab two to three chicken thighs and place them in the bag with the flour. Seal the bag and toss the chicken thighs until thoroughly coated in flour. Use your tongs to remove the thighs from the bag (shaking to remove excess flour) and place them in the buttermilk-egg mixture. Thoroughly coat the thighs in the mixture, then transfer them to the bag with the breadcrumbs. Seal the bag and shake to coat all sides of the thighs with the spiced breadcrumb mixture. Finally, grab your thighs from the breadcrumb mixture and place, evenly spaced, on the baking sheet. Repeat this assembly line until all thighs are properly ‘dressed’ and placed on the baking sheet (don’t do too many thighs at once so as not to gum up the flour or the breadcrumbs).

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Bake the chicken for 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown and crisp and the juices run clear.

While the chicken is baking, slice the tomatoes and chop the herbs for the corn and the tomatoes. You don’t want to give the herbs the opportunity to wilt, so all of this should be put together at the last minute. Place your chopped tomatoes in a serving bowl and drizzle a little olive oil and white balsamic over the top. Season with salt and pepper.

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When your chicken has about five minutes left on the clock, mix the lime butter with the corn, then add the fresh herbs and toss to incorporate. Add the other fresh herbs to the tomatoes and toss lightly.

Remove chicken from oven and transfer immediately to a serving platter. Bring everything to the table, crack open a bottle of wine (hopefully you did this awhile ago, but if not, now’s the perfect time — I’m LOVING this rosé right now), and dig in.

The crunch of the chicken with the fresh, limey flavor of the corn and the sweetness of the tomatoes are just the absolute best flavor combination. This menu truly celebrates the best of summer and should leave any guests ‘ooohing’ and ‘ahhhing’ well after the sun goes down.

Serve the berry oat cake for dessert — it’s sweet enough that you don’t need any accompaniments — and if you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, this is pure magic with a cup of coffee for breakfast the next morning.

Truth be told, I want to eat this meal every weekend, surrounded by friends and family, laughing and rollocking and just livin’ life. It will be a bright, happy memory to revive in the dark winter months when a fresh, juicy tomato is but a dream.

Until then, enjoy the last few beats of this glorious season with some fresh food, some good wine, and some great company. That, my friends, is just perfect.

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sunday dinner: soba noodle salad with caramelized chicken & quick-pickled cucumbers.

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Guys. Spring has arrived. Really, it has. I can’t even believe it but it’s true. It’s been a dreamy 72 degrees for days now, and the door to my balcony hasn’t been closed for at least a week for fear that I miss even one perfect Spring breeze (except at night, of course, no creepers allowed in my Brooklyn abode). I am in heaven and I’m soaking up every second of it because I know what’s right around the corner. I’m lookin’ at you, humidity.

It’s times like these where I look for recipes that mimic the weather — cool, comforting and refreshing. This is not the time for stews or casseroles or roasts. I don’t want to my kitchen to be stuffy and hot, and I don’t want to labor over a meal for hours. Simple and fresh is the name of the game.

It’s no surprise that I would tend toward Asian cuisine on days like these; it’s both comforting and fresh and usually leverages a few of my favorite food items, namely vinegar and chili. This Soba Noodle Salad is both a salad and a noodle dish; it is a delicious melting pot of flavors, and the addition of the quick-pickled cucumbers and a dash of chili oil give the heartiness of the noodles just the punch it needs. It’s great right out of the pan, but it’s just as good after a few hours in the fridge, a perfect make ahead meal. I love the addition of the chicken as a protein source, but you could easily make this vegetarian by either substituting tofu for the chicken and using the same preparation or adding additional vegetables (my picks would be asparagus, mushrooms, and/or snap peas).

Soba Noodle Salad with Caramelized Chicken & Quick-Pickle Cucumbers
(adapted from How Sweet It Is)

You will need:

½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

8 ounces soba noodles
4 radishes thinly sliced
½ cup freshly torn cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
chili oil, to garnish

Quick-Pickled Cucumbers

½ seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
¼ cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt

First things first, let’s pickle us some cucumbers. If you’re thinking, pickles? In a noodle salad? Has she gone ’round the bend? Do not fret. These ‘pickles’ will be slightly sweet and very vinegar-y, but still very cucumber-y. They are a perfect pairing for the earthiness of the noodles and the spice of the chili oil. You’ll love ’em. And if you don’t, you can also just add sliced cucumber to the salad when you add the other veggies (I will judge you for this. But only slightly).

OK, back to our regularly scheduled programming.  In a medium bowl, combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt, and stir to dissolve. Add the sliced cucumber and toss to combine. Set aside and let ’em marinate, at least 15 minutes and up to 6 hours.

Next, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and season thoroughly with the salt, pepper, and brown sugar. The idea is to get a good crust on the chicken when you cook it, so don’t be afraid to really work the spices and sugar into the chicken…it’s worth the good hand scrubbing you’ll need afterwards from roughing up some raw chicken.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add a good swirl of olive oil. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 7 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Now, grab the soba noodles and cook them according to the package directions. When fully cooked, drain and rinse them with cold water. Add them to a large bowl (this can be the bowl you serve them in) and toss with the vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar and sesame oil. Add in the chicken, radishes and cilantro and toss well. Lastly, drain and add the quick-pickle cucumbers and toss to incorporate. Drizzle with chili oil (a little goes a long way here, so don’t go crazy) and serve.

Fresh, crunchy, spicy — all flavors that perfectly compliment this glorious time of year — and yet, still comforting and homey. Sure to be a warm-weather staple!

 

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sunday dinner: easy chicken fajitas.

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When I turned 18 and was about to head off to college, my father decided that it was the perfect time for a crash course in simple but delicious cooking. I had eaten well up to that point in my life and was fairly at home in the kitchen, so there was no reason for me to revert to meals of ramen and mac & cheese from the box just because I was now living on my own, he said. And one of the first recipes he taught me was how to make chicken fajitas.

So, it seemed only fitting that last week, when my friend and coworker Jaime came to me inquiring if I had a simple recipe she could cook for her husband for dinner, that I passed on this little Mexican delight. What made it even better and infinitely more entertaining is that I decided to make the same thing and we decided to compare notes afterwards. So much fun. Onward to Whole Foods!

As I flitted about in the grocery store, seeking out the freshest peppers and the ripest avocados, Jaime documented the journey so my readers (reader? I think I have one reader at this point) could get the full, immersive experience. She asked great questions along the way, like what color peppers are best (any ol’ color you like) and should she get monterey jack or colby cheddar shredded cheese (we chose colby). Our baskets were the same down to the two for $12 tulips, and we were giddy with excitement to get home and get to cookin’.

wholefoods

Once safely in a cab on our way to our respective casas, I sent Jaime a stream of 10-15 text messages with instructions on how to cut the chicken, how to warm the tortillas, and ultimately, how to pull this whole thing off with ease (see below in non-text message form).

Overall it was a rousing success thanks to my father’s recipe and Jaime’s willingness to trust that I knew what I was doing (mostly). I hope this is not the last time we’ll cook together; it was just too much fun and I have many more recipes up my sleeve thanks to my dear old dad.

Easy Chicken Fajitas, courtesy of one HTRP (Hal the Retired Plumber)

You will need:

One pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1″ strips
Two bell peppers, cut into strips
One sweet onion, cut into rings
One jar of salsa of your choice
One lime

Fixin’s:

Tortillas
Black or Pinto Beans, drained and rinsed
Shredded Cheese
One avocado, sliced

First things first. Let’s get some flavor into that chicken. Take a container of your choice (mine is a gallon ziploc bag) and place all of the chicken strips inside. Pour about a third to a half of the jar of salsa over the chicken. Then, take your lime and cut it in half, squeezing half of the lime over the chicken. Close up the bag and give the chicken a little massage. He’s had a tough week, he needs to relax. The idea is to coat the chicken completely in the ‘marinade’ so when you cook it, it chars nicely and has a tangy, spicy flavor to it. Once your chicken is thoroughly coated, stick the bag in the fridge for 30 minutes. This is usually when I do one of three things: 1) watch an episode of Parks & Rec, 2) entangle myself in a quick but intense rabbit hole of makeup how-to videos on YouTube, or 3) call and/or FaceTime my parents (which is just all-out hilarity, parents + modern technology = pure entertainment).

When the chicken is good and marinated, I preheat the oven to 250 degrees and grab my tortillas, wrap them in tin foil and stick them in the oven. By the time everything else is cooked, they’ll be perfectly warm and toasty.

Then, get out your pan (again, I rely on my trusty cast iron skillet) and heat it over medium-high heat. Add about a tablespoon of oil and let it get HOT. Not burning, setting off the smoke alarm hot, but pretty darn close (I set off my smoke alarm, whoops). When it’s ready, add the bell peppers to the pan, spread around the pan in a thin layer and leave ’em be. This will probably stress you out, you’ll want to move them around. But don’t! This is what produces that delicious char that you get from restaurant-quality fajitas. When the peppers have some nice color on them, move them to the side of the pan and do the same thing with the onions. When all the veggies are nicely charred, remove them from the pan and put them on a plate.

Add a little more oil to the pan and get it hot again, and grab your chicken from the fridge. Using a fork or tongs, remove the chicken from the bag, shaking a bit to remove excess marinade, and place in a single layer in the pan. As with the veggies, let the chicken chill where it is for a few minutes before turning so it has the chance to brown. Turn over the strips and brown on the other side for another three to four minutes.

fajitasWhen the chicken is fully cooked, add the peppers and onions back to the pan to warm them back up. Toss everything together and turn off the stove. The pan should continue sizzle, don’t fret. If you really want to impress your eating companion, bring the sizzling pan straight to the table (don’t forget a trivet!). It’ll feel exactly like you’re eating at Chevy’s Fresh Mex except a million times better.

Grab your tortillas from the oven and any or all of the fixin’s listed above (including the rest of the salsa left in the jar and the unused half of lime). From here it’s really up to you. I like to put my beans and salsa on the bottom, then the chicken/peppers/onions, then cheese, then avocado, then finish with a squeeze of lime. But you do you, friend. It’s your party.

As you can see, my and Jaime’s fajitas look decidedly different. My dad makes his so it is literally bursting from the tortilla (fat guy in a little coat style, I like to say). But I can guarantee that no matter how it comes together, it will be muy delicioso. Enjoy!