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Category Archives: Chicken Recipes

We May Never Pass This Way Again

This one’s for me. Seriously; sometimes I cook something that I invent as I go along, and I know that if I don’t write it down, it will never happen again.

A couple of nights ago, I started to make a soup from my boyfriend Kenny’s cookbook. I have vowed not to publish any of his recipes, so that you will be forced to buy his book and increase his bottom line, but in this case the finished product was so far from the original plan that I am not breaching my promise. If you are able to figure out the “real” recipe based on what I did, you deserve to save the cost of the book.

The soup was supposed to be a chicken tortilla soup with avocados on top. I prepped the actual ingredients, started cooking, and decided that I would, oh, triple the amount of chicken broth. It seemed soupier that way. When all of the ingredients had been added, I tasted the soup, and it tasted very much like nothing at all. I boiled it to reduce it, and after 30 minutes, the flavor had intensified to the point where it tasted like boiling nothing. It was time to abandon the plan. I added everything I could find that might add some flavor, tasted, added, frowned, added, wept, and tasted. In the end, I produced a soup that was, according to my husband, “lovely.” I have to agree (although it is extremely visually unappealing, and looks somewhat like khaki slime with pieces of chicken trying to float to the surface and wave to the rescue helicopters). Below is, more or less, what I did:

Once in A Lifetime Chicken Tortilla Soup

(Based, so loosely as to be unrecognizable, on a recipe from Kenny Shopsin’s Eat Me)

  1. 1/2 cabbage, finely shredded
  2. 1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
  3. 2-3 chicken breasts grilled or pan-fried, and sliced into thin strips
  4. 6 cups chicken broth
  5. 2cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  6. 2 avocados peeled and cubed
  7. 2-4 jalapenos (depending on your fire tolerance), finely diced
  8. 1 cup shredded cheddar
  9. 1 cup sour cream (I used light)
  10. 1 cup heavy cream
  11. 2 T Olive oil
  12. Salt and pepper
  13. Tortilla Chips

In a soup pot, heat olive oil and saute cabbage, onion and jalapenos for about 5 minutes. Add all other ingredients except avocado and  tortilla chips and cook over medium-high heat until all ingredients are heated through. Taste, and add salt, pepper and/or cheese to taste. Serve over tortilla chips and topped with avocado.

Fictional Fried Chicken

As a child, I was “good” to the point of pathology, except for my reading habit. I had to be called multiple times to set the table, come to dinner, empty the dishwasher…you get the picture. I also tried, unsuccessfully, to develop a method of reading a book while eating dinner with the family. I got caught every time, and reminded fairly sharply that I was being incredibly rude. (It is a great pleasure of my adult life that, when I eat alone, I can read unrepentantly as I graze).

Of great interest to me in much of what I read was the food the characters ate. I didn’t really want the odd bits of the pig that the Ingalls girls ate in the “Little House” books, and “porridge” (I read a lot of books about orphaned English children) sounded unpromising.  On the other hand, there were plum puddings, apple dumplings, tea sandwiches, and various Japanese and Indian foods courtesy of Rumer Godden. I can still become fixated on things consumed by fictional characters, and this week I’ve been reading a novel in which  a man returns to his “homeplace” in the Deep South. Fried Chicken is mentioned, and when Sam said he would like fried chicken for his birthday dinner (this is the standard order of the past 6 years) I decided that rather than going the tedious recipe-reading route, I’d see if I could reconstruct the fried chicken described in the book.

fried-chicken

Here’s what I “knew:”

  1. The chicken was deep fried in some type of fat
  2. The chicken was soaked in buttermilk
  3. The chicken was not battered, but coated with flour with unidentified spices

I also really knew that, despite the Crisco ads of my youth (remember Florence Henderson?) I would be frying in Canola oil instead of shortening, and that it would take about 25-30 minutes for the thickest breasts to cook through on high heat. Below is my “adapted from fiction”fried chicken, and may I say that it was AMAZING. Tender. Crisp, Flavorful. Addictive. Who knows what I could do if I hadn’t been cheated out of all the time I spent doing chores or being polite company instead of reading?

Fictional Fried Chicken

  1. The bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces of your choosing, allowing at least two pieces per person – I bought mixed fryer parts and an extra package of drumsticks because that’s what Sam likes best.
  2. 1 pint buttermilk
  3. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  4. About 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  5. About 1 Tablespoon Sweet or Hot Paprika, depending on whether you want a kick
  6. Enough oil to come about halfway up the frying pan(s) you’ll be using.  (Note: you may need to fry two pans of chicken at the same time if you are feeding a crowd and want it served hot; in the alternative, you may set your oven to 250 or so and fry a batch and keep it warm while you cook the second batch).

At least 8 hours before you want to eat (overnight is even better) wash chicken and place in a large, zipper-type plastic bag with the buttermilk. Turn it over whenever you think about it, so that all the chicken is well-buttermilked.

When you’re ready to cook, put the chicken in a strainer in the sink and drain off excess buttermilk. (Chicken will still be wet).

Pour oil into frying Pan(s) over high heat.

While oil heats, place flour, salt, pepper and spices in a second plastic bag, add chicken and shake to coat VERY thoroughly. If you have more than 5 pieces of chicken, flour it in separate batches.

Oil is ready when a bread crumb dropped in sizzles and quickly browns. If the bread burns quickly, turn your heat down a notch and try again until you get browining, not burning.

Add the chicken to the pan (be careful!) and cook 15 minutes on one side. Turn and cook about 10 minutes on the second side. Thick breasts may take a little longer; I started the breasts five minutes ahead of the wings, drumsticks and thighs so that they cooked for a total of 30 minutes.

When chicken is mahogany colored and has a fairly resilient crust, remove from oil, place briefly on paper towels, and serve. (As of today, I know that this is also really good cold).

Mixed Reviews for Rocco & A Great Quick Meal

I am still cooking from Rocco DiSpirito’s cookbook Flavor, although this will be the last night of the adventure for a while. We loved the Aromatic Cauliflower Soup, but the Bucatini with Summer Vegetables & A Tomato-Anise Broth was a complete bust. The former highlighted DiSpirito’s sour-salty-sweet-bitter flavor combination theory at it’s best; the latter was just plain weird and unpleasant. Psychologically, it was the equivalent of biting into one of those faux foods made to look like something other than what it is – meatloaf that look like a cupcake with mashed potato frosting, or candy that looks like sushi.

Tonight was my last night with Rocco, and I am pleased to say that he ends up with a 75% success rate in these parts. I made his Quick Miso Chicken, which gives a great hit of flavor with ridiculously little effort, and his Soubise, which is really nothing but a boatload of butter and onions cooked until they are sweet and silky. Cous cous was a great foil, and I would happily eat just the Soubise and cous cous as a meal…probably tomorrow for lunch. The chicken, by the way, was a favorite with fans of all ages and could easily be pounded and combined with the marinade and frozen until you need a quick dinner that doesn’t taste like a quick dinner. Thaw it in the refrigerator during the day, and in about 10 minutes you could have the chicken cooked and some cous cous made…add a salad and you’re a hero of modern day kitchen battle. (P.S. I have noticed that many of my pictures look the same – in my defense, I am not a food stylist, I cook a lot of similar-looking chicken dishes, and I can’t find the batteries for the Fuji so I am taking pictures with my phone…bear with me…).

quick-miso-chicken

Quick Miso Chicken

  1. 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, about 6 ounces each
  2. 2 tablespoons medium-colored miso
  3. 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  4. salt and ground pepper to taste
  5. 1 tablespoon vegetable, canola or corn oil

Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap or waxed paper and pound thin with a mallet.

in a small bowl, whisk together miso and marmalade. Sprinkle chicken breasts lightly with salt and pepper and brush all over with marinade. Let stand 30 minutes. (I put the pounded chicken and marinade in a plastic zip-top bag and left it in the fridge for several hours while I did other things. I also doubled the marinade and put half in a separate bowl for later basting).

Warm a nonstick saute pan with the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chicken. Cook on first side 3 minutes. Flip. Baste tops with any remaining marinade. (Kindly do NOT use marinade that the raw chicken has been sitting in, or you may not live to see my next post). Cook on second side 3 minutes or until meat is no longer pink. Flip, cook 15 seconds and transfer to plate.

Onion Soubise

  1. 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  2. 1 pound sweet (such as Vidalia or Maui) or spring onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh chives (I completely and totally forgot to buy these; besides, I wouldn’t have wanted to add calories from the chives on top of all that butter)
  5. Ground pepper to taste

In a wide saute pan or saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Add onions, season with salt and stir to coat with butter. Cover pan and, stirring occasionally, cook until softened, 20-25 minutes. Uncover and cook just until most of the liquid has evaporated. Look for the viscous texture of a marmalade. Stir in chives (or don’t) and season with salt and pepper to taste.

The Best Meat Pies in Lansing …

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Synchronicity. Sometimes, it all comes together in life in the strangest ways…and leads from cannabalism in 19th century London to a tasty spontaneous dinner in the Midwest. Unless you are interested in musical theater, or have a deep and abiding interest in my personal history, you may want to skip down to the recipe. Don’t say I didn’t warn you….

I love musicals, and I love Sondheim most of all. Nearly 30 years ago, during my first week of college, I sat entranced in a practice room as my new friend Bob Ingari played and sang “Johanna” from a brand new musical called “Sweeney Todd.” It was haunting, and beautiful, and (as is often the case with Sondheim) far more interesting than the Surry with the Fringe on Top, or that Enchanted Evening business. I eventually got to see “Sweeney Todd” on the stage, bought the record (yes, the record) and put in the “good” pile near “A Little Night Music” and “Evita,” and far away from Boy George and Gary Neumann.

By the time the movie came out last year, I was too busy to make it to the theater. Our Netflix pile is growing dusty as it is, and I’d honestly just forgotten about the whole thing until yesterday. Sam was home sick, and he asked me if I wanted to watch a movie with him. He picked “Sweeney Todd,” and because I am a totally negligent parent I agreed to let him watch the throat-cutting and live-burning so that I could ogle Johnny Depp and hear Sondheim. (Note to employees of protective services agencies: he appears to be unscathed). As we watched, I kept thinking about the meat pies, and about the fact that we had nothing firm planned for dinner. (Note to horrified readers: I was thinking about this in connection with the meat pies towards the beginning of the movie that are made of, well, regular meat. Not the other ones).

We had the following odds and ends in the house: 2 bone-in chicken breasts, 1 surplus pie crust from a quiche making day earlier in the week, about a cup of peas left over from making Topopo salad, and carrots for Sam’s lunch. It seemed likely that I could construct some sort of pot pie from all of this, with the addition of various hosehold staples (shallots, milk, flour), but there was a problem: I have always, always hated pot pies. I believe it stems from my childhood abhorrence of un-flavored white sauce; I hated Tuna Noodle Casserole, Chicken a la King, Creamed Chipped Beef…and pot pies. I do, however, like things with flavored white sauce like Macaroni and Cheese and Turkey Tetrazzini, I didn’t want cheesy pot pie (literally or figuratively) but I figured that a splash of the dry sherry that made the white sauce palatable to me in Tetrazzini might also work in the context of pot pie. We paused the movie mid-murder, I put the chicken breasts on to poach, and eventually this is what I made:

The Best Chicken Pot Pie in Lansing

(A title which is immodest, but related to my “Sweeney Todd” Theme)

  1. About 2 cups of cooked, cubed, white meat chicken (I poached mine, but this would be a great way to use up left over cooked chicken or turkey)
  2. 1 single purchased or homemade pie crust (although you could certainly add a top crust – I just don’t like crust that much)
  3. 2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  4. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  5. 3 shallots or 1 small onion, chopped
  6. 2 large carrots peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into thin half-moons
  7. 1 cup frozen peas
  8. 2 cups milk or low-fat half & half (I used the latter, which made the filling very rich)
  9. splash of dry sherry
  10. salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place pie crust in pie tin or 8-inch round baking pan with excess crust draped over outer edge.

In a large, shallow pan, heat oil over medium high heat; cook carrots and onions, stirring often, until they are tender (about 10 minutes). Add flour, salt and pepper and cook about 3 more minutes. Gradually add milk or half & half and stir constantly until sauce thickens, mashing out any flour lumps.

Turn off heat under pan and add peas, chicken and sherry, stirring to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Pour mixture into crust and fold edges up and in to form free-form edge. Bake for about 25 minutes, until crust is lightly browned and filling is bubbling.

pot-pie-1

Chicken with Indian Spices and Yogurt

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There is nothing quite like Indian food to make the house smell like heaven. My kind of heaven, anyway. Tonight I made “Chicken with Indian Spices” from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, along with some Basmati rice and Indian-spiced acorn squash.  I will confess that I was put off by the fact the yogurt essentially curdled during cooking, and the sauce looked pretty awful when it was done; I put it in the blender to smooth it out, and it was much pleasanter to look at. I also found that the bone-in chicken pieces (particularly the white meant) were still a bit on the chewy side, possibly because of their size. They were also difficult to eat – I didn’t want to eat the skin, and needed to get the meat off the bone, and in the process of meeting those goals I lost a lot of precious sauce. (The sauce was GREAT, and i would eat it by the spoonful). Next time,  I think I’ll use cubes of boneless thigh or breast meat in place of the whole, bone-in chicken parts, and shorten the cooking time accordingly.

I invented the squash preparation. I have no idea whether squash is part of the cuisine of any part of India (and I am too tired to Google it at the moment) but it went beautifully with the rice and chicken.

Chicken with Indian Spices and Yogurt

(From Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything)

4 Tablespoons peanut, canola or other oil

About 1 cup flour for dredging

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 whole (3-4 pound chicken, cut up (legs cut in two) trimmed of excess fat, then rinsed and patted dry (or 3-4 pounds cubed boneless skinless breasts or thighs)

2 medium onions, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger)

1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups plain yogurt

Minced cilantro leaves for garnish (I had these, but forgot about them)

  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep skillet, Dutch oven, or casserole. Put flour on a plate or in a shallow bowl and season it with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot (a pinch of flour will sizzle) dredge the chicken pieces in the flour and shake off any excess, (If using cubed chicken, you can easily do this in a zip-top plastic bag). Add chicken to oil, and brown on all sides. Regulate the heat so that the oil bubbles but is not so hot that it will burn the chicken. (you can skip this browning step if you like, and go directly to cooking the onions).
  2. When the chicken is nicely browned, remove it from the skillet and pour off all but a couple of tablespoons of oil. Turn heat to medium, and add thge onion along with some salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until they soften, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, ginger and spices along with an additional 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Cook with the onions, stirring, until vert aromatic, about 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in thge yogurt, then add the chicken pieces. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, turning the pieces every 5 minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes. (If you use cubed chicken, stir every five minutes and start checking for done-ness at around 15 minutes).
  4. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Garnish and serve. (If you find that your sauce has curdled, puree it to smootheness using a stand or immersion blender)

Squash with Indian Flair

1 acorn squash

2-3 Tablespoons butter

1-2 Tablespoons Garam Masala

  1. Cut squash in half and microwave about 10 minutes, or until flesh is tender when pierced with a fork.
  2. Cool squash and scoop out of shell, into medium saucepan.
  3. Add butter and Garam Masala to squash and mix with a fork until no large lumps remain. Heat over medium heat until butter melts and all ingredients are well combined. If you like, you may puree this before serving,

That’ll Teach ‘Em…

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I would eat grilled, marinated chicken, rice pilaf and asparagus every night. At least for a while. Maybe a month or two. When I offered it to the boys as a dinner option, however, I was greeted with facial expressions more appropriate to a three-year exile on the Gulag Archipelago. I could not get a straight answer about what was wrong with this dinner (which I thought we all enjoyed); after extensive inquiry the best I got was a passive-aggressive “it’s really okay,” which made me feel simultaneously guilty and annoyed.

Boxed pilaf lasts forever, and I was going to have to go out and buy fresh asparagus, anyway. The boneless,. skinless chicken breasts, however, really needed to be eaten. I rummaged through the cupboards and found a can of San Marzano Tomatoes and a bag of linguine, and I always have onions, garlic, carrots, and olive oil. I also remembered that I had fresh basil and a container of heavy cream left over from a recipe that lost out to take out one night earlier in the week. The game was afoot, and no one in this house was going to roll their eyes at an “okay” dinner. I was going to make them beg for seconds.

This is what I made, and I have to say with complete immodesty that while it was not healthy, and highly inauthentic as Italian cuisine, it was very, very tasty and they ate every last bit.

Chicken and Linguine with Tomato Basil Cream Sauce

  1. 4 large or 6 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts cleaned, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  2. 1 can San Marzano Tomatoes, briefly pulsed in food processor or blender
  3. 1 onion, chopped.
  4. 3 cloves garlic, diced
  5. 1 clove garlic crushed
  6. 1/4 cup shredded carrot
  7. 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided in half
  8. 1/4-1/2 cup chopped, fresh basil
  9. 1 pound linguine
  10. 1 cup half & half or heavy cream
  11. salt and pepper
  12. red wine (optional)
  13. sugar (optional)
  14. Parmesan cheese

Fill large pot with water for pasta and bring to a boil.

In a large saucepan, sautee onions, garlic and carrots in 2 tablespoons olive oil until tender. Add tomatoes and basil, and a splash of red wine if you like; bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

In a large sautee pan, heat olive oil and sautee 1 crushed garlic clove until golden; remove with slotted spoon. Add chicken to pan, salt and pepper, and sautee until golden brown. Add chicken to sauce mixture.

Boil pasta for 10 minutes. During final 2 minutes remove sauce from heat, add cream and taste, adding salt and pepper if necessary. If sauce is too tart for your taste, add a pinch of sugar to correct.

Serve linguine with sauce, and Parmesan to grate. This is perfect with a green salad lightly dressed with oil and vinegar, and a bottle of good red wine.

Cinco de Mayo – Chicharrones de Pollo

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So we celebrated Cinco de Mayo today by eating Chicharrones de Pollo, which is actually, um, a specialty not of Mexico, but of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, but we did have Mexican rice, tortilla chips and guacamole. It was an unhealthy, but intensely delicious and soul-satisfying meal. (I had planned to make this last week, before I was felled by the plague, so it came in handy to have everything ready for a Latin American, if not actually Mexican meal). The recipe for the Chicharrones is from the September 2007 issue of “Gourmet,” and I pretty much followed it to the letter.

Chicharrones de Pollo

  1. 1/4 cup amber or dark rum
  2. 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  3. 1/4 cup soy sauce
  4. 1 tablespoon sugar
  5. 1 1/2 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces (you could use breasts, but they are less flavorful)
  6. 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  7. About 2 cups vegetable oil
  8. 1/2 teaspoon paprika (I used hot)

-Mix rum, lime juice, soy sauce and sugar in a shallow bowl until sugar dissolves. Add chicken, stir to coat, and let marinate for 25 minutes at room temperature.

-While chicken is in the last 5 minutes of marinating, heat 1 inch oil in a deep, 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers.

-Whisk flour, paprika and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a second shallow bowl. Drain chicken and pat dry. Dredge in flour, shaking off excess, then transfer to a plate.

-Fry chicken in three batches, turning occasionally, until deep golden brown and cooked through, 6-7 minutes per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

We ate ours with LOTS of very hot, hot sauce.

What’s For Dinner?

I used to post a weekly menu every week, sometimes adding menus or comments about what I was cooking. After a while (particularly as I entered the fresh produce-free winter slump) I decided that no ones’ world would be rocked by the revelation that my family was having chili mac on Tuesday or lemon chicken on Friday. So I stopped, and there was barely a ripple.

Last week, at a party, I spoke with a young friend of mine who is newly married and has an avid and charming curiosity about the world in general, and cooking in particular. She asked me why I had stopped writing those weekly menus, and said that she “just liked to know what other people were eating.” Being fairly nosy myself (I look into windows when I am walking the dogs at night to admire bookshelves and shake my head at bad paint choices) I fully understand this. I am therefore restoring the weekly menu feature, starting today.

Saturday

Braised Chicken Breasts with White Wine Sauce; Risotto with Asparagus

I don’t really have recipes for either of these; I sautee chicken breasts in olive oil for about 15 minutes (turning every 5 minutes), then I de-glaze the pan with white wine, return the chicken to the pan, season with salt, pepper and maybe some Tarragon, and add enough chicken stock to cover most of the chicken. I then reduce the heat under the chicken to medium-low and let it cook while I make the risotto (usually like this), about 30 minutes tops. I serve the chicken with the risotto and some pan sauce poured over the top. If I’m feeling thin, I add a little cream to the sauce before serving.

Sunday

Broccoli Cheddar Potatoes and Green Salad

This is simple as can be. Bake big russet potatoes, steam some broccoli, make a cheese sauce (white sauce with shredded sharp cheddar), mix the broccoli into the sauce and serve over baked potatoes. Extra shredded cheese or bacon are lovely flourishes, and leftover ham goes nicely into the mix, although I like to serve this as a vegetarian dinner.

Monday

Chicharrones de Pollo, Green Beans and Rice

I have never made chicharrones before, but I found a recipe in the September 2007 issue of “Gourmet” that has been calling to me. It isn’t on “Gourmet’s” website, but I did find it here. I may play with a little saffron action in the rice, and will serve the green beans steamed with a little lemon, butter and good salt.

Tuesday

Pan-Fried Pierogies and Scalloped Apples

Busy day; frozen pierogies. I’ll just sautee them in a pan with some onions, slice and sautee some apples with some butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, and call it good.

Wednesday

Braised Pork Chops with Rosemary; Ditalini with butter and Parmesan and Green Salad

The braised pork chops are prepared much like the braised chicken from Sunday, except that I use Rosemary, and lots of it. I also usually sautee a little garlic in the pan and remove it before starting the pork.

Thursday

Scrambled Eggs with Chorizo and Tortillas (Migas) and Fruit Salad

I have made my own version of Migas many times, but this recipe was in the same issue of “Gourmet” as the Chicharrones de Pollo, and looked pretty fabulous.

Friday

Grilled Burgers, Potato Chips and Fruit

Hey, its a free country. Don’t judge me.

P.S. Is it wrong that I am totally freaked out by the fact that every time the spell-checker finds the word “sautee,” it offers me “suttee” as an alternative?

Cast Your Bread Upon the Chicken

The last night of my recent visit to Florida, we found the only really, truly terrible restaurant in the City of Apalachicola. I will not utter its name (just avoid restaurants with the word “wheel” in their names and you’ll be safe) but I will say that my father and I had the worse fried fish in the history of time, and that we were both incapable of eating it once the heavy breading fell off to reveal not the firm, fresh white Grouper we were expecting, but something grey-ish and slimy and most unappetizing. Honestly, I would have been thrilled to see the Gorton’s Fisherman and/or Mrs. Paul at any point during our meal. They apparently knew enough to eat at home.

The strangest thing about the icky fried fish at the Restaurant-that-Cannot-be-Named was that Southerners are usually so good at breading stuff. They bread and fry everything from chicken to tomatoes, and I would not be at all surprised to be served breaded and fried potatoes or beans. I think breading should stay on fried things, if one is going to eat them; if you end up with an empty sleeve of crust and a tiny, damp piece of protein, you might as well just do the right thing and order it broiled or baked to begin with.

In my own life as a cook, I have stumbled upon a somewhat time consuming, but highly effective method of breading chicken, which I have also applied to pork cutlets and fish (although I skip the pounding step when I make fish). I adapted it from “Cuisine at Home” magazine, and the clipping is so tattered and egg-covered that I am not sure when it was published. Here it is, and may you never serve anyone something as appalling as the Alleged Fried Grouper of Apalachicola.

Crusting Chicken

  1. 4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken (whole breast halves are too large; I use two breast halves and cut in half lengthwise)
  2. 2 egg whites
  3. 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  4. juice of 1/2 lemon
  5. 1 cup dry, coarse bread crumbs (I like Panko, but also use plain old dried crumbs from a canister).
  6. 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley (or another fresh or dried herb)
  7. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  8. 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  9. zest of 1 lemon, minced
  10. 3 tablespoons olive oil

1 . Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Trim excess fat from chicken breasts, and pound, one at a time, in a closed, zip-top plastic bag with a bit of water inside to prevent sticking. Pound to about 1/2 inch thickness, and be gentle to avoid creating holes or excessively thin spots.

3. Blend egg whites, cornstarch and lemon juice in a wide, shallow dish and set aside.

4. Combine bread crumbs, parsley, salt and pepper and lemon zest in a second wide shallow dish (I actually use a paper plate).

5. Spray a cooling rack with non-stick spray, and place over paper towels, plastic wrap or waxed paper.

6. One at a time, dip both sides of each chicken piece in the egg mixture, then in the crumb mixture, pressing firmly to coat. Place chicken on rack.

7. Let chicken pieces rest on the rack at room temperature for 20-30 minutes, to set the crust.

8. Heat oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.

9. Saute chicken on one side for about 3 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.

10. Carefully turn chicken with a spatula and put skillet in oven to finish cooking, which should take about 8 minutes.

Once you have mastered this technique, try Parmesan Crusted Chicken or Pecan Crusted Chicken, both of which use the same technique.

Just Because I Love You…

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In the past two days, my son found out that he needed to have 6 teeth extracted as part of an ongoing orthodontia project, and a friend who I dearly love learned that his employment contract would not be renewed for next year. In both cases, I feel tremendous empathy, a desire to smite the wrongdoers (orthodontists and bosses) and a need to FIX these people that I love, and restore them to their pre-trauma glory. Since I can’t really right either situation, and there are limits to the helpfulness of saying “I’m sorry; it will be okay” 500 times a day, I made another plan. I’m making soup. Even if neither of my traumatized loved ones ever eats a bite (although I hope that they will) I am putting such support, encouragement and positive energy into this soup that its mere presence in the universe will begin the healing process.

It happens (I believe due to an act of God) that last night’s dinner was a roasted chicken, rice, and carrots. At the moment, I am making stock from the chicken carcass, using Michael Ruhlman’s method from The Elements of Cooking, which involves cooking the carcass and water over very low heat (not even a simmer) for about 3 hours, skimming frequently and adding aromatics (bay leaf, peppercorn, celery, carrots and onion) only in the last hour. I will then strain it, adjust seasonings, and be ready for the next step.

To this clear, flavorful broth I will add small bits of only the tenderest bits of white meat chicken, with any hint of gristle, vein or skin removed. (If you are curing someone of heartache and fear, you make sure they get the best bites imaginable, every single time). I will also add maybe two cups of cooked rice, and the leftover cooked carrots cut into coins. I’ll taste the soup again, heat it gently to warm all the ingredients (too high would toughen the chicken and turn the rice and carrots to mush) and ladle out full bowls for all available fallen warriors. I can’t fix everything, but I can’t think of a better way to express what’s in my full and sympathetic heart than to pour it into a pot of homemade soup.

P.S. If, like me, you believe in the transference of emotions through cooking (and you are open to a little magical realism) you may want to read Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.

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