Herbed Chicken Breasts

I love things that can be prepped ahead and then cooked quickly. I also like to feed my family as if they are guests so when I make these lovely, light and flavorful chicken breasts, I’m happy to make a weekday dinner into an occasion. There is no careful measuring and I can make as few as two chicken breasts or as many as a dozen. These could be grilled or made in the oven as I do since I do not own a grill. The chicken is best prepped so that it sits overnight in the fridge, but even a few hours ahead of cooking will work. The flavors and aromas are so bright and the chicken is so tender and moist that you forget that it is simply a boring boneless, skinless chicken breast. I serve them with herbed roasted potatoes and a crispy veg like barely steamed broccoli, but the sides are up to you. I would only make these with fresh herbs. And the added bonus to this dish is that the preparation is a wonderful way to work out any of your aggression from the day!

Herbed Chicken Breasts

Yield: That is up to you!

Ingredients for 2 chicken breasts

Roasted Herbed Chicken6

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2-3 Tablespoons of roughly chopped fresh herbs (My favorites are rosemary and Greek Oregano, but thyme is also good. I would not use a softer herb like basil for this.)

1-2 lemons, with the ends trimmed off and thinly sliced

2 fat garlic cloves, thinly sliced Roasted Herbed Chicken3

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

EVOO (flavored if you have it – I used Meyer lemon EVOO)

Hungarian sweet paprika for sprinkling (optional)

Directions

  1. Place your chicken breast about 3 inches apart between two sheets of parchment that is placed over a cutting board (the board will absorb some of the pounding). Roasted Herbed Chicken5Using a meat tenderizer (the round flat kind pictured above) or a small, heavy frying pan, pound each breast until it is flattened and even in thickness. The breast should be about twice the size of the original. Use even pressure so as not to tear the meat. A little tearing is no big deal, but you want one nice, flat breast.
  2. Salt and pepper each side of the chicken Roasted Herbed Chicken4and carefully place in a plastic zip-lock bag or in a glass dish. Drizzle with EVOO – about 1-2 Tablespoons.
  3. Add the thinly sliced lemons, placing half on one side of the bag and the other half on the other side. Distribute the herbs and garlic in the same manner. Roasted Herbed ChickenSeal the bag, getting out as much of the air as you can. With your hand, gently massage the herbs, lemon, garlic and EVOO into the breasts. Place the bag in the fridge, keeping it flat if possible.
  4. When you are ready to cook the chicken, heat your oven to 425 degrees F with the pan in the oven. If you have a grill pan, this would be a great use for it. Otherwise, a shallow baking pan covered with foil will work. When the oven and the pan have come to temperature, drizzle a little EVOO in the pan. Using tongs,  place the chicken breasts,without any liquid that may have collected in the bag, on the pan. Place the lemons around, but not on the chicken. Distribute any herbs and garlic.  Sprinkle with a bit of paprika if you like. Drizzle with EVOO. Roast for about 9 minutes a side, turning once. You will have to watch the chicken since the sizes of the breasts these days are so variable and tend to be large. They could take a little longer or shorter, but you want the chicken to be totally cooked through without being over-cooked. If you have a broiler in your oven, I like to turn it on for the final few minutes of cooking to give a really good color to the chicken and lemons. If you don’t have a broiler, just cook the chicken until nicely browned. When you are plating the chicken, place a couple of slices of the lemon along with some of the herbs and garlic on each piece. I love to eat the roasted lemon, but that is up to you.

Roasted Herbed Chicken8

Nigella Lawson’s Sheet Pan Chicken, Leeks and Peas

Over the past year I have become a HUGE fan of sheet pan meals. They are simple to put together, clean-up is minimal if you line your pan with foil (I mean who wouldn’t line their pan with foil?!) and once you have the hang of the timing and amounts of liquid etc. there are almost infinite possibilities. I’ve even gotten my husband making the occasional dinner now. I do think that most of the chicken recipes work best with the thighs even though I otherwise am a breast meat person. The thighs retain their moisture, flavor and tenderness while allowing the chicken to cook long enough to get a wonderfully blistered skin which just cries out to be eaten. This recipe is no exception. If you are looking for a delicious and easy vegan sheet pan meal try Sheet Pan Honey(Agave) Sesame Tofu and Green Beans. We made this last night for dinner and substituted sugar snap peas for the green beans and added 8 ounces of thickly sliced Cremini or Baby Bella mushrooms. Everything cooks the same. Just add the mushrooms with the peas. If you are feeling especially lazy, use a good store-bought teriyaki sauce in place of the sauce in the recipe.

But back to Nigella Lawson’s “Traybake” chicken. If you are not in love with leeks or dill, you could probably substitute another vegetable with a similar texture like baby bok choy. The point is to make dinner easy, delicious and even fun. The chicken in this dish is amazingly moist and I defy anyone to throw out the skin instead of breaking into that crackling goodness. Go ahead – it really won’t kill you to have it once in awhile. You know you want to….Nigella Lawson Sheet Pan Chicken2

Serve the chicken with rice or some gorgeous smashed potatoes. Nigella Lawson Sheet Pan Chicken6

Nigella Lawson’s Sheet Pan Chicken, Leeks and Peas

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

7 cups (about 2 pounds) frozen petit pois (baby peas)

4-5 medium to large leeks trimmed and washed well, cut into 1-inch slices

3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1/4 cup dry white vermouth or other dry white wine

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

2 teaspoons sea salt flakes or kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling

1 small bunch dill, torn into pieces

6-8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (If they are on the large side then you only need 6)

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 400° F and spill the frozen peas into a large roasting pan (Nigella says not to go smaller—measuring inside from inside rim to inside rim—than about 15 by 11 inches, and a little larger is fine), followed by the leeks, garlic, vermouth, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 teaspoons of salt, and most of the dill. Toss everything together in the pan—breaking up any large clumps of the frozen peas—until well mixed.
  2. Arrange the chicken thighs, skin-side up, on top, then drizzle them with a little olive oil and give them a good sprinkling of salt, before roasting in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, give the peas a small stir or tamp down, so that the few that are sitting on the surface and drying out a little are submerged in the liquid.  Put back in the oven for a further 30 minutes, by which time the peas and leeks will be soft, and the chicken tender and cooked through, its skin golden and crisp.
  3. Tear off the remaining dill fronds, and scatter over the top to serve. Nigella Lawson Sheet Pan Chicken

 

West African Peanut Stew with Chicken

Peanut Stew with Chicken2

Over the years I have seen recipes for peanut soup or stew but somehow never got around to making them. So when I saw a recipe this month in our local paper, I decided it was finally time to give it a whirl. I cannot say whether this recipe is absolutely authentic, but I can say that it is delicious. I made a few tweaks to the original recipe which was by Ellie Krieger. Assume that all of my spice measurements mean “rounded.” It’s colorful, delicious and something you can eat guilt-free. Served over some plain boiled rice or other grain of choice and you have one stick-to-the-ribs meal.

West African Peanut Stew with Chicken by Ellie Krieger and tweaked by me

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

1.5 pounds of boneless skinless chicken (breast or thigh) cut into 2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

About 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

2 Tablespoons of Peanut or Grapeseed oil

1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced

2 Tablespoons grated, peeled ginger (I use the stuff that I get in the jar in the produce section)

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 cups of low-sodium chicken broth (you could use vegetable broth if you prefer)

1 can (14.5 ounces) of diced tomatoes with juice (I like “fire-roasted” but any will do)

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2-inch dice

1 bunch of collard greens with the leaves torn off of the tough rib into medium pieces

2 large sweet bell peppers (red, orange or yellow), seeded and cut into 2-inch dice

1 or more large dried Arbol pepper (optional)

1 cup natural-style peanut butter – chunky or smooth

About 6 Tablespoons of roasted and salted (or unsalted if you prefer) peanuts, roughly chopped

Directions

  1. I prefer to use dark meat chicken and I trim off any excess fat. I find it has more flavor than white meat and doesn’t get tough or stringy in the way that white meat chicken does. It’s your choice, however. Once the chicken has been cut, season it with about 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. In a 4 quart (or larger) heavy pot with a lid, add one Tablespoon of the oil and heat it to the point where the chicken will give out a nice hiss when added. Cook the chicken until all of the raw look is gone and the chicken is opaque. Move it around in the pot while it cooks. This will take about 4-5 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the mostly cooked chicken to a plate or bowl, lightly cover it with foil and set it aside.
  2. Add the remaining oil to the same pot. Don’t worry if there is a little liquid in the pot or if there are bits of chicken that stuck. Heat the oil and add the onion cooking until it is softened – about 3 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, and the spices as well as the remaining salt. Cook stirring for about 30 seconds or until the spices start giving off their fragrance.
  3. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes with their juices, the sweet potato, collard and bell peppers. Add the Arbol pepper if using. Bring the mixture to a boil. Partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the peanut butter and stir through the pot until it is incorporated.
  5. Return the chicken to the pot and mix through. Cook for another 5 minutes. Taste to adjust seasonings and serve hot with roughly chopped roasted peanuts on top.

 

Goan-Style Chicken Moelho

Goan Chicken

Knowing how much I enjoy Indian food, Frances and Matthew sent me At Home with Madhur Jaffrey as a present last year. I have made several dishes from this cookbook and they have all been delicious and easy to follow, clearly written for the home cook. See Salmon in a Bengali Mustard Sauce for another recipe.

Goa is on the western coast of the Indian Peninsula and is, therefore, known for its seafood. However, meat and chicken dishes also abound. Its cuisine is heavy in Portuguese influences since it was a Portuguese colony for about 400 years. It was the Portuguese who introduced chilies to India in the late 15th century. Goan cuisine makes use of garlic, vinegar and hot chilies, all of which help preserve food and were part of the Portuguese culinary tradition. I served this chicken dish with a simple Basmati rice, cauliflower and peas (Ghobi Aur Matar) although I substituted edamame for the peas (See recipe which follows) and a cooling yogurt relish with cucumber, mint, garlic and dill. It sounds complicated by I was able to do the prep earlier in the day in under an hour and the actual cooking took about 30 minutes for everything. While not difficult, the key to the flavor lies in the spices. While I do buy pre-ground spices and even some spice mixes, there is definitely something to be said for grinding your own. With a small electric coffee grinder (which I actually never use for coffee) it takes just seconds to have freshly ground spices.

Goan-Style Chicken Moelho from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

Rounded 1.5 teaspoons whole cumin seeds

Rounded 1 teaspoon whole brown or black mustard seeds

1.75 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch pieces

3/4 – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 rounded teaspoons of a sweet paprika (unless you like things really hot, in which case you could add hot paprika)

3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1.25 teaspoons Kosher salt

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar (I actually used apple cider vinegar)

4 large garlic cloves, crushed

3 Tablespoons Canola or Grapeseed oil

1 large onion, peeled, cut in half and then sliced into thin half-moons

1/2 cup water

Chopped cilantro for garnish

Directions

  1. Put the cumin and mustard seed into the container of a coffee grinder and grind finely.
  2. Place the chicken pieces in a non-reactive bowl or freezer bag along with the cumin-mustard seed mixture, cayenne, paprika, turmeric, salt, 1 Tablespoon of vinegar and the garlic. If using a plastic bag, as I did, seal the bag and then mush things around to coat all of the chicken pieces. Otherwise, use your hands to coat the chicken. This should be done at least 1 hour ahead, but can be done up to a day ahead. Refrigerate.
  3. When ready to eat, place the oil in a heavy-duty frying pan (I love my Lodge cast-iron) and set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and fry until the onions begin to brown – about 8 minutes. IMG_3421
  4. Add the marinated chicken and cook until the chicken turns opaque and begins to brown. Add the 1/2 cup of water mixed with the 1 Tablespoon of vinegar. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook gently for another 5 minutes. Goan Chicken2Serve with your favorite rice – traditionally it is red rice, but I used plain Basmati, a vegetable and chutney or cooling yogurt relish. Garnish with cilantro. Yogurt relish2

Chinese Chicken Salad with Peanut Sauce

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It doesn’t take much for my thoughts to turn to salad for a summer dinner. Since it has been in the 90’s all week with no true respite in sight, I not only want a salad but I want some spice as well. It’s well known in Asian and South Asian cultures that you want to eat “Heat” when it is hot outside. The theory being that the spice makes you sweat, thereby cooling down your body.

I used to make a salad with cold glass noodles from the Frugal Gourmet, but I decided to change it up a bit. For starters, I’m not wild about glass noodles and I also wanted a bit more complexity to the chicken. I did make this dish with Banh Pho, a large Thai rice noodle, but I think that next time I might even use an Udon noodle instead. All of the prep can – and should – be done ahead, so you can make the individual elements the night before or in the morning and then do your assemblage when you are ready to eat. If you are really pressed for time (or lazy) you can use prepared roasted chicken from your grocery. It won’t have the same depth of flavor, but will still be good. A slightly fruity Rosé would be lovely with this or a Pale Ale.

Chinese Chicken Salad with Peanut Sauce

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Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the chicken

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 pounds)

3-4 star anise

2 Tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry

Water to cover

1/4 teaspoon 5 spice powder

2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce

2-3 small jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced, with the seeds (optional)

For the noodles

8 ounces wide Banh Pho rice noodles

Water to cover

2 teaspoons chicken bouillon cubes or 2 teaspoons “Better than Bouillon”

Sesame oil for drizzling

For the cucumbers

2 Persian cucumbers, sliced and cut into matchsticks

2 Tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce

1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon sugar (I used raw sugar but granulated will do)

2 teaspoons sesame oil

For the peanut sauce

2 Tablespoons unsweetened peanut butter (smooth or chunky)

4-5 Tablespoons hot water

3 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1 very generous teaspoon Red Chili Paste with Garlic or Sriracha to taste

Garnishes

Roughly chopped cilantro

Roasted and lightly salted peanuts

Directions

For the chicken

  1. Place the chicken breasts in a pan large enough to hold them in a single layer that has a tight-fitting lid. Add the other chicken ingredients and enough water to cover the chicken.
  2. Cover the pan tightly and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. While still warm, remove the chicken breasts and shred them using 2 forks. Place in a bowl or container large enough to hold all of the shreds. Using a fine-mesh strainer, pour the liquid over the chicken. Pick out the jalapeno slices if used and the star anise and add them to the chicken. Cover and allow to cool. This can then be refrigerated.

For the noodles

  1. If using the rice noodles, place in a pot large enough to hold them. Cover with tap water, place the lid on the pot and allow to soak for 1 hour. After 1 hour, add the bouillon and bring to a boil with the lid on. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the noodles for 10 minutes. (If using another kind of noodle, follow the package instructions.) Drain the noodles and drizzle with sesame oil to prevent them becoming too sticky. Allow them to cool, uncovered. They can be refrigerated.

For the cucumbers

  1. Place the cut cucumbers in a glass bowl or dish. Marinate them in the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and sesame oil.

For the peanut sauce

  1. Mix the peanut sauce ingredients together until they are the consistency of heavy cream. Start with 4 Tablespoons of water and add more if necessary.

Assemblage

  1. Pour the well-mixed peanut sauce over the noodles and using tongs, toss it through. The noodles may have stuck together some, but you can carefully separate them as you mix.
  2. Place some 1/4 of the noodles in each bowl or plate and cover with 1/4 of the chicken shreds that you have drained from the liquid.
  3. Top with 1/4 of the cucumbers. Garnish with cilantro and some peanuts. IMG_3288

 

 

Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes and Yogurt

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I really love meals that I can prep a day ahead – especially when everything is cooked on one pan that I cover with foil, making clean-up a breeze. Sheet pan meals are all the rage now and I have been trying a few of them out, including a Honey-Sesame Tofu with Green Beans that I now have my husband making. I came across this chicken recipe in the Parade Magazine that accompanies my Sunday newspaper. Its provenance is from a new cookbook by New York Times Columnist Melissa Clark called Dinner: Changing the Game. I made a couple of small changes but the biggest change came because my husband ended up having to work late last night so everything was prepped yesterday and marinated in the fridge for a day. I can only believe that it improved the wonderful flavors and made tonight’s dinner a snap.

Harissa is a North African-style chili paste that is now available in many supermarkets and online. There is both red harissa and green harissa. Either would work here, but I used the red. How much you use will be a matter of personal taste as well as the heat of the particular brand of harissa that you are using. I like a lot of flavor, but I don’t like my food so hot that all I am tasting is heat and nothing else. The 2 Tablespoons of harissa that I used produced an intensely flavorful dish with just a little heat. You could easily increase the amounts to make this for a crowd. You must use fresh herbs here and a good Greek yogurt. This recipe is definitely a keeper and one that will appear on our rotation many times. I only added a simple salad to complete the meal.  IMG_3047

Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes and Yogurt IMG_3044

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

4-6 chicken thighs (depending on size – about 2 pounds) on the bone and with the skin

1.5 pounds of fingerling potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (You can use cracked black but I really encourage you to buy the flavorful, citrusy Aleppo pepper)

3 Tablespoons EVOO

2 Tablespoons harissa or to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (Grind your own if you can!)

2 leeks (white and light green parts only) washed, trimmed, sliced in half lengthwise and then thinly sliced

Grated zest of one lemon

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1.5 Tablespoons EVOO

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 garlic clove

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground sumac (optional but really good)

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup chopped fresh herbs, divided in 2 (I used a combination of dill, mint and parsley)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions

  1. Place the first seven (7) ingredients in a one gallon freezer bag along. Seal the bag well and gently smush everything around to distribute the seasonings. If you are anxious (I was) place the bag inside of a second freezer bag and put it in the fridge for at least 4 hours and as much as one day.
  2.  Place the next 4 ingredients in a one quart freezer bag and seal it well. Gently smush the leeks around to distribute the zest, salt and EVOO. Refrigerate along side the chicken.
  3. When you are ready to cook, cover a sheet pan with 2-inch sides with heavy duty aluminum foil. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  4. Place the chicken and potatoes on the pan in a single layer along with any liquid. Roast for about 20 minutes. Then scatter the leeks over the chicken and potatoes and roast for an additional 20 minutes or until everything is golden and slightly crispy.
  5. In a small bowl combine the yogurt and all ingredients (Only half of the fresh herbs) keeping the final 1/2 lemon and the other half of the herbs for garnish. Stir with a small whisk or fork.

Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce

On a recent trip to Healdsburg, a quaint little town in Sonoma wine country, we picked up a lovely book called The Wine Lover’s Cookbook, and it really has turned out to be a perfect cookbook for us with all the wonderful recipes each paired with a recommended wine and an alternative wine.

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One of the first recipes we tried was this fantastic stuffed chicken that was served over a spinach fettuccine (the original recipe calls for linguine but we liked the colors of the spinach.)

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This one’s recommended wine was a Sauvignon Blanc, the backup wine is a Pinot Noir.  And as the book notes, if you choose to pair it with the Pinot Noir, replace the sherry in the ingredients with red wine.

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Sauce

  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 cup chopped, roasted bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup of dry sherry (or red wine)
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp of chopped fresh oregano (1/2 tsp dried oregano)
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh basil
  • Kosher salt and red pepper flakes

Chicken and Noodles

  • 4 large chicken boneless chicken breast
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • Kosher salt and red pepper flakes
  • 6 tbsp sun dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp chopped shallots
  • 1 tbsp minced chives
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb linguine (or fresh spinach fettucine)

Directions

  1. To make sauce, in a large pan or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Then add garlic and the roasted red peppers and saute for 3-4 minutes. Then, add the sherry, chicken stock, tomato paste, oregano and basil.
  2. Increase the heat to a simmer and reduce the mixture slightly for 4-5 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a food processor or blender and process until well combined.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Rinse the chicken breasts and pat dry.  With a sharp knife carefully cut a deep incision into each breast.  Sprinkle with the salt and red pepper flakes.
  6. In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, the sun dried tomatoes, the basil, the thyme, the shallots, and chives and mix thoroughly.
  7. Using your fingers, stuff the ricotta mixture inside the chicken, equally into each breast.  Dust with flour.
  8. In a large, oven-proof skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Sauté the chicken breasts for 3-4 minutes on each side until lightly browned.
  9. Transfer to the oven and roast for 15-18 minutes.
  10. In the meantime, cook the pasta noodles to package directions.
  11. When the chicken is done, plate the noodles, add the chicken, and then spoon the hot sauce on top.  Garnish with chopped chives.

From The Wine Lover’s Cookbook

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel & Lemon

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Eleven days ago I had hand surgery on my dominant hand. I want to thank Frances for taking over and posting so many wonderful recipes while my hand has been healing – and there are more to come! Since she has a day job and an active social life, I’m always so grateful when she finds the time to post. But I had THE best surgeon and yesterday I was able to make this dish for our dinner without any help.

I have never understood people who say they don’t like fennel or eggplant because they can be eaten so many different ways. I don’t know if this dish will change your mind about fennel, but it is simple to make and is delicious with bright Mediterranean flavors. All I needed to complete the meal was some brown rice that I cooked in chicken broth and a nice glass of white wine. Had I been more ambitious I would have made salad, but 10 days after surgery, this was my limit. Please do not use chicken breasts for this and do NOT remove the skin. Normally I do remove the skin when I cook chicken, but this is roasted to the point of such lovely crispiness that just this once – indulge.

The recipe came from the kitchn in a series they ran on sheet pan dinners. I only made two small changes in my version and am anxious to try some of the other offerings from this blog.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel & Lemon

Yield: 4 servings 
Ingredients

2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (4 to 6)
2 small fennel bulbs (1 to 1 1/4 pounds total)
5 large cloves garlic
1 large lemon
2 tablespoons EVOO
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Aleppo pepper or freshly ground black pepper (I used about 1 teaspoon)
Cooked rice or bread, for serving (optional)

Directions

  1. Place the chicken in a large bowl; set aside. When I am dealing with raw meat or fish, I always use either a glass or stainless steel bowl. I know when they get cleaned that they will have no bacteria or other nasty stuff left over.
  2. Trim the stalks and fronds off the fennel bulbs and set aside the fronds. Cut each bulb in quarters through the root. Cut each quarter into 2 to 3 thick slices. Add to the bowl with the chicken. Mince about 1 tablespoon of fennel fronds and add to the bowl.
  3. Mince the garlic and add to the bowl. Finely grate the zest of the lemon into the bowl. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the bowl. Add the EVOO, white wine, season with the salt and a generous amount of pepper, and toss to combine. I like Aleppo pepper which not only has a lovely red color, but it is a relatively mild pepper with a bright citrusy taste. (I also used it here because grinding pepper is still a bit challenging for me. It is wonderful in so many recipes that I encourage you to find it. I bought mine online through Amazon.)
  4. I allowed the mixture to marinate for about 30 minutes. I would imagine that this could even be marinated over night in the fridge in a heavy duty plastic bag, intensifying the flavors even more.
  5.  When you are ready to cook the chicken, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F. Transfer the chicken mixture onto a large baking sheet lined with heavy duty foil for easy clean up. Arrange the fennel around the outside and place the chicken pieces closely together in the center. Pour any remaining juices from the bowl over the chicken. chicken-and-fennel
  6. Roast until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of about 160°F and the fennel is tender and beginning to brown around the edges, about 35 minutes. (You can tell just by looking at it when the chicken is done. And thighs don’t dry out or get tough like chicken breasts so it is a bit more forgiving if you cook it a bit longer.) Take the pan out of the oven and cover with aluminum foil. Let it rest for about 5 to 10 minutes before serving with rice or bread if desired. Be sure to spoon some of the wonderful pan drippings over the chicken and rice when serving.img_2951

Arroz Con Pollo – Chicken with Rice

img_2654I have eaten many wonderful versions of paella in my lifetime – those that others have made and paella that I have made. It was a favorite dish from my mother’s repertoire. But sometimes I want something just as good but a bit simpler – no seafood and no sausage. I turn to Arroz Con Pollo or Chicken with Rice. This is a dish that can easily be made for a weeknight dinner and the only exotic ingredient is saffron. Most everything else you would have in your pantry or could easily pick up at most grocery stores or a good bodega. When you think you have just about had as much chicken as you can stand, give this wonderful dish a try. To turn any weeknight special, serve this with a hearty Spanish red wine. It just might renew your love for that old clucker!

Arroz Con Pollo

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

4 chicken thighs, bone-in but skin removed (This is easily accomplished using paper towels to grab off the skin in one good pull.)

4 to 5 chicken drumsticks, skin removed

About 3 to 4 Tablespoons of EVOO

1 Spanish onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

8 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

1 large Cubanelle pepper cut into large dice (If you cannot find this dark pepper you can use a banana pepper)

8 to 10 large green olives stuffed with pimento

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Kosher Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup long-grain white rice

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled

About 2.5 cups of chicken broth or water

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 cup frozen peas, defrosted

1 roasted red pepper from a jar, rinsed and thinly sliced into strips

Directions

  1. In a large heavy skillet with straight sides and a tight-fitting lid (I like my cast iron Lodge pan) that will hold all of the chicken pieces in one layer, heat the EVOO until it just begins to ripple but not smoke.
  2. Generously salt and pepper the chicken pieces and brown them in the oil on all sides (about 8 minutes). Remove the chicken to a platter and keep nearby.
  3. Add the chopped Cubanelle pepper and the onion to the pan, adding more oil if necessary, stirring to soften. Add the cumin and cloves and the olives and some additional salt. (Remember that the olives have salt so go easy.) Once everything has begun to soften and the spices are giving off a lovely aroma, add the rice, tomato paste and the crumbled saffron, mixing well. You want all of the grains of rice to be coated with the oil and seasonings.img_2650img_2651
  4. Pour in enough liquid (stock or water) to cover the rice by a couple of inches. Add 1/2 of the chopped cilantro and mix through. Bring everything to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling rapidly, add back the chicken pieces, coating them in the liquid which has taken on the color of saffron. Cover the pan tightly and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes and then gently stir through the defrosted peas and garnish with the strips of red pepper. Cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes with the heat turned off. This will be enough to heat through the peas and red pepper without over-cooking them. Garnish with the remaining chopped cilantro. img_2652

Chicken Tortilla Soup

img_2423The weather this week has mostly been incredible – sunny, breezy and highs in the low 60s. It’s November – and this is Chicago! My husband and I took a 9 mile walk along the lakefront yesterday and ran into the New Zealand All Blacks and the Irish rugby team fans heading for a championship game at Soldier Field. Ireland won. Rugby. Who knew?

Today is another gorgeous day and I don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking, but I do want something to top off an incredible week. After a stunning win by the Cubs and an all-out citywide party something bland just wasn’t going to cut it. I decided to make a chicken tortilla soup. I had made one last week for the first time and while it showed promise, it just was lacking. So what follows is my version.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons neutral vegetable oil like a Canola oil

2 small or 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped into a small dice

2 Tablespoons minced garlic

2 large jalapenos (about 2 Tablespoons) , finely chopped

6 cups of chicken stock

14.5 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

26.5 ounce (or two 14.5 ounce cans) black beans, drained and rinsed well

15.5 ounce can corn kernels, preferably fire roasted or about 2 cups (you can use frozen or fresh corn if you prefer)

1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (3 medium size breasts)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 teaspoons chili powder (I like the one from Rancho Gordo)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon oregano leaves

Juice of 2 fresh limes

1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves

1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced

1 cup Pepper Jack cheese, shredded

2 flour tortillas (I used whole wheat) cut into thin strips and fried in 2 Tablespoons of oil (I used Grapeseed oil because of its neutral taste and high burning point)

Lime wedges for garnish

Jalapeno slices from a jar or can (optional)

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Directions

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a medium stockpot. Add the onions and cook until softened and just beginning to brown at the edges.
  2. Add the garlic and jalapenos and cook for another minute
  3. Add the tomatoes, spices and salt and stir through. Then add the beans and the stock.
  4. Bring to a boil and add the chicken. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 25 minutes. Once the chicken is cooked, carefully remove it from the pot. Shred it using 2 forks to pull the meat apart. This is much easier to do if the meat is hot. Once the chicken cools, it becomes more firm and shredding is more difficult.
  5. Add the lime juice and corn to the pot and add back the chicken. The soup can be prepared ahead up to this point. When ready to serve, heat everything all the way through. Garnish with the avocado, cilantro, cheese, tortilla strips and lime wedges. If you want a bit more heat, you can add some sliced jalapenos from a jar or can. img_2422