Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tasty, Versatile, Economical and Fabulous! What more could you ask for?

Was running around doing of my food shopping yesterday, after moving to a new place and trying to get it all organized (Ho Hum..), under 90 degree weather!!!! I have to admit it kind of crept up on me even though I knew it would arrive any day I just didn't think it would be THAT day already..... Ufffff! Everyone was complaining about it but I guess it will take a little while until we settle in to living in Hades again, become shut ins that only go out at night (like vampires, huh?) good thing Vegas is a 24 hour town I guess.......

Anyway, once safely esconsed in my dark and cool place, I could sit and try to organize some menu's for the following days that will allow me to take advantage of the specials offered while insuring great meals to come! It seems with the changing season some of the "regular" discounts I'd come to count on are no longer available yet I can see others beginning to take their place which will mean some adjustment on my part but the results will still be great!

For the most part it seems that one of the most economical protein sources around, and I hope this is true for your neck of the woods (but tell me if it isn't), is Chicken. Most people like it due to it's flavor, lean meat, availability, nutrition content and now it's low price too. Like everything else depending on how you prepare it you can make it either healthy or not and even though I do admit to having a fondness for extra crispy Maryland Fried Chicken, I will stick to the healthier versions of this popular meat for now, ok? (Plus the mess that comes from deep frying is not nice..)

It also doesn't matter what type of cuisine you like since you will find Chicken well represented and since it's a delicate tasting meat it can serve with almost any flavorings you'd like, so hot, spicy, sweet, savory- it's all possible and good. I hope some of these versions will appeal to you and give your meals and budget a boost. These are also some of my family's favorites and are tried and true dishes.

Tandoori Chicken.- A classic Indian dish, the chicken is marinated in yogurt and seasoned with tandoori masala. It is moderately hot, but the heat is reduced in most Western nations. Cayenne pepper, red chili powder or kashmiri red chili powder is used to give it a fiery red hue. A higher amount of Turmeric produces an orange color. In some modern versions, both red and yellow food colorings are used. It is traditionally cooked at high temperatures in a clay oven (tandoor), but can also be prepared on a traditional grill or baked.

*1 (3 lb) chicken, cut into serving pieces, skinned and trimmed of all visible fat
*1/2 cup plain yogurt
*2 tbl fresh lemon juice or malt vinegar
*1 tbl minced garlic
*1 tbl peeled and grated or crushed ginger root
1 tbl ground cumin
*1 tbl Turmeric Powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cloves
*1/4 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
*2 tsp salt, or to taste

Vegetable oil, for brushing
Fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish
Slices of cucumber, red (Spanish) onion, tomato and lemon, for garnish

Prick the flesh of the chicken all over with a fork. Then, using a sharp knife, cut slashes in the flesh to allow the marinade to penetrate. Place the chicken in a nonreactive (glass) large, shallow dish.

In a nonreactive bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice or vinegar, garlic, ginger, cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, cardamom, cloves, black pepper and salt. Stir until well-mixed, then pour the mixture over the chicken and rub it into the flesh, turning the chicken several times. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. (Do not marinate longer than 2 days.) Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking.

The chicken may be grilled or roasted. If using a charcoal grill, prepare a fire for direct-heat cooking. Position the grill rack 5 inches from the fire. Allow the coals to burn until white ash covers them and the heat is moderate.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, pressing lightly to extract excess marinade, and brush with oil. Place the chicken pieces on a well-oiled grill rack and; grill, covered, with the vents open, turning 3 or 4 times, 45 minutes or until the juices run clear when a piece is pierced near the bone with a knife.

If roasting, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan, brush with oil, and cook, turning once, 25 to 30 minutes until the juices run clear when a piece is pierced near the bone with a knife.
NOTE: Use all the seasonings for the traditional Indian version or if you want to try an abbreviated more Westernized version, use only the seasonings with the *. You can also use cubes of meat and place them on skewers (pre-soaked then marinated) for grilling, shrimp or ?

Tequila Lime Chicken.- Here's another marinated Chicken dish that is wonderful! Easy and full of flavor.....

1/2 cup tequila
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (5 to 6 limes) "Mexican Persian Lemons"
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)
1 tbl chili powder (optional)
1 tbl minced fresh jalapeno pepper (1 pepper seeded) (optional)
1 tbl minced fresh garlic (3 cloves)
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 whole (6 split) boneless chicken breasts, skin on or your choice

Combine the tequila, lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, jalapeno pepper, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken breasts. Refrigerate overnight.

Heat a grill with coals and brush the rack with oil to prevent the chicken from sticking. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade, sprinkle well with salt and pepper, and grill them skin-side down for about 5 min or until nicely browned. Turn the chicken and cook for another 10 min, until just cooked through. Remove from the grill to a plate. Cover tightly with foil and allow to rest for 5 min. Serve hot or at room temperature.
NOTE: Also great for other meats or seafood. If using shrimp, don't marinate as long.

Chicken Roma Style.- From one of my favorite cities comes this flavorful dish that you will enjoy. The flavors are amazing!

4 chicken breast halves, with ribs
2 chicken thighs, with bones
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
3 ounces prosciutto, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes or 2-3 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 tbl fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbl capers
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Season the chicken with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. In a heavy, large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the chicken until browned on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the peppers and prosciutto and cook until the peppers have browned and the prosciutto is crisp, about 5 min. Add the garlic and cook for 1 min. Add the tomatoes, wine, and herbs. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 min.

If serving immediately, add the capers and the parsley. Stir to combine and serve. If making ahead of time, transfer the chicken and sauce to a storage container, cool, and refrigerate. The next day, reheat the chicken to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the capers and the parsley and serve.
NOTE: I have also used Pancetta or bacon first, cut in small cubes and rendered it out then cooked the chicken in this. Yes, I know......

Kung Pao Chicken.- This popular Chinese Chicken recipe gives you the "Mother" Kung Pao sauce recipe so you can use it for Chicken, Pork, Shrimp or Vegetable Stir Fry's..... Use your favorite vegetables, noodles or create your own version....

3 tbl minced garlic
2 tbl minced ginger
2 tbl sambal oelek (in the Oriental foods isle or market)
1 cup naturally brewed dark soy sauce (or low sodium)
3 tbl sugar
1/2 cup naturally brewed rice vinegar
1 tbl cornstarch with 1 tbl water for a slurry
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a wok or saute pan coated lightly with oil over high heat, add garlic and ginger and saute for 1 min, just to soften. Add sambal, taking care not to inhale the chile, and saute until well-blended. Add soy sauce to deglaze, then add sugar and rice vinegar. Bring to a boil and slowly whisk in slurry to thicken. Check for flavor and season if necessary. Keep warm to use in recipes or cool to room temperature, store in an air-tight jar and place in the fridge if using later.

NOTE: Once you have the Mother Sauce, then you can use it to make the actual dish:

2 large chicken breasts, skin off, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 egg whites
1 cup carrot, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
4 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup Kung Pao Sauce
1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, optional (I like Cashews)
Steamed white rice on the side
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Oil for cooking

Optional veggies I use: Snow Peas, Jicama or water chestnuts, Bamboo shoots, Oyster Mushrooms, green onion, red / green bell pepper. I also use this for Shrimp (don't overcook), pork, beef (cut in thin slices) and even fried Tofu. You can also do an all veggie stir fry....

In a large bowl, combine chicken with egg whites and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. In a wok or saute pan coated lightly with oil over high heat, add chicken and cook for 2 min. Add carrots, celery, Kung Pao Sauce and peanuts and stir-fry for about 1 min, until combined thoroughly. Serve on a platter over white rice.

Brazilian Style Chicken.- Here's a different take on chicken you might enjoy. Easy, fast and very tasty.

1 lemon
1 lime
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (6 oz) frozen orange juice concentrate (or use fresh OJ)
1 1/2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning (or oregano / basil / thyme mix)
1 tsp hot pepper salsa, optional and your choice
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
3/4 cup chunky salsa

Grate the zest of the lemon and lime into a resealable bag. Squeeze the juice from both fruits into the bag. Mix in everything else except the chicken and chunky salsa. Drop in the chicken, reseal the bag, and refrigerate for a few hour.

Grill the chicken, turning and basting with marinade a few times, for 10 to 15 min, or until the center is no longer pink. Serve with salsa and fluffy white rice.
NOTE: I've also added some fruit when grilling to serve alongside the chicken, like pineapple, papaya, peaches, plantains, pears, your choice. You could also use dried fruits in the marinade but not to grill with.

Bourbon Baked Chicken.- You'll be amazed how tasty this version is, plus very easy to make and great for company too!

2 lbs Boneless Chicken Breasts
1 cup Bourbon Whiskey
1/2 cup Dark Brown Sugar
1 cup Ketchup
1/2 tsp Liquid Smoke
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 cup White Vinegar
1 tbl Lemon Juice
4 Garlic Cloves Minced
1/2 tsp Dry Mustard
Salt and Pepper

Combine Bourbon, sugar, ketchup,liquid smoke, sauce, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Place marinade in a shallow glass dish so it can spread out, place the chicken on the marinade and allow to rest there for 1/2 to 1 hour (in the fridge). When you're ready to grill, take the chicken out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature and place on grill. Continue to baste with the marinade while cooking and turning chicken. Cook until done and no pink remains.

Pollo Pibil.- From Yucatan comes this very traditional and wonderful recipe, you'll love it!

1 cut up chicken or your choice of parts
1 achiote paste package or fresh paste if you're in Mexico
2-3 sour oranges from Yucatan (or juice of 2-3 oranges + juice of 2 limes)
salt and pepper
1 tbl crushed dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Banana leaf squares or aluminum foil (one for each chicken part)
2 red onions, in thin slices
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar

In a bowl put the achiote paste along with the orange and lime juices and blend really well until it's smooth and thick. You can add more juice or some water so it's like thick cream. Add the oregano, cumin, garlic. Salt and pepper the chicken and then place in a glass baking dish and cover well with the achiote mix. Allow to marinate 4 hours or overnight (better!).

When you're ready to cook, cut the banana leaf into squares large enough to hold the chicken parts so they can be wrapped. Run each banana leaf square over an open flame (your stove burner on high) and pass quickly over it. You will notice that the leaf gets a little darker and much softer right away. Put one piece of chicken on a banana leaf square and either use a thin piece of banana leaf as a tie or use kitchen twine to make packages. Be sure the chicken has enough marinade too.

In a pan add the vinegar and sugar and heat so the sugar is dissolved. Add the onion and cook over med heat for about 15 min or until the onion is soft and has absorbed the vinegar. Set aside.

You can cook this either on a grill over indirect heat (basting with more marinade as you cook), or in a pressure cooker using a dish or baking grill to keep off the pan (add 1 inch of water on the bottom) or bake in the oven at 350 for about an hour.

When the chicken is cooked, open the packages on the serving plate and serve with the onion on the side, tortillas and some rice.
NOTE: Instead of packages, you can line a "cazuela" or pan with the banana leaves, place the chicken and marinade inside and then close it up. Be sure to put some water on the bottom (about 1/2 a cup) to prevent scorching. Cover well and bake. (I use the pressure cooker).

There you go, some great chicken dishes to try and add to your warm weather foods. It doesn't matter if you decide to oven bake them either since these can easily adapt to this, and while you'll miss a little flavor from the grilling, they'll still be great so you can have them year round as well. So let's take advantage of the low price chicken offers to not only save on our food budget but the flavors from these dishes will make it a pleasure to serve to family and friends. Wishing everyone lovely warm evenings and get togethers! Talk soon......

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