Category Archives: chicken

Sometimes things go wrong

I am quite certain you read this blog for recipes that work. Or perhaps my witty commentary. But sometimes things go wrong and I have to admit that I do not always turn out spectacular food.

It seemed like a good idea yesterday to make the Chicken Sofrito from the Jerusalem cookbook, one of the greatest cookbooks ever produced in my opinion. By all appearances, it’s a simple recipe: slowly cook chicken in its own juices and add a nice bed of crispy fried potatoes underneath. Chicken, potatoes, a few spices and an onion. What could be easier? I miscalculated.

The recipe calls for you to put the chicken in a large pan with low sides. I do not have such a pan. So I cram the chicken in a smaller pan with low sides. I know as I am doing this that it’s not going to work. Dang it. Remove chicken from pan, find larger cast iron skillet with high sides and wash previous pan after scraping off encrusted barely cooked chicken parts.

Put chicken on the stove on low. It’s supposed to cook for an hour before the potatoes go in. How hard is it to fry potatoes? Not hard. Just incredibly messy.

Exhibit A:

IMG_4406And I start to realize it will take King Daddy and I until Labor Day to eat all those potatoes. No matter. It is more of a problem that I didn’t have enough oil and have to fry the potatoes in batches of three. It eats up the entire hour.

At this point, I am to add the potatoes to the chicken which, according to the recipe, should be beginning to fall off the bone. I open the lid. Oh, dear.

Exhibit B:

IMG_4397It is not falling off the bone. It is entirely, sadly, intact. I am more than an hour into this recipe and I sense disaster. I briefly consider throwing everything away before King Daddy gets home, but the chicken is organic and it is apparently some kind of International Court violation to throw away anything that once had a beak and and two scratchy legs. So I pause a moment to ponder.

Exhibit C:

IMG_4403The saddest selfie ever recorded. Wine and cigarettes were required. I sit on the deck for a few minutes reviewing my options. I am already so screwed, but I decide to proceed apace and live with the consequences.

Exhibit D: IMG_4398Well, alrighty then. The potatoes and the pan juices look pretty tasty. Only a half hour to go so what the hell. Chicken goes back on top and it simmers covered for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, King Daddy comes home and I warn him that this meal may rival my worst suppers ever made (Fish Jello being at the top of the list). He seems to think I am over-reacting.

Exhibit E:

Chicken SofritoIt is…acceptable. The chicken, as predicted, did not fall off the bone but it was moist. The potatoes were quite tasty. And I learned a few lessons in the process, the most important being that when you make a recipe for the first time follow it exactly. I substituted chicken breasts for a whole cut-up chicken because K.D. and I don’t like dark meat. But the legs and thighs would have added a lot more moisture and juice, thereby getting the chicken to that fall-off-the-bone stage.

And, most important, do NOT equate a less-than-stellar result with Armageddon. Although I always try.

 

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Rotisserie chicken

Chicken 1

I try to keep King Daddy provisioned at all times when I am called out of town. I literally count the plastic containers of leftovers in the refrigerator to make sure he will not starve. I realize this is my failing. I have conditioned King Daddy to expect to be fed at all times, whether I’m in town or not. I think that might be called enabling.

So I was out of town on a super secret project that I will reveal to you at the proper time and I call KD on my way back just to report that I am still alive. “The refrigerator is empty,” he says wistfully. I think he might have over-eaten a bit, but I do not call that to his attention. “That’s fine,” I tell him. “I’ll cook supper when I get back.”

Have I mentioned to you that it’s pouring down rain and there are tornado warnings? I am thinking grilling a steak is just not an option. So when I get back to Brentwood I head to my beloved Publix for the single best invention of the 21st century – rotisserie chicken (and yes, you greedy people, there’s a recipe coming for repurposed rotisserie chicken).

Rotisserie chicken has saved my life many times. First of all, you cannot tell it’s not homemade. You can take that chicken right out of the paper bag, plop it on a platter and tell a huge fib that you made it yourself for a dinner party. Of course, I have never done that. It also makes quick work of a casserole, which most people don’t realize takes more time and dishes than a country club buffet. And like Sister Schubert yeast rolls, I can’t make it any better or cheaper. That is my definition of a revolutionary idea.

And an added bonus is that even King Daddy cannot eat an entire rotisserie chicken in one sitting. So his anxiety level due to the vast spaces of emptiness in the refrigerator is greatly reduced because now, once again, there are leftovers.

 

Chicken Tetrazzini
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Serves: 6
 

Ingredients
  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ cup Marsala
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 8 ounces thin spaghetti
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan
  • ¼ cup dried Italian-style breadcrumbs

Instructions
  1. Shred chicken and set aside. Melt one tablespoon of the butter and add the mushrooms. Saute with a little salt and pepper until well browned. Add the marsala and reduce any liquid in the pan. Remove the mushrooms and add the onion, sautéing until tender. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Combine the mushrooms, onion, garlic and thyme and set aside.
  2. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and whisk for about a minute. Ad the milk, cream, broth, lemon juice and nutmeg. Continue whisking until the sauce thickens slightly. Salt and pepper to taste. Note: This will be thinner than a regular cream gravy but it’s all good. The warm pasta will absorb much of the sauce.
  3. Cook the pasta until it is al dente. Mix the pasta with the chicken, mushroom mixture and sauce. Mix the Parmesan and the breadcrumbs. Put the chicken mixture in a casserole dish and top with the cheese/breadcrumb mixture.
  4. Bake at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling.

 

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Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

This whole thing started with the croutons entirely because I am cheap. I cannot stand to throw food away and, dammit, onion poppy seed hamburger buns come in packages of eight. I just needed two for a sandwich project. So I had six left over, staring at me every time I opened the pantry door. Taunting me to do something with them.

CroutonsSo I made croutons. I actually have a beef with store-bought croutons and I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t make their own. Store-bought croutons are generally hard as rocks and exhibit all the taste of a hardened cube of sand. And since I have become a dedicated package ingredient reader after several alarming revelations about processed foods, I just don’t want any preservatives or other funny stuff in my croutons. Plus I have to tell you if you make these with melted butter rather than olive oil, you will just end up eating them straight out of the bag without any trip to a bowl of salad.

Once I had my croutons, I had to have something to put them on. Talk about the chicken and the egg. Decided on a Chicken Caesar Salad since that’s also a beef of mine. Why are they so bad at restaurants because they’re so good with a homemade dressing and some grilled chicken?

The croutons store in the fridge for a few weeks. They never last that long at my house. I’ve eaten two bags of them already. Without the salad.

 

Chicken Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons
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Prep time: 
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Serves: 2
 

Ingredients
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • BBQ rub
  • Spray oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • Dash hot sauce
  • 1 10-ounce bag romaine lettuce
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions
  1. Preheat the grill to medium.
  2. Trim the chicken breasts of any fat or cartilage and sprinkle with the BBQ rub. Spray one side of the chicken with oil and grill for 4-5 minutes, oiled side down. Spray the other side, flip and grill for an additional 4 minutes or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees as determined with a digital probe thermometer. Remove from the grill and reserve.
  3. Combine the garlic and parsley in a small bowl. Add the anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice, mayonnaise and hot sauce. Combine thoroughly and chill the dressing in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  4. Put the romaine lettuce in a large bowl. Cut the chicken into strips or cubes and add to the lettuce along with the dressing. Toss thoroughly. Sprinkle with salad with the Parmesan cheese and serve.

Homemade Croutons
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Ingredients
  • 3-4 cups leftover bread or buns
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil or melted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon oregano

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the bread or buns into cubes and put on a foil lined, rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil or melted butter. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano.
  4. Bake for about 10 minutes or until they are browned to the degree you like.

Notes
These croutons will store in a baggie in the fridge for a good two-three weeks.

 

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Four pepper chicken

Four pepper chicken

Life used to be so sweet and we didn’t even know it then. Before the recession (which one?). Before the newspaper industry took a nosedive. Back when there was such a thing as an expense account. Which is how I got acquainted with a sassy little dish at Merchant’s restaurant in Nashville called Five Pepper Chicken.

Merchant’s was actually in the middle rung of the expense account ladder. At the tippy top was The Wild Boar, sadly no longer with us. Dinner at The Wild Boar took a minimum of four hours and cost, oh, approximately $500 for a party of four – excluding wine (which was never excluded). Of course, I never paid that. Our kindly Uncle Gan Nett took care of the bill. He had deep pockets back in the day. He once rented out the entire property of Blackberry Farm, a very pricy resort in East Tennessee, for a management retreat.  At which, of course, nothing was accomplished but at which we could fish for our own trout in their stocked pond and have them served to us for breakfast. Oh, yes. Those were the days.

Most of the luxury dinners involved job candidates. In the hinterlands, Uncle Gan Nett squeezed every nickel from the poor wretches who toiled in the shabby small-town newsrooms. But should they get a call from the Mother Ship for a job interview, they saw the promised land – complete with an expensive bottle of French wine and jumbo crab claws.

Even with all the filet mignon, lobster tails and truffle-studded mashed potatoes, my favorite expense account meal was the Five Pepper Chicken at Merchant’s.  The chicken was studded with a combination of sweet and fiery peppers and bathed in a luxurious lemon cream sauce. It never occurred to me to ask for the recipe because A. I assumed my expense account joy ride would last forever and B. I thought they would never take it off the menu.

I was wrong on both counts. So I have recreated it here. But it’s not exact. I am missing a pepper and I can’t figure out which one. So here is my four pepper version of Five Pepper Chicken. It’s still utterly delicious and even I can afford to make it.

Four pepper chicken
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Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • BBQ rub
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • ⅓ cup chicken stock
  • 8 ounces heavy cream
  • Juice of one lemon
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions
  1. Trim the chicken breasts of any fat and season them with the BBQ rub (use your favorite). Heat the vegetable oil on medium high in a large heavy skillet and sauté the chicken breasts on both sides until browned and cooked through (160 degrees internal temperature using a digital probe thermometer). Reserve.
  2. Slice the four peppers into thin strips, removing the seeds and veins. Add a little more oil to the pan and add the peppers. Saute over medium heat until they are tender and beginning to brown. Reserve.
  3. Add the chicken stock to the skillet and boil, reducing it by half. Add the cream and continue to boil until the sauce is reduced by half. Add the lemon juice and Parmesan cheese and mix thoroughly. Add the chicken and peppers back to the pan to warm them through and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

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Fried apples and what goes together

Fried ApplesI was making supper the other night – pork chops, dressing and fried apples. And it occurred to me there are certain things that just “go together” – food combinations that I return to again and again.

Some of them could be considered odd or quaint. I have always served King Daddy’s favorite mustard chicken with buttered egg noodles. To do otherwise would be unthinkable. It just wouldn’t be right. On Sloppy Joe night, the Joe must be Manwich and it must lean along side Tater Tots. With ketchup. Ditto the ketchup with fried chicken livers.

Braised short ribs require mashed potatoes. Last night I was provisioning the refrigerator for KD because I am heading to Bunny’s tomorrow to help her unpack at her new home. I made the short ribs and mashed potatoes, but stuck some garlic bread in the oven for another meal. KD actually asked for garlic bread with short ribs. I was horrified. They don’t go together. Turkey sandwiches. Just turkey, mayonnaise, iceberg lettuce, salt and pepper. No cheese. Cheese and turkey don’t go together.

Fish and rice go together. Fish does not go with potatoes or pasta. Flat chicken and green noodles. Only a classic in our home, I’m sure. It’s just breaded chicken breasts and thin spaghetti with pesto. But the chicken breasts must be thin and the noodles must be thin, also. The calorie count is not thin. Corned beef hash with English muffins and blackberry jam. The hash must be from a can. And you must fry it with onions until it is crispy. The jam can be seedless or not. That’s where King Daddy and I part ways. He likes the seeds.

A wedge salad demands blue cheese dressing and bacon. Diet Coke must be present with hamburgers and French fries. Iced tea does not go with hamburgers or French fries. Iced tea does, however, go with chicken salad. I don’t know why.

So what foods “go together” for you? What are your odd and quaint combinations? I hope you disagree with me. It’s always more fun when you do.

 

Fried apples
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 4 tart apples, such as Honey Crisp or Granny Smith
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions
  1. Core and cut the apple into wedges. As you cut the apples, put them in a bowl with the lemon juice to keep them from discoloring.
  2. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, sugar and cinnamon. Cook until the apples soften, about 10 minutes.

 

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Chicken a la King

Chicken a la KingThat old Billy King, what a rascal. No one’s ever heard of him save the fact that he invented one of my favorite comfort foods, Chicken a la King.

King was a hotel cook at the Bellevue in Philadelphia. His obituary in New York Tribune in 1915 had this to say:

“The name of William King is not listed among the great ones of the earth. No monuments will ever be erected to his memory, for he was only a cook. Yet what a cook! In him blazed the fire of genius which, at the white heat of inspiration, drove him one day, in the old Bellevue, in Philadelphia, to combine bits of chicken, mushrooms, truffles, red and green peppers and cream in that delight-some mixture which ever after has been known as ‘Chicken a la King.’ “

There wasn’t a restaurant in the greater Chicagoland area that didn’t serve Chicken a la King in the 1960s, but you can barely find it now. What a shame since we have something in 2014 that Billy could never have dreamed about – supermarket rotisserie chicken. Rotisserie chicken comes under the heading of “I can’t make it better.” I am a purist when it comes to Chicken a la King. I only use the white breast meat, saving the legs and thighs for another use. You can also poach chicken breasts for this recipe, but why would you do that? The package of chicken breasts will cost more than the entire rotisserie chicken and they won’t be half as good.

Chicken a la King
Prep time: 
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Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 4 puff pastry shells
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large shallots minced
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • ¼ cup Madeira
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Breast meat from a rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • ½ cup frozen peas

Instructions
  1. Prepare the puff pastry shells according to the package directions
  2. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the shallots and mushrooms. Saute until the shallots are translucent and the mushrooms are browned. Add the Madeira and deglaze the pan. When all the alcohol has evaporated, add the flour and stir thoroughly.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium and add the chicken stock and heavy cream. Stir until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the parsley, thyme, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
  4. Add the chicken and the frozen peas. Heat for 3-4 minutes until the chicken and peas are warmed through. Serve in the puff pastry shells.

 

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We might starve: Part two

We are getting ready for the Mayhew/Harbin/Mayhew Family Reunion. And, as always, if we do not lay in enough supplies, we might starve. Tammy, my daughter-in-law, has already stockpiled the entire freezer section of the Piggly Wiggly because she is the snack lady and a pox will be upon her if she runs out of Pigs in a Blanket and Stuffed Potato Skins.

We barely made it through the last reunion with the few ingredients we had in the refrigerator

We barely made it through the last reunion with the few ingredients we had in the refrigerator

So I made a little trip to the grocery store just in case Tammy forgets the cheese puffs and Bunny, my mother-in-law, does not produce adequate amounts of ham dip and chicken biscuits.

Just a few things. Let’s see. Bacon-flavored smoked almonds. Protein and pork. Have to have those. Crunchy Cheetos – a nice contrast to the softer cheese puffs my granddaughter prefers. Thirty-two ounces of sour cream to make two “servings” of onion dip. Josh, my stepson, has a habit of sneaking out to the refrigerator in the middle of the night and absconding with the onion dip. I shall leave a container under my bed for safe keeping.

Cheese. Five different kinds of cheese. And crackers. Two kinds. Little Smokies. One must have Little Smokies for that mid-morning pick-me-up. Tammy and I need to keep up our strength for the long drive (two minutes) to the spa for our pedicures. Dark chocolate Reese’s peanut butter cups. Quick energy for making our way out to the porch to read. Bacon. Seriously, how can you survive in the wilderness that is just five miles from Dollywood without bacon?

Oh, and Danish Butter Cookies. Honestly, King Daddy should not be eating Danish Butter Cookies. Well, none of us should. But we will. And dried apricots. Because we want to set a good example for my granddaughter, Puddin’.

Sydney Funnel CakeBy the way, here’s a photo of Puddin’ eating a funnel cake. Because we don’t have enough food in the house, Bunny always takes her and Noah to get funnel cake.  I realize when she’s 13 Puddin’ will hate me for this. But right now Nana is willing to take the risk.

Bunny and SydneyAnd here’s Bunny teaching Puddin’ how to create a massive sugar overload by dumping three pounds of candy sprinkles into canned icing for cupcakes. As I said, we try to set a good example.

I can’t even remember how many reunions there have been, but not a single one of them involved kale or carrot juice. I believe we have our priorities straight. Bless our hearts.

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We might starve

weather map

The Peoples of the South are, of course, petrified. As you can see from this weather map of tomorrow’s weather, there are “minus” signs. The Peoples of the South do not understand. What is a minus? And there are dangerous arrows around Memphis pointing directly in my direction. What are those arrows? I do not know, yet I am very afraid.

So I went to stock up at my beloved Publix and I could see that other Peoples of the South had seen the same map. We understand these life and death situations better than most. A few weeks ago we had flurries. I don’t even want to talk about it.

Storm 1As you can see, there are exactly three buggies at the Publix where there are usually about 180. Yes, that means others sense the impending disaster. And they’re all inside. I think I hear screaming.

Storm 2It’s just as I feared. The Peoples of the South are most fearful of running out of milk and bread during a disaster. The woman next to me fainted when she realized there was no 2 percent left. Fortunately, the paramedics revived her and assured her she could get by on skim until the thaw.Storm 5

Eggs. The symbol of life. And death. Death by starvation. I take the last carton, even though I already have two in my refrigerator. Perhaps I will attempt to whip up a frittata as my frigid hands grasp the cold handle of a cast iron skillet never to be warmed again because the power is now off and my life is ebbing away. Oh, the iron. Or irony.

Storm 4But I must live on for King Daddy, for he would surely starve without me. So I load my buggy with staples such as cornbread mix, chili fixin’s, bacon, lingonberry preserves, Smokehouse Almonds and the latest issue of People magazine. As I said, the Peoples of the South have our priorities straight. As I huddle under a blanket with my dying flashlight, I will at least dimly perceive the brilliance of Kim Kardashian’s make-up tips.

 

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Two Must-Have Grilling Tools

Grilled Chicken In ProgressNot to be ungrateful, but this is the time of year when anyone who has a hobby or a collection of any kind knows that something wicked this way comes. Poor Bunny, my mother-in-law, was graced with a precious plenty of bunny items every Christmas, including some from me. She finally switched to flamingos just to get a break.

For me, it’s grilling items. Some of them have been fabulously useful and genuinely appreciated. But there’s a lot of trickery out there in the grilling world. Here’s a guide to the worst grilling accessories ever invented.

My suggestions for the best tools a grilling enthusiast needs are over on the Char-Broil LIVE site. Hop on over there and take a look. Two shopping days left until Christmas and my recommendations are easy to find and won’t break the bank. Plus there’s a yummy recipe for my dad’s favorite grilled chicken.

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Two simple sides for Thanksgiving

I have to tell you, around this time of year I love all the talk about how to roast or grill a turkey. Yes, you have to have turkey on Thanksgiving just as you  have to leave cookies and milk out for Santa Christmas Eve. But does anyone really love, love, love the turkey? I don’t care if you put a bow tie and a top hat on it. Turkey is still going to be bland and, once out on a buffet table for an hour or so, dry.That’s why I don’t bother brining mine. Too much trouble for too little payback.

Sides are king on Turkey Day. I’m all about the mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing and cranberry sauce. I’m also about trying new sides to change it up a bit.

Curried fruit compote

Curried fruit compote

 

Green bean and corn casserole

Green bean and corn casserole

Curried fruit compote has been around at least since the ’70s because that’s when I started making it. It is the only acceptable use for canned fruit that I know about. And green bean and corn casserole is what the classic green bean casserole wants to be when it grows up.

Both of the recipes are on the Char-Broil LIVE site. Just click on over there to get them. And I have to tell you, if you’re still trying to figure out your Thanksgiving meal there’s no better place to find inspiration than at my beloved Char-Broil’s Ultimate Guide to Thanksgiving.

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