Chicken

Moroccan Chicken With Olives

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The genesis of this recipe was Moroccan Chicken Smothered In Olives from the New York Times.  The basic ideas of the recipe seemed sound, but the suggested execution lacking.  I did not brine my chicken.  Maybe it would have been better, but my version was moist and flavorful without the additional step.  I also did not just throw the ingredients into a casserole and braise it.  I took a more classic approach and seared my chicken and cooked down my onions and garlic.  I also started on the stove top, cooked in the oven and finished back on the stove top, as I often do.  

Many of the reviews of the original recipe complained about a bland sauce.  I can’t imagine how they achieved that result unless they opted not to reduce the sauce at the end and failed to adjust their seasoning.  I used only half of the spices from the original recipe since it just seemed like too much and I had great flavors.  I also did not blanch my olives as recommended which undoubtedly helped add flavor.  Why would one want to extract the briny taste of the olives?  I also added salt and pepper up front and at the end.  I seasoned my meat before I seared it and adjusted the seasoning when reducing the sauce. 

The original recipe was undoubtedly a little lower in calories and lower in sodium, but according to reviews lacked flavor.  Give me a few more calories and better taste any day.  I would gladly spend a few extra minutes in the gym than sacrifice flavor in my food.

I betrayed a basic principles here: try a recipe as written at least once and then adjust from there.  I often abandoned this rule, but this one begged for upfront revision.  A lack of seasoning and making sauce reduction optional just begged for substandard results.  

Ingredients:

  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, peeled, halved and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon Spanish sweet paprika
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 11 ounces pitted green olives in brine, drained and halved
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Salt and pepper both sides of chicken pieces.
  3. In bottom of a large pan, heat oil over medium-high heat.  
  4. Add chicken pieces and brown on all sides.   
  5. Remove chicken to a plate.  
  6. Add onions and sauté until softened and translucent.  
  7. Add chicken back to pan.  
  8. Add chicken broth. Sprinkle with ginger, turmeric, cumin, paprika, and garlic. Place over high heat to bring to a boil.
  9. Cover and move to oven for 30 minutes, turning chicken once.
  10. Turn chicken again and add olives and lime juice to chicken, and cook uncovered for another 10 minutes.
  11. Remove chicken to a platter and keep warm.  
  12. Transfer pan to the stove-top and raise temperature to an aggressive simmer to reduce adding salt and pepper to taste. Thicken sauce to 1/4th or less in the volume.
  13. Pour sauce over chicken and serve hot.
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Chicken Tagine with Apricots, Raisins and Dates

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I have been on a Mediterranean kick lately. Not only is the food healthy, but they have some intriguing flavor combinations. When exploring Mediterranean cooking, Moroccan food is mandatory. I fell in love with Moroccan food years ago at Epcot in Disney World. I know an “international experience” at Epcot is rather lame, but at the time Epcot did grant exposure to the world to rather insular Americans which I was at the time.

Moroccan cooking uses typical spices of the region: cumin, coriander, cinnamon, allspice, saffron, and nutmeg. They also use fruits in their cooking which seems somewhat unique. For this recipe, I was looking for the right savory spice profile balanced with some sweetness from the fruit. I was looking for the balance to tip more to the savory than sweet.

A tagine is a Moroccan dish named after the traditional earthenware pot in which it is traditionally cooked. So I guess this recipe is not really a “Chicken Tagine”. It is a “Chicken Dutch Oven.” I don’t have a traditional earthenware tagine, but can use the traditional ingredients and spices and find an appropriate, if not traditional, vessel in which to cook them.

I used whole spices, toasted and ground them. You could use store-bought ground spices. As long as they are fresh, the flavor profile should be okay.

I have a niece that is allergic to apricots. Other dried fruits can be substituted. I would stay away from overly sweet fruits. Dried papaya, mango, or pear would be interesting. Dried strawberries would be a different twist, but I would probably crank back on the orange juice. I wanted to add some pomegranates, but, sadly, couldn’t find any.

Concerning dried fruits, I have discovered that most are heavy in chemical preservatives. I tend toward their organic cousins that have nothing but fruit. Without fail, if my wife has a head-ache, I can trace it to a food label I did not read closely enough the prior day. You could read that as, if my wife has a head-ache, it’s probably my fault. But then again, that’s a given.

This meal was great on the first night and even better as leftovers the second as the spices intensified.

I served the tagine over whole wheat Israeli Couscous with some whole wheat garlic Naan. Yes, I know Israeli Couscous and Naan are not Moroccan, buy it made for a delicious meal.

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 Chicken Legs, separated into Thighs and Drumsticks
1 Onion, chopped
1 Small Hot Pepper, minced
1 cup Dried Apricots, roughly chopped
3/4 cup Fresh Dates, pitted and roughly chopped
3/4 cup Raisins
2 Tsp whole Cumin seeds
2 Tsp whole Coriander seeds
3 inch stick of Cinnamon
2 pinches of Saffron
10 Allspice Seeds
1 Tsp freshly grated Nutmeg
3 Cups Apple Cider
3 Cups Water
Juice of 1 Orange
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Direction:
1) Heat Olive Oil in a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat.
2) Salt and Pepper chicken and place in the Dutch Oven. Brown on all sides, approximately 10 minutes.
3) Meanwhile, toast spices in a hot, dry skillet until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove spices to a mortar and grind with a pestle or pop into your handy, dandy spice grinder. Pre-ground spices are acceptable, but fresh ground are better.
4) When browned, remove chicken from Dutch Oven and reserve. Add onion and peppers and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.
5) Add ground spices to the onions and peppers and cook for an additional minute.
6) Return chicken to the Dutch Oven. Add fruit, orange juice and enough half-cider, half-water mixture to cover. Increase heat to a boil and the reduce to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes. If more liquid is needed during cooking, add cider and water in equal proportions.
7) Remove chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm.
8) Increase heat on Dutch Oven to a boil and reduce broth for 10 minutes.
9) Serve chicken plated over couscous and top with the reduced broth.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

My wife called me from our daughter’s apartment last week where she is helping her pack for a move to a post-doctoral research position at Princeton University. Notice how I seamlessly worked in the facts that my daughter 1) has her Ph.D and 2) has accepted a position at Princeton. Okay, enough bragging and back to soup. It seems my daughter’s downstairs neighbors who are of Mexican descent were cooking something that smelled fabulous and my wife thought it might be soup. I had chicken tortilla soup on my mind the rest of the week. Sunday was cold and snowy so it seemed like a good excuse to cook some up.

Tortilla soup is one of those recipes where everyone seems to have their own favorite version and they are all different. I don’t know how authentic my version is, but it is smoky, spicy and full of beans, peppers and chicken; oh, and did I mention delicious.

I can’t do anything the easy way so even with the snow and the cold, I went out and fired up the grill for some of the prep work. Picture this: there is snow on the ground. Temps are in the low 20s. The wind is blowing. A neighbor bundled up like Nanook of the North is walking his dog past our driveway. Meanwhile, I am standing on the carport in a short sleeve shirt and socked feet firing up the grill. Yes, I know I am certifiably crazy which proves that my daughter got her smarts from her mother who is helping her pack for a move to a post-doctoral research position at Princeton University, but I guess I mentioned that already.

For peppers, I used Anchos, Poblano, red and yellow bell peppers plus some ancho chili powder and cayenne pepper in the spice mix. I roasted the Poblano and bell peppers on the grill until charred and popped them into a plastic sandwich bag to steam for 15 minutes. Likewise, I roasted the tomatoes on the grill until charred and soft.

Veggie

For chicken, I went with the bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. Since the skin wasn’t going into the soup, I was forced to snack on it while I shredded the meat. Doesn’t that skin look crispy and tasty? It was! Snacking on it is just one of those sacrifices you have to make when you cook. People do not always appreciate the sacrifices of a chef.

Chicken

There are all sorts of time saving substitutions you can make with this recipe. Just understand, you may be impacting the taste, as well. I think the long form approach is best for this recipe . . . most recipes.

I used dry beans, soaked them overnight and then cooked them. You could buy a can of black beans ready to use. I roasted fresh tomatoes and processed them with the anchos. You could use a can of diced tomatoes. If you do, choose one with green chilies for extra kick. Instead of roasting red and yellow bell peppers, you could buy a jar of roasted peppers. I used homemade chicken stock. You could use low-sodium, store-bought chicken stock. I developed a spice mix for the soup. You could purchase a jar of Mexican spices to use. In a pinch, you could pick up a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken instead of cooking a couple of breasts.

If you go with the jars and cans, watch the sodium level. By the time you are done adding the contents and pouring in that store-bought chicken stock, you have already added a whole bunch of salt. When I got to the “Salt and Pepper, to taste” step, I had zero salt in the pot and it only needed a little.

I did the prep work early in the afternoon and threw the soup together quickly in the evening. You could easily do the prep the day before.

I served mine garnished with some cilantro, chopped green onions and some crème fraîche. Yes, I know crème fraîche is not Mexican, but it is better than sour cream. I would have used Mexican crema, but I can’t buy it locally. I guess next time, I’ll have to make my own. With some corn bread, this is a meal of its own.

It’s worth the work to do it the long way. Give it a shot and see.

Ingredients:
8 oz. dried Black Beans, rinsed
2 tsp. Cumin, ground
1/2 tsp. Anchio Chili Powder
1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
2 tsp. dried Oregano
2 bone-in, skin-on Chicken Breast halves
1 large Yellow Bell Pepper
1 large Red Bell Pepper
1 Poblano Pepper
3 dried Ancho Chilis
2 large Beefsteak Tomatoes
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 large Red Onion, diced
3 cloves Garlic, Minced
2 quarts homemade Chicken Stock
2 tbsp. Masa Harina or corn flour
Juice of 1/2 Lime
Salt and Pepper, to taste
16 oz. frozen Corn
5 whole Corn Tortillas, Cut in half and then 3/4 inch wide strips
1 cups oil, for frying tortillas

Garnish Ideas:
Sour Cream
Diced Avocado
Chopped scallions
Salsa Or Pico De Gallo
Cotija or grated Monterey Jack Cheese
Cilantro
Lime wedges

Directions:
1. Soak black beans in 4 cups cold water overnight. Alternately, bring 4 cups water and beans to a boil, cook for 2 minutes, remove pan from heat and cover. Let soak for 1 hour. Strain and rinse.
2. In a large dutch oven, add beans and 4 cups cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Loosely cover and boil for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking until beans are tender, approximately 45-60 minutes.
3. In a small bowl, combine Cumin, Anchio Chili Powder, Cayenne Pepper, Garlic Powder, Oregano.
4. While the beans are cooking, season Chicken using 1 teaspoon of the spice blend and cook on grill. When chicken is done, remove to plate to cool. When cool, shred using two forks.
5. Roast Red and Yellow bell peppers and Poblano Pepper on grill until charred, bag for 15 minutes, peel, seed and chop.
6. Roast dried Anchos on grill until they are slightly softened. Soak in hot water for 30 minutes, seed and chop.
7. Cut tomatoes in half and grill until charred and soft.
8. In a blender or food processor, process Anchoes. Tomatoes and 2 cups of stock until smooth.
9. In a large dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp Olive oil over medium high heat.
10. Add the onions to the dutch oven and saute until translucent, about 8-10 minutes.
11. Add Garlic and saute for an additional 30 seconds.
12. Add Red, Yellow and Poblano pepper, 6 cups chicken stock, tomato/Ancho puree, black beans and remaining spice mix to dutch oven, bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
13. Add masa harina to soup and stir well to thicken slightly.
14. Adding juice of 1/2 lime. Taste and adjust seasoning, as necessary.
15. Add corn and shredded chicken to dutch oven and cook an additional 15 minutes.
16. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat oil over high heat and fry tortilla strips until lightly brown and crispy.
17. To serve, place tortilla strips in the bottom of the soup bowls and ladle soup over the strips. Top with any of the desired garnishes.

Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken (Pollo a la Brasa)

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Photo Aug 22, 8 14 37 PM

It was the inaugural meal for our new Weber 2290 rotisserie for the Weber Performer. I had to give it a spin (pun intended) as soon as it arrived.

The recipe was not mine so I will link to it instead of publishing it. The credit for this one goes to Mike Vrobel at DadCooksDinner.com. The recipe for Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken can be found here: Pollo a la Brasa.
I made it without the drip pan potatoes, but I am sure they would have been awesome.

The key to this recipe is the Aji Amarillo paste. I was lucky enough to find it at Wegmans. Now I did make a few adaptations to the procedure. I marinaded the chicken for 24 hours. For the first 20 hours, I had the chicken in a one gallon sealed storage bag. For the final 4 hours, I removed the chicken from the bag and let the chicken skin dry out. This produces a crispier skin.

Photo Aug 22, 8 12 54 PM

In addition to lump charcoal in the Weber Performer, I used some soaked applewood chips for some added flavor. After 1 ½ hour of cooking, the chicken was moist, tender and absolutely delicious.

Photo Aug 22, 8 13 50 PM

DadCooksDinner.com has numerous rotisserie recipes. Pollo a la Brasa will be the first of many that I’ll have to try now that the rotisserie is in place. I already have an order in place from the in-laws for a rotisserie roast beef.

Mediterranean Paprika Chicken

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Here is a dish I will be working to change around. Look for the recipe soon. This was good, but can be so much better.

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Baked Parmesan Crusted Chicken Cutlets

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Baked Parmesan Crusted Chicken Cutlets
Baked Parmesan Crusted Chicken Cutlets

This recipe started with a fried cutlet recipe in Bon Appétit. The result was great, but I wanted a lighter version. The answer: baking instead of frying. I also added some herbs and refined the measurements.

Do yourself a favor and buy good parmesan. I buy it in the cheese shop at Wegmans and avoid the green can of Kraft.

I usually prefer fresh herbs, but went with dried for this recipe since the herbs were being mixed into the panko/parmesan mixture. If you want, add 1/2 Tsb of garlic powder, as well.

I baked the cutlets on a cooling rack placed on top of a baking dish. I wanted plenty of heat above and below the cutlet for even browning. Placing the cutlets on the rack and using the convection oven provided adequate airflow above and below the chicken for nice crispy cutlets. Simply placing them onto the bottom of a baking dish, the bottom of the cutlet would tend to get soggy.

The result: scrum-diddly-icious. I actually preferred the baked version to its cousin the fried one. For extra browning, mist the surface of the cutlets with some oil before baking.

Ingredients
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
3/4 cup panko
3/4 cup grated parmesan
1 Tbs mustard powder
1/2 Tbs dried rosemary
1/2 Tbs dried basil
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken cutlets

Preparation
1) Preheat oven to 350
2) Pounded chicken cutlets to 1/4-inch thickness
3) Place flour in a bowl. Beat eggs in a second bowl. Combine panko, parmesan, mustard, rosemary and basil in a third bowl
4) Season chicken with salt and pepper. Using your wet hand/dry hand method, one-by-one dredge the chicken in flour, then the egg and finally the panko mixture, pressing to adhere
5) Place cutlets on a rack in a baking dish
6) Bake for 20-25 minutes

I served it with couscous with pistachios, scallions, and currants and a side salad for a delicious, healthy dinner.

Filipino Chicken Adobo

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Filipino Chicken Adobo
Filipino Chicken Adobo

There seem to be as many variations of Filipino Adobo as there are recipes. Everyone seems to have their own take on it. First some basics on which everyone can agree. Adobo can be used with pork, beef or poultry (typically, chicken or duck). The key ingredients in the sauce are vinegar, soy sauce and garlic. There the agreement stops.

Some recipes call for onion. Some call for brown sugar. Some call for a bay leaf; other 4-6 bay leaves. Most call for peppercorns, but the amounts vary. Some recipes call for white vinegar; some for cider vinegar; others for cane vinegar which would be very Filipino. Purists call for Filipino soy sauce instead of the typical Japanese variety. Good luck finding those last two ingredients. I’ve seen recipes that call for coconut milk, ginger or green pepper. Recipes are all over the board as to the amount and proportions of vinegar and soy sauce.

As with most cultural classics, every family seems to have their own recipe. I guess the good news is, you cannot make it wrong. Oh, and one more thing on which everyone can agree; no matter how you make it, it’s going to be delicious! So, here is my take.

Ingredients :
2 tbsp vegetable oil
6 chicken thighs
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 head of garlic, minced
4 dried bay leaves
1 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce (Filipino if you can find it)
8-12 peppercorns
chicken stock
Salt and Ground Pepper

Directions:
1. Generously salt and pepper your chicken.
2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil and chicken. Brown on all sides.
3. Remove the chicken from the skillet and reduce the heat to medium. Add the other tbsp of the vegetable oil and the onions. Cook the onion until just translucent and beginning to caramelize.
4. Add the next five ingredients, the chicken and just enough chicken stock to cover the chicken.
5. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover the skillet. Cook the chicken until it is fork tender, about 45-60 minutes.
6. Remove the chicken from the skillet, return the sauce to a boil and reduce to a thin syrup consistency.
7. Add the chicken back to the skillet and toss the chicken in the sauce to cover.

Purists would serve this over rice with some more sauce. I prefer it with some nice garlic mash potatoes and maybe a side of some sautéed Kale. But no matter how you make it or how you serve it, you will enjoy it. It’s even better the second night for leftovers.