Chicken Satay

August 10, 2011

Though my time frees up in the summer when my day job as a high school science teacher takes a hiatus, somehow our dinners suffer.  During the school year, time is so limited that a strict menu must be followed, the food shopping is completed on schedule, and for the most part we eat pretty well.  During the summer though, I have the luxury to let loose.  My kids and I bounce from one adventure to another and more than once we have found ourselves without a clue what to make for dinner. Or sometimes I spend the day canning and completely loose interest in preparing another meal when I am done.   (I will not embarrass myself by sharing our dinner for tonight, except to say that it included refried beans, tortillas, and cheese and not much else- but beans are a vegetable right?)  So you can see why when I find a recipe that is easy to whip up (especially in advance) and incredibly tasty, and yes, kid friendly, it quickly becomes a go-to recipe.

I first made Chicken Satay at the beginning of summer. We enjoyed it so much that it quickly fell into our program and has since graced our table a number of times.  At once bold, yet not overwhelming, this mixture of spices is a tasty accompaniment to juicy chicken thighs.  I modified the recipe to use Salt Preserved Lemons, instead of lemon grass, because I do not have a local source for the lemongrass and do have an abundance of lemons.  The authenticity may suffer, but the flavor does not. The skewers cook up super fast on the grill, which keeps the oven off and the house cool.  I usually serve this dish with a simple slaw, perhaps a mango salsa, and of course some sriracha for a spicy dip.

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What a fabulous week it has been.  It is officially summer for me now.  After my 17 years of schooling and then 8 years of teaching high school science, the rhythm of the academic calendar is deeply rooted in my bones.  So even though the weather is unseasonably soggy and  gloomy, deep down inside I still know that- School’s…out for summer!!!   To make the upcoming break all that much more sweet, on my last day of school I found out that my Sausage and Kale Dinner Tart won the contest for the Best Dirt Cheap Dinner on food52.  What an incredible honor!  I am a huge fan of food52.  It is one of my go-t0 sites for great recipes and culinary inspiration from the many fabulous cooks that contribute to the site.  What a great way to start the summer and kick off my serious cooking and canning season!

As a celebratory meal, I made Roasted Garlic Lemon Chicken.  I love how chicken is both a perfect special occasion meal, yet inexpensive and quick enough to be perfectly suited for a weeknight as well.  This particular recipe is a regular in our rotation.  It is easy to adapt by changing the herbs, I call for rosemary here, but you could also use thyme, oregano, basil, or forgo the herbs altogether and add a touch of curry paste to the garlic mixture instead.

Roasted Garlic Lemon Chicken can be made with any pieces of chicken you prefer.  The original recipe calls for chicken thighs.  Since I often buy chickens whole and part them myself, I have always made it with a whole parted chicken.  When arranging the pieces in the pan, I put the breasts in the center and dark meat pieces around the outside.  All the pieces cook up perfectly!  Preparing this meal is incredibly simple.  Spread garlic paste over the chicken pieces and under the skin, then roast the chicken until the skin is browned and crackly, but the meat is super tender and moist.  The herbs perfume the meat and the lemon roasts and caramelizes lending a rich, lemony flavor.  Degrease the juices and reduce to make a flavorful sauce to pour over the sliced meat.  Dress it up or dress it down, this chicken is great for any occasion.

Roasted Garlic Lemon Chicken

adapted from  Bill Devin at  Fine Cooking

via The 140 Best American Recipes by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens

Serves 6

the garlic paste

2 garlic cloves

pinch of salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

Mince garlic with a knife.  Sprinkle salt over the garlic and the flat blade of your knife to grind the garlic into a fine paste.  Transfer paste to a bowl.  Drizzle oil over paste slowly while whisking vigorously until mixture is uniform and emulsified.  (If it does not emulsify, do not worry.  The chicken will still turn out great.)

the chicken

1 5-pound chicken, parted

2 large lemons, sliced into 1/4 inch slices

1 bunch rosemary (6 4-inch pieces)

2 tablespoons white wine

freshly cracked black pepper

Rub the chicken pieces with the garlic paste thoroughly on both the outside and inside of the skin.   Cover and let chill 2 hours to overnight. The longer you let it chill, the more flavorful it will be.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and set rack in the middle of the oven.

Using a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, lay lemon slices evenly over the bottom.  Arrange rosemary sprigs over the top of the lemon and chicken pieces, skin side up, on top of the rosemary.  The breasts should be in the center since they cook the fastest.  Arrange the dark meat pieces around the outside.

Bake the chicken for 45 minutes or until the skin is browned and crisp and the meat is cooked thoroughly.

Transfer the chicken pieces to a platter and cover loosely with foil.  Strain any accumulated juices into a small saucepan.  Skim fat from the top.  Heat remaining juices over medium to create a simmer.  Add white wine and black pepper to taste. Simmer until sauce is reduced by 1/3.  Serve meat as whole pieces or sliced with the flavorful sauce.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Roasted Garlic Lemon Chicken

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

May 3, 2011

It is Mexican food week at our house.  No, not really because of Cinco de Mayo.  The truth is we just really like to eat just about anything Mexican- traditional or inspired.  We have been eating carnitas, homemade refried beans, chorizo empanadas, and now for the third time this month, Chicken Tortilla Soup.

This recipe comes from Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday.  If you have not checked out this book, you should.  It is definitely one of our favorites.  We happened across it in the kitchen of a house we rented in Nayarit, Mexico years ago.  My husband and I both loved it, and the meals we created from it so much, that we both surprised the other with a copy of it for Christmas that year.  Oops.

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There are recipes I love, because the flavors produced are so unlike those I am apt to make on my own. There are recipes I love, because the technique is new to me and create an utterly delicious dish using a method I have never tried.  This recipe fulfills both of those criteria.  Though my family loves Indian food, I admit to being hung up on a few standard curries and dals that are regulars in our kitchen. This dish, though it uses familiar ingredients, is unlike any I have made in the past.  Garam masala and ginger infuse the sauce of Divine Indian Butter Chicken with exciting flavor. The garlic, bay, cardamom, and cloves simmer slowly with the tomatoes deeply infusing the sauce with even more flavor.  Top that off with butter and milk (or cream as the original recipe suggests) and you have a silky, spicy, delectable bath for the tenderest of chicken.

The chicken first spends many hours soaking in a tangy marinade of yogurt, ginger, garlic, and garam masala.  Yogurt tenderizes the meat as it soaks.  The next step surprised me.  The chicken is roasted at 500 degrees for 20 minutes.  Never have I thought to use that kind of extreme heat on an ultimately braised chicken dish.  The chicken finishes cooking in the fragrant tomato sauce.  My first bite dispelled any skepticism I may have harbored regarding the roasting technique.  This chicken is so incredibly tender and moist!  The dark meat falls from the bone and the breast slices up beautifully and melts in your mouth.  What is more, this is a perfect dish to make ahead.  Simply prepare the dish and keep it warm and covered until ready to serve.  You can also cool the dish, refrigerate, and heat up when you are ready.  Serve with basmati rice and chutney.  Here is a great recipe for homemade chutney.

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We all have those meals that are burned in our memory for one reason or another.  These are the meals that when we recall them, define a time in our lives.  Though I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it, chicken pot pie is one of those meals for me.  Occasionally my parents would leave me at home to go out for the night.  I was always excited, because I could have a frozen dinner (those were not common fare in our home).  One of my favorite dinners was always a chicken pot pie.  I loved the creamy chicken and the flaky crust.  Invariably, I burnt my anxious tongue on the steaming hot sauce.  Those hot little pies were the highlight of my night. Even so, I always knew that the dish was not quite right.  The chicken and vegetables were too small and uniformly cut.  The sauce was too salty.  The crust too bland.  At that time, it never occurred to me that this special meal could be made at home!

Biscuit-topped Chicken Pot Pie is my effort to right the wrongs of pot pies of my past that missed the mark.  Every ingredient and every step come together to create what I imagine a pot pie should be like.  The chicken is poached in broth, then cut into large tender pieces, so there is no mistaking its presence.  The vegetables are abundant and fresh.  The potatoes are creamy. The sauce is based on a homemade chicken stock that is reduced and mixed with fresh thyme and cream.  The potential of this dish is dependent on the quality of the broth used.  I highly recommend using your own stock.  It is so easy to make and the flavor is incomparable.

Oh, and the topping.  Though I do love pie crust atop meat pies, biscuits are my favorite.  Floating the biscuits on the pot pie allows the tops to brown and puff and the bottom to saturate with the rich gravy.  It is the best of both worlds.  This is definitely a comfort food.

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