smothered chicken… and I mean *really* smothered chicken, but not with gravy because I’m on a fancy diet

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. Ever.

“Smothered in what?” I hear someone from the peanut gallery holler and I understand completely – it *does* sound rather violent. Let me explain; traditionally and in its simplest form, Smothered Chicken is chicken that has been simmered in and then served under or ‘smothered’ in a seasoned gravy. And when I say ‘smothered’ I mean, of course,  ‘comforted to death’. Isn’t that nicer? Let’s call my recipe “Comforted Chicken”.

I am a girl who loves her gravy and given free reign and unstoppable arteries I would consume it on everything from oatmeal to ice cream (eew). But, happily, I am reigned in by my vow of health and well-being and so am constantly on the look-out for delectable dishes that won’t comfort me to death. This is one of them. It’s my loose adaptation of Smothered Chicken; chicken simmered in a silky, tangy, lemony-oniony Sauce. It is easy, satisfying and tasty. And when I say ‘tasty’ I mean, of course, ‘lip-smacking, plate-licking, go-back-for-thirds GOOD”.

I like to serve this dish with a side of wilted spinach and maybe a whole-grain pilaf. YUM. I’ve got myself all worked up for it… good thing I’ve got some chicken in the fridge because I think I need some comforting…

 

Comforted Chicken

6 chicken thighs or an equal amount of breast meat

4 onions

2 cloves garlic

1 lemon

1 cup chicken stock

2-3 Tablespoons butter, olive oil, coconut oil or other cooking fat

salt and pepper to taste

We’ve discussed the slicing of onions in previous columns and decided that ‘thinly’ is one of the most vague cooking instructions available. All the same, I am going to ask you to do it. Slice your onions thinly. Use your own good sense and just get them into slices. We can do this. Tears will ensue, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Once the onions are dealt with, slice up your garlic and then put a large skillet on medium heat. Once the skillet has heated up, add your fat and the onions. Let them brown up a little, stirring frequently to avoid any burning. Throw the garlic in with its cousin and then lower the heat. You want the onions and garlic to simmer *without burning* until they are all very limp, very translucent and almost saucy on their own – just this side of caramelized. This will probably take about 5-6 minutes.

The chicken has been patiently waiting for its turn in the pan and now is the time. Squiggie the onions around so that you can fit the chicken pieces, skin down, in the skillet. Let the skin brown against the bottom of the pan before flipping them over and adding the chicken stock. Let it simmer for 10 minutes or so. Boneless pieces cook faster than bone-in so be aware of that if you’ve substituted. If you want to speed the process up, you can cover the skillet with a pot lid.

Now it’s time for the lemon. You thought I had forgotten, didn’t you? Lay the slices around in the skillet and then let the whole thing simmer for another 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. If it seems that the liquid is getting too low, you can always add a little more broth – but not too much! The goal is to have the sauce work itself out as the chicken is cooking. You may need to lower the heat and just be a little more patient.

When the chicken has cooked thoroughly (use a thermometer to check – I always have to) you are ready to serve your masterpiece. It’s going to smell like heaven… oh boy! The onions will have melted away into savory goodness that will blend with the lemon and make a sauce that you will lick off your plate. It makes even I, the Gravy Queen, say, “Gravy? Who needs gravy when you have a sauce like THIS?”  Enjoy…

 

Maple Pear Chicken Salad

I need someone to name these recipes for me because I stink at it…

I made this up for the Man today, and it was hit so I thought I would share it with y’all.

Maple Pear Chicken Salad

1 8oz boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into three or four pieces

1/2 sweet red pepper, chopped

1 tsp minced garlic

1 bartlett pear, peeled, cored and sliced thinly

3 Tbsp pure maple syrup

1-3 tsp butter or olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

lettuce for the bed

This is a terribly quick and simple meal to make up since I fixed it while getting my bread ready to rise for the day, doing dishes and had entered the final countdown before Alex had to get ready for work.

In a frying pan, over medium heat, I put the sliced pear, maple syrup, butter, garlic and half of the red pepper. Once those things had started to simmer together, I added the chicken pieces and covered the whole bit, then let it cook ten minutes or so while I chopped the lettuce and set the table.

Since stove settings very, make sure the chicken has cooked all the way through. If it starts to get a little dry, add a few tablespoons of water or broth, but if it’s covered, it should stay moist enough.

I put some chicken and a helping of the hot ‘sauce’ on the lettuce that I tossed with the rest of the pepper, it wilted it a little and – viola! Lunch was served…

Sweet, salty, mapley, garlicky – absolutely packed with flavor, we have a winner.

Yum.

I know this meal isn’t in the Great Chicken Challenge- but it certainly could be. It fits all the criteria – easy, cheap, tasty and happily healthy.

Served 2 people; 20 minutes to make

Per serving:

280 calories (under 300 – yay!)

cost roughly $2.25 cents

This would be delicious with spinach instead of romaine or iceberg lettuce, or adorned with some chopped walnuts… be creative – it’s your meal, Enjoy!

is it hot in here? i need cold noodles

The sun has set and the sky looks as though it is wounded in the spot where it sank below the horizon. Crimson blends into the purple sky and the moon sits just above, a crooked sliver of silver smile.

We’ve had a string of hot days lately. Our apartment is just to the right of the heart of town, on the second floor. The sun beats down all day and bakes the old white house, the heat of the roads and the cars and trucks and tour busses rises and gets caught in our living room – our front room and the hottest spot in the house. Thankfully, the rooms to the back of the apartment stay relatively cool and dark during the day, so there is an escape available if needed.

I haven’t needed the escape yet, but this disturbingly bright, hot day chased me into the bedroom to do my ironing, hiding from the glare and noise of Saturday afternoon on Main Street.

But now it is nearly dark, and I am willing the startlingly cooler air in with fans and coaxing tones, but it’s still pretty stinking hot in here! The thought of turning on our electric hotbox and cooking something involved makes me want to… well, not.

Time for a cold meal, eh? I found this recipe on the internet the other day and have wanted to try it – or my personalized version of it, this seems like the perfect occasion.

Creamy Green Pasta

1/2 pound pasta, cooked and cooled

1/2 pound fresh spinach

1 tsp minced garlic

a teaspoon or so of olive oil

1 avocado, peeled and pitted

1 Tbsp basil pesto

1 tsp lemon juice

I (said in a disgustingly boastful sort of way) have a husband who will eat green things, and good deal because this may be the greenest food I have ever served. The spinach got sauteed with the garlic and olive oil until the spinach was completely cooked, then it was cooled. In my dear little food processor, I put the avocado, pesto, some salt and pepper and lemon juice – and then the spinach. It all got blended into a delightfully vibrant green ‘sauce’ and then stirred into the pasta.

Viola.

I will serve it to my green-loving Alex when he gets home, with fresh tomato slices and watermelon – the perfect culinary end to such a scorcher! I have tasted it (of course- the best home chefs taste, and taste often!!) and it is utterly creamy and rich, almost as if it had some sort of cheese in it – very good! It’s going to be a repeat meal at our table!

coconut chicken curry

You thought I forgot, didn’t you?

You thought I had forgotten about the Great Chicken Challenge.

NEVER!

True, our sultry, poultry friend had to sit in the freezer for a week or so while I recovered, but I thawed out the two thighs and drumsticks a couple of days ago and made a curry.

Hurray!

True, I used four pieces of meat, but it fed both of us for two meals – it worked.

First:

I cooked one entire sliced onion and a clove of diced garlic in a bit of coconut oil in my big cast iron skillet until they were just about caramelized.

Then:

I added some curry powder and ginger (a good teaspoon of the ginger and half again as much of the curry powder) and let it all simmer and turn gold.

Then:

I removed the onions and seared the chicken pieces in the hot oil for a couple of minutes on all sides so that they had a little crust on them.

Then:

I poured in half a can of Thai Kitchen, lower fat coconut milk and added one potato that I had washed and cut into little pieces *plus* the onions that had been waiting on the sidelines.

I covered the whole lot, reduced the heat to low and let it cook for a good 45 minutes.

Oh. My. Word.

Then:

We ate it with brown rice. It was such a deep, creamy tasting dish – it came out very well. I love the coconut milk!

Cost Per Serving – $2.00, roughly. The coconut products are a little pricey, but so worth it.

SO what is that so far?

One chicken: 2 People: 4 different meals: 14-16 very generous servings of food

I’m impressed… We’ve done a salad, a soup, a ‘straight chicken meal’, and a curry. I’ve still got the giblets and the entire back to use – things are going to get creative! Plus, we still want to do the ‘chicken deconstruction tutorial video’ – doesn’t that sound peachy?!

Stay Tuned folks-

Andi

because it wasn’t enough just to eat it

Surely my little chicken friend could be put to use in other ways – – surely.

Eggshells. They’re now drying on my widow sill, waiting to be ground up and added to  the soil around my tomato plants – a little trick I learned from my father-in-law. It’s going to help them grow big and loverly…

Ah so.

a little bit of idealistic pep talking concerning the chicken *thing*

Because really, doesn’t it seem extreme to be counting everything so minutely? Pieces of lettuce, noodles, rice, chicken wings…. counting, counting, counting.

Oh – the frustration! Why count? Why?

WHY? Because it does count. I’m not just a freak about chicken. Really.

We are home chefs – aren’t we? Whether male or female, cooking for a dozen kids or one new husband, we care about what we cook – don’t we? And there’s good reason for caring, we’re fueling life itself. Are we going to put crappy, nasty, cheap fuel into those we care for and feed? Say it with me, No.

And we’re not just counting calories or pennies, we’re counting nutrition and time and effort – we are counting life, every meal we make and eat represents a part of our one, wild and free life. I want these chicken meals to be worth something for my family, even though we are small and new and still figuring out who likes butter and who likes olive oil. I want to be thrifty, and cunning, matching my kitchen wit against the debit card and clock and ceaseless tide of Bad Food, as much as I can, with the best results I can afford.

Because it means something to me. That’s why. I don’t want to take food for granted, ever, but always be a wise steward of the things I have the privilege to count.

Chicken Challenge Meal #3 – The General

Ok, ok, ok.

So far, we’ve had two chicken meals from one chicken breast and I decided to splurge tonight and use the *entire* other breast for a special meal for my dear one – General Tso’s Chicken. I started by cutting the breast up into small chunks and  dredged it in egg and then flour seasoned with garlic, onion, pepper and ginger.

Here’s my favorite way to bread something – you dredge it first with flour and then you let it sit and dry for a bit before dredging it *again*.

Aha.

It makes a delightfully thick ‘crust’ on that which is being dredged.

This time, however, after the lovely chicken chunks had time to air, I dipped them back in the egg and then – wait for it – seasoned Panko crumbs.

I know not what Panko is, how to properly pronounce it or whether it’s “Panko Crumbs” or just plain “Panko” – but I have fallen deeply in love with its effect on my breaded foods. Deeply, I say. What a culinary revelation.

I love culinary revelations.

When the nuggets (because ‘nugget’ sounds much more inviting than ‘chunk’) were all double coated, they looked as though they had been visited by hoar frost…


Either hoar frost, or the Shredded Wheat Fairy…

The nuggets were set on a tray, covered with plastic wrap and sent to wait in the frigid-air for a while.




Meanwhile, back on the ranch, I started a big pot of brown rice (because we’re being thrifty here, cooking enough rice for two meals at one time – clever, clever!) and took out a bag of green beans I had frozen a couple of weeks ago. They weren’t ready to be cooked quite yet, but I prepped them with about 1/8 cup of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon minced garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger.

When the rice was about 15 minutes from being done, I got out my Big Cast Iron Skillet, and I heated up some frying oil. I LOVE frying things. LOVE, I say. I don’t know about you – and I would certainly love to hear from you – but I reuse my frying oil and mix *clean* left-over oils in with it. Does that sound gross? I have a little bit of vegetable shortening in my jar, some coconut oil and some hard chicken fat I scraped from the top of a stock a made. It works rather well, I think, and stores in the fridge very comfortably until I need it. The strained blend of oils doesn’t smoke or go bad and again, it’s thrifty. Do you realize how expensive fat is? It’s one of the more expensive things to purchase.

Anywho- after all that rant, I think the oil has been heated quite enough, thank you.

The nuggets (now dry from their stay in the fridge) were rescued from the cold and lovingly fried in the hot oil until well-browned and crisp – yum! As I was frying them, I turned on the green beans so that they could cook up and I experienced of those rare, incredibly satisfying moments when I knew everything would be done together and on time.


Oh. My. Word.

It’s gorgeous. I could eat it all over again.

Ahem.

*if I do say so myself*




Lightly touched with “General Tso Sauce” – they were delicious. I will never use anything other than that Panko stuff for the rest of my life – it’s so crunchy!!

This meal more than filled two very hungry people for less than $1.50 each (including the green beans and rice…) and the chicken itself weighed in at about 300 calories a serving. This calculation didn’t include the fat needed for frying. I’m not sure how to count that, really… I decided not to care in favor of frying them into small bites of happiness…