Organic Kale and Quinoa Salad with Chicken, Avocado, Carrots and Dried Cranberries

This salad screams Whole Foods, and for good reason.  Organic, gluten free (not that that’s a selling point

for me), low carb, high protein, high fiber, and full of those ‘super foods’ we love so much.  I love them.  Super foods are not only healthy, but they leave you satisfied and somehow refreshed after your meal.  You feel good.  You feel energized.  Quinoa and kale might as well be the poster children for super foods.

The trick to super foods, or health foods, is preparing them to be delicious.  Kale on its own isn’t very good.  Quinoa on its own is bland.  Put two bland things together, and you have a recipe for a boring and bland dinner.  So we add things.  Classic pairings that have stood the test of time.  Perhaps a Middle East Tabouleh combination of cucumbers, tomatoes, mint, parsley, and almonds with the quinoa and kale.  Perhaps an Indian combination of mango, coconut, curry, chili peppers, and fried chick peas.  I like to simply things and use dried cranberries, avocados, almonds and feta cheese.  It’s a great combination of flavors, and along with a little lemon juice, olive oil and seasonings, creates a great salad.  The combination works well with the quinoa and kale.  They absorb the flavors, while lending their own unique texture and flavor to the dish.  It works, and it’s one of the reasons that places like Whole Foods feature dishes like this.

The production itself is easy.  The most complicated part is cooking the chicken and quinoa.  Otherwise, it’s a simple salad.  Extraordinary and unique, completely satisfying, and delicious.

Organic Kale and Quinoa Salad with Chicken, Avocado, Carrots and Dried Cranberries

Prep time:  5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Yield:  3-4 portions

Ingredients:

3 cups organic black kale, leaves only, washed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup dry cranberries
1/4 cup toasted almond slivers
1 cup organic red quinoa
juice of 2 lemons
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 moderately ripe avocado, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 chicken breasts, herb marinated and fully cooked and cooled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 cup shredded carrots
cracked back pepper
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Method:

Cook the quinoa following the manufacturer’s instructions (or cook exactly as you would rice).  Let the quinoa cool completely.

Mix everything except the chicken in a large mixing bowl.  Taste it and make sure you like the flavor.  If it needs to be brighter, add a little more vinegar or lemon juice.  Add a pinch of salt if necessary.  When you are happy with the flavor, add the chicken.

Serve right away.

Enjoy.

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The quest for the perfect roast chicken. Spanish Chicken with White Bean and Chorizo Stuffing.

As some of you may know, for the last 10 yrs, I have been on the quest for the perfectly roasted chicken.  I

can’t even begin to tell you how many birds I’ve cooked during this time, many to prove as failures.  But, similar to many great achievements over history, a failure is a lesson learned, not the end of the game.  The quest for perfection is a noble endeavor, and it implies one certain thing:  You will never achieve perfection.  It doesn’t exist.  But we try, and thus is the quest.  The pursuit to better oneself or in this case, one’s achievement.  This is a very deep and introverted monologue, especially in lieu of that fact that this blog is about a roast chicken.  Comical.  But it pertains to the greater scheme of things, and in cooking, especially high end restaurant cooking, or home cooking where a lot of passion resides, it’s important to keep yourself aligned.  Never loose faith in what you’re doing, and never give up.  Perfection does not exist.  But the journey is worth more than its weight in gold.

Back to topic.  Roast chicken.  I’ve always been under the impression that a ‘roast’ chicken needs to be roasted.  Obvious?  Roasting is a technique.  It’s a dry heat cooking technique.  Dry heat implies zero or as little liquid as possible.  Liquid plus heat equals steam.  Steaming.  A different technique altogether.  Okay, I think we’re on to something now.  So every time I’ve roasted a chicken, I’ve trying to minimize the liquid content.  Or produce some sort of barrier.  Like butter.  I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts to dry the chicken thoroughly.  Ensure to not add a lot of vegetables or citrus that will in turn produce steam.  Rub butter under the skin to create a barrier.  And I must say, I’ve made some excellent roast chickens over the years.

But let’s re-cap on what we want.  What is our desire?  What should the final product be like?  You can’t reach a goal if you can’t define a goal.  So in short, I want the chicken to be juicy, flavorful, cooked perfectly, tender, and I want the skin to be dark, crisp, and slightly salty.  It’s a tall order, but it’s what I want.

I have recently tried a ‘new’ method of roasting the chicken, which is really more like steaming, or ‘braising’ that absolutely blew my mind.  It’s hands down the best roast chicken I have ever made, and it’s simple!  Ten years and probably thousands of chickens and the answer was right in front of me all the time.  Spanish chicken… Yes.  Check out this recipe, and if you don’t produce the best roast chicken you’ve ever had, then I want your recipe!

Spanish Roast Chicken with White Bean Stuffing

Prep time:  30 min
Cook time:  2 hours
Inactive Cook time:  20 min
Yield:  4 small portions

Ingredients:

For the stuffing:

1 can white beans, drained
2 links cooked/smoked Spanish chorizo sausage, thin cut into disks
1/2 yellow onion, small dice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup prepared chicken stock
1/4 cup half and half
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only, rough chop
1 egg
1 tbsp spanish paprika
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
ground black pepper

For the Chicken:

1 4-6lb chicken, patted dry inside and out
1 yellow onion, sliced
kosher salt
ground black pepper
2 tbsp spanish paprika
extra virgin olive oil
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only, rough chop
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup prepared chicken stock

Method:

For the stuffing:

In a medium sized straight side saute pan, begin sauteing the chorizo in the olive oil.  As the chorizo renders and begins to color, add the onion and saute until translucent.  Add the beans and white wine and bring to a boil.  Cook until most of the wine is evaporated and the beans are thick.  Add the chicken stock, paprika and thyme.  Cook again until thick.  Add the half and half and cook until thick.  Remove from heat and transfer the mix to a mixing bowl.  Let cool slightly.  Add the egg and work in until completely mixed.  Your stuffing is ready.

For the chicken:

Heat your oven to 400.  Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken.  Stuff it and truss it tightly.  If you are not comfortable with this, just tie the legs together with twine as tight as possible, to keep the stuffing inside.  Now rub the chicken on all sides with the olive oil.  Liberally salt, pepper and sprinkle the chicken with paprika.  Sprinkle the top with the thyme.  Place the sliced onions in a large straight side saute pan or small roasting pan.  Place the chicken on top of the onions and pour the wine and chicken stock into the pan.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and cook in the over for 1 hour.  Remove the foil, turn the oven down to 350 and cook for one more hour.  Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest.  Let the chicken rest for 20 minutes on a cutting board so you can reduce the pan jus.  Carve the chicken, remove the stuffing, and spoon the sauce (jus) over the top.  Serve right away.

Enjoy.

Simple Roast Chicken

Here we are, beginning of summer, the southwest is getting mauled by a record heat wave, and I am thinking

about roast chicken.  Maybe it’s just too hot to go out and grill.  I love the process of roasting a chicken almost more than eating the chicken.  Your house will smell divine, and in reality, it’s an easy dinner.  Maybe cut a few potatoes and place around the chicken, brussels sprouts, carrots… whatever seems good.  Whatever fits your mood.

Roast chicken is traditionally a fall/winter dish, so think along the lines of root vegetables.  Of course there’s nothing wrong with making it any time of year, especially when you’re having a craving for crispy, delicious roast chicken.

Regarding the preparation and cooking process, I posted a roast chicken recipe a long time ago that was complex.  This is not.  The most important things to remember are:

  1. Start with a very dry chicken.  This minimizes steam, giving you a true roast flavor, not a boiled flavor.
  2. Salt and season the chicken inside and out.  You want the flavor to work its way in from both sides.
  3. Truss the chicken.  Even if it’s just tying the legs together tightly.  Trussing pulls the chicken into the best possible roasting position, letting everything cook evenly and thoroughly without over cooking the white meat.
  4. Let it rest.  Cutting a hot chicken is just like cutting a hot steak.  The juices will run, making a mess and leaving you with dry chicken.
This recipe calls for Maldon sea salt, which is easy enough to find.  Maldon sea salt is a sweeter, mild, large crystal salt.  It will help give your chicken that crispy salty flavor without really adding an excessive amount of salt (which I hate).  
Not too hard, right?  Rely on excellent ingredients, a simple cooking process done right, and there you have, excellent roast chicken!
Simple Roast Chicken 
Prep time:  10 minutes
Cook time:  1 hr 20 min
Yield:  3-4 portions

Ingredients:

1 small frying chicken, about 3 1/2 lbs
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
1 head of garlic, sliced in half
1 lemon, sliced in half
maldon sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper
olive oil
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder

Method:

Beginning heating your oven to 400 degrees.  Using plenty of paper towels, dry the chicken well, inside and out.  Place the chicken in a mixing bowl and rub the exposed sliced garlic over all surfaces.  Repeat with the lemon.  And add just enough oil to lightly coat everything, inside and out.  Sprinkle the paprika, onion and garlic on the chicken, again, making sure to get the inside.  Generously apply the salt and pepper, again, inside and out.  Remove a few leaves of thyme (about 1 spring’s worth), rough chop, and sprinkle on top.  Place the remaining thyme, lemon and garlic half in the cavity of the chicken and truss the bird.  To make trussing simple, use butcher’s twice and tie the ends of the legs as tight as possible to each other.  Place aluminum foil over the wing tips and place the bird on a roasting rack or perforated sheet pan.  Roast for about 1 hr, or until the internal temperate is about 150 and the juices run clear.  Remove from the oven, place a piece of aluminum foil over the bird and let rest for 15 minutes.  Carve and serve.

Enjoy.

Stop playing around: Pulled Chicken in Black Bean Sauce

The real deal.  No BS.  No Manches!  Or, Mexican slang for no messing around.  Dress to impress, cook like your life depends on it, kill or be killed.  When everything is on the line, these are the phrases we use.

When you apply for a job in the culinary world, it becomes reality.  You may now be intrigued, but may also thinking ‘how ridiculous, it’s only cooking’.  Or something along those lines.  Or not.

Professional culinary jobs, especially those in management, are coveted.  It’s like being hired as the director of finance, or senior database architect.  Different worlds, same principal:  you have competition.  Other people want your job, and are willing to work longer hours, receive less pay, and work harder than you.

So why am I going to hire you?  What can you do for me?

‘Well, as you can see from my resume, I have a solid background in management, I worked at every top restaurant in the world, I can run a 4 minute mile, I went to MIT, I’m a war hero, I won a Noble Prize, blah blah blah’

In the world of culinary, a resume might get you an interview.  Your performance and attitude will get you a job.  ‘Okay, your resume is very impressive, why don’t we get you in the kitchen now and see how you do’

Now it’s on.  No manches, no playing around.  I’ve been in this situation many times, and it’s what we like to call a bench test, or ‘stage’.  And anything is fair game.  Maybe they’ll throw you on a station for the night and see how you handle yourself.  Maybe they’ll give you a bunch of leftover stuff and make you turn it into a 4 course meal…. if you can.  Maybe you tour the walkin and pick out a few things and cook an entree.  Whatever it is, you better impress them, and represent yourself 100%, otherwise no matter how much experience you have and how good your resume is, this job isn’t for you.  We will keep your resume on file should anything come up in the next 6 months.

The following recipe is the type of recipe that might work.  For me.  It isn’t necessarily refined gourmet French, and is therefore a gamble, but it’s build upon unbridled culinary passion.  The technique and resulting flavor are phenomenal.  Every chef has seen seared scallops and pan roasted chicken.  We’ve all had truffle celery puree.  Big deal, you can make wilted spinach.  Wow.  Good one.

But this… no manches!  This might be good enough to set you apart.  Difficulty level: 5/10.  Easy money; present it elegantly, garnish it well, make a clean and well constructed plate composition, and land yourself a new job.  Welcome aboard.

Pulled Chicken with Black Bean Sauce      

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hr
Inactive cook time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 portions

Ingredients:

For the Chicken:

1 whole chicken, split down the keep bone
2 tbsp miso paste
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 cup assorted dried peppers
1 cup sake
1 tbsp spicy korean bean paste
1 knob ginger, smashed
1 stalk lemongrass, smashed
2 bay leaves

For the Black Bean Sauce:

1 can black beans, drained
1 jalapeno, stem removed
2 tbsp tapatio hot sauce
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder

To Finish:

kosher salt
black pepper
1/2 red onion, fine chop
1/2 bunch cilantro, rough chop

grated cheddar cheese

Method:

For the chicken:

Place everything in a pot, add water to barely cover.  Simmer for approx 1 hr, until cooked through and tender.  Strain, reserving the liquid.  Let chicken cool to room temp, about 30 minutes.  Pull the meat from the bones and shred.

For the sauce:

Place everything in a small sauce pot.  Add enough water to cover by about 3/4 inch.  Bring to a simmer, turn heat to very low and cook for 1/2 hour.  Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.  Reserve and keep warm.

To Finish:

Mix the chicken with the onion and black bean puree.  Place in a saute pan and gently reheat.  Add some of the reserved cooking liquid to make sure it doesn’t dry out.  When hot throughout, add the cilantro and check seasoning.  Serve, using the cheese as a garnish.

Best served with tortillas (flour or corn), avocado slices, and tomatillo salsa.

Enjoy.

Tri-colored Chicken Nachos

Nachos.  Football food, right along with chili and chicken wings.  Perfect for having a cold beer.  Is it restaurant food?  Absolutely.  Fine dining? No, but any sports bar, pub, casual restaurant, Mexican place, etc will have nachos on their menu.  Why?  Because everyone loves nachos!

Crispy, smooth, spicy, savory, cheesy… delicious.  Perfect game – time finger food.

So, what’s the trick?  Why do we need a blog recipe for nachos?  We don’t, but there are a few things I would like to emphasize (other than how good these are).  First and foremost:  just like every other multi-part recipe I have posted, it is critical to make sure every component is made correctly, seasoned and cooked correctly before we combine everything.  It may seem obvious, but it’s so important.  Second, I think some people get intimidated with cheese sauces, homemade pico de galo (or raw salsa), guacamole, and bean puree.  It’s easier to open a few bottles of tostitos cheese sauce, bean dip and salsa and call it a day.  Not a bad idea, and when you’re in a pinch, it’s a great idea.  But there are excessive amounts of fat and salt in those pre-made items, and a limited amount of true flavor.  Better to make it yourself, control your ingredients, and have far superior finished product.

So here it is.  My recipe for nachos.  I broke it down component by component, so you can choose what you want to make, what you want to buy, when you want to make them, and to just make the process simpler.  Don’t be afraid to serve this with my chili recipe or roasted chicken wing recipe.  They all work together!

Tri-colored Chicken Nachos

Prep time:  10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yield:  enough for 5

You will need to prepare the guacamole and pico de galo from this earlier post:

http://chefnotebook.blogspot.com/2012/08/guacamole-and-pico-de-galo.html

Ingredients:

For the cheese sauce:

4 oz jack cheese, shredded
4 oz sharp yellow cheddar, shredded
1 cup heavy cream
1 small can jalapeno peppers

For the chicken:

3 skinless boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
1 tbsp montreal chicken rub
1 tsp chili powder
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp vegetable oil

For the chips:

1 package tri-color tortilla chips
few tbsp sour cream

For the beans:

1 can black beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bunch cilantro, rough chop
1/2 red onion, rough chop
franks or tapatio hot sauce
1 tbsp chili powder

Method:

For the cheese sauce:

In a small sauce pot, heat the cream and add the cheese in 2 installments, with the jalapenos.  Whisk until melted, keep warm but not hot.  Reserve.

For the beans:

In a small sauce pot, add 1/2 cup of water, the beans, hot sauce, chili powder, onion, and garlic.  Bring to a boil and reduce slightly.  Transfer everything to a blender and blend until smooth.  Add the cilantro at the very end.  It should be thick.  If it’s not thick enough, return to the sauce pot and over low heat, reduce further.  Check seasoning.  Reserve and keep warm.

For the chicken.

Mix the chicken with the seasonings, lime juice and oil.  Liberally salt both sides and grill over a hot grill, until slightly charred and just cooked through.  Slice into thin strips.  Keep warm, and reserve.

For the Chips:

Gently warm chips in a low oven.

To finish:

In a mixing bowl, toss the warm chips with the bean puree, 1/2 the cheese and 1/2 the pico de gallo.  Transfer to a platter or serving bowl and drizzle the rest of the cheese sauce over the top.  Top with the remainder of the pice de galo, sliced chicken, guacamole, sour cream, and the remainder of the chopped cilantro.  Serve right away

Feel free to add diced bell peppers, additional red onions, additional shredded cheese on top, sub steak for chicken, add additional avocado on top, and so on.

Enjoy.

Coronation Chicken

Coronation chicken.  A fancy name for a simple dish.  Originally, it was dish made for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and is a simple mix of cubed cold chicken set in a creamy curry sauce.  Like a wonderful play on curry chicken salad.

Personally, I think it’s delicious and a refreshing change of pace.  This is not ordinary mayonnaise based chicken salad.  Lots of dry spices and raisins give it incredible depth of flavor, almonds give it more personality, and mascarpone cheese adds more creaminess than just mayonnaise alone.  It’s a remarkable dish.

The best mode of consumption, in my opinion, is as a finger sandwich, served on cinnamon raisin bread.  It’s rich and highly seasoned, and not appropriate for an entire sandwich.  As an appetizer or tea sandwich, it’s perfect, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Coronation Chicken

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Inactive cook time:  1 hour
Yield: 3 cups prepared salad

Ingredients:

2 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
creole or cajun seasoning
kosher salt
2 slices cinnamon raisin bread
vegetable oil
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1 tbsp tumeric
1 tbsp curry powder
1/8 cup raisins
2 tbsp toasted slivered almonds
ground black pepper

Method:

Prepare a gas grill.  Make sure the heat is high, grates are clean and well oiled.  Lightly toss the chicken with the vegetable oil, cajun seasoning and kosher salt.  Grill, lightly blackening on each side, until cooked through.  Let cool completely.  Dice chicken into 1/3 in cubes.  Dice the bread into 1/4 in cubes.  Put everything in a large mixing bowl and mix well.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add a little more mayonnaise if mix is too dry.  Serve on toasted slices of cinnamon raisin bread, in the fashion of finger sandwiches.

Enjoy.

Sticky Lemon Chicken with Gremolata

Chicken, lemon, olive oil… what great ingredients!  Capers, lemon, parsley, shallots… another classic mix.  Put the two together, and fireworks in the pan!  This recipe is savory, sweet, a little crispy, and 100% delicious.  The first step takes a few minutes and requires a little patience, but if you’re willing to invest the time (all of 45 minutes), the reward is well worth the wait!

One of the biggest keys to making this successful is ensuring the lemon is cooked through, and ABSOLUTELY no pith (white layer under lemon zest) is incorporated into the dish.  This has a deeply bitter flavor that will permeate and ultimately ruin your dish.  I finish with a gremolata, which is traditionally used to finish deep meat braises (osso busso is the classic).  This adds a bright, piquante and citrus finish, contrasting perfectly with the aromatic and sweet lemon chicken.  It cuts it, adding the wonderful and coveted balance we always need in complex dishes.  

Prep time: 20 minutes
Total cook time: 1 1/2 hours
Yield: 4 portions

Ingredients:

5 lemons plus 1 reserved
2 tbsp capers, drained and rough chop
1 large shallot, fine chop
1/2 bunch parsley, rough chop
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
extra virgin olive oil
vegetable oil
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup homemade chicken stock
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp corn starch
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
1 whole chicken, 16 (chinese style) pieces, or ‘picnic’ style store bough chicken (smaller the pieces, the better)

Method:

Using a zester or sharp vegetable peeler, remove all zest from the lemons, being careful to leave the pith (white part).  Fine chop the zest.  Place all the lemon zest in a small sauce pot with cold water and bring to a boil.  Strain, refresh the zest under cold water, and repeat the blanching process.  Do this three time.  Place the triple blanched zest back in the pot, add the sugar and 1 cup of water.  Bring to a simmer, and simmer until tender, about 1/2 hour.  Let cool to room temp and reserve.

Zest the reserved lemon with a micro-plane and chop until very finely chopped.  Mix the parsley, capers and shallot with the lemon zest.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper and a about 1 tsp of olive oil.  This is a gremolata, and will be used to finish the chicken.

Season the chicken with paprika, salt, pepper, corn starch and a little olive oil.  In a heavy bottomed saute pan, gently brown all sides of the chicken in vegetable oil.  Remove the chicken from the pan and let drain on paper towels.  Deglaze the pan with the wine, and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any baked on bits.  Let the wine evaporate almost completely.  Add the stock and reduce by half.  There should be only a small amount of liquid left in the pan now.  Put the chicken back in the pan and about 1/3 of the reserved lemon zest and syrup.  Squeeze a small amount of fresh lemon juice into the pan to add brightness.  Let cook until sticky and slightly caramelized.  Turn heat off, add 1/2 of the caper mix (gremolata), toss well to incorporate, and place chicken on a platter.  Drizzle a little more candied lemon over the top along with the rest of the caper mix.

Serve right away.

I love this chicken with sauteed mushrooms, grilled vegetables, and steamed rice pilaf.

Enjoy

My Chicken Salad

I love chicken salad.  Few things disappoint me more than a poorly made chicken salad.  You know what I mean.  Tough, bland chicken, lack of seasoning, tons of mayo to compensate…  you feel queasy after the 2nd bite.  There’s no flavor, no layering, no balance, no love; nothing but boiled chicken and mayo (and sometimes a little celery if you’re lucky).

Or you can come across something amazing.  Something that will enchant you, dazzle you, and make you love chicken salad again. Something truly unique.  I think to think my chicken salad will do just that.  Or come close.

If you look at the components of chicken salad, you will by default be breaking it down into individual flavor profiles.  This is, once again, the beginning of flavor layering and finding the coveted balance we want to achieve.

Great chicken salad begins with great chicken.  There are so many ways you can cook the chicken, and each one done properly will yield a unique and wonderful flavor.  Perfect roast, grill, poach, braise, and so on.  I like to roast the chicken for chicken salad, which in itself builds tremendous flavor.  Mayonnaise is necessary, but mayonnaise is of course rich, creamy and will easily overpower a dish.  So we balance it.  Add lemon juice, olive oil, a little mustard, and spices.  Adding and relying on natural and diverse flavors will allow you to use minimal mayonnaise.  Use it only as a binder; the ‘finishing’ element.  With chicken, mayo, lemon juice, and dijon mustard, eggs are a natural pair.  So a couple of hard boiled eggs will compliment everything in the salad with perfection and finesse.

My personal touch is the addition of fresh tarragon and a few slivered red grapes.  Tarragon and grapes are a very classic (and French) pair, and they make the chicken salad light, add more diversity of flavor, and keep your palette pleasantly entertained.  Put everything together, and you have a great, very unique, balanced, and very delicious chicken salad.

Chicken Salad

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Inactive cook time: 3 hours
Yield: 6 portions

Ingredients:

2 whole free range organic chickens, legs only removed
6 sprigs thyme
3 lemons, cut in half
1/2 bunch tarragon
10 red grapes
extra virgin olive oil
3 large organic eggs
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp paprika
1 bunch scallions, fine chop
1/2 bunch celery, small dice
1 head garlic, cut in half
1/2 red onion, small dice
prepared heavy mayonnaise (hellmanns is best)
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Method:

Heat an oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly oil the chickens, liberally salt and pepper them inside and out.  Cut 1 lemon in half, squeeze the juice over the chickens, place the squeezed half in the cavity along with 3 sprigs of thyme and the garlic.  Place the chickens in an elevated roasting pan or a sheet pan lined with a wire rack.  Roast for about 45 minutes, or until internal temp reads 155.  Chicken should be golden brown.  Remove from oven, and let cool.  When you cool the chickens, make sure you leave all the meat on the bone.  They will retain more juice and flavor that way.

While the chicken is cooling, cook the eggs.  Place the eggs in a sauce pot, cover with cold water, add a generous pinch of salt and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 10 minutes, turn heat off and let sit for another 8 minutes.  Drain and refresh eggs under cold water.  Peel and slice thin.  Reserve.

After cooling the chickens, remove the skin and coarsely shred the meat, by hand or with 2 forks.  Save the bones for stock later on.

Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl with the celery, scallions, tarragon, onion, juice of the remaining 2 lemons, and eggs.  Add enough olive oil to make the ingredients ‘glisten’, or shine (add enough to evenly coat everything).  Salt and pepper liberally.  Add the paprika, cayenne and mustard and mix well.  Add just enough mayonnaise to lightly coat everything.  You will probably find that about 1/2 cup is adequate.  Remember, start with less than you think you will need.  You can always add later on, but you can never remove.  Check the seasoning, and adjust where you feel necessary (mostly likely if it needs anything, it will be salt, or additional lemon juice).  Add the sliced grapes.

Place in a shallow platter and garnish with a sprinkle of paprika, maybe a sprig of tarragon, or grapes.  In my opinion, the best way to serve this is with French croissants, Boston lettuce and sliced vine ripe tomatoes.  But it’s your dish, serve it in whatever way makes you happy.

Enjoy.

Cedar Plank Chicken

I have talked passionately about cedar plank salmon.  I really believe that it is one of greatest salmon preparation methods.  Salmon takes smoke well, smoke compliments the natural flavor, and the two of them produce a mild sweetness that is impossible to replicate.  

The question: if cedar technique works so well with salmon, what else does it work with?  From the title of the post, you are of course thinking chicken.  Of course.  Chicken.  Slow and gentle smoke lives in harmony with chicken, once again bringing out mild, almost delicate sweetness.

This is similar to bbq chicken, simply because the smoke permeates the entire chicken.  It will, however, yield a much juicier chicken, with more subtle flavors.  Subtle, in that the cedar smoke brings out sweetness and natural flavor that a powerful bbq sauce or glaze may mask.   Keep in mind, the flavors here are still incredibly bold, and you are producing a highly seasoned product.  It’s emphasis is simply more of a natural flavor.  Which, I think you will find, is delicious.

Cedar Plank Chicken

Prep time: 5 minutes
Inactive Cook time: 4 hours
Cook time: 40 minutes
Yield: 2 portions

Ingredients:

1 small chicken, cut in half, thigh and drumstick bones removed (or leave all bones in)
2 tbsp siracha
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp poultry seasoning
kosher salt
1 cedar plank (do not soak)

Method:

Place both halves of chicken in a mixing bowl and add all ingredients except the salt.  Work in well.  Let marinade for 4 hours.

Bring a gas grill to high heat.  Lightly oil the cedar plank on the food-touching side.  Liberally salt the chicken, all sides.  Place the chicken on the grill, skin side down, and sear.  Place the cedar plank on the grill.  Flip the chicken and sear on the bone side.  When both sides are seared, place the chicken halves on the cedar plank, keep the heat on high, and close the grill cover.  Let cook, untouched.  If the plank begins to catch on fire, turn the heat down.  It should start to catch on fire around the edges.  This is what you want; the cedar is protecting the chicken from the direct heat, and the fire will just add additional smoke flavor.  When chicken is cooking through (meat is firm, temp reads above 150), remove, let rest for about 5 minutes and serve right away.  Run cool water over the cedar plank and discard.

As this is a ‘smokey’ grilling recipe, bbq sides are most appropriate.  Potato salad, cole slaw, or, oddly enough, Lebanese hummus, tabbouleh, cucumber/tomato salads, and so on, work very well.  Whatever you serve with this, it’s a great recipe and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Enjoy.

Another great marinade! Citrus Chicken!

Another great marinade!  Once again, the two basics of a marinade:

acid
base flavor

This marinade’s base flavor and acid are both citrus derived.  Orange juice provides enough acid, natural flavor and sweetness to cover many of the bases.  Add a few accentuating elements, and there you go!

I must say, this goes best with chicken (thighs are of course my first pick).  And, of course, this is a grilling recipe.  Nothing is more appropriate.  Sink your chicken into this marinade over night, get a hot wood grill going, liberally season the meat with salt and pepper, and have fun with it.  Incredible.

Citrus marinade for chicken

Prep time: 5 minutes
Yield: a few cups of marinade

Ingredients:

2 red onion, thin sliced
5 cloves garlic, smashed flat
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/8 cup brandy
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
zest of 2 lemons
3 sprigs cilantro
1 tbsp whole peppercorns
3 star anise
1 tsp whole cloves

Method:  Mix everything together thoroughly in a mixing bowl.  Add chicken and work marinade into chicken.  Cover tightly and seal.  Let sit overnight before grilling.

Grill this chicken over high heat along with a few grilled slices of orange to final seasoning and garnish (grilling the citrus will bring out sweetness and flavor).  Serve with your choice of great grilling sides.

Enjoy