Category Archives: chicken

Chopped

Despite a language barrier, Danielle and I work well as a team using hand signals

We had an hour, but it is 20 minutes now until judging and the chicken is raw. And then there is the peanut butter issue.

In our basket at the Char-Broil version of Chopped are the mystery ingredients: a whole chicken, a fennel bulb, a stick of butter, bacon, a wedge of blue cheese, a pineapple and a horrifying jar of chunky peanut butter. We have to use all of them in our dish. The Char-Broil people, who have kindly invited the All-Star Bloggers to a resort outside Atlanta, have thoughtfully provided us with a nifty “kitchen” consisting of two disposable cutting boards, a half sheet pan, a moderately sharp knife, and four miniscule bowls.

Fear the Diva

But I have the ace card in my corner. My teammate is Danielle Dimovski, the reigning world pork champion better known as Diva Q. I am totally set here. This is going to be a walk in the park. “I know exactly what we’re going to do,” says Danielle as she hacks away at the pineapple. “We’re going to make beer-can chicken but we’re going to use the pineapple as the beer can. We can totally do this in an hour.” I have a slightly difficult time understanding her. Danielle is from Canada and she uses words like “aboat” (about) and “hoose” (house). Then again I use words like “haid” (head) and “bidness” (business). We have a slight language barrier, but we’ll work through that.

There are screaming hot Char-Broil TRU-Infrared grills set up around the Lake Pavilion at Serenbe, an insanely gorgeous planned community. Danielle slams that chicken onto the pineapple spike, rubs on some spices and citrus juice (the bloggers have a common “pantry” of additional ingredients we can use),  slaps the whole thing authoritatively on the grill and slams the lid shut.

If you’ve ever watched Chopped, the Food Network Show where four chefs are given mystery baskets of insanely inappropriate ingredients, you will understand that Danielle and I had to take a few minutes to ponder the butter, blue cheese, bacon, fennel and peanut butter.

Bacon? Obviously, no problem. We cook it on a grill pan. Fennel? Shave it and briefly kiss it with some grill marks. Alrighty then. We’re left with the butter, blue cheese and peanut butter. Yummy, yum, yum.

I am slightly reticent to offer suggestions to the world pork champion, but I wonder if we can’t use the peanut butter with some barbecue sauce to make a dipping sauce for the chicken. Why the hell not? We throw the peanut butter, barbecue sauce, a bit of lemon juice and a bit of Worcestershire into one of our pygmy bowls.  We throw in some bacon grease and butter. It looks like baked beans. But it tastes good.

It is now 20 minutes before turn in. Danielle lifts the lid of the grill. The chicken is…raw. Plan B. Plan B! This woman is a rock star. She takes the knife and dissects that chicken right on the grill! Two chicken breasts off the bird and onto the grill. I retreat to make a vinaigrette for the fennel.

Grilled chicken with fennel slaw and our almost-award-winning pineapple and bacon bites

I am going to cut to the chase.We made a grilled chicken breast over grilled fennel slaw in a citrus vinaigrette topped with blue cheese and bacon crumbles. But the single thing that makes our dish is this: We took some of the pineapple, cut into spears, and grilled it. Then we topped it with our peanut butter barbecue sauce concoction and then we put a strip of bacon on top. Sweet and salty on top of sweet and salty. They were over the top. The chicken and the fennel, not so much. Danielle and I knew this. Even though we don’t speak the same language we are realists.

We got honorable mention, based solely on our pineapple bacon bites. The winner was a New York

Christo modest in victory

City chef, Christo Gonzales, who made a chicken breast stuffed with fennel, bacon and blue cheese with a peanut butter and citrus jus. What a show off. Oh, I’m sorry. That’s not ladylike. But we’re not bitter. We applauded Christo, took a bite of his chicken and conceded we were outdone.

I will say this. After the competition, we had quite a few pineapple bacon bites left. And one by one, our fellow bloggers slowly sauntered over to our station and ate them all. I’m just sayin’.

5 Comments

Filed under cheese, chicken, pork, salads, sides, Uncategorized, veggies

Flat chicken and green noodles

Well, this just isn’t going to work out at all. Noah called today to tell me he’d found an apartment off-campus. But clearly he’s not ready to live on his own yet. I mean, just look at him. He can barely see over the counter. An apartment is a lot of responsibility. He doesn’t know how to do laundry. He doesn’t know how to cook. I expect he could figure out how to fit the Eggo waffles in a toaster, but I’m not going to let him use a toaster. He’d burn himself. He’s just a little boy. A wee little boy.

Okay. I know. I’m delusional. But that’s what I was thinking this morning when my wee little boy, who

The real Noah: large and able to accomplish simple tasks on his own.

is edging toward six feet tall, told me he’d found an apartment. With Bunny’s help. His grandmother has been my long-distance goon squad for the last month.  We were in total agreement. Nothing that exhibited evidence of roaches or vermin. Nothing where you could see dirt through the floor boards. Nothing icky. For $400 a month. That was his limit. I truly thought I had him at a standstill because there’s no way he could find something for $400 a month.

Dammit. Dammit Boy. He did. “Uh, the only thing, Mom, is that I have to move in in June,” he said over the phone. “They won’t hold the apartment until August. ” … So that means you’re not coming home this summer? “I hate it, Mom, I was really looking forward to coming home for the summer, but I don’t really have a choice.” Liar, liar, pants on fire.

Oh, hell. I remember wanting to live off campus and the place I found would have horrified my parents had they seen it. It was a former funeral home in Murray, Kentucky, and there was a suspiciously long stainless steel sink in my room. I shared it with four other people. I loved it. It was a total dump, but I loved it. It’s just that it’s different when it’s your baby of almost 20 living in an apartment. On his own. Did I tell you I’m going to turn his room into a guest room? Ha! That will fix him.

So, flat chicken and green noodles. Noah’s favorite childhood meal. I think he can accomplish that in his efficiency apartment. In his spacious kitchenette with a 24-inch stove he can probably reach into the refrigerator for the ingredients, cook the meal, clean up and get ready for bed without moving an inch. He called it flat chicken because I pounded the chicken breasts into thin cutlets. And green noodles? Just pesto and pasta.

Flat Chicken and Green Noodles

2 chicken breasts, pounded into 1/4-inch cutlets

Seasoned breadcrumbs

Vegetable oil

Juice of one lemon

1 4-ounce container pesto

1/2 pound thin spaghetti

Put the breadcrumbs on a plate. Rinse each cutlet with cold water and then dredge them in the breadcrumbs. Heat the oil and lemon juice to medium high heat. Saute the cutlets until golden brown.

Cook the pasta starting in warm water in a shallow pan deep enough to submerge the pasta. Keep moving the pasta around with tongs to keep it separated as the water continues to get hotter. The pasta will be cooked al dente before the water reaches a boil. Mix with pesto sauce.

 

2 Comments

Filed under chicken, pasta

Poppy Seed Chicken and death

I apologize. Right from the start. I will talk to you about Poppy Seed Chicken, one of the South’s greatest inventions. But first, death. In a funny way.

My husband is a lawyer and a few days ago he got a letter in the mail from a company that records your message to your loved ones to be left with your will and “enjoyed years after (your) death.” Really? Is that a good idea? Here’s my message to Mark: Hi, honey. Miss me yet? Have you fed the cats and cleaned the litter? How about the trash? I know you love the tall trash, the kind that spills out of the garbage can in the kitchen. Did you empty it? Are the doors locked? You know my OCD about locking the doors. Are you sure they’re locked? Check again. No, check three times. Hey, I have a great view of the house now and I think I see some cat vomit in the living room. Can you clean that up? Miss me? By the way, the mortgage is due.

So, Poppy Seed Chicken. There is no greater threat to public grooming than poppy seeds. You do not want to eat a poppy seed bagel at an important business meeting. Just as you’re about the seal the deal, you smile. Oh, God. And yet, we love our Poppy Seed Chicken. We serve it at potlucks, funerals and christenings. We just don’t smile much on those occasions.

Poppy Seed Chicken

1 supermarket rotisserie chicken

2 tablespoons butter

8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms

2 cans cream of chicken soup

16 ounces sour cream

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1 sleeve Ritz crackers

1/3 cup butter melted

Remove the chicken from the bones and shred it. Melt the butter in a sauté pan and cook the mushrooms until they have released all their juice and they are well browned. Reserve. In a large bowl, mix the chicken soup, sour cream, and poppy seeds. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms and the chicken.

Pour chicken mixture into a 9-by-13 dish. Crush the crackers and mix with the melted butter. Sprinkle over the top of the chicken. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under casseroles, chicken

A college student cooks…well

Noah checks out

Teachable moments. When a child is five, it seems there are a thousand of them. By the time they’re twelve, the stack starts to dwindle. And, at almost 20, I am now down to five or six. Or so it seems.

Noah wants an apartment next year and, with that, will come cooking his own meals. He will have a budget of $100 a week (what, in a year, his meal plan would cost) and I am superior in my assumption that he has no idea how to make that money stretch for a week. So we test the theory. We go to the grocery store with a calculator.

We hit the perimeter of the store first. That’s where you want to shop. The produce, meat and dairy sections. Only go to the dark side for staples like pasta, oil and spices. Hamburger Helper? NO! Chips Ahoy? DANGER! Velveeta? Okay, you’ve got me there. I love me some Velveeta.

So, to make a long story short, he did great. Dammit. He bought (I bought) a package of chicken breasts, thin-cut pork chops and two pounds of bulk sausage. Low rent ham for sandwiches. Lower rent bread. Frozen vegetables, rice, pasta, apples, coffee, canned soup and store brand cheese. He bypassed the relatively expensive convenience foods. He was unsuitably smug in his victory and totally discounted the fact that I had guided him away from the frozen pizza.

Having a basket full of groceries and knowing what to do with them are two different things, however.

Pork chops, mashed potatoes and green beans

Hah! I’ll get him here. “So, son?” I say coyly. “Why don’t you cook us supper with your new groceries? Just whip something up. Anything, really.”

And I leave. I go down to the garage to smoke and play World of Warcraft, confident in the fact that when I ascend again there will be mass chaos, a smoke-filled kitchen and burnt shards of something inedible on the plate.

“Mom?” he says. “Supper’s ready.”

I ascend. I gasp. How did friggin’ Emeril Lagasse find my kitchen? Noah has made coffee rub/breadcrumb coated pork chops, cooked perfectly until just rosy in the middle. He has made buttery mashed potatoes with garlic. He has made hericot verts with garlic. Alright, too much garlic but I am not going to quibble. It was all delicious.

So, tonight we go again. Chicken breasts, chopped green and yellow pepper, red onion, mushrooms.

Chicken, peppers, mushrooms and pasta. Noah style.

He chops the chicken and seasons it with Montreal Chicken Seasoning. Sautes in oil, removes the chicken and then adds the vegetables.  When they’re nice and brown he adds a bit of Madeira (not something he’ll have on campus – I can’t see you)  and then adds a can of cream of mushroom soup. This is going to suck, I think. He thins the soup with milk, adds back the chicken, and then puts the entire mixture over pasta.

Dang it! It’s good. If I hadn’t watched him add the soup, I would never have known. I had seconds. And I wasn’t being polite.

I am proud of my boy. I would like to think that my miniscule attempt at one of the last few teachable moments had the seeds of germination in the hours he’s spent watching me cook over the last 19 years. But as I told him tonight there is no way to teach someone to cook. You either have the intuition or you don’t. You’re a recipe follower or you’re a creator. You can pick up tips and tricks, but you have to just have the knowledge of what goes with what and how much in your gut.

And he has it. No brag, just fact.

3 Comments

Filed under chicken, pork, sides, Uncategorized

Chicken and stuffing casserole

Sometimes you just need easy. You need not feel guilty about pulling out a box of cornbread stuffing (O.K., Stove Top), looking on the back of the box and just letting her rip. I have embellished the time honored recipe of chicken and stuffing casserole on the back of the box. I am sure mine is superior.

And so I will feel better about presenting this, yes, pitifully easy recipe I will give you a couple of tips. First off, almost anything you make except cornflakes and milk is improved upon by adding lemon juice. Lemon juice brightens up vegetables (yes, kale haters, even kale). It gives punch to any pan sauce. It adds dimension to dips. Don’t waste the rind. Grate down to the white part (no white part – bitter!) and add the grated lemon zest to almost anything (not cornflakes).

My second tip is about mushrooms, which are improperly prepared too much of the time. About 90 percent of the constitution of a mushroom is water. And when you put them in a pan over medium heat they will produce that water right in the pan. Do not despair. Work through the pain. Crank the heat up and continue sauteing until all the water is gone and the mushrooms have turned a deep golden brown.

And I have to tell you one of the things I love about my sad, unimaginative chicken and stuffing casserole is that you don’t need to cook the chicken first. The thing I hate about casseroles is that they take so much effort on the front end, prepping all the ingredients, that when you’re done you just want to shoot yourself. This is pitifully easy and it tastes really yummy.

Chicken and Stuffing Casserole

1 box cornbread stuffing

2 chicken breasts

1 can cream of mushroom soup

½ cup sour cream

Juice of ½ lemon

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons butter

8 ounces mushrooms

8 ounces frozen green beans, thawed

Prepare the stuffing according to the package directions. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and mix with the soup, sour cream, lemon juice and smoked paprika.  Melt the butter in a skillet and sauté the mushrooms until they have given up their liquid and are nicely browned. Mix the mushrooms and green beans with the chicken and put it in the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with the stuffing.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and chicken is cooked through.

2 Comments

Filed under casseroles, chicken

Comfort food

Canned Tamales, Cold Pork & Beans, Mashed Potatoes. Photo courtesy of Kim Council

My friend, Kim, got some great news last week. Her sister’s Hepatitis C, which she has lived with for 30 years, is now undetectable. Which led to this bizarre meal her mother used to make: canned tamales, cold pork and beans, and mashed potatoes. Kim says it’s her English mother’s tribute to Mexican food. And for Kim this is comfort food and what her sister, Gloria, requested as a celebration meal.

Comfort food. Really more like memory food. Those odd combinations that are just so right, so indelibly linked to our past. Usually created by mothers, who had no idea at the time that their spur-of-the-moment thrown together creations would endure and, yes, comfort.

"Flat" chicken

For me, it’s a peanut butter and butter sandwich. I still eat them when I’m feeling a little blue. My mother probably just ran out of jelly and made the sandwich out of desperation to feed a five-year-old. For Mark, it’s blackberry cobbler. He can still see himself in his mind’s eye picking the blackberries with his Granny Belle. For Noah, it will probably be “flat” chicken and green noodles. Definitely a thrown-together meal with thin chicken cutlets dredged in seasoned bread crumbs and fried in oil and lemon juice, plus spaghetti with pesto sauce from the supermarket.

There is actually scientific evidence that proves that comfort food makes you feel better. Researchers at the University of Buffalo found that not only does eating comfort food elevate your mood, but just thinking about it is restorative. So here’s my other comfort food that I’m thinking about right now. Liverwurst. Yes, liverwurst. I’d tag along with my dad when he went to the butcher, who always gave me a slice of liverwurst as a treat. My mother never made liver so I didn’t know it was supposed to be yucky. All the Mayhews still love a good liverwurst sandwich: mayonnaise (lots of it, Duke’s naturally), thin sliced liverwurst and sliced white onion. We are prohibited from attending social events after eating these.

I’m thinking about a good stinking liverwurst sandwich right now and feeling pretty happy about it.

4 Comments

Filed under chicken, snacks, Uncategorized, veggies

The best fried chicken ever

OMG. The best fried chicken ever and it’s not my recipe.

I have suffered over making fried chicken. I have several Southern staples slap down. I can make a mean pie crust. I can fry catfish with the best of them. But fried chicken has always defeated me. To brine or not to brine? All-purpose flour or self-rising? I’ve tried both ways in both categories to no decent result. And the infamous direction in any fried chicken recipe: cook until done. What the hell does that mean? How do you know if it’s done?

So I was very anxious to try the recipe in Bon Appetit. The whole issue is on Southern food and the recipe promised this: “This is the only fried chicken recipe you’ll ever need.” Pretty boastful.

I am a big believer in following a recipe exactly the first time. And I did. And I learned some things. The first thing is that today’s chickens are too damn big. Fried chicken, as I learned in the article, began as a spring dish with young chickens. Small chickens. If you look at a package of chicken breasts in the supermarket today they’re the size of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biceps. So I cut the breasts in half, as the article advised.

The second thing I learned is that you should flip the chicken every two minutes or so. You’d think after countless tries of making fried chicken and having one side turn out almost black I would have figured this out.

The third thing is about seasoning. I’ve wet brined chickens before and I always thought the texture of the meat became spongy. What the article says is to dry brine it. They don’t call it that because they’re probably worried they’d scare you off, but basically you just apply the seasonings the night before and rest the chicken in the fridge. Somehow the spices penetrate all the way to the bone. How do it know? My question always about mysterious processes I can’t understand. I don’t know how it knows. But it does.

Last, cook until done. Get an instant read probe thermometer. I’ve told you about this before, people. Twenty

Probe poked in chicken leg, checking the temp, which is at 122. Keep a going to 165.

bucks at Bed, Bath and Beyond. If I had to list the top five essential kitchen tools, this would be near the top of the list. The chicken is done when the thermometer reads 165 with the probe in the thickest part of the meat but not touching the bone. Actually, you can just go to 160 because the meat will continue to cook after you take it out of the pan, which naturally must be cast iron. Don’t make me come after you.

One thing I didn’t do in following the directions is get a deep-fat thermometer. Too cheap and I followed the old Southern rule of knowing when fat is hot enough to fry in: Stick the handle of a wooden spoon in the pan. If bubbles immediately (but not furiously) form around the handle, the fat is just right.

So I am giving major props to Bon Appetit (someone asked me the other day what “props” meant – Aretha Franklin, look it up) by not even putting the recipe here. Go to Bon Appetit for it. They deserve all the credit. Guess I should describe the end result. Shatteringly crispy skin. Deep flavor in the meat. Utterly juicy. What your grandmother probably made every Sunday. Not mine, but yours. I feel complete. I’m on top of the world. Master of the universe. I ate three pieces by myself. Bad mommy. But so good.

4 Comments

Filed under chicken