CLAY POT ROAST CHICKEN

In my las post – In My Kitchen – I mentioned that we got a large clay pot. I put it to use right away, making the most classic item in clay cooking: a whole chicken. It is truly a non-recipe, essentially no work, no special ingredients. Salt and pepper. I added lemon slices just because. The clay pot gets soaked in water for half an hour, drained, and placed with the chicken inside (obviously) in a cold oven. As the oven heats up, the water retained by the porous surface of the pot turns into steam – a lot of steam – contained in the pot. With time moisture is reduced and the pot turns into a real roaster.  You simply cannot beat the texture achieved by this type of cooking, and if you are into crispy skin, no problem, open the lid and let it roast for 10 to 15 more minutes.

CLAY POT ROAST CHICKEN
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 chicken, about 4 pounds
fingerling potatoes
carrots
salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon, thinly sliced

Soak the clay pot in cold water for 30 minutes.

Pat dry chicken, season liberally with salt and pepper all over, and place lemon slices in the cavity. No need to truss it, but you can do it if you’d like.

Place fingerling potatoes, left whole if small, cut in half lengthwise if big, on the bottom of the clay pot. Add carrots. Use enough veggies to fully cover the bottom of the pot.  Place the chicken on top. Close the lid, and place in a cold oven.

Set the oven to 430 F, and cook the chicken for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Open the lid and let it roast for additional 10 to 15 minutes, if you like a more crispy skin.

You can make a simple gravy with all the juices accumulated in the clay pot, or simply drizzle it over the meat.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: It’s so nice to go back to simplicity in cooking. Yes, there’s something to be said about involved sauces and marinades, braises that take every single spice you own, measuring 1/8 of a teaspoon of this, a pinch of that, to the point that you wonder… could I really tell a difference if I left a few of the spices out?  In this preparation, all you need is salt and pepper. You can gild the lily if you prefer, grab that smoked paprika, the fennel, the Herbes de Provence. But consider making it once like this. You’ll be surprised by how flavorful a simple roast chicken can be.

The root veggies will cook and get soaked by the juices, and for that reason I think the lemon is a simple addition that brightens up the flavor.  This was our non-traditional Easter dinner, by the way.  We did not feel like having lamb, a light snow was falling outside, roast chicken was a perfect choice that evening.

Added bonus?  The glazed interior makes cleaning a breeze!

Stay tuned for more adventures in clay pot cooking… I’ve got quite a few things on my list to try soon, including a nice loaf of sourdough bread. If you have a favorite recipe to use the clay pot, please let me know in the comments, will you?

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CASHEW CHICKEN, MY WAY

Beware: I am taking a Chinese classic and messing with it. This turned out absolutely delicious, and so quick to put together like it’s the case for stir-fries. Gather all your stuff, turn the heat on, and be ready for dinner in 5 minutes. It did involve about 25 minutes prep ahead, mostly waiting time, which was perfect to cook some rice as a side dish. Efficiency. One of my favorite words. Particularly welcome on a weeknight in which my experiment was a big failure and last thing I needed was to face a complicated dinner preparation.

CASHEW CHICKEN
(adapted from Easy Chinese Recipes – Bee Yinn Low)

for the chicken:
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 + 3/4 pound)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
a bunch of snow peas, sliced or cut in half
about 1/3 cup cashews, lightly toasted
salt to taste
for the sauce:
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp Chinese rice wine
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

Cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch pieces. Place in a bowl and add the baking soda, mixing to coat all pieces. Leave 15 minutes at room temperature. Rinse the baking soda out using a colander, then place the pieces of meat on kitchen paper to dry.

Marinate the chicken pieces in rice wine and cornstarch for a few minutes.  As the meat marinates, mix all ingredients for the sauce and set aside.

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a wok until almost smoking. Add the chicken pieces and stir-fry until almost cooked through. Remove and reserve.

Heat one more tablespoon of oil, add the grated ginger and the snow peas, stir fry for a few minutes. Add he chicken back to the wok, pour in the sauce and cook until the meat is fully cooked and coated with the sauce. Sprinkle toasted cashews, mix and warm up for a minute or so. Serve right away over steamed rice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: What I love about this recipe is the simplified method of “velveting” the meat. Usually the process, very common in Oriental stir-fries, is a lot more involved. The pieces of meat are marinated in a mixture of egg white and cornstarch, then dropped in either simmering water or oil for a brief pre-cooking time. You can find a detailed explanation here. It results in amazing texture, but it is a bit involved, you are left not only with the wok to clean but the large pot used for the pre-cooking time. In this recipe, the meat is simply coated with baking soda, which increases the pH (or in other words, reduces acidity) and affects the way the molecules of protein at the surface of the meat interact with each other. Instead of trying to stick together and resulting in that harsh texture so common in quick stir-fry dishes, they behave with a lot more composure, and interact with the sauce components more efficiently instead. The texture changes so much that it does give the impression of velvet. Try it, and you will be hooked, I guarantee. You can use the exact same approach with other types of protein, seafood, beef, pork. Just add the baking soda, allow it to sit for 15 minutes, rinse it out, dry the meat and proceed with your recipe.

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FESENJAN, FAST-FOOD STYLE

When you buy a container with fresh pomegranate seeds from the store, you need to put it to use before the husband hits said container and inhales them all while watching Broadchurch late at night. I managed to salvage enough seeds to showcase them over a favorite of mine, Fesenjan. Yes, I’ve blogged about it in the past (click here), but this time I used the pressure cooker and really enjoyed the added lusciousness-factor the method provided. If you have a pressure cooker,  or the fashionable instant pot, you can turn this classic into fast-food. Can you imagine so much joy on a weeknight dinner?

FESENJAN
(slightly adapted from A Calculated Whisk)

6 ounces walnut halves, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in half
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 shallot, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons honey
½ cup pomegranate seeds, for serving
chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

Place the toasted walnuts in a food processor and grind them to a coarse powder. Reserve.

On a large skillet or in the pressure cooker (on the instant pot), heat the olive oil and add the chicken pieces seasoned with salt and pepper. Brown them lightly, if necessary in two batches. Reserve.  Add the shallots, saute’ for a couple of minutes, then add the turmeric, cinnamon and cardamon. Stir until fragrant. Pour in the chicken stock. If using a skillet, transfer the mixture to the pressure cooker now.

Add the ground walnuts, pomegranate molasses and honey. Stir to combine, Close the pressure cooker and once full pressure is achieved, cook for 15 minutes. Release the pressure, if the sauce is too thin, cook for a few minutes with the lid open to reduce it.
Serve the chicken with fresh pomegranate seeds and cilantro leaves scattered on top.
 
 ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

Comments: If you don’t have a pressure cooker (or an Instant Pot) you can obviously adapt it for a regular pan, just cook it on a very low simmer for 45 minutes to one hour. I like the chicken to be super tender.  Pomegranate molasses is a great ingredient to have in your pantry. You can cook down pomegranate juice with sugar to the point of a syrup, and use that instead, but the convenience of opening a bottle is hard to beat. If you’d like to make it from scratch, here is a good method.

Fesenjan goes well over white rice, over Persian rice (see my version here), or cauliflower rice for those who prefer to follow a low-carb route. Leftovers enjoyed inside a corn tortilla are a no-no. If you know a food blogger who admits in public to doing that, stop following her (or him) immediately.

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SLOW-COOKED CHICKEN MEATBALLS

A little note added after publication: today is the first Monday of the month, so let me tell you which was my favorite post of January: Happy New Year in My Kitchen!  If you’ve missed it, here is the link.  But come right back, ok?  To see what many of my virtual friends pick as their best post, visit Sid’s blog.

Sometimes a dinner makes me so happy I cannot stop smiling. This was one.  Not only because it was delicious, but because I made it all in advance and we arrived home to a dinner ready and waiting, without that “crock pot taste” that so often is present when recipes take the “dump it and forget it” approach. Basically, not every type of meat shines during long cooking. These meatballs do. And they even hide a little surprise inside…

SLOW-COOKED CHICKEN MEATBALLS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, adapted from many sources)

1 pound ground chicken
1/2 pound mild Italian sausage (casings removed)
1 Tablespoon coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 bunch kale, stems removed, coarsely chopped
1 small shallot, finely minced
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/4 cup almond meal
salt and pepper to taste
1 large can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup water (or chicken broth)
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
small mozzarella balls, one per meatball

Start by sauteing shallots in coconut oil in a large skillet until translucent and fragrant. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then add the kale. Cook until wilted, transfer to a bowl and allow it to completely cool. If you like to cool it faster, add it to a baking sheet on a single layer.

In a large bowl, add the two types of meat, the sautéed kale, egg and egg yolk. Season with a little salt (the sausage is already seasoned), then add the almond flour.  Mix gently and form into large balls, incorporating a small mozzarella ball in the center. You should have enough for 8 to 9 chicken meatballs. Refrigerate them for one hour or more to firm them up. You can make this the day before.

Pour the crushed tomatoes in the bowl of a crock pot, add the water (or stock) and the butter cut into large pieces. Season with some salt and pepper, add the Herbes the Provence. Place the meatballs gently inside. Cook on low for 5 hours. If you have a chance, flip the meatballs after a couple of hours.

Serve right away or save in the fridge for next day, when flavors will be even better.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I prepared the chicken meatballs on Sunday, stored them in the fridge, started them cooking next day during our lunch break. My slow-cooker keeps the food warm for a couple of hours, so we don’t have to worry about rushing home in that type of situation. Mondays are usually tough. You’d think that we would be all relaxed after the weekend, but truth is there is so much to do around the house that by the time Monday comes we are seriously hoping it would be Friday instead… For that reason I try to plan a very easy dinner for the first evening of a working week.

Now, of course, not everyone is as spoiled as we are, having the chance to go home for lunch. Keep in mind you can always do the slow-cooking part in the evening, then enjoy them for dinner the day after, they only get tastier. I was thrilled that Phil decided to stick with his smoothie and cereal bar for lunch later that week. I did not have to share the leftovers…  Yes, he is a keeper. But I suppose I’ve mentioned that a few times.

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VIETNAMESE-ISH CHICKEN

I am very fond of Vietnamese food, and this is my take on grilled chicken thighs inspired by that cuisine. I took a few liberties with classic versions, by using coconut aminos instead of soy sauce, and omitting garlic, which is always present.  Of course, add all the garlic that pleases you, and go for the traditional soy. I find the flavor of coconut aminos a bit more subtle, allowing other herbs and spices to shine more. I also added Sriracha sauce, a product from Thailand which I happen to be addicted to. So there. As I said, it is “inspired” by Vietnamese cuisine, made by a Brazilian-American with gastronomically-daring tendencies.

VIETNAMESE GRILLED CHICKEN THIGHS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
2 tablespoons coconut aminos sauce (or soy sauce)
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce or other hot sauce of your preference
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
fresh cilantro, for serving

Season the chicken thighs with salt. Make the marinade by whisking all other ingredients (except cilantro) in a bowl.  Add the chicken and mix well to coat. Place in a plastic bag, massage the pieces and place in the fridge for at least one hour, up to overnight.

When ready to cook, remove the pieces from the marinade, and grill the thighs until cooked through, about 7 minutes per side. Serve with fresh cilantro and a sprinkle of fresh lime juice all over the meat.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Not much is needed to turn these juicy grilled chicken thighs into a great meal. Green beans with almonds were a very nice complement, but when it’s really hot I think cucumber raita could be even better. Keep in mind I made this recipe back in March, just taking my usual slow-coach approach to share on the blog.

If you are partial to white meat, use the same marinade for chicken breasts, but pound them very thin, and run them on the stupidly hot grill until cooked through. I find it that it is the best approach for that type of meat. Plus, it’s ready in less than 10 minutes. Cannot beat that. The brown sugar in the marinade ensures those gorgeous grill marks even if the grilling time is kept short.

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MIMI’S STICKY CHICKEN, A CALL FROM MY PAST

Paleo-friendly, low-carb & delicious!

Many years ago I used to visit a cooking forum that is long gone. One recipe was a big hit with many of the members: Mimi’s Sticky Chicken. I admit the name is not very sexy, but once you’d read the many stellar reviews, you’d be inclined to disregard the sticky issue and give it a try. Over the years, that exact recipe has been published in websites everywhere, credit not always given to the author. So, without further ado, here you have the original link. I tried to find out Mimi’s whereabouts, but my search skills returned nothing.  As you can see in the link, she created this recipe in the early 80’s, and asked for full credit whenever someone talked about it. It’s only fair.  I used to make it quite often when I was dating Phil and during the early years of our marriage, as the kids absolutely loved it. For some reason, I forgot all about it. It’s been definitely more than a decade since I last had it on our table. But to compensate, I made it twice in the last month. HA!

MIMI’S STICKY CHICKEN
(modified from the original version found here)

2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 whole roasting chicken, about 3 pounds
1 shallot, cut in half
1 lemon, cut in quarters

Combine all spices  in a small bowl. Dry chicken very well, rub the spice mixture over skin and sprinkle a little inside the cavity.  Place in a bag or in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Heat the oven to 250F. It is not a typo. It is a very low oven.  When ready to roast, stuff the cavity of the chicken with the shallots and lemon. Place it breast side down in a roasting pan (I like to use a small rack to keep it elevated, spraying the rack with olive oil to prevent the skin from sticking to it).

Cook for about 5 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 155 F. Baste occasionally after the first two hours, with the liquid that starts to accumulate in the roasting pan.

If you like to crisp up the skin, carve the chicken in pieces and place under the broiler briefly. It will falling apart, so handle it gently.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Amazing how something we loved so much could end up neglected for years. Two things I’d like to bring up: first, if you don’t have time to refrigerate the bird overnight with the spice mixture, don’t worry, just go ahead with it right away. Second, if you are not around to baste the chicken, it won’t be a serious drawback. When ready to serve, baste a little with the roasting liquid, and go for that brief encounter with the broiler. On your first time making this recipe,  it would be nice to check the temperature and see if after 4 hours the meat is already approaching 155F. If it is, don’t leave it all the way to the five-hour mark. Once you get to know how your oven behaves, you can trust the timing a bit more. Make sure to always roast a chicken of similar size.

As I mentioned before, once the meat is cooked, it will be falling apart. Note in the picture below how the bone broke through the skin.


I also like to squeeze the roasted lemon all over the chicken right before serving, and sometimes will grab a fresh one to make sure to get that extra bite of acidity that goes so well with it.


Dinner is served: Mimi’s Sticky Chicken,
Pan-Steamed Broccoli, and Roasted Butternut Squash… 

 

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HONEY GLAZED SRIRACHA MEATBALLS

This one is for all the Sriracha lovers out there. Of all the hot sauces, Sriracha is my favorite because it’s not just about heat, there’s a lot of complex flavor packed in too. I always have a bottle in the fridge, and will squirt a little bit over turkey burgers, regular burgers, sweet potato fries, meatballs. Not too much, just that little touch that shakes the senses up. When I saw this recipe a while ago on Eat Yourself Skinny, I tried it almost immediately, with a few changes to suit my preferences. Phil is not as wild about Sriracha as I am, so I did the honorable thing to do, and wolfed them down by myself for lunch. No, not in a single day. I am crazy for Sriracha but portion control comes first…

HONEY GLAZED SRIRACHA MEATBALLS
(adapted from Eat Yourself Skinny)

for the meatballs:
2 lb. ground chicken (or turkey)
1/4 cup almond flour
1 egg
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
a squirt of lemon juice

for the sauce:
¼ cup Sriracha
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
½ tsp. toasted sesame oil
minced chives for decoration (optional)

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix together ground chicken, almond flour, egg, salt and pepper until well combined. Shape mixture into  balls and place spaced apart on a baking sheet lightly sprayed with cooking spray or covered with parchment paper.

Bake meatballs for 20 to 25 minutes, or until browned and cooked through.

While the meatballs are baking, combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking continuously. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, then toss with the meatballs.

Sprinkle with minced chives, if so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: These turned out hot enough for me, but you can always add some cayenne pepper or increase the amount of Sriracha if feeling particularly brave.  I love adding a dollop of yogurt (seasoned with salt and za’tar) to these meatballs, because I find the contrast of peppery heat with cold, creamy yogurt very pleasing. The best advice to making good meatballs is to avoid handling the mixture too much, the looser the better. And don’t cook them to death. Dried meatballs are simply no bueno.  I never fry them anymore, prefer to cook them in the oven, but for this recipe I made the sauce in a skillet and simply added the cooked meatballs to the sauce for a nice glaze. Winner, my friends, winner!

Pinning is sharing, sharing is caring! 

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