Category Archives: Chicken

Grilled Chicken Skewers with Ginger Coconut Sauce and Mild Annoyances

on white 625 sq I am the grill master of our house. However, if the weather is particularly nasty, I will try to send my husband out to cook, but inevitably I will be beckoned to see if the food is done. It seems that I have the magic touch. Well, total disclosure here; I spent the summer between my first and second year of cooking school working in a restaurant as the grill chef. 

The restaurant had a huge stone barbecue on their patio. They stored the charcoal for the barbecue in 50-pound bags on the roof of a shed at the back of the patio.  I had to climb a ladder at the side of the shed and toss down the sacs of charcoal. My nickname that summer was Cinderella as my face was always covered with charcoal streaks. In addition to cooking the proteins, I also had to prepare pan sauces on the grill. That required a deft hand in moving the charcoal around to create hot and cool spots on the grill. I burned more than my fair share of pans the first few weeks, but eventually I got the hang of it. By the end of that summer I was fairly proficient in determining when a burger was done, when a strip steak was cooked to medium rare and when halibut was just cooked through to perfection.

These days I cook on a gas grill, and rely more often than not, on an instant read thermometer. They are basically idiot proof and they guarantee perfect results almost every time. This one is expensive but works very well.

This recipe for Grilled Chicken Skewers with Ginger Coconut, sauce hails from Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby’s brilliant book, “License to Grill.” Although this book was written over 17 years ago, it still feels fresh and relevant. I have been making this recipe for many years and never tire of it. The original recipe calls for boneless skinless chicken breasts, but I recommend using boneless skinless thighs.

I must admit that I get mildly annoyed when people tell me they only use boneless skinless chicken breasts. Not quite as annoyed as when people tell me they never use salt in their cooking, but I won’t get started on that one right now. I always use boneless skinless thighs and serve it to guests who say they don’t like dark meat. They don’t even realize they are eating thighs and they always ask me how I keep my chicken so moist. Thighs are a no-brainer. They are next to impossible to overcook because of their higher fat (and therefore flavour) content.

The velvety coconut-ginger sauce enrobes the chicken and the ginger, jalapeño and lime add a seductive little flavour zing. The “shake” topping, crafted from peanuts, sesame seeds, cumin and red pepper flakes adds crunch and packs a welcome buzz of heat.mise en place 2If you are using wooden bamboo skewers, be sure to soak them for about an hour before skewering the meat, so that they do not burn. This recipe is also quite delicious when you substitute tofu for the chicken (or so I have been told by my vegetarian daughter!)

Click here to print recipe for Grilled Chicken Skewers with Coconut-Ginger Sauce.

on black

 

Three Pea Coconut Rice and Chicken

in pan 625 sq 1Just did a quick check and discovered that coconut has been featured 15 times on my blog.  To  the coconut haters out there, “I’m sorry”, and to the rest of you lovely folks I say, “you’re welcome”.

When I saw this dish on serious eats last month I bookmarked it immediately. This recipe checked all the boxes for me; one pot complete dinner, flavourful moist chicken thighs, coconut milk and jasmine rice. Since we are trying to limit our intake of white carbs, white rice has been scarce around here lately. But every so often, I get a craving for Basmati or Jasmine rice. The nutty, popcorny aroma that envelopes my kitchen makes me believe that all is right with the world and that I am very loved.

Yasmin Fahr, creator of this recipe asked “Why I don’t cook everything in coconut milk is beyond me.” Well Yasmin, in answer to your question, I would bathe in coconut milk if I could, but if I cooked everything in it, I would surely weigh 200 pounds. The sweet luxurious coconut milk in this recipe  is saved from a cloying fate by the addition of cumin and a strong hint of cayenne. The finishing touches of lime and cilantro produces a dinner that packs a wallop of flavour.

You must exercise great patience when browning the chicken thighs. Put the pan on high, add the thighs, skin down and leave them alone for a good 8-10 minutes. The brown caramelized bits and pieces of chicken that get stuck to the pan, known in French as “fond” should not be thrown out.  The chicken stock and coconut milk  will help you to to scrape up all those flavourful dark bits. They will dissolve and become the foundation for the luxurious sauce that the chicken and rice are cooked in.browning chicken

zesting limesdicing onionsThe original recipe called for adding snow peas during the last few minutes of cooking for some crunch and gorgeous colour. I went with a triple pea crunch and added snow peas, sugar snaps and some frozen green peas, because that’s how I was raised. I come from a home where more is better. When my mom made banana bread, if the recipe called for 3 bananas, my mom added 5.  It produced a loaf with the heft of a brick, but heck, that’s just  how mom rolled. sugar snaps

Click here to print recipe for Three Pea Coconut Rice and Chicken.

On missing the obvious and Killer Chicken Cashew Chili

serving chili

Ask any of my family members and they will tell you that I am one of the most unobservant people around.  I am just not curious about other people and their business.  I never stop to gawk at car accidents, I am always the last person to know any of our street gossip and I never notice new haircuts or things like that. My siblings love to tell the following story as a stellar example of how notorious I am for missing the obvious.

In 1999, my dad was sick with kidney disease and heart problems.  He needed to have heart valve replacement surgery.  After the surgery, the doctor came out of the operating room and told us the surgery went well.  I stayed at the hospital a few more hours and then I flew back to Ottawa.  Several days later, my sister called me and told me I better come back to Toronto.  My dad was fighting an infection and was not doing well.  I caught the next flight and went straight to the hospital.

I went directly to his room.  I peeked inside and saw a nurse sitting with my dad.  He was sleeping.  None of my family members were anywhere to be seen.  The nurse smiled at me and left the room.  I gave my dad a kiss on the cheek and sat down and started talking to him, holding his hand as I sat.  It was a warm summer day and I thought it was so strange that his cheek and hands were so cold.  After a few minutes I went out into the hall, looking for my mom and my siblings.  They all came running down the hall, crying and hugging me.  It was at that moment that it dawned on me why my dad was so cold.  To this day, I still get teased about how unobservant I can be.

However, there is one place where I am observant – the supermarket. I love to play a little game while waiting in line at the grocery store. I check out the contents of the carts around me.  You can usually tell a lot about a person by their choice of groceries.  While doing my shopping in the first week of January I inevitably noticed carts full of Lean Cuisine and Weight Watcher’s frozen dinners, diet soda, cans of tuna and lots of fruit and vegetables.  This is the month that we typically resolve to eat light and healthy.

Chili is not traditionally known to be a healthy food.  Usually made with beef it is high in fat.  This chili is made with chicken and therefore much lower in fat and calorie content.  The first time I made this chili was at a Potluck dinner at a neighbor’s house.  We were standing at the buffet table spooning food onto our plates.  The woman standing next to me, had her plate heaped full of the chili I had brought.  She remarked how delicious it looked.  I smiled and said, “Thanks, I made it.”  She asked what kind of chili it was and I answered, “Cashew Chicken Chili.”  She almost dropped her plate.  It turned out she was fatally allergic to cashews.  Hence the name “Killer Chili.”

cashews and chiles 2

This chili relies on both dried whole chiles as well as chile powders. The combination of whole chiles and powder add a depth of flavour to the chili that you would not get if you just used chili powder. For the whole chiles,  I used both New Mexico and Guajillo chiles. Ancho chiles would also be an excellent choice. I buy my dried chiles on-line from chilly chiles.

new mexico chilesguajillo chiles

The dried whole chiles need to be toasted and then soaked in boiling water to rehydrate them for about 20 minutes. Once they are soaked, I removed the seeds. If , like my sister, you like your chili painfully spicy, feel free to add the seeds as well. The rehydrated chiles get blended with chicken stock and some cashews to create an incredibly flavourful sauce. The cashews add body to the sauce.

toasting chiles

soak chilesdeseeding

adding chicken stockadding cashews

Ground cumin, ancho chili powder, chipotle chile powder, salt, onions and garlic round out the additional spices. Canned tomatoes and the pureed chiles create a liquid base for one cut up chicken. Once the chile is done simmering, a touch of bittersweet chocolate is added. The chicken is removed from the sauce once it is done and the meat is removed from the bones and shredded. It goes back into the sauce with some canned white and black beans. Rich, sweet and mildly hot, this chile takes the edge off any roughness in your day!

seasonings

Pam’s Cornbread is the perfect accompaniment to this chile.

with cornbread 1

Click here to print recipe for Killer Chicken Chili (also known as Chicken Cashew Chili)

Chipotle Lime Chicken

In the three and a half years that I have been blogging, it just occurred to me that I have never blogged about what I eat for dinner at least once a week. Not that I’m holding back my secret recipe from you, or anything like that. I just make this on auto-pilot and I sort of forgot to tell you about it. But I have been remiss and I need to tell you about it now!  This chicken is moist and tender, because I always make it with boneless chicken thighs (never boneless skinless chicken breasts!) Thighs are very forgiving and are almost impossible to overcook. They have a slightly higher fat content than breasts so they don’t dry out as quickly.

This Chipotle Lime Chicken is my go-to recipe for a speedy delicious dinner. I actually get a craving for it. I end up with leftovers which are even more delicious cold the next day, chopped up into a salad with a hard-boiled egg for a protein packed lunch. I discovered this recipe in 2006 in Gourmet magazine (a moment of silence please!! I still miss it!) The marriage of flavours in this chicken recipe are perfect. Lime juice contributes a sour note, honey provides sweetness, Chipotle Tabasco adds a smoky heat, and olive oil brings all the flavours together to create a symphony of flavour in your mouth.

The chicken only needs to marinate for about 15 minutes, in a zip loc bag in the fridge. It  can be grilled outside on the BBQ, or inside in a grill pan. You can even bake it in the oven. Last night I had it with parsnip and carrot oven-baked “fries” and a bean salad with a mustard vinaigrette.

Click here to print the recipe for Chipotle Lime Grilled Chicken.

Chicken and Artichoke Pot Pie

I could wax poetic here and spin a lyrical little tale about how the nip in the air and the gorgeous scarlet and golden maple leaves have inspired me to make some homey dish that smacks of nostalgia. But, if I’m to be completely honest, the reason I baked these chicken artichoke pot pies was because I was cleaning up the basement storage room and I found this box of freaking adorable barnyard cooky cutters. (Why did they misspell cookie?).

I seem to recall buying them when the kids were little and had grandiose plans for baking sugar cookies with them and letting them decorate them with coloured royal icing suck icing from the piping bags, but sadly we never did it. It is possible they were used with play-doh at some point!

That little metal chicken was calling out to me and I instantly knew that I wanted to make chicken pot pies. As a child of the 70′s I was practically weaned on Swanson Chicken Pot Pies and TV Dinners. Carol Brady  was my second mother and I so badly wished that Alice was our housekeeper. Not that my mom was a bad cook, but she had 6 kids and was very busy cleaning all the time, so frozen meals were a big part of my childhood. Our favourite dessert was Sara Lee Banana Cake. One of my sisters always snuck into the freezer and picked the icing off the top of the cake. We never did discover who it was.

This chicken pot pie is inspired by a Chicken and Artichoke Casserole that I used to make all the time at one of my very first full-time kitchen jobs. I was working at Dinah’s Cupboard. It was run by a woman named Dinah Koo. The little shop, in the Yorkville neighbourhood was Toronto’s first Gourmet take-out food shop. Dinah was an amazing woman to work for. She demanded perfection and precision in everything we made. She taught me a great deal about discipline in the kitchen. Food quality always came first but following close on its heels was presentation. She knew how to make food look beautiful. It was also at Dinah’s Kitchen that I learned to love salt. Before any of the dishes left our kitchen to be sold in the food shop, Dinah or her brother Barry would taste them. Without fail, almost every time I got the response “more salt”!

I cringe when I hear people boast “Oh, I don’t use any salt when cooking.”, as if that’s a good thing. And then I hope I never get invited to eat at their house! Salt is an integral ingredient in cooking as well as baking. It fills out the flavour of foods. If it is absent, food just tastes flat. British restaurant critic Jay Raynor said it best, “Salt is the difference between eating in Technicolor and eating in black and white.” If loving salt is wrong, then I don’t want to be right. Sorry, I’ll get off my salt soap box now and stop lecturing you on the evils of cooking without salt.

I decided to make mini pot pies, because they are so adorable and because I knew we would have leftovers and I could stash them in the freezer and bake them another day.

I started with poaching chicken breasts. Buy chicken breasts on the bone and then cut the meat off the bone before you add them to the pot. That way, you can remove the breast meat after 20 minutes, when it is perfectly cooked and continue cooking the vegetables and bones to extract the maximum amount of flavour, so that you will have a really great stock.

Once the chicken is poached and you have your stock, make the pastry. I decided to add some poppy seeds to the dough, for a bit of crunch. This recipe for the dough comes from chatelaine.com. It is a bit unusual in that instead of cutting the cold butter or shortening into the flour and then adding liquid, they melt the butter with the water and then mix it into the dry ingredients. You can make the dough with all butter, half butter and half shortening or all shortening, the choice is yours. Just don’t forget to add the salt.

While the dough is chilling, prepare the chicken and artichoke filling. I like the addition of leeks, rather than onions as a flavour base. Leeks need to be cleaned very well in cold water. Slice lengthwise and then into 1/2 inch pieces. Place in a bowl of cold water and use your hands to swish the leeks around. Scoop out leeks that have floated to the top of the bowl.

Flour is added to the sautéed vegetables and then chicken stock and white wine are added.

Once the mixture simmers for a few minutes, I added the artichokes, diced chicken meat, frozen peas and some parsley. I also added the zest of one lemon and a few teaspoons of Siracha sauce for some zip.

The filling gets spooned into little casserole dishes.

Top with dough and bake.

Click here to print recipe for Chicken and Artichoke Pot Pie.