Tag Archives: Chicken

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.

The Chicks Fly the Coop and Chicken Tortilla Soup

When my oldest son left to go to University 5 years ago, I felt a deep sense of grief. I got so weepy every time I passed his empty bedroom that I had to shut the door. That sense of loss passed within a few weeks and we all got back to normal. Two years later, my middle child went off to Israel for a Gap year after high school. That sense of loss returned and I felt empty again. Her bedroom door also had to be closed, but this time the cause was mostly mess and not grief!  When my third child, the baby (now 19) moved out this past May, I followed him and moved in with him. No, I’m not making this up. I actually did sleep there for the first week. But that’s a story for another time!

Eventually I returned home. I must admit I enjoyed the sounds of silence in the house. However, it was short-lived. A week later, my middle one returned home from college for the summer.

But it is now September and all the chicks have flown the coop! I must admit that rather than feeling that deep sense of loss, I am filled with pride and joy in watching my kids make this transition successfully. That being said, when they all come home to visit, and the whole family is together under one roof, I just get that feeling that everything is good and right with the world. My friend Sharon says, that she sleeps better when all her little chicks are tucked in at home. I know just what she means.

For me, one of the biggest transitions has been learning to cook for just 2 people again. My husband will often come home and look at the big bowls and platters on the table and ask me who else is coming for dinner. One of my favourite strategies is to cook a roast chicken and eat half of it one night and then use the leftover in an entirely new way the next day. I will admit that even food writers get lazy and occasionally buy a Rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 

With half a roast chicken as leftovers you are well on your way to creating any number of delicious dinners. I found a fantastic recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup in the Ottawa Citizen Food section (September 13). The recipe, posted by Laura Robin, was created by Foodland Ontario. . As with most soups, you start with some diced onions. In the spirit of September and back to school, here is a little onion dicing lesson.

Peppers, red bell and jalapeno, add sweetness and heat.

If field fresh tomatoes are available, use them, if not, go for canned italian plum tomatoes. There is a bit of prep work involved in using fresh tomatoes. They need to be blanched, peeled and diced. Remove the cores and cut a little “X” in the other end. Gently place them in boiling water for a minute and the skins will slip off easily.

Cumin, oregano and chipotle chili powder combine to give this soup its distinctive flavour. Once all the ingredients are chopped, the soup comes together in less than 30 minutes.  

Corn and diced cooked chicken get added during the last 5 minutes of cooking. A squeeze of lime juice gives the soup a fresh acidic vibe.

Finish off with some freshly chopped cilantro and a few tortilla chips for crunch! A perfect dinner all in one bowl.

Click here to print recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup.

Asian Chicken and Lettuce Wraps

Two weeks ago, I heard my bathing suit calling for me, well not actually calling, more like mocking me, from the bottom drawer of my closet. It was daring me to pull it up over the pasty white flesh of my legs and then over the lumpy bumpy flesh of my hips and belly. Aaaagh! Can there be anything more scary than putting a bathing suit back on after a winter of consuming comfort foods?

Last December, basking in the warmth and love of a family celebration (my mom’s 75th birthday), my 5 siblings (4 sisters and 1 brother) and I decided it would be a great idea to take mom away on a little trip to celebrate this milestone. There were lots of phone calls and e-mails back and forth as we tried to figure out where and when to go. We almost had a BBM (Blackberry Messenger) family group formed, which would have made communication so easy, but then my brother had to go and join the dark side… he bought an iPhone!  Just between you and me, I think he did it on purpose so we would stop BBMing him.

Choosing when to go was no easy feat. Two of my sisters are school teachers so taking time off during the school year is challenging. My brother is an accountant and January-April is a special period of hell for him, also known as tax season. To complicate matters, we decided that no children or spouses were to be included on this trip. Just mom and her kids. So child and pet care arrangements had to be made. Finally a long weekend in June was found to be was agreeable to all.

We decided on Bermuda as it was a short flight for all and the weather would be lovely in June. A little bit of sightseeing and some beach/pool time suited everyone. Thing seemed to be moving along quite well until it was time to decide who would room with whom. It has been at least 35 years since my older sister and I shared a room and I was not that keen on doing it again any time soon! Finally rooming arrangements were figured out, with just a few insults, snide remarks and residual hurt feelings flung about.

Then it was time to choose seats on the plane. There was quite a scurry and commotion about who would sit with mom on the plane. I will not disclose whether the direction of the scurry was towards or away from mom. Finally all the arrangements were made and just the waiting and packing remained. With less than a week to go, I mustered up the courage to try on bathing suits. That’s when the realization hit me. Time to start eating a little bit lighter, although I was doubtful that a week of light eating could undo the damage of a carb loaded winter.

I had seen a recipe in the June issue of  Bon Appetit that called for serving a chicken stir fry in a lettuce wrap. They looked perfect for a light weeknight dinner. I decided to bulk them up a bit with the addition of lots of vegetables. I settled on a mixture of mushrooms (shitake, white button and cremini), carrots, snow peas and yellow peppers. A little bit of garlic, ginger and cilantro would help to bring it all together.

Vegetables were done, now onto the chicken. Many years ago, when working at Dinah’s Cupboard, a food shop in Toronto, I learned a trick to create a tender and juicy chicken stir-fry. Dinah called it the “velvet glove” treatment. The chicken is given a protective coating before stir-frying. The best coating is a mixture of cornstarch, egg white and rice wine vinegar. I think of it as a sort of sun block for chickens!

Since my daughter is a vegetarian, I also prepared some tofu. I cooked the vegetables separately from the chicken and tofu. Begin with some ginger, garlic and green onion, then add the mushrooms. They will take about 5-7 minutes to give off their moisture and cook down and brown. The carrots, snow peas and peppers are added at the very end, so that they are heated through briefly but still retain their crunch.

Boston lettuce and hearts of romaine make a really nice wrapper. We finished the wraps off with some sweet chilli sauce for heat, some cilantro for its brightness and some cashews for added crunch.

To print the recipe for Asian Chicken and Lettuce Wraps, click here.

The quest for the perfect turkey burger

I have been on a quest to find the ultimate turkey burger for quite some time now. Come to think of it, I have also been on a quest to find the perfect pair of black pants for an even longer while now. If you are a woman, you will know exactly what I mean. The ultimate pair of black pants would skim over your hips without actually clinging and accentuating any lumps, bumps or dimples.  With a pair of heels or killer boots, you would look long and lean and your legs would appear to be a mile long. The pants would be perfect for day and night, and depending on what you pair them with, they would be equally at home at a funeral or a night club. I am not so sure such a pair of black pants exists. I have come close, 9 pairs in my closet at last count, but none of them quite right.

But I do believe that my quest for the ultimate turkey burger is finally over.  For a while there I was adding breadcrumbs and egg to the burgers, to help them bind better, but that just made them tough and dry. Then I tried mixing the turkey with garlic and lots of chopped fresh herbs but that was way too overpowering for delicate turkey meat. I thought I had found the perfect one in June of 2008, when Oprah said, “I believe (it) may be the best turkey burger in the entire world.” She was referring to the turkey burger at Mar-A-Lago, Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach. If Oprah said they were the best, I had to try them.

The Mar-a-Lago turkey burger is reminiscent of turkey stuffing, chock full of apples, celery and scallions. Then to help keep the burgers moist Major Grey’s Chutney is added to the mix. This is a mango based chutney with tamarind, raisins, vinegar and lots of spices, including cloves. The first time I tried the burgers I did not care for them but I made them several more times, because Oprah said they were the best, and because I could not put my finger on why I didn’t like them. I finally gave up on them when I realized it was the overpowering flavour of cloves that put me off.

Then, last week, while reading the June issue of Martha Stewart Living, I had an “aha” moment. Don’t build flavour into the turkey burger. Ground turkey has a delicate flavour that you don’t want to fool with too much. Leave the ground turkey alone, save for a little bit of olive oil and salt on top before grilling.  Add flavour through the toppings. This one relies on guacamole for moistness, caramelized onions for sweetness, and pickled jalapenos for heat. I have made them twice now in the past 4 days.

Try to find ground dark turkey meat, instead of  ground turkey breast. It has more fat and will be much moister. I decided to top mine with lettuce and tomatoes, as well, when I encountered these beauties at the grocery store this week.

When I was in line at the check-out, the cashier, a young girl, maybe 17 , picked up the tomatoes, made a face and asked me if I wanted to go back and exchange them for ones without any creases or cracks. It was all I could do hold my tongue and not lecture this poor innocent youngster on organic, heirloom tomatoes. Those cracks and creases mean that these tomatoes actually taste like tomatoes, unlike those smooth red orbs that have all the flavour engineered out of them. I just smiled and said, “No thanks, I like these tomatoes.”

I made a simple guacamole with avocados, cilantro, lime and salt. Try to find Haas avocados, the black pebbly ones. I find the flesh creamier than the smooth green-skinned avocados. Don’t mash the guacamole too fine. Leave it a bit chunky.

Cook the red onions on low heat for about 20 minutes, in order to caramelize them.

Toast the buns for extra flavour and crunch. I found some really great ciabatta buns as well as some multigrain foccacia buns. Add some pickled jalapeno peppers from the jar, and sliced tomatoes and lettuce.

To print the recipe for Turkey Burgers, click here.

P.S. I promise to keep you posted if I ever do find that perfect pair of black pants.