……………………………………………………. Baking our mark

Pecan-crusted chicken with fresh raspberry sauce June 19, 2012

Filed under: Dinner — krandle @ 6:02 pm
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Sometimes, it’s hard for me to want to take the time to make chicken taste good. It’s so easy to just toss it in the oven with a spice rub or throw it in the crockpot with some sauces or vegetables – and then have everything taste good – that I’m sometimes not very motivated to put any time into poultry.

This recipe, however, is worth the effort. I think it’s perfect dinner party food – and the sauce adds a color that you probably wouldn’t otherwise have on your plate (FUSCHIA!), unless you were serving beets.

It’s really moist, while also staying a little bit crunchy. It tastes fresh so is great for spring/summer. And, it doesn’t take very long or require too much attention, making it easy to serve while people are over. I’m already planning to serve this at my next dinner event.

Pecan-crusted chicken with fresh raspberry sauce – modified from B.A.

Raspberry Sauce
– Note: this makes about twice as much sauce as you need for this amount of chicken; it makes a great salad dressing, though, so don’t worry about cutting it in half

3/4 cup lightly packed fresh raspberries (about 3 1/2 ounces)
3 Tbs. white wine vinegar
1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 cup safflower oil (works fine with vegetable oil too)
3 to 6 tsp. water (optional)


1 cup chopped pecans (about 4 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) or plain dried breadcrumbs
1 tsp. coarse kosher salt
3 tsp. ground black pepper, divided
1/3 cup honey mustard
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 Tbs. mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 large skinless boneless chicken breast halves, butterflied
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 Tbs. peanut oil
4 cups baby salad greens (baby spinach is great here)
1/2 cup fresh raspberries

For Raspberry Sauce

Puree raspberries, white wine vinegar, and sugar in blender until smooth. With blender running, gradually add safflower oil. Add water by teaspoonfuls as needed to thin to desired consistency. Season raspberry sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

For Chicken

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix pecans, panko and 2 teaspoons pepper on a plate with a lip, or in a shallow dish.

In a bowl, mix honey mustard, mint leaves, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken; coat and let excess drip off. Place chicken into crumb-nut mixture, coating both sides and pressing to adhere. To make things easy, don’t coat until you’re ready to put chicken directly into the skillets. And, when you have extra crumb-nut mixture left, put it into the skillet alongside the chicken, roasting it as well, then serving alongside the chicken for extra crunch.

Divide equal amounts of butter and oil between 2 large nonstick skillets; heat over medium-high heat. Add 2 chicken pieces to each skillet; reduce heat to medium and cook until chicken is light brown, about 4 minutes per side. Place chicken on rimmed baking sheet; transfer to oven. Roast chicken until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Plate using salad greens first, then topping top with chicken. Drizzle sauce on top, and garnish with fresh raspberries.


Grilled Kebabs (Veg and Otherwise) June 1, 2011

This past Monday we rang in the new season with a small grill party in our tiny Brooklyn backyard, complete with wine, s’mores, and cheese puffs. Thanks to my awesome roommate Phil who took over the grilling part (I need to learn how to do this myself soon), I now have a delicious and easy kebab recipe to share with you all.  Hopefully, this grilling thing can turn into a regular occurrence… I have big plans for a huge bag of red/orange peppers in my fridge. (Salsa? Bell pepper jam?)  This week off is starting to feel productive already– made a healthful dinner, installed an air conditioner… maybe I’ll even organize that 12-inch pile of art deco readings sitting by my bed (!)

Grilled Kebabs:

1 package bamboo skewers

6 shallots, peeled and halved

2 orange bell peppers, chopped into chunky 2-inch pieces

1 package of whole white mushrooms, w/ dirt patted off

1 medium onion, chopped into chunky, 2-inch pieces

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1 zucchini, chopped into circular or half-circular pieces

2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/2 bottle store-bought marinade of your choosing (We used something that had a cowboy on the label, and it was mostly mustard-based. I wasn’t in charge of the chicken, so I probably would have made something from stuff lying around if it was just me, but it’s a holiday. Store-bought is totally fine and way easier.)

[This makes enough for 5 people to eat more than comfortably and still have room for s’mores.]

If you have the time and inclination, prepare the chicken the night before and let it marinate, but if not, just prep it about 1-2 hours before you grill. Cut the chicken breasts into 2-inch pieces and place in a tupperware. Pour the marinade over the chicken and refrigerate until you’re ready to assemble the kebabs. Prep all the veggies, soak the bamboo skewers in a bowl of water for 5 minutes, and then start assembling the kebabs by layering the veggies and chicken on each skewer.  We made some that were just veggies for those of us not into meat. Grill for about 10-12 minutes on either side (this varies depending on your grill temperature, so rely on whether things look cooked or blackened). Serve immediately. Best if eaten outside in the shade with some PBR while perusing back issues of Vanity Fair.


Mojito Burritos May 12, 2011

Growing up in the western half of the US, all during childhood I was convinced that the world saw sandwiches, burritos, and stir fry as I did: they were all basically blank slates for whatever you wanted to eat. Sandwiches could have lunch meat, or egg salad, or meatloaf, or peanut butter on them – much in the way that “stir fry” meant whatever meat and vegetables you had in the fridge, all over rice, usually with some teriyaki sauce or whatever other seasoning you felt like.

I have the same theory about burritos: anything should go in them because a tortilla is primarily a delicious way to get a combination of other things into your mouth. In coming to the East Coast, I’ve learned that burritos aren’t universally treated as cylindrical alternatives to sandwiches, and that most people don’t just keep tortillas on hand. (I also learned that the East Coast is disgustingly obsessed with Italian food, but that’s another story.) In fact, I’ve encountered quite a few people who’ve never had a real burrito (let alone one of the fake ones that I make or that can be bought from Qdoba/Chipotle/etc.).

And so, in case you haven’t been introduced to the burrito as an absorber of leftovers or a flavor-pliable backdrop for dinner, I give you my most recently successful burritos.

Mojito Burritos 

Makes 4 large burritos (more…)


Fast/Easy/Unhealthy: Chicken Pot Pie May 10, 2011

Filed under: Dinner — krandle @ 10:12 pm
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Not even going to pretend on this one: it’s fast and unhealthy and requires basically no prep. You don’t even have to pay attention while you make it. (And sometimes that’s all you want after you were away for the weekend, but need to feed yourself after work.)

Chicken Pot Pie 

1 cup cooked chicken, shredded or otherwise cut up (This is a great time to use chicken you’ve cooked and frozen ahead of time)
2 cups frozen vegetables
1 can condensed soup (I used chicken and mushroom)
1 cup Bisquick
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
Spices (I used oregano, garlic, and rosemary) 

Preheat the oven to 400. In an ungreased pie pan, mix together vegetables, chicken, and condensed soup. Meanwhile, mix together the Bisquick, egg, and milk. Then, spread it on top. Put it in the oven for 30 minutes until crust is golden brown.

Yes, that’s it. No, it’s not healthy. But it is delicious, and it is totally going to become one of those guilty pleasure / instant dinners that I’m going to make going forward.


Quinoa Barbecue Bowl April 21, 2011

I am a huge fan of one-dish meals that involve all the food groups: approximations of stir fry over rice, burrito bowls with lots of beans, salads with veggies and protein, etc. So when I saw this easy dish on another Philadelphia food blogger’s page, I tucked the recipe away in my memory to use when I decided to use the shredded barbecue chicken I made and froze a few weeks ago.

It’s basically quinoa, chicken, corn, black beans, and barbecue sauce all mixed together. Delicious.  I used a bit more quinoa and corn, and skipped the salsa, replacing it with a few tablespoons of Sriracha instead (because we love that spicy sauce).

Instead of copying the recipe here, I will just direct you to her recipe.

364 Calories per serving: 5 g fat, 57 g carbohydrates, 8.5 g dietary fiber


Brined Chicken March 7, 2011

Filed under: Dinner — krandle @ 7:55 pm
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I broke a cardinal home maker rule. I decided to try something totally untested for my dinner party.

I brined a chicken.

I’m a firm believer that the best chicken of all time is made in a slow cooker – but I’d been seeing a few sporadic comments about how a chicken that has been brined before it’s roasted is incredibly moist and flavorful. People who brine never seem to go back.  So, I read everything I could get my hands on about brining. This resource was most helpful (I had no idea that salts have different levels of saltiness). You can apparently brine chicken just in salt and water and sugar, or in a million different varieties of spices, liquids, sweeteners, etc. I decided to combine a few, very simple ideas.

I followed the brining recipe from Cooks Illustrated, but added most of the spices that would make up pickling spice as well. Also, since recommendations on the amount of time the chicken is supposed to soak vary A LOT, I tried to do an average of everyone’s recommendations…without spending my whole life waiting for the silly chicken. (I brined it a bit longer than just overnight, and then pulled it out and dried it in the fridge for a lot of the day, before prepping for the way I wanted to cook the chicken.)

By the way, biggest problem with this method? All the recipes assume that I have a container large enough to hold all the brine and the whole chicken. I don’t believe any of these recipes are designed for someone with just one refrigerator. (I put it in my crockpot and hoped for the best even though I couldn’t put in all the water I wanted to.)

And it worked.

This was delicious chicken. With even more delicious skin.

(I know, I know–I need a better camera…it’s also really hard to take pictures when you’re cooking and hosting a party.)

Delicious Brined Roasted Chicken (Should also work for other poultry and some pork/beef. Sorry, no veg option for brining.)

Starting the night before, brine the chicken in a mixture of your desire. Make sure the whole thing is submerged so the whole thing is sufficiently brined. Then–and this is key–pull it out of the brine mixture, rinse it off a little, and let it dry out by putting it back in the empty container, uncovered, in your fridge so the skin dries out a bit. (This ensures the skin is extra crispy when you roast it.)

From here, you can cook the chicken however you want. This is just a particularly wonderful way (especially if your guests don’t like spicy).

First, do a dry rub with ginger and thyme. Let that hang out while your chicken is drying out.

Then, create an herb butter. Mix 4+ Tbs. butter with garlic and thyme. Soften this enough so it’s very malleable. Take half of this mixture and–even though it’s gross–spread it under the chicken skin. You can do this pretty easily, gently lifting the skin around the breast area, and spreading the herb butter inside. Then, stuff as many orange wedges and onion pieces as you can inside the chicken. Keeps everything nice and moist.

Preheat the oven to 450. Put the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet alongside some additional onion pieces, as well as potatoes and/or sweet potatoes. If you’d like, you can also add orange wedges to this collection of vegetables for roasting. Toss all this in the oven for 30 minutes.

At this point, turn over each vegetable so it can roast evenly, and baste the chicken in the remaining herb butter. This can just go on the outside. (Shameless product plug: silicone basting brushes are AWESOME. They’re easy to baste with, and they’re so, so, so easy to clean afterwards.) Roast everything for about 10 minutes more.

Remove the potatoes and other vegetables at this point so they don’t get too brown. Re-baste the chicken with whatever juices are in the pan. Continue cooking until meat thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of the thigh reads 165.

Then, let the chicken sit for about 10-15 minutes.

So delicious. Seriously. Rivals my crockpot chicken for being incredibly moist. I’m definitely doing this again. And it was a hit at the dinner party. Actually, such a hit that people were peeling the skin off the chicken and just eating it. And there was nothing but carcass left at the end.


Quick dinner: Homemade Chicken Fingers March 2, 2011

Filed under: Appetizer,Dinner — krandle @ 5:18 pm
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Sometimes, you need a quick way to feed yourself some healthy junk food. And what better than chicken fingers to fill that void? (Especially because you can put them on top of salad for lunch the next day.)

These take no time to make – and are much healthier than the ones you’d get out of the freezer section since you get to control the sodium and what goes into the breading.

Homemade Chicken Fingers

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Breadcrumbs (they can be store-bought)
Creamy salad dressing of your choice (A low-calorie honey mustard is my favorite)

After you cut up the chicken breast into roughly finger-shaped pieces of equal thickness, dip each piece into the dressing. (Using a creamy salad dressing helps keep the chicken moist and gets the breadcrumbs to stick, so you don’t have to use egg or another binder.) Then, coat each piece on all sides in a mixture of breadcrumbs and cornmeal. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet and put in the broiler on high. Flip the pieces over after about 7 minutes, and remove only after checking that the chicken is really done.