Tag Archives: chicken

Springtime Grilled Chicken Bread Salad with Roasted Asparagus and Fennel

There are certain recipes that have nearly cult followings online, and the Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken and Bread Salad is one of them.  I’ve never had it in person, but have heard so many people rave about it that I recently decided to put my own spin on it.  It seemed fitting — fresh, small game hens and asparagus from the farmer’s market, and a loaf of sourdough bread from a wonderful bakery downtown.  I hadn’t planned to make it, but sometimes things just come together at the right time.   I made it on a week night, but my bet is that you might want to save it for the weekend as it is somewhat more time consuming than other recipes I post.

That is not to say it is difficult, though.  It just requires more steps and separate preparation methods for multiple ingredients.  But in the end, it is beyond worth it.  The salad is garlicky and lemony with chewy bread toasted in olive oil, enriched with roasted asparagus and fennel, and topped with roasted chicken that will have you licking your fingers throughout.  It would make a fantastic dish for entertaining, because you can prep most of the ingredients beforehand, and then simply compose the salad after roasting or grilling the chicken.  (Just save it for guests who don’t mind deliciousness that necessitates finger licking.)

We split our game hens into halves and my husband grilled them over a charcoal fire (he gets props for the chicken being insanely good).  However, you could just as easily roast them in the oven halved or whole.  If you do them over charcoal, he would suggest starting the halves over the coals, skin side down, for a quick searing of the skin, and then moving them to the center to cook indirectly until they are just done.  Keep a drip pan underneath them as you would typically do in a charcoal fire, and save the drippings so you can mix a bit into the salad at the end.  Don’t overcook and let the chicken rest for ten minutes or so before serving so it stays juicy.

Just be sure to put a stack of napkins on the table and pour yourself a nice, chilled glass of white wine before you dig in.  Spring couldn’t get much more perfect.

Springtime Grilled Chicken Bread Salad with Roasted Asparagus and Fennel

Serves 4-6

2 small game hens, or 1 small roasting chicken
Olive oil
Fresh parsley, rosemary, thyme, and sage, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 loaves of crusty sourdough or peasant bread (about 1 1/2 pounds, to yield 1 pound of crustless bread cubes)
1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds or pine nuts
1 bunch of asparagus, stemmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 fennel bulb, sliced and reserving 2 T of chopped fronds
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 or 2 scallions, chopped
2 or 3 large handfuls of salad greens, washed and dried

1/3 cup of olive oil
Zest of one lemon, chopped
1/2 t salt
Freshly ground pepper
Juice of 1/2 of a lemon, or more to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Split game hens in half (disregard if roasting whole) and place on a tray.  Drizzle with olive oil and season both sides liberally with salt and pepper.   Sprinkle generously with chopped parsley, rosemary, thyme, and sage (or other herbs of your choice) and rub the halves so the seasonings cover the chicken well.  Put in refrigerator until ready to grill.

2.  Remove crusts from bread (take a thin layer off, but you don’t have to be 100% perfect … a little crust is OK) and tear bread into bite-sized cubes.  I threw the crusts into a ziploc bag in the freezer and will use them for croutons in a salad at some point.  Place bread cubes onto a cookie sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place the pumpkin seeds on a separate, small baking sheet.  Put both the bread cubes and pumpkin seeds in the oven to toast.  The pumpkin seeds will take about 5-7 minutes and the bread cubes will take about 7-10 minutes.  I broiled my bread cubes for a minute or two at the end, so they had some toastier parts.  Remove both items from oven and set aside at room temperature.

3.  In a roasting pan, combine asparagus pieces and sliced fennel.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven for about 20 minutes until they are nicely cooked (but not overdone) and the fennel starts to caramelize a bit.  You can also broil this for a minute or two at the end if you want a little extra char or caramelization.  Remove from oven and toss with chopped garlic, chopped scallions, and chopped fennel fronds.  Set aside at room temperature. (Steps 1-3 could be done early in the day if you are entertaining.)

4.  Remove chicken from refrigerator and prepare charcoal grill for an indirect fire.  (If you like, you can start the grill before steps 2 and 3 if you are doing this all at once, rather than prepping ahead of time.)  Place chicken halves over the fire on the grill (with a drip pan in the middle), skin side down and sear for 2-3 minutes.  Flip and move to center of the grill (over the drip pan) and cook indirectly for about 30-40 minutes until done.  Remove to platter and let rest for about 10 minutes.

5.  While chicken is cooking, combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl (could also be made ahead of time).  In a large salad bowl, combine toasted bread cubes, roasted asparagus and fennel, and toasted pumpkin seeds.

6.  While chicken is resting, skim a layer of fat off of the drippings and mix one or two tablespoons of remaining drippings with bread cubes and other ingredients.  Add a few handfuls of salad greens and toss with about half of the dressing.  Taste for seasoning and add more dressing if necessary, as well as additional salt and pepper.

7.  To serve, give each person a nice helping of the bread salad, top with a portion of the roasted chicken (a leg, thigh, or breast piece — or a combo) and serve with remaining dressing on the side.


Creamy Chicken Casserole with Leeks and Mushrooms

I remember researching my baby girl’s first car seat.  I had no clue what I was looking for.  I was focused on patterns that didn’t include teddy bears, perhaps longing for something that might actually match the car instead.  I didn’t know a five point harness from a three point one, and I certainly didn’t know how long I was supposed to keep it rearward facing as opposed to forward facing.  I started to read reviews.  I searched Consumer Reports.  I read mommy blogs to get opinions.  I sorted my Amazon results with the settings “Price:  High to Low,” hoping that if I spent more money, I would stumble onto the seat I was supposed to buy.  Much to my husband’s dismay, I realized the good moms were buying the safe and super expensive Britax seats, so I dropped a whole pile of money down to become part of the club.  And I did this several times over for her and her brother.

I kept her rear facing for longer than anyone thought I should.  I kept her in a five point harness until well past kindergarten, when she complained that her friends thought she was still riding in a baby car seat.  “But it’s actually a booster with a better harness,” I told her.  She didn’t agree.  She rode in a regular booster (LATCH capable, of course) until she was 8.  I finally took the back off when I could see that she clearly wasn’t remotely comfortable any more.  I kept telling myself, “She’s almost as big as her great grandmother.  It’s OK.”

Yet, tomorrow, I will put her on a bus at 6:30 AM for her big third grade field trip.  A bus with a driver I do not know.  A bus with no seat belts that will be barreling down the highway at 65 MPH.  She will wander around museums and theaters with friends and teachers.  She will eat a bagged lunch and buy her own McDonald’s for dinner.  She will carry a wallet and her own money.

But she will also carry her hip pack of allergy medicine.  I will have made sure there are at least three EpiPens with her with directions for symptoms that require flow charts.  I will have briefed the teachers and sent the chaperones long emails that make them think I’m crazy. (I am.)  I will have had thousands of thoughts about how to keep her safe … “Wait. If all the kids need lunches that don’t need to be refrigerated, they will almost all have Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches.  Must email teacher about separating her with safe lunches if possible.”  Major red flags will pop up as I walk down grocery store aisles.  “It’s a bus.  What if the person who rode in her seat before her had peanut butter crackers?  What if someone offers her a treat while on a tour?  She knows to say no.  Wait, does she know to say no?”  I will have gone over safety points with her ad nauseum, until her father says, “Kristin, I think she gets it.”

But I just can’t help it.  She’s my baby, even if 9 years have made her more grown-up than infant.  And I can’t be there to keep her safe.  I can’t be around the corner from her school if she needs me.  I can’t watch out for her as she maneuvers in a city, albeit a small one.  I am two hours away if she has an allergy emergency.   I won’t be the one driving.  And there will be no harnesses, side impact protection, or tethers for protection.

As much as I want to “forget” to set the alarm tomorrow morning and keep her home safe with me, I know I can’t.

I will wake up at 5:30 AM and I will put her on that bus.  And I will not rest easy until it pulls back in at 7 PM tomorrow night.

Creamy Chicken Casserole with Leeks and Mushrooms

So the theme here is comfort food, if you didn’t guess that already.  Feel free to use leftover or Rotisserie chicken for a quick weeknight dinner (if you do that, you can get less than a pound).  Also, this is very flexible and could include other herbs, vegetables, or seasonings.  It’s a great dinner with just a simple green salad on the side. Also, you can make this up in advance, just put the crumbs on right before you bake it.

Serves 4

1 pound boneless chicken breast or thighs, cooked and shredded (I poached mine)
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1-2 leeks, well cleaned and chopped
2-3 ribs of celery, chopped
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
1 T butter
1 T olive oil, plus a little additional
1/4 cup of white whole wheat flour (or other flour)
1/2- 3/4 cup of whole wheat cracker crumbs (or breadcrumbs)
1 1/2 cups of 2% milk
1 T brandy
1 T lemon juice
1/2 T chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and Pepper
Cayenne Pepper

1. In a medium saute pan, saute the sliced mushrooms in a bit of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and cook until they are browned and have rendered all their liquid, about 5-7 minutes.  Set aside.

2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a medium saucepan, melt 1 T butter and 1 T oil together over medium heat.  Saute the leeks, celery, and garlic for about 5 minutes and then sprinkle in the 1/4 cup of flour.  Stir well to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes to cook the flour a bit.  Whisk in milk, making sure to get any bits of flour incorporated from the edges of the pan.  Cook the sauce for 2-3 more minutes until quite thick, whisking constantly.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt, freshly ground pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper (or to taste), 1 T brandy, 1 T lemon juice, and chopped rosemary.

3.  Add chopped/shredded chicken and sauteed mushrooms to the white sauce and stir to combine.  Place in a shallow baking dish with about 1.5 quart or 1.5 liter capacity.  Cover with cracker or bread crumbs and bake for about 40 minutes until golden and bubbly.



Quick African Chicken Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin Seeds

For the fifth meal of the Cuizoo Arsenal, I was planning to do a hearty soup.  Because this time of year especially, it is a fantastic one pot meal for cold days.  I thought I’d do something with beans and maybe some sausage, because that is an almost weekly occurrence for us.  But after doing the Black Beans and Rice, I realized you could simply tweak that a bit, add more broth, saute some sausage and you’d be going down a path for a decent bean soup.  I figured maybe I’d branch out and do something a little different and I had a ton of sweet potatoes to use up.  So, I started searching for recipes and the African Peanut Chicken Stew at Simply Recipes caught my attention.  Obviously, I would have to modify it for my daughter’s nut allergies, but it seemed like a flexible recipe that could easily be made into a weeknight meal.

In my version, I used skinless, boneless chicken thighs and skipped the stock making step with the chicken parts.  You could still do this if it is a weekend or you have some extra time.  Because I don’t have stock in the freezer right now and I have decided not to buy the boxed stuff anymore (most are really bad products),  I just made a simple vegetable stock with carrots, onions, celery, turnips, and garlic.  Your own veggie stock is going to taste much better than any store bought stock (chicken or otherwise) — and it is basically free (water and leftover veggies hanging out in your fridge) and has no additives or chemicals.  Quite honestly, even if you don’t have time for that, I think plain water would be as effective as any store bought stock.  The thing that stocks impart (in most cases) is really just salt.  So, in a pinch, just use water and up your seasonings.

I didn’t make it too spicy because of the kids, but that’s easily remedied with a bottle of hot sauce on the table.  My kids were divided — the boy loved it, the girl barely tolerated it (she is picky with soups), but managed to get through her plate because there was dessert on the horizon.  In most cases, I think kids would like it, especially if you focus on the fact that it is “Sunbutter or Peanut Butter Soup.”

And it’s obviously very reasonable to make.  The major ingredient is one package of chicken thighs and the rest you may have in your pantry and fridge already.  Feel free to substitute other nut butters and other seeds or nuts.

As far as flexibility goes, even though it seems very unique, you must think of it as a basic stew.  This one happens to be thickened and flavored with sunbutter/peanut butter and nuts/seeds, but you could just as easily remove the nut butter and thicken with a flour or cornstarch slurry, a roux, beans, heavy cream or simply cooked down white or sweet potatoes.  Other versions of stews that you could make might include a Chicken Corn Stew or Chowder, made instead with white potatoes and corn and thickened with cream or a slurry (and seasoned with Thyme and Sherry); a Thai Chicken Stew, keeping the nut butter, but adding a bit of Thai Red Curry Paste and coconut milk; a Smoky Vegetarian Stew with lots of root vegetables (some mashed to thicken it), Smoked Paprika, with maybe some Corn Bread Dumplings on top; or a Mexican Chicken version with added diced tomatoes, thickened with Masa Harina, and topped with shredded cheese.

I *hope* what you are beginning to see is that you have to look at any recipe as more of a method, where ingredients can be interchanged and experimented with based on what you have or what you like.  While I think you will really like this recipe, I am more interested in you knowing how to look at your refrigerator or pantry and and invent your own versions.  When you get to that point, cooking becomes much more interesting and takeout seems far less attractive.

Quick African Chicken Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin Seeds

Serves 6-8

Inspired by Elise at Simply Recipes

1 cup pumpkin seeds (hulled)
3 large sweet potatoes (about 1.5-2 pounds)
2 inch piece of fresh ginger root
5 cloves garlic
2 red peppers
1 large onion
1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
5 cups of stock (veggie, chicken, or just plain water in a pinch)
1 cup of Sunbutter (or other nut butter of your choice)
1 t coriander
1/8 t cayenne pepper
2 t salt
1 t freshly ground pepper
Fresh Cilantro
White or Brown Rice (if desired)

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Peel and chop sweet potatoes into 1 inch cubes.  Peel ginger root piece and finely chop.  Peel and finely chop garlic cloves.  Peel onion, cut in half, and slice.  Stem and core the red peppers and chop into 1/2 inch pieces.

3.  Spread pumpkin seeds in a thin layer on a baking sheet and place in preheated oven and toast for 8-10 minutes.

4.  Meanwhile, heat a bit of olive oil in a large stock pot or dutch oven.  Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper and brown on both sides over medium heat.  Remove chicken to a plate.

5.  In the same pot, add a bit more olive oil and add chopped ginger, garlic, and sliced onions.  Saute for 3-5 minutes over medium heat until fragrant and slightly softened.

6.  Add the sweet potato chunks, five cups of stock, and the browned chicken thighs.  Mix in the 1 cup of sunbutter (or other nut butter), coriander, cayenne pepper, 2 t salt, and 1 t pepper.  Bring to a boil.  While you are waiting, place toasted pumpkin seeds in a plastic bag and smash them finely (you can use a food processor if you like).  Add 3/4 of a cup of the ground pumpkin seeds to the stew (reserving other 1/4 cup).  When it has come to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes. (If you are cooking rice, you will want to start it during this cooking time.)

7.  After about 30 minutes, add the chopped red peppers and cook for 15 minutes longer.  Remove chicken thighs and let cool slightly.  Mash the sweet potatoes in the soup so they are not large chunks.  Shred or chop chicken thigh meat and return to the pot.  Add about 1/4 chopped cilantro and simmer for 5-10 minutes longer.  Serve as-is or over rice (if desired) with additional chopped fresh cilantro and reserved pumpkin seeds.

No Hangover Tequila Chicken Tacos with Guacamole

Well, I guess I cannot entirely guarantee that you won’t have a hangover with these tacos.  If you are so inclined to drink the remaining tequila in the bottle after you make the marinade, then you are on your own.  And it is a lonely place to be — trust me.  The tequila hangover is something that one just can’t explain.  You may ask:  as bad as way too much cheap red wine?  Yes and worse.  And different.

A tequila hangover is like childbirth.  It is so painful that it keeps you from doing it again for a while, until the cloud of happiness infiltrates your brain and you think “hey, let’s have some tequila tonight.”  Several years in between episodes at the minimum.  And I am pretty sure there might be a heavy correlation between tequila and childbirth, as it can be used to both make the baby and sterilize the forceps.

My worst tequila hangover was like having quadruplets in a field somewhere.  The night started innocently enough with some Indian food takeout and a bottle of red wine (probably not advisable, but also not terrible).  The night ended with tequila shots and then finishing another bottle of red wine. And if there ever needed to be some rhyme made up about what to drink and when, this is the combo:  red wine, Indian food, tequila shots, and more red wine.  You are never in the clear in this situation.  It will be a two day hangover and you will struggle to remember what the hell happened and why you were playing Gin Rummy.  Just take my advice on this and don’t do it.

The tacos, however, are delicious.  We like to have them either in soft tortilla wraps or lightly fried to make them crispy, but not so annoying as to fall apart all over your plate.  (To do that, just put some oil in a saute pan, soften the wrap slightly in the oil, add your fillings, fold it in half, and pan fry until golden and then flip and repeat.  I love soft tacos this way because the cheese actually melts and they are a cross between a taco and a quesadilla.)  Either way, the chicken is succulent and lightly kissed with the flavors of your favorite Mexican drink.  And served with some homemade guacamole and fresh salsa, you will be ready to kiss someone.  Just try to keep your shirt on.

No Hangover Tequila Chicken Tacos with Guacamole

Serves 4-6

1.5 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup agave nectar or honey
1/4 cup tequila
1/4 cup orange juice
Juice and zest of two limes
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 t sea salt
1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped
Freshly ground pepper

2 avocados, peeled and pit removed
1 large clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 t sea salt
Juice of half of a lime
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Soft taco shells
Salsa (freshly made takes it to another level)
Sour Cream
Freshly shredded cheddar cheese

1.  Whisk together marinade ingredients, except chicken thighs, in a pyrex baking dish.  Place chicken thighs in marinade and turn to coat.  Marinade for about an hour if you have the time (longer is OK too).

2.  Mash together guacamole ingredients and set aside.  (Before mashing, I like to reserve one half of an avocado and cut that into chunks.  I then add the chunks to the mashed guacamole for better texture.  Your choice.)

3.  Grill chicken thighs over indirect heat for about 15-20 minutes until done.  Remove, let rest, and slice into strips.

4.  Serve chicken and guacamole with soft taco shells, salsa, sour cream, and shredded cheese.

Muenster Chicken

I’m not sure if you have noticed, but I have been posting far fewer dinner recipes lately.  And, trust me, it’s not for a lack of eating dinner.  The problem is purely technical — winter means it gets dark early, and because of that, the lighting sucks. You see, I am still in the “learning” category when it comes to photography and while my knowledge and equipment is getting better, I don’t have any decent lighting.  So, I rely almost exclusively on natural light, the tripod, and post production to get decent low light images.  Sometimes the outcome is OK (never great) and sometimes it is not (usually when a child starts jumping next to the tripod during an exposure which feels like it takes twenty minutes).

And setting up all sorts of equipment at dinner time (AKA the hell or bewitching hour with young children) is just not that realistic.  I should remind you that what you see on the site is generally what we are eating at my house. I rarely do a recipe with the sole intention of posting it here.  Which usually means that while I am trying cook and shoot pictures, my kids are hungry, the homework is scattered across the kitchen, and everyone is fried from the day.   Thank goodness they are addicted to the Wii or you may never see anything posted here.

So, here’s an example of that.  It is actually a delicious recipe that we ate all the time growing up and I have just updated it a bit.  It’s a great casserole for a big group, kids love it, and it makes a great drop off dinner for your friend or neighbor who just had a baby.  (Don’t forget to bring them some Grey Goose too.)  We like to serve it with rice if you want a starch and a green salad or sauteed spinach.  I have a hunch you could make a vegetarian version of this with tofu that would be really great too.  I’d probably fry the tofu in the method I outlined here and then just follow this recipe.  You could use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock if you like. (I should add that you can skip the mushrooms entirely or just put them on half if your kids don’t like them, but mine seem to enjoy them under the cheese.)

I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to sunny spring and summer nights snapping shots of beautiful, bright produce. Hopefully the dark days of winter are on their way out.  After our second foot of snow falls today, of course.

Muenster Chicken

Serves about 8

1.5 pounds of chicken breasts
3 eggs
2 t Italian Seasoning
2 t Oregano
1 t Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper
2-3 cups of Panko Breadcrumbs
1 cup of chicken (or vegetable) broth
1/2 cup of Marsala (sweet)
16 ounces White Mushrooms (other types would work well too), sliced
6-8 ounces Muenster Cheese, sliced

1.  Cube chicken breasts into about one inch pieces (chicken nugget sized).  In a large bowl, whisk together 3 eggs, 1 t Italian Seasoning, 1 t Oregano, 1/2 t salt, and freshly ground pepper.  Add chicken pieces to egg mixture and set aside (can let it sit in refrigerator like this for an hour or two if you like).

2.  In another bowl, combine 1 t Italian Seasoning, 1 t Oregano, 1/2 t salt, freshly ground pepper, and Panko Breadcrumbs.  Remove a few chicken pieces at a time from the egg mixture (allowing excess to drain off) and toss with breadcrumbs to coat.  Repeat with remaining chicken pieces.

3.  Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  (Coat the bottom of the pan.)  In about three batches, brown the chicken pieces on both sides.  They do not have to be cooked through, just browned.  Make sure you do it in batches and don’t crowd the pan so they will get a nice brown crust.  As they are done, place the chicken pieces in a 9 inch by 13 inch glass baking dish.

4.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Wipe out saute pan and heat a bit more olive oil.  Saute the sliced mushrooms.

5.  Mix broth and Marsala together and pour over browned chicken pieces.  Top with sauteed mushrooms and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and place Muenster Cheese slices over top chicken and mushrooms and bake for 10 more minutes until done and bubbly.  You can broil it for a bit at the end if you like the cheese browner.

Simple Herb Roasted Chicken

Although we are eating less meat lately, it is impossible for me to say that a simple, whole roasted chicken is not a delicious thing.  First, when the meat is fresh and organic from your local farm, you will be astonished by how much better it tastes than its grocery store cousin.  Second, it can form at least three meals:  the original dinner, the leftover chicken for chicken salad or burritos, and a soup made from the broth.  In my opinion, that kind of use and reuse (and not waste) really should form the basis of our meat eating habits — if you are going to choose to eat it, at least use every possible part in every possible way.


Thomas Keller drove this lesson home for me in his essay on rabbits in The French Laundry Cookbook (a wonderful read, by the way).  In it, he describes himself as a young chef facing eleven rabbits that he had to slaughter for the restaurant.  I don’t need to go into detail for you to understand that this was a horrible process.  Let’s just say that we all close our eyes to this when we show up at the grocery store to buy our package of cleaned and butchered meat — rarely giving the previous steps much thought.  Keller says:

“Because killing those rabbits had been such an awful experience, I would not squander them.  I would use all my powers as a chef to ensure that those rabbits were beautiful.  It’s very easy to go to a grocery store and buy meat, then accidentally overcook it and throw it away … Should a cook squander anything, ever?  It was a simple lesson.”

I try to live by this lesson when cooking meat.  When I choose to eat it, it will be beautiful and I will not waste any part of it.  As an important aside, how many of us would be vegetarians if we had to butcher the meat ourselves?  I can tell you without hesitation that I would not eat meat if I had to kill the animal (unless my family were starving).  And for that, I am a big hypocrite.  I’m aware.  Therapists love me.  Let’s move on.  Here’s a pretty picture of butter.


So back to roast chicken…  Are you still hungry?  This simple recipe will produce a super moist, delicious chicken.  The skin will not be overly crispy because of the herb crust — it protects the white meat and the herbs produce steam around the skin — so if you like crispy skin, this might not be your recipe.  However, I have found that using drier herbs (such as rosemary and thyme) does produce a crispier skin than the “wetter” herbs like parsley, basil, chives, etc.   This method is really wonderful and gives you roast chicken in an hour — definitely doable for a weeknight.

But the bottom line is … maybe it should be a special occasion.  We could all stand to eat less meat.  And if we are going to eat it, do the animal justice and make it delicious.  And then use the leftover meat.  And then make soup.   And then freeze the extra broth.  Please, just don’t ever waste it.

Simple Herb Roasted Chicken

Serve 4-6

1 small chicken (about 4 lbs.)
3 T softened butter
3-4 T chopped fresh herbs, plus a few sprigs for the cavity (I used chervil, parsley, basil, and chives)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and Pepper

2 T pan drippings
2 T flour
1 cup of broth or water
1/2 cup of white wine, sherry, or marsala
Salt and Pepper
Additional fresh chopped herbs

1.  Preheat oven to 400 F.

2.  For chicken:  Rinse chicken and remove any organs from the cavity.  Pat dry and place in a metal roasting pan.  Mix together softened butter, chopped herbs, chopped garlic, 1 t. salt, and freshly ground pepper.  Rub herb butter all over chicken and put a nice layer on top of the breast.  Season with additional salt and pepper.  Stuff some extra herbs in the cavity and tie the drumsticks together with some kitchen twine if you like (helps it cook evenly).

3.  Roast chicken in preheated oven for about an hour, basting if you like.  If it is browning too much, you can place some foil on top.  It is done when a meat thermometer registers about 160-165 F in the meaty part of the thigh.  Remove from oven to a platter and tent with foil.

4.  If you want to make gravy from the drippings, place the roasting pan on the stove top over medium heat.  You will probably have about two tablespoons of fat/drippings in the pan (if more than that, spoon a bit out.  If less, add a bit of butter or olive oil.)  Whisk in the two tablespoons of flour into the fat and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes (that’s your roux), scraping up all the browned bits.

5.  Add in 1/2 cup of wine and whisk into the roux.  Add in broth or water and whisk well to make sure roux is fully incorporated.  Keep whisking or stirring until mixture comes to a boil — it will thicken.  Season with salt and pepper, add any accumulated drippings from chicken platter, and stir in additional herbs.   If the gravy is too thick or thin, you can adjust it by adding more liquid or cooking a bit more to reduce it.

6.  Carve chicken and serve with pan gravy.



Some of my best memories growing up are placed around the dinner table.  Beyond that, I will say that the wonderful ritual of food expanded my world in many directions.  There was no reason, in Pennsylvania in about 1980, that I should have been eating things like Moussaka or Paella, but I did.  We had close friends from the Netherlands and every time they visited it was a food and culture lesson; it was exposure to the European appreciation for cooking with great ingredients and lingering and laughing around the dining room table with a good bottle of wine.

Beyond that, my uncle is Professor Emeritus of Chinese Ethnomusicology and his extensive travels to China, Taiwan, and Japan (and his love of cooking) added in Asian cuisine at a time when our town didn’t have one Chinese restaurant.  I still remember being about 6 or 7 years old and having tempura for the first time — sitting in his dark dining room before a huge spread with perfect little bowls of dipping sauce. And I remember having a tempura party at my grandparents’ house when the big joke was to tempura batter something random (like a clothespin) and serve it to someone.


This is a lesson to me in my own parenting.  I don’t remember much about the times when my Mom was shuttling my sisters and me to Brownies or Girl Scouts.  I don’t remember much about what I did in school in second grade when my teacher was probably working pretty hard to ensure that I was learning something.  I don’t remember much of the piano I used to know (OK, so there’s that one song.).  But I do remember the food.  And the laughter. And the big family gatherings of cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents.  This is the good stuff in life and it shapes who we are.


And if we spend all of our time as parents “shaping” our kids with more instruction, more lessons, more playdates, and more soccer games (all the while saying we don’t have time to cook dinner because of our oftentimes self-imposed crazy schedules), aren’t we abandoning some of the most important real moments that we can give to our kids?

But I digress.  Let’s talk about Paella — the wonderful Spanish rice dish that is entirely flexible, great for entertaining a big crowd, and a wonderful dish for kids because they can pick out their favorite things.  It takes a bit of work, but you can do it mostly ahead of time.  And feel free to improvise with different shellfish, fish, sausages, or anything you like.  My version is mostly baked in the oven and I cooked it in a big Le Creuset cast iron wok, because I don’t have a paella pan.  You can use a wok or a large saute pan that is oven safe.   This makes it slightly untraditional (it doesn’t develop the soccarat, which is the carmelized crust on the bottom), but it’s delicious anyway.


Serve it right in the pan with a big salad and you will be on your way to making new food memories with your family and friends.


Serves 6-8

1 red pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
7 or 8 cloves of garlic, chopped
12 oz. chorizo sausage, sliced
4-6 pieces of dark meat chicken (legs or thighs)
1 lb. shrimp, shelled
2 dozen clams, mussels, or both, scrubbed clean
2 1/2 cups of arborio rice
1 can of chopped tomatoes (15 oz.)
1 t saffron
4 cups of chicken broth, preferably homemade (just buy two extra pieces of chicken, put it in a large pot, add some chopped garlic/onion, etc., cover with a plenty of cold water and simmer while you get everything else ready)
3/4 cup of white wine
1 cup of peas
Chopped flat leaf parsley
Lemon wedges
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

1.  In a large wok, saute pan, or paella pan over medium high heat, add a bit of olive oil and saute the red and yellow pepper slices.  Allow them to brown a bit (turn up heat if necessary).   When browned and softened, remove to a plate and set aside.

2.  Reduce heat to medium, add a little more olive oil, and brown chorizo sausage slices for 5 minutes or so.  Remove to plate and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 F.

3.  Add a little more olive oil and brown chicken pieces for about 3 minutes on each side (they won’t be completely cooked).  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove to plate and set aside.

4.  Add a little more olive oil and saute chopped onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes until just softened.  Add in arborio rice and saute for 2-3 minutes to coat the rice.  Stir in the tomatoes, saffron, 1 t salt, pepper and let cook (while stirring) for 3-4 minutes more.

5.  Stir in 3 1/2 cups of chicken broth and 3/4 cup of white wine.  Add in browned chorizo and chicken pieces and make sure they are submerged in rice/broth.  Cover tightly with foil or a lid and cook in a preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes until liquid is mostly absorbed.

6.  Carefully remove from oven and taste for salt/pepper, adding more if necessary.  Add in about 1/2 cup of additional chicken broth.  Stir in peas and cooked pepper slices. Place clams/mussels in rice with hinged side down.  Place shrimp on top of rice.  Cover tightly again and place back in oven for about 15-20 minutes more, until shrimp are cooked and clams/mussels have opened.  (Discard any clams/mussels that don’t open.)

7.  Remove from oven, put 2-3 tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley on top and put lemon wedges around the perimeter.  Allow guest to serve themselves.


Chicken Apple Pot Pie with Cheddar Whole Grain Crust

A farmer at our local market had “Sunday Dinner Chickens” the other day, so I bought one.  Of course, I fell right in line and cooked it on Sunday — because that’s what the marketing told me to do.  It was delicious and left us with a whole lot of leftover meat (he promised it would feed us all week, and I’m pretty sure he was right).  

It was another cold and rainy day here yesterday (noticing a theme?), so comfort food sounded just about perfect for dinner.  Along with my chicken, I had a whole lot of apples to use up.  Have you ever noticed that one week your kids devour a certain type of fruit (so you stock up) and the next week they don’t eat that at all?    


So I came up with this pot pie recipe to use what was on hand.  The term “pot pie” is such an ugly one though… it just sounds like something I’d eat in a cafeteria, so feel free to come up with a better name.   I told the kids it was chicken pie and they thought it was pretty cool that we were having pie for dinner.  Feel free to make this in one big dish or in individual oven-proof crocks.  And as usual, substitute with what you have on hand and need to use up.  Vegetables of all kinds are wonderful (root veggies, corn, peas, potatoes) — and this makes a wonderful vegetarian entree with just that. 


Chicken Apple Pot Pie with Cheddar Whole Grain Crust
Serves 4-6

3 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
6 T butter, cut in cubes
1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 t salt
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper 
4-5 T cold water

To prepare crust:

Put cheese, butter cubes, flour, salt, and cayenne in bowl of food processor and pulse until it resembles a coarse meal. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can cut the butter into the flour, salt, and cayenne using a pastry blender until the coarse meal stage and then stir in the cheese.)  Add in cold water a 2 tablespoons at a time and pulse (or mix) until the dough starts to come together into one mass.  I used about 5 T of water, but you might need a little more or less depending on the humidity.  Dump dough out onto a piece of parchment paper and form into a ball.  Flatten it into a disc, wrap it up, and chill for 30 minutes.


3 or 4 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
2 T flour
2 cups of water, wine, broth (or combo of all… I used about 3/4 cup of white wine and 1 1/4 cups of water)
2 cups of shredded cooked chicken
Chopped chervil or parsley (or other herbs of your choice)
Salt and Pepper
Milk or Cream to glaze (optional)  

To prepare filling:

While crust dough is chilling, heat a large saute pan over medium heat with 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil.  Add chopped garlic and saute one minute until fragrant.  Add in celery, onion, and apple and saute for about 7 minutes until softened.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle on 2 T flour, mix well, and cook for 2 more minutes.  Add in 2 cups of water/broth/wine and stir well to prevent lumps.  Bring to boil and add shredded chicken (mixture will thicken).  Simmer for about 10 minutes to reduce slightly (Preheat oven to 400 F while simmering).  Add in chervil/parsley and season with more salt and pepper if necessary.  

To assemble:

Remove crust from fridge and roll out on parchment paper until about 1/8 inch thick and a 12 inch circle.   Put chicken filling into a deep dish pie pan (or into individual crocks).  Fold crust in half and gently lay atop of filling.  Secure crust to edge of pie pan.  Roll edges of crust under and crimp.  Cut a few steam vents in middle and brush crust with milk/cream (or an egg wash) and sprinkle with a bit of coarse salt.  Bake in preheated 400 F oven for about 25-28 minutes until the crust is golden brown.


Rueben’s Barbecued Chicken

My mom grew up in a very small town in Northern Pennsylvania.  And apparently there was this guy named Rueben who was responsible for all the chicken grilling at local events.  His famous marinade has graced our family’s chicken for as long as I can remember.  I remember tasting it before my Mom would put the chicken in (and when raw eggs weren’t such scary things) and loving the vinegar and peppery emulsion.  It is truly a great way to cook chicken — but I think (like most grilled chicken) it is not really worth it unless you are using on-the-bone chicken and grilling over indirect charcoal.  Grilled chicken does not have to taste like carpet, you know?


Charcoal grilling is not quite as easy as flipping on a gas grill, but it is so worth it.   Our model has a gas-fired ignition which takes the hassle out of lighting stacks of chimney.  (No lighter fluid, people.)  The indirect method is simple:  put all coals in the middle and light them (using a stack, ignition, or any method you choose), when hot and glowing (after 10-15 minutes) spread half of the coals to each side and place a drip pan in the middle, and cook your chicken in the middle so the coals don’t char it too much.  Chicken pieces on the bone take about 20-30 minutes to cook.  The meaty part of the thigh should register about 170 degrees F.   I like to put the chicken back over the coals for a few minutes when it is about done so it chars just a bit.  (I remember eating a lot of charred chicken skin as a child.  It will probably come back to haunt me some day.) 


I prefer this chicken as-is, but my husband loves it with barbecue sauce on top of the marinade.  Your choice.

Rueben’s Barbecued Chicken

Makes enough to marinade 6-8 chicken pieces

1 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 egg
2 t salt (original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons, so you decide)
1 t freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 t poultry seasoning 
6-8 pieces of on-the-bone chicken with skin (we did a cut up whole chicken — 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs, 2 wings — and the thighs always get devoured.) 

Put all ingredients (except the chicken, of course) in a blender and blend at high speed for about one minute until emulsified and frothy.  It will look white and milky.  Pour into a 9 x 13 pyrex pan and add chicken pieces.  Marinade for several hours (or more) and flip and rotate pieces at least once.

Grill chicken pieces over indirect heat for 20-30 minutes until the thigh registers about 170 F.  Glaze with barbecue sauce if you like.  


Spicy Curry Chicken Salad

So I should start this post by saying it was supposed to be Grilled Chicken and Roasted Potatoes.  But you see, my husband came home very late last night and our grilling was done in the dark — so I couldn’t take any pictures of the work in progress because my photography skills are definitely in the “beginner” category.  It’s a great marinade and a great technique, so I promise I will do it again when it’s either lighter out or I have the proper equipment to take good pics in the dark.   

That being said, we had a couple of pieces of leftover chicken today.  The kids claimed the drumsticks for their lunch and I was left with a half of a breast.   And I know chicken salad is not exactly difficult, but I do think it is a forgotten favorite and it is great for lunches.  Kids typically love the sweet and crunchy texture with dried fruit (or grapes) and nuts/seeds.  If they don’t dig creamy things with mayo (like my daughter), just dress it with a little olive oil.   And while this isn’t overly spicy, you could use a regular curry powder (or skip the curry entirely) if children will be eating it.  



Spicy Curry Chicken Salad
(serves about 2 people)

3/4 Cup chopped cooked chicken
1/4 Cup chopped celery 
Zest of one lemon, Juice of half that lemon
1 T dried cranberries
1 T pumpkin seeds
1/4 t hot madras curry powder (or regular curry, or skip it entirely)
1 heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise
1 t honey
1 T chopped parsley (cilantro would be good too, but I didn’t have any)
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

Mix all ingredients and season to taste.  Serve with salad greens, on toast, or with lightly crisped flatbread or naan.