Chicken Pot Pies

I roasted a chicken the other night, which always leaves us with leftovers, so I decided to make chicken pot pies and realized I hadn’t shared a recipe for those yet. I make them about once a year because the recipe makes six pies, which carries us through the chilly season with only two of us to feed.

Chicken Pot Pies

Chicken Pot Pies

The chicken pot pies at some of the chain restaurants used to be my staple order until I began making my own. Nothing beats the flavor of homemade chicken pot pies, though, so no more mass-produced chain restaurant pies for me.

Chicken Pot Pies

Chicken Pot Pies

These homemade pies do take a bit of work but not excessively so. You can certainly cut corners by purchasing a rotisserie chicken and precut and/or frozen veggies. However, don’t skimp corners on the crust. This crust contains tangy cream cheese and is spiced up with some pepper. Fantastic flavor. So easy to work with, too: not too sticky and you can handle it without having to first refrigerate it.

Chicken Pot Pies

Chicken Pot Pies with a cream cheese crust

The first time I made these, I pressed the dough on the rims of the bowls to make sure it would stick. Bad idea. I guess I pressed so hard that during baking the sides just slipped off! Looked like the pot pies decided to drop their skirts ;  ) I’ve since learned, thanks to Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa cooking show, to brush both sides of the dough with an egg wash. The inside brushing helps the dough adhere to the bowl while the outside wash gives a sheen to the cooked crust. Thank you, Ina, for that handy dandy tip.

Chicken Pot Pies

Chicken Pot Pies loaded with chicken and veggies

Once cooked, these freeze beautifully. Just double wrap snugly in plastic wrap followed by an aluminum foil wrap, and you can then bake them straight from the freezer. Love the ease of that.

Now, if making entire chicken pot pies doesn’t appeal to you, the folks at Cooks Illustrated have created a casserole version that tastes equally yummy and is easier than making pot pies.

Chicken Pot Pies

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INGREDIENTS

FIlling

  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and diced into small chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced small
  • 1 cup celery, diced small (not part of original recipe)
  • 1 cup carrots, diced small (or use frozen carrots)
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper

Sauce

  • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • dash hot sauce
  • salt and pepper

Crust

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 16 tbsp. (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter
  • 10 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • 1 large egg

DIRECTIONS

  1. To make filling: Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and potato to pan; saute for 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, bell pepper, celery, carrots (if using raw) and mushrooms; cook for about 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
  3. When veggies finish cooking, add cooked and shredded chicken along with frozen peas (and carrots if using frozen carrots). Stir in red pepper flakes as well as season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. To make sauce: Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until smooth (mine lumped up into a big ball).
  5. Add broth about 1/4 cup at a time, whisking it into the flour mixture. Continue cooking over medium heat until it thickens into a creamy sauce. If using heavy cream, mix that in now. Add hot sauce as well as salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Pour cream sauce over chicken and veggies; stir to combine.
  7. Spoon the filling into 6-8 individual oven-safe ramekins (mine are 4 1/2 inches in diameter).
  8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F at this point.
  9. To make crust: Place flour in bowl of food processor along with salt and pepper. Pulse briefly to mix.
  10. Cut cold butter into 16 pieces and add to food processor; pulse until flour and butter are crumbly.
  11. Add cream cheese; continue to pulse until dough forms a ball. Transfer dough to a lightly-floured work surface. Use a floured rolling pin to roll dough into a rough rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Cut dough in half lengthwise, then into thirds in the other direction, making six squares (or if you have 8 pies, cut accordingly). If squares are too small to fit over bowls, you can roll each one separately to enlarge them to needed size.
  12. Beat egg with a whisk, then brush dough with the egg. Place brushed side down over bowls, and gently press sides until they adhere to bowl. Now brush egg over top side of dough.
  13. Place pies on a foil-covered baking sheet (both for ease of transfer as well as any overflow of filling). Cut several slits into pie tops. Place pies into oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown (if your crusts are on the thick side, you may need to bake a bit longer).
  14. Baked and cooled pies can be frozen. Wrap snugly in plastic wrap followed by an aluminum foil wrap. Either thaw frozen pies in refrigerator on the day you intend to eat them, then reheat in 350 degree F oven for 30-40 minutes. Alternatively, pies can be reheated straight from freezer at 400 degrees F for 45-60 minutes.

SOURCE: adapted from Annie’s Eats via Ezra Pound Cake via the cookbook The Pastry Queen

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Quick and easy Chicken Enchilada Soup

Greetings blog readers! I have missed writing posts this past week, but daily life got a bit hectic. I had two weeks of 4:00 a.m. wake ups in order to finish grading my students’ first round of essays, several meetings and workshops after my teaching day, and the nerve-wracking Back to School Night in which I inform parents about my curriculum. I tell ya, my body doesn’t respond well when I have too many late nights. Anyhow, all that craziness prevented me from having energy to share some of my kitchen escapades. Today is Saturday, though, and I got a long night of sleep and feel refreshed and ready to share.

As the weather begins to slightly chill here in Southern California (although today we still have temps in the low 80’s!), I thought I’d share a belly-warming soup that mimics the flavors of enchilada. I actually made this a couple of weeks ago as the sun was still blasting us with its heat, but I couldn’t resist testing this after I saw the recipe. I love enchiladas and I love soup. How perfect to combine the two!

The original recipe calls for cooking the soup in the crock pot and using uncooked bone-on chicken thighs. I’m sure the use of thighs provides tons of flavor to the soup. However, I used the shortcut of some shredded chicken I had in the freezer. I also skipped the sauteing onions and jalapenos; instead, I just blended those with a few other ingredients, similar to the recipe I use for enchilada sauce.  Even with my shortcuts, this soup stunned our taste buds. One of these days I’ll actually  follow the recipe and I’m sure the original will taste even better than my adapted quick version.

For now, though, if you want a quick and tasty soup, this one’s in the winner’s circle at our home.

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Chicken Enchilada Soup

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 1 large jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, undrained
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 (15-ounce) can yellow corn, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
  • 2 cups cooked and chopped chicken
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • canola oil, enough to fill a small skillet 1/2-inch high
  • garnish options: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced green onion, chopped cilantro

DIRECTIONS

  1. In the bowl of a food processor or in a blender, purée the onion, jalapeno, garlic, chili powder, cumin, sugar, oregano, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and green chiles. Transfer to a large stock pot.
  2. Add chicken stock, corn, black beans, and chicken to the pot. Heat over medium heat until ingredients are heated through.
  3. While soup warms up, prepare tortilla strips. Stack the tortillas and slice into 1/4-inch strips, then slice the larger strips into halves. Heat oil in a small cast-iron skillet to 350 degrees F (or until very hot so when the tip of a wooden spoon is inserted into oil, the oil will bubble around the spoon). Add a handful of tortilla strips and fry until golden and crispy, 1-2 minutes, separating with tongs so they don’t stick together. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate or baking sheet and immediately season with kosher salt.
  4. When ready to serve soup, garnish with tortilla strips. Additionally, you can garnish with sour cream and cheddar cheese and green onions or cilantro.

SOURCE: adapted from The Kitchn

Chicken Enchilada Verde

Today I bring you a kick-in-the-mouth Chicken Enchilada Verde dish.

Chicken Enchilada Verde

Spicy verde sauce makes these enchiladas sizzle

Despite the somewhat unsightly green appearance from the verde sauce, it actually imparts a pleasing taste, slightly tangy from the tomatillos and definitely spicy from the serrano peppers. The sour cream and the queso fresco cheese slightly offset that spicy kick, though, as well as adding a slightly salty  and light contrast.

Speaking of queso fresco, if you have a Mexican market near you, check for cheese there. I recently discovered that the cheese from behind the counter at the local Mexican market tastes a heckuvalot fresher and more flavorful than the packaged stuff I used to buy.

Let me warn you, these enchiladas pack quite a spicy kick. I’ve made them twice, and I jotted a note to take the seeds out of the serrano peppers next time I make them. However, that heat dissipates rather quickly, so don’t despair when your mouth rages with fire.

I had never cooked with tomatillos prior to this recipe. Somehow, I ended up with a bunch of them and approached the internet for ideas to use them. After reading Elise’s post about how even her young nephew gobbled them up, I decided to give it a try. Definitely heed her suggestion to use chicken thigh meat, as its tenderness adds to the deliciousness of this dish. And don’t skip coating the tortillas in oil, for it keeps them pliable for the rolling of the enchiladas.

I know it’s blazing hot and humid across the country right now, but this dish requires no oven. You boil the meat (or buy precooked chicken), boil the tomatillos, blend the sauce, and heat it in a saucepan. Okay, I take the oven part back. However, you simply keep the enchiladas warm at a very low temperature. For that matter, I guess you can microwave them at the last minute if you really don’t want to use your oven. Point is, this is a fairly easy recipe and doesn’t require you to heat up the house in the making of it. Give it a try. I surprised my picky palate with this one.

P.S. “Verde” means “green” in Spanish.

Chicken Enchilada Verde

Chicken Enchiladas Verde flavored with tomatillos and serrano peppers

Chicken Enchilada Verde

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INGREDIENTS

Chicken

  • 4 chicken thighs, bone-in, skins removed (about 1 3/4 pounds)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 wedge yellow or white onion
  • 1tsp. salt

Verde Sauce

  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatillos
  • 3 serrano peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup white or yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro, packed
  • 3 tbsp. sour cream

Enchiladas

  • canola oil
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Mexican cheese, such as queso fresco or cotija
  • chopped onion and cilantro for garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. To prepare chicken: Place chicken thighs in a medium-sized saucepan; cover with water. Add one garlic clove, cut in half; 1/4 of an onion; and 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, until chicken is just cooked through. Remove thighs to a bowl and allow to cool. (If you prefer to roast the thighs, I’ve included a lime marinade/roast at the end.)
  2. When cool, remove chicken from bones and shred meat using a knife or fork. Add 1/2 cup of the verde sauce (below) to the chicken, and also add salt if needed.
  3. To make verde sauce: Remove outer husks from tomatillos. Rinse and place in saucepan, then cover with water. Remove tops from serrano peppers; add them to the pan. If you want to reduce the spiciness of the dish, consider cutting the peppers in half and removing all or some of the seeds. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until tomatillos soften. Remove tomatillos and peppers from pan but save 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
  4. Into a blender, place tomatillos, serrano peppers, 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, 2 cloves garlic, 1/3 cup onion, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, and 1 tsp. salt; puree until completely blended, 15-30 seconds.
  5. Pour sauce into a skillet (one that is large enough to fit a corn tortilla), simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
  6. To prepare enchiladas: Soften and heat tortillas by placing a cast-iron skillet (or other frying pan) over medium-high heat and add 1 tbsp. canola oil. When hot, place a tortilla in the pan for a few seconds to absorb some oil, then flip it using tongs or a spatula. Place another tortilla directly on top of the first (it will soak up some of the oil), and flip again. Remove tortillas to a paper-towel lined plate. Add more oil to pan and repeat process with all tortillas. FYI: If using homemade tortillas, you can skip this process because they will be softened and heated already.
  7. At this point, heat the oven to 200 degrees F so you can keep the enchiladas warm while you finish the sauce.
  8. Now, take each tortilla and dip it into the sauce, piling them up again on a plate. Spread about 1/4 cup of the chicken just below the center of each tortilla, then roll it up. Place enchiladas into an oven-proof serving pan (I used my rectangular glass pan), and place filled pan into warm oven.
  9. Heat the verde sauce again to simmering, then remove from heat. Add sour cream; stir until blended. Pour verde sauce over warmed enchiladas. Top with cheese. Garnish with onion and cilantro, if desired.
  10. Serve immediately.

SOURCE: adapted from Simply Recipes

Lime-Roasted Chicken Thighs

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 pound chicken thighs (3 large)
  • juice of 2 large limes (1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Rinse thighs under cold water and pat dry.
  3. Mix lime juice, olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper, then toss thighs in mixture; refrigerate. Allow thighs to marinate for at least one hour and up to all day.
  4. Place chicken thighs in roasting pan lined with foil, or simply oil the pan. Roast thighs 20-25 minutes, then flip and roast an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven, cool, then shred chicken for enchilada filling.

SOURCE: adapted from Martha Stewart

Thai Chicken Salad

ThaiChickenSalad2

I have been insanely, unusually tired for the past 3 weeks or so. Through this fatigue, the blog has haunted the back of my mind, nudging me to post, but then the exhaustion wipes out all thoughts of productivity. Isn’t spring a time of renewal, of energy, of sunshine? Yes, we’ve had all that going on in nature. So what’s up, body?

Every spring I seem to endure this slump in energy. I think it’s related to my profession. You see, I teach. English. To hormonal adolescents. And summer vacation is close. Very close. That means for the past few months I have graded hundreds upon thousands of assignments and essays . I’ve endured moaning and groaning and whining and griping from kids because I have the audacity to challenge their minds. And I’m at the end of my rope. I think there just might be enough to hold on to, though, to finish off these last four weeks…just maybe…

Okay, that’s my excuse for not posting. But today I’ll see if I can crank out something to share.

How about this Thai Chicken Salad? The recipe and I crossed paths a couple weeks ago, and we immediately formed a friendship. A good one. We plan to keep in touch.

Seriously, though, this recipe screamed for me to test it out as soon as I laid eyes on it. I had nearly all the ingredients on hand: crunchy cabbage, salty peanuts, sweet carrots, green onions…

Missing, though, was a green papaya. Hmmmm…I had never heard of that, but I was willing to swap it out for mango, maybe? Lo and behold, a trip to the Asian market scored a green papaya, which from the outside looks totally unripe. However, once you peel it and take a bite, you’ll be transported to sweet and tangy heaven. Who knew that beautiful taste was hiding underneath that thick green skin?

As for the dressing, now this part sounded a bit odd to me. Peanut butter in salad dressing? And fish sauce? What the heck, why not try it? My oh my, did we enjoy this! Both the peanut butter and the fish sauce deepen the flavor. Take a risk. Test it out. What do you have to lose?

Let me close by saying that this salad is loaded with healthy, good-for-you ingredients that hold up well. I mixed up a HUGE batch and, sans dressing, it lasted a few days in the fridge. Hence, I can totally picture this as summer party fare…or baby shower or bridal shower fodder.  It made great lunch leftovers for the week, too.

P.S. Although I don’t mind taking time to chop all the ingredients for a salad this awesome, you can cut corners by using pre-sliced/packaged cabbage & carrots, and you can use the rotisserie chicken from the market.

ThaiChickenSalad

Thai Chicken Salad

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Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

Salad

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (check out Mel’s method)
  • green & purple cabbage, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large carrot, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 green papaya, peeled and seeds removed and sliced into thin strips (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup green onions, sliced
  • 1/2-1 cup peanuts, salted

Dressing

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 bird’s eye chile peppers, finely diced (or use 1/2 tsp. of any hot pepper, diced)
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. honey (original recipe calls for sugar)
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 1/2 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup water

DIRECTIONS

  1. Salad: In a large bowl, mix together all salad ingredients except peanuts. Chill until ready to eat.
  2. Dressing: Whisk together garlic, peppers, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, lime juice, oil, and fish sauce. Add peanut butter and water; whisk until smooth and creamy. Or, you can just place ingredients into a food processor and pulse a few times until it is all combined.
  3. Toss dressing with salad, add peanuts, and serve. (If you don’t plan to eat all the salad in one sitting, keep salad and dressing separate and chill both. It will last a few days in the refrigerator.)

SOURCE: Pinch of Yum

Orange-Glazed Chicken

OrangeGlazedChicken

Despite all the chicken recipes I have posted, hubby and I actually eat a lot more red meat and fish than the blog showcases. You see, my hubby is a fisherman and hunter at heart, a person born in the wrong era. He should have been a pioneer frontiersman.

He also usually cooks the meat and fish, liberally sprinkling on a variety of spices–whatever he is in the mood for. I, on the other hand, am a recipe follower. And I’m the one who experiments with the chicken recipes. Although we have freezers full of the game and ocean fish he brings home, we buy chicken just for the sake of having variety in our meals.

We had some drumsticks hanging around the freezer a few weeks back, and this Orange-Glazed Chicken recipe crossed my path around the same time I decided they needed to be cooked. Wow! This marinade packs a flavorful punch. It’s sweet from the orange juice and brown sugar; savory from the garlic and green onion; packs on more subtle spicy flavor with the ginger, anise, and cinnamon; and the addition of soy sauce and rice vinegar creates an Asian flair. Oh, and the final glaze of honey provides one more layer of sweetness.

I can’t get enough of these sweet things. They are so darn delicious that you just keep going back for more! I knew I would be making them again soon–both because I craved them and because I wanted to take photos for the blog (didn’t get around to that the first time).

Although I made these using only drumsticks, the marinade would work with all chicken cuts as well as with an entire roast chicken.

OrangeGlazedChicken2

Orange-Glazed Chicken

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INGREDIENTS

  • 10-12 chicken drumsticks (or one chicken, whole or cut up)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • orange slices for garnish

Marinade Sauce

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. freshly grated ginger (TIP: I keep 1-inch pieces of peeled ginger in a resealable bag in the freezer for recipes calling for grated ginger)
  • 1 tsp. ground anise
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • zest of one medium-sized orange
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 3 medium oranges)
  • 3 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 4 green onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a small saucepan, bring to a simmer all marinade ingredients except the sesame oil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, allowing marinade to thicken, then remove from heat.
  2. Stir in sesame oil and allow marinade to cool completely.
  3. Set aside (refrigerate) 1/4 – 1/2 cup marinade for basting during roasting, then pour remaining marinade into a resealable plastic bag. Add chicken pieces and coat well. Seal bag, place in refrigerator, and allow meat to marinate anywhere from 2-24 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking pan with foil (otherwise you will have quite the mess to scrape up during cleaning time), and evenly spread chicken pieces onto pan. Sprinkle with ground black pepper, the place pan into preheated oven.
  5. Roast chicken for 45-50 minutes, turning and basting 2-3 times with the marinade you set aside. During the final basting, brush with honey (TIP: if  honey is too thick to brush onto chicken, microwave it for 15-30 seconds).

SOURCE: Season with Spice

Peruvian Roast Chicken

PeruvianChicken1

The travel bug infected me eons ago in my early adulthood when a family friend from Australia stayed with us. She regaled us with stories of her escapades, and that’s when the symptoms began to eat away at me.

As a teacher, fortune smiles upon me every summer with time and freedom to explore. In my single years I would take off, either road trips exploring the Western region of the United States or exotic destinations like Egypt, Greece, Turkey… I even spent two years teaching in Japan, allowing me side trips to explore the Asian destinations of China, Korea, and Thailand. With hubby, we’ve spent time exploring the grand ol’ states with a few exotic destinations tossed in over the years.

This particular trip that I mentioned in the previous post, the trip that has us sooooooo excited that we awoke at 3 a.m. and couldn’t sleep anymore and got up and made breakfast at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m. — this trip is a bucket list trip item. As of tonight, we’ll be on the red eye flight to South America, with Peru as the first stop. Hubby’s bucket list item includes a visit to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. For me, the next leg of our trip includes Iguazu Falls in Argentina, incredible massive falls that far surpass Niagra (which I’ve never seen, by the way). I’ve wanted to visit Iguazu for almost a decade now, and it has taken three years of diligent monthly savings to arrive at this day. I feel about to burst with the anticipation.

So, in honor of our trip, I made Peruvian Roast Chicken. I had to. It called to me.

I mixed the marinade paste with a bit of trepidation. It uses habanero chile, tops in heat. And the little orange chiles are miniscule in size for packing quite a punch! I also wasn’t keen on using mint leaves in the recipe simply because I’m not a huge fan of mint (except in Peppermint Patties).  I forged ahead, though. The paste is very thick and reddish. The chicken got a good rub-a-dub-dub both under and atop the skin, then it sat in the fridge for a few hours. The final roasted bird did not taste as hot as I had worried it might. The combo of flavors was definitely on the spicier side but not overly so. Hubby really liked it. I liked it but, truthfully, prefer the Herb-Roasted Chicken I make.

Now, I must finish packing and cleaning the house. So much to do before departing for a big trip.

Peruvian Roast Chicken with Garlic and Lime

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. finely grated zest and 1/4 cup juice from 2 limes
  • 1 tsp. minced habanero chile
  • 1 (3/12 to 4 pound chicken)
  • not really an ingredient, but you will either need a vertical roaster or make your own using a 12-ounce can of beer

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place all ingredients except chicken into a blender; mix until a smooth paste forms, 10-20 seconds. (FYI: use gloves when handling habanero chile or your hands will BURN!)
  2. Gently loosen the skin of the chicken over the breast and thighs; remove any excess fat. Rub half the paste beneath the skin; spread remaining paste over entire outside of chicken. Place chicken in a large resealable bag, then refrigerate for 6-24 hours.
  3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 325 degrees F. Place vertical roaster (or half empty can of 12-ounce beer) onto a rimmed baking sheet (cover it in foil first to catch drips). Slide the chicken onto your roaster so it stand upright with breast perpendicular to pan. Roast until skin just begins to turn golden and instant read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast registers 140 degrees, 45-55 minutes. Remove chicken (and pan) from oven, followed by increasing temperature to 500 degrees.
  4. When oven is ready, place one cup of water in the bottom of the pan; return to oven. Roast until entire skin is browned and crisp and instant read thermometer registers 160 degrees inserted in thickest part of breast and 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, about 20 minutes. If water evaporates, add more to keep pan from smoking. Rotate chicken halfway through cooking.
  5. When cooked through, remove chicken from oven and allow to rest, still vertical, for 20 minutes before carving.

SOURCE: America’s Test Kitchen

Chicken Thighs with Garlic and Worcestershire

ChickenThighsWant to cook some super tasty chicken thighs that only use two ingredients? Want some chicken thighs that cook up super tender and moist? Then read on, for I’m about to share with you my hubby’s simple yet scrumptious recipe.

These chicken thighs are one of his specialities. He liberally sprinkles them with garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce then cooks them low and slow. They come out super tender and flavorful–amazingly flavorful for only two ingredients, actually. Make lots because they shrink, first of all, and secondly, they taste fantastic as leftovers. You’ll be craving more, so go ahead and make extra.

The recipe below is a bit on the vague side in terms of ingredient amounts and cooking time. There are no hard and fast rules to this one; just go with what feels right to you in terms of flavorings and pay attention to the doneness of the meat for the actual cooking time.

Chicken Thighs with Garlic and Worcestershire 

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INGREDIENTS

  • bone-in chicken thighs with or without skin–as many as you desire to cook
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • garlic powder

DIRECTIONS

  1. Rinse chicken under cold water and pat dry.
  2. Place chicken thighs in a large pan, packing them in there. Liberally sprinkle with Worcestershire sauce followed by a liberal sprinkling of garlic powder (of course, you can use less-than-a-liberal amount but we love these two flavors).
  3. Turn heat to medium-low and cook chicken until bottom of meat begins to lose its pinkness, then turn over and cook other side. Add more flavorings, if desired, after turning thighs over. This takes about 30-45 minutes overall, depending on size of thighs. Sometimes we place a cover over the pan after turning the meat to keep moisture and flavors from escaping too much.

SOURCE: hubby’s recipe

Liquid Gold: Chicken Stock/Broth & Various Methods of Making and Preserving

ChickenBroth2

First off, let’s get the difference between stock and broth out of the way. When you think stock, think of liquid gold made from bones. When you think broth, think of liquid gold made from meat. To me, they are equal because I use both to make soups and stews, so I tend to use the words interchangeably.

Both taste rich and delicious–superior to anything you can buy canned or boxed at the store. They have a cleaner, richer flavor not impeded by chemicals and preservatives. Okay, I know this point is a bit muddy when you think of mass chicken farms and all the gross injections and who-knows-what type of “food” is fed to the critters, which kinda negates the chemicals point. The solution? Use organic chicken. Or just forge ahead anyway. I tell ya, even with the mass-produced chickens, the broth/stock still tastes great.

Okay, let’s get down to the bones (ha ha!) of making stocks and broths. It’s surprisingly easy for such a rich outcome. I’ve tried a variety of methods and all work well. I’ve  used whole raw chickens cut up as well as chicken carcasses leftover from roasted chicken. I’ve even bought chicken bones frozen into a big block from the giant Asian superstore near our home. I’ve sometimes cut the bones into pieces, whacking a hammer onto a knife inserted into the bone as far as I can get it. This whacking business would be far easier with a cleaver, but as of yet we don’t own one. Other times I’ve left the bones intact. I read somewhere that the marrow from the bones flavors the stock even more, so that’s why I chop up the bones when I can.

I absolutely love, though, that you can get such tasty broth from the carcass leftover from roasting a whole chicken. Double duty! Even triple if you shred and save the meat for other meals, which I always do. And you can even freeze the leftover bones/carcasses until you have time to tackle making stock. Less waste is good but less waste PLUS liquid gold is great!

Speaking of less waste, veggie scraps are something else I stuff into resealable freezer bags and use when I make stocks. I just continue to collect scraps until it’s broth time, then the bag contents get dumped into the pot along with all the other goodies to make broths and stocks. I save the ends of onions and their skins, shavings from carrots, carrot and celery ends, stems from parsley and rosemary and thyme, even the bits of cauliflower I don’t use. Just stay away from veggies that will give a bitter taste to the broth, such as broccoli and brussels sprouts.

VeggieScraps

I’ve made broth using several methods: simmer all day in a large pot, simmer in a crockpot overnight, and cook in a pressure cooker/canner. All work well. The crockpot is easiest, but the downside is the limited size of the pot hence the limited amount of liquid gold you get. If you have a large pot, you can fill it with more water than a crockpot, but you have to babysit a simmering pot all day, which is okay if you are hanging out at home anyway. If you own a pressure cooker/canner, the process is greatly expedited–under two hours total.

If you plan to use your stock soon, just store it in the fridge tightly covered. If not, freezing in bags or containers works beautifully. Problem with freezing is remembering to thaw the broth. Defrosting in the microwave has worked well for me when I don’t plan ahead. Recently, though, I learned that you can preserve broth by pressure canning it. Woo hoo! Since we own a pressure canner (came with hubbster and his tuna making skills), I now use that method. I LOVE LOVE LOVE having jars of broth at the ready.

Homemade Chicken Stock or Broth

(stock made from bones; broth made from meat)

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 chicken carcass (not necessary to thaw carcass if it is frozen) or 1 whole chicken, rinsed, cut into 2-inch pieces but save breasts for last 20 minutes of cooking time  so you can shred the meat and use it in your recipes (I’ve also tossed in the gizzards, neck, etc. from a whole chicken) or 3 pounds chicken wings (or chicken parts: wings, backs, legs, necks)
  • 2 medium onions, halved or quartered (yellow, white, or purple all work well)
  • 3 large carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces (okay to use the leafy parts, too)
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • other goodies I’ve tried adding: parsley, whole jalapenos with “X” cut into bottom, green onions
  • 1-2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar (helps draw calcium out of the bones)
  • 4+ quarts of cold water

DIRECTIONS

  1. Optional browning of veggies: You can saute onions, carrots, and celery in a tbsp. of olive oil over medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes to slightly brown them first, but I’ve never done this step.
  2. Browning/sweating meat: If using chicken meat, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in large pot and saute chicken for about 5 minutes, until no longer pink (cook in batches to avoid crowding the chicken in the pot). Return all pieces of chicken to pot, reduce heat to low, cover, and “sweat” chicken, meaning cook it until juices release, about 20 minutes. I’ve never used this method, but I imagine browning the meat intensifies the flavor hence intensifies the broth.
  3. Simmering the stock: CROCKPOT METHOD: place chicken, veggies, aromatics, salt, peppercorns, and vinegar into 6-quart crockpot. Add cold water. Simmer on low for 8-12 hours. I usually simmer overnight. STOVETOP METHOD: place chicken, veggies, aromatics, salt, peppercorns, and vinegar into a large pot. Add cold water to cover ingredients by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a low simmer for 6-8 hours. PRESSURE COOKER METHOD: place chicken, veggies, aromatics, salt, peppercorns, and vinegar into pressure cooker. Add cold water to cover ingredients by about 2 inches. Place lid on pressure cooker and lock into place. Bring cooker to pressure over high heat (can take 20+ minutes); reduce heat to low and cook for 30 minutes at 15 pounds pressure. Allow to cool and pressure to decrease naturally before removing lid. In case you are wondering, I use a 21 1/2  quart All American pressure cooker, but doublecheck your pressure cooker guidebook for instructions/recipes on how long to cook stock and at what pressure.
  4. Straining stock: When stock/broth has cooled a bit, remove large chunks of solids, then pour liquid through a cloth-lined sieve into a large bowl or pot to remove remaining solids. Cover and chill overnight in the refrigerator. The following day, skim off and discard any layer of hard, congealed fat that forms on the surface. If the broth turns gelatinous, rejoice! That means you have created an extra-rich stock that has extracted collagen from the bones and meat (usually happens when making broth from raw chicken).
  5. Preserving: Stock/broth can be used within 3-5 days if stored in refrigerator. Or, transfer to airtight containers or resealable freezer bags, then freeze for up to 6 months. If you own a pressure canner, bring stock back to a boil after it has been refrigerated, then place stock/broth into pint or quart jars that have been washed in hot, soapy water, leaving a 1-inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a damp towel. Place lids that have been sitting in simmering, not boiling, water for 10 minutes onto jars, followed by screwing on the rings. Place in pressure cooker filled with 2-3 inches of water, then follow instructions in your pressure cooker guidebook for sealing and venting air. Process pints for 20 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure; process quarts for 25 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure. High altitudes may require processing at higher pressures; see your pressure cooker/canner guidebook. When pressure canner has cooled, remove lid and jars. Check that all have sealed properly before storing jars.

Sources from which I’ve adapted: Simply Recipes, Annie’s Eats, The Prairie Homestead (this blogger has useful links to her posts about pressure canning and pressure cookers), The Kitchn, The Paupered Chef, Food Network, Martha Stewart

Post shared on The Prairie Homestead Weekly Homestead Hop

Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

ChickenPotPieCasserole

I used to LOVE LOVE LOVE the chicken pot pie at Mimi’s Cafe, a chain restaurant across the nation. However, the more I cook at home, the less I like eating out. I can taste the superior flavor of home-cooked meals; plus, I like knowing what goes into my food.

Several months ago, I ate out at Mimi’s with a friend of mine; we both the love the chicken pot pie and would go there occasionally to get our fix. However, the last time I ate it, I knew it would definitely be the last time eating it there…or any other restaurant, for that matter. I’ve just gotten snobby about food! The pot pies I make at home as well as this particular dish taste supremely better!!

Today’s post is a variation on chicken pot pie, which I first made back in September 2010 when Cook’s Illustrated featured it in their magazine. Although I’ve made it since then, I’m finally getting around to taking photos of it so I can finally share it with you.

Rather than individual pies covered in pastry, this presents itself in casserole form with nuggets of peppery dough dotting the top, allowing an alternative to the pastry covering. These nuggets taste just as delicious as a pastry cover–if not more–because they have loads of spiciness in them from two types of pepper as well as Parmesan cheese. The dough nuggets, baked separately, are then added atop the actual filling for a final round of heating…that is, if you have any left; I have a hard time resisting snacking on these miniature “biscuits” while making the rest of the recipe.

The filling in this dish is very similar to the pot pies I’ve made before. It’s a bit of work but not overly time-consuming–just some chopping, dicing, and sautéing. Making the dough nuggets for the topping, though, is quicker and easier than a pastry crust. I imagine you could make the filling ahead of time, refrigerate it overnight, and make the topping the next day.

If you love chicken pot pies, I highly recommend you find time to make this dish. It’s high on the list of savory goodness as well as extremely hearty and filling–perfect comfort food for winter.

ChknPotPieCasserole

Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

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INGREDIENTS

Topping

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, but into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
  • 1 ounce (about 1/2 cup) Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Filling

  • 1 1/2 pounds cooked, shredded chicken, which is about 3 cups (either cook your own or use store-bought rotisserie chicken; I keep shredded roasted chicken frozen in baggies for meals like this one)
  • 1 3/4 cup frozen peas & carrots
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 small celery ribs, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced (TIP: I use an egg slicer to speed up this process)
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. tomato paste (TIP: if using canned paste, freeze leftover paste in ice-cube trays, then store in freezer bags; my trays make about a tbsp. size cube, which is handy to know when I need a particular amount)
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. To prepare topping: Turn oven to 450 degrees F and adjust oven rack to upper-middle position.
  2. In a food processor, pulse flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper until blended (this entire topping process can also be done without a food processor, but it is a little more labor intensive without).
  3. Add cubed, cold butter; pulse until flour and butter mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.
  4. Add Parmesan; pulse a few times until just combined.
  5. Slowly add heavy cream while pulsing.
  6. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, then crumble topping onto it in pieces about 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch in size.
  7. Bake until starting to turn brown, about 10-13 minutes. Set aside.
  8. To prepare filling: Dice or shred cooked chicken (roast chicken, Mel’s Kitchen Cafe method, or your favorite method for preparing chicken). Place in a large bowl.
  9. Add frozen peas and carrots to the chicken; mix.
  10. In a Dutch oven or large pan, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add onion, celery, mushrooms, salt, and pepper; stir. Cover pot and cook until tender, 5-7 minutes, and mushrooms have released their juices.
  11. Remove cover and increase heat to medium-high. Stir in soy sauce and tomato paste, stirring, until liquid evaporates and mushrooms are well browned and dark fond begins to form on surface of pan, about 5 minutes. Add vegetables to bowl with chicken, peas, and carrots; mix.
  12. To prepare sauce: Mix chicken broth and milk in an easy-to-pour container; momentarily set aside.
  13. Melt butter over medium heat, allowing butter to foam. When foaming subsides, stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.
  14. Add milk/broth in small increments, whisking well after each addition (I find adding a bit at a time works for me; otherwise, I tend to develop lumps that stubbornly remain). Bring to a simmer until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  15. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice and parsley; stir.
  16. Add sauce to bowl with chicken and vegetables, mixing thoroughly; pour into 13 X 9-inch baking dish. Evenly distribute topping over filling.
  17. Place baking dish on rimmed baking sheet (to catch any overspill during baking) and bake at 450 degrees F for about 15 minutes; filling should  be hot and bubbling while topping should be browned and crispy. Sprinkle with parsley for garnish and serve.

SOURCE: Cook’s Illustrated magazine, Sept/Oct 2010 issue

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup–some seriously scrumptious fare. Although it has several steps with a fair amount of time to have flavors meld, the final product is very much worth the wait and the effort.

Curious as to why the name is “wedding” soup, I googled it and wikipedia states, “The term ‘wedding soup’ is a mistranslation of the Italian language, minestra maritata (‘married soup’), which is a reference to the fact that green vegetables and meat go well together.”

Ah, now it makes sense why it’s called “wedding” soup. Funny that it has nothing to do with food served at a wedding.

So, what makes this so yummy? It contains meatballs. And chicken. And some veggies. And some herbs. Nothing spectacular, really. It’s just the “marriage” of flavors that creates a taste sensation.

However, I personally think the way I cook the chicken makes a huge difference. And I can thank Cooks Illustrated magazine for teaching me how.  I borrowed their method for cooking chicken from the Chicken and Dumplings recipe (which is another killer recipe, by the way). The browning of the meat brings a deep flavor to the broth. Much more flavor than just boiling chicken breasts in water, for example. So although this step may seem like extra work, trust me, you won’t regret it.

And I just have to add this: hubby and I were eating this soup tonight, which is hitting the spot on this cool fall day with the ocean mist rolling in tonight, and he commented, “I feel good. This soup has happy in it.” Isn’t that cute?

Italian Wedding Soup

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INGREDIENTS

Meatballs

  • 1 lb. ground beef (I use venison or elk or bison simply because I have tons in the freezer from hubby’s hunting)
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 4 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. bread crumbs–or more if the meatball mix is holding shape (I chopped up one slice of bread in my food processor and it gave me plenty more than 2 tbsp., so I put the rest in an airtight container in the freezer for future use. I learned from watching the Barefoot Contessa food show that making bread crumbs from fresh bread brings more moisture to meatballs.)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped or 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped or 1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 2 egg whites

Chicken

  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, about 2 1/2 lbs., trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil

Soup

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/ 2 cup sliced carrots (approximately 2 carrots)
  • 1/2 cup sliced celery (approximately 2 stalks)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 12 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup acini di pepi (tiny balls of pasta for soups) or other small pasta (I used orzo)
  • 8 oz. fresh spinach or escarole or curly endive or swiss chard…

DIRECTIONS

Meatballs

  1. Combine all ingredients and shape into 1/2-inch meatballs. Refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight to meld flavors and firm them up a bit.

Chicken & Soup

  1. Rinse thighs; pat dry with paper towels and season with 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper (or season more liberally, if preferred).
  2. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook until skin is crisp and well browned, 5-7 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken pieces and brown on second side, 5-7 minutes longer. Transfer to a large plate.
  3. Melt butter in pot. Add onion, celery, carrots, and garlic; cook until veggies get tender but not too soft.
  4. Add chicken broth and thyme. Scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pan.
  5. Return chicken thighs, with any accumulated juices, to pot. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until thigh meat offers no resistance when poked with tip of a paring knife but still clings to bones, 45-55 minutes.
  6. Remove chicken from pot and transfer to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard skin. Pull meat from thighs and cut into 1-inch pieces. Return meat to pot.
  7. In the meantime, drop in meatballs and acini di pepi. Cook about 5-7 minutes longer.
  8. Add spinach; cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until wilted.
  9. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Savor the flavor!

SOURCES: adapted from Brown-Eyed Baker and Elly Says Opa; chicken method from Cooks Illustrated