Tag Archives: Chicken

Learning to Cook with Chicken Breasts

I’ve always hated boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  They tend to be dried out, unflavored and generally taste like sawdust, so usually I avoid them.  I recently discovered that I don’t hate all chicken though, despite thinking for awhile that I did.  Roasted chicken, chicken thighs, chicken legs, these are all good things.  Organic, farmers’ market chicken also happens to taste better than all other chicken (not exactly a surprise).  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts though?  Still at a loss of what to do with.

I was digging around the internet in an attempt to avoid studying for my Anatomy Lab Practical (let me tell you, if I never have to differentiate between leukocytes ever again, it will still be too soon) and found a couple of ideas for how to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts that don’t taste like sawdust.  Below are a few I found, but I’d really love to know if you have any recipes or ideas on how I can turn chicken breasts into my new favorite food!

How to Make Chicken Breasts in a Slow Cooker from Fifteen Spatulas

Photo: FifteenSpatulas.com

Lemon Chicken Breasts from Ina Garten

Photo: FoodNetwork.com

Parmesan Crusted Chicken from Martha Stewart

Photo: MarthaStewart.com

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Chicken Tagine with Dates and Yogurt

I know it’s been awhile, but I’ve been so busy getting ready for school to start (it finally has!) that I haven’t had a moment of time to do this.  But, I promise, now that I’m in school, with a schedule, and learning new, exciting things about food every day, that I’ll update this much much more often.  My goal is daily, but we’ll see how that goes.

So over my break, I spent a lot of time cooking.  I had a lot of foods I wanted to make before being trapped in night classes.  Tagine was top on my list.  I first had Tagine when I was very young, and dates, olives and chicken were three things I hated the most, so I never thought I liked it.  Fast forward to my senior year of high school, when my family took a trip to Morocco.  You know what we had? Tagine.  I loved it and have been wanting to learn how to make it ever since.

This recipe is based off of a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, so you pretty much know it’s going to be good.  I changed it a bit though based on what I had on hand in the kitchen.

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Chicken Tagine with Dates and Yogurt (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

What you need for the Tagine:

  • 5 or 6 cloves of garlic, minced (don’t press it, it doesn’t taste as good)
  • 1 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger (ground or minced fresh will do)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (you can add more or less depending on how spicy you like it)
  • zest from one lemon
  • 4 lbs skin-on chicken (I highly recommend legs or thighs, but breasts work too)
  • salt and ground pepper
  • olive oil
  • one large onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 2 carrots, cut into very large coins
  • 2 zucchinis, cut into sticks
  • 2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup pitted dates, cut in half
  • 2 T of cilantro, chopped (you can add more if you really like cilantro)
  • 1/2 cup plain, whole-milk yogurt

What you need for the Couscous

  • 1 1/2 cup Middle Eastern couscous
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 3 cups of chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

What you do:

  1. Start by combining 4 tsp of garlic, the paprika, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the garlic and 1/3 of the lemon zest.
  2. Heat 2 T of olive oil in a dutch oven until very hot.  While the oil is heating, pat the chicken dry.  Once the oil is hot enough, place half the chicken in the dutch oven and brown on each side for about 5 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a plate, leaving the juices, then brown the rest of the chicken and transfer to the plate.
  3. Make sure there is at least 1 T of fat in the pan.  If you need to, add more olive oil, or drain off if there is excess.  Add the onion, the remaining 2/3 of the lemon zest, and 1/4 tsp salt and cook over medium heat until the onion is softened, about 7 minutes.  Stir in the garlic-spice mixture, the carrots and zucchini and cook until the spices are fragrant (should take about a minute).  Add the broth.  Scrape up any brown bits that form.
  4. Return the chicken to the pan along with any of its accumulated juices and bring it to a simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and tender.  For thighs and drumsticks, this will be about an hour.  For breasts, it will take about 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, melt the butter fr the couscous in a separate pan.  Add in the shallots and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, and couscous and bring to a boil.  Simmer, covered, for about ten minutes or until the couscous is fully cooked.
  6. After the chicken is fully cooked, remove the chicken from the Dutch oven and transfer to a plate and cover with a tented piece of aluminum foil.
  7.  Try to remove as much fat as you can from the top of the broth mixture, then add the dates and bring back to a simmer until the carrots are softened and the sauce is slightly thickened (about 6-7 minutes).  Stir in the garlic-lemon zest mixture, cilantro and yogurt and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the chicken back into the Dutch oven and serve.
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Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables

Look at this gorgeous roast chicken, don't you want to make one, too?

Look at this gorgeous roast chicken, don’t you want to make one, too?

Confession: I used to hate all chicken.  So much so, that I had completely ruled chicken out until I met my boyfriend.  Chicken that actually tastes good and doesn’t have a dry, saw-dust taste to it is very hard to find, and as a result, I’d just stopped eating it entirely.

About a year ago, my boyfriend decided that he was going to prove me wrong (as he is want to do) and make me a roasted chicken that was going to make me love chicken.  So we went to his co-op in Sacramento, picked out a beautiful, organic, happy meat chicken from Mary’s (read about them, they’re super good to their animals), and he went to town roasting the most beautiful chicken for me.  And, he proved me wrong.  So if you know anyone else who claims to hate chicken, (unless they’re a vegetarian) go ahead and make them this chicken.  See if they don’t change their mind.

Here’s what we used:

  • small, whole chicken
  • whole onion ( cut into quarters)
  • lemon (cut in half and zested)
  • lots of rosemary
  • olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped potatoes (we used purple and yukon, but use whatever you want)
  • carrots (cut into sticks)
  • parsnips (cut into sticks)

Here’s what we did:

  1. Prepare the chicken by removing the giblets and rinsing.  Pat dry.
  2. Stuff the cavity with half of the onion, and half of the lemon.
  3. Prepare a mixture with the lemon zest, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper. Rub this mixture onto the outside of the chicken.
  4. The, truss the chicken.  This involves tying the legs together and then tucking the wings under the chicken (you can click here for better instructions).
  5. Then place the rest of the onion (separate the different layers), the potatoes the carrots and parsnips in the bottom of a cast iron dutch oven.  Squeeze the lemon juice from the second half of the lemon over the vegetables and add in rosemary (if you have any leftover) and salt and pepper.
  6. Place a roasting tray on top of the cast iron pan (this is obviously in lieu of using a roasting sheet, if you have one of those, use that), and put the chicken on top of the tray.
  7. Bake the chicken at 350 degrees for 20 minutes per pound of chicken.
  8. Once the chicken is fully cooked, take it out of the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.
  9. Carve and enjoy!
Chicken stuffed with rosemary, onion and lemon.

Chicken stuffed with rosemary, onion and lemon.

Mixture of rosemary, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic.

Mixture of rosemary, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic.

Spice mixture rubbed on the chicken.

Spice mixture rubbed on the chicken.

Root vegetables with rosemary, salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Root vegetables with rosemary, salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Trussed Chicken on top of our makeshift roasting pan.

Trussed Chicken on top of our makeshift roasting pan.

A perfect golden-brown chicken after roasting.

A perfect golden-brown chicken after roasting.

Carved chicken with roasted vegetables.

We ate our chicken with an Oktoberfest from Great Lakes Brewing Co.  It's a little early for Oktoberfest, but it's hard not to enjoy any beer from Great Lakes Brewing Co. at any time of the year.

We ate our chicken with an Oktoberfest from Great Lakes Brewing Co. It’s a little early for Oktoberfest, but it’s hard not to enjoy any beer from Great Lakes Brewing Co. at any time of the year.

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An Introduction to Happy Meat

What is happy meat?

Happy meat is exactly what it sounds like: meat from animals that were raised in a safe, animal-friendly environment.  This means the animals were free-range (and ACTUALLY free-range, none of that nonsense about how they have access to the outside world but really they’re all crammed into a warehouse) and that the farmers that raised them cared for them in an environmentally responsible manner.

Why eat happy meat?

Think about the way that food works.  Your body breaks down the fuel you feed it and uses that fuel to build your tissues and give you energy.  We all know the saying “you are what you eat”.  So it should surprise nobody to know that animals are what they eat as well.  When they’re fed genetically modified foods with no nutritional value, it means they taste worse and lack necessary nutrients that we can only get from meat, like omega-3 fatty acids and B-12.  So recognizing this, don’t you want to make sure that the foods you’re using to build your body came from a happy place?

Happy meat is also an incredibly responsible way to go about living your life.  You support small farmers that recognize that animals have every right to live on this earth like we do, but also know that happy meat tastes really really good.  It’s true: organic, happy meat tastes way better than that nasty particle board meat you get from factory-farmed animals.

What does a happy meater eat?

We’re pretty much vegetarians, except when we know that the meat is happy meat.  We also make an effort to always buy organic, local produce for the same reason we eat only happy meat: it tastes better, it has more nutrients, and it’s better for the environment.

So join us.  Become a happy meater.

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