Italian-Style Charcoal-Grilled Chicken

April 13, 2014

Yesterday was the best grilling day so far in 2014, so I took advantage by making a simple, grilled, herb chicken.  The recipe uses common bricks, wrapped in foil, to ensure that the skin will brown evenly and completely rendered. The skin was delicious, but tore away in spots because I didn’t loosen it using a metal spatula in step 11. I originally made this recipe about 4 years ago, but again somewhat under-estimated the time required to make the recipe. Because I used a 5-lb chicken (the recipe is timed for a 4-lb chicken), I added 5-minutes to each of the grilling times given in the instructions. The chicken was perfectly cooked and flavorful. Just be sure that you start early enough in the afternoon, allocating 4 hours for a 5-pound chicken. 4-stars.

Beautifully grilled chicken; but takes 4 hours

Beautifully grilled chicken; but takes 4 hours

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball says that you can use a cast iron skillet in lieu of bricks, but I recommend bricks for each of clean-up.
  2. Be sure to use a thermometer to ensure that the chicken is fully cooked. The timings were off by more than 20 minutes, based upon the size of my chicken.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $7.00
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 2:30 PM. Dinner time 6:30 PM

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I cooked it today are given below:

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 medium garlic cloves
1 teaspoon finely grated zest from 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons juice
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
3 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
4-pound whole chicken
Vegetable oil for cooking grate

  1. In a small saucepan, add olive oil, lemon zest, and pepper flakes. Peel garlic and press the 8 cloves directly into oil. Place saucepan over medium-low burner and bring up to a simmer; about 3 minutes. Meanwhile chop thyme and rosemary, and when oil begins to simmer add 3 teaspoons thyme and 2 teaspoons rosemary and cook for 30 seconds more (reserving 1 teaspoon of each herb for sauce in step 13). Set a fine mesh strainer over a small bowl and strain oil, pressing on solids to extract as much oil as possible (for use in sauce in step 13). Empty solids into another small bowl (to apply onto chicken in step 5), and set aside both bowls.
  2. Butterfly the chicken by cutting through bones on both sides of backbone (with kitchen shears); either discard backbone or save for making homemade chicken stock.
  3. Flip chicken over and use the heel of your hand to flatten the breasts; tuck the wings behind the back. Use your fingers to loosen the skin over the breasts, thighs and drumsticks. Trim away any excess fat to prevent flareups.
  4. In a small bowl combine 1 tablespoon kosher salt ( or 1-1/2 teaspoons table salt) and 1 teaspoon pepper. Mix 1 tablespoon salt/pepper mixture (or or 1-1/2 teaspoons if using table salt) with cooled garlic solids.
  5. Use your fingers to evenly spread the salt/garlic mixture under skin on the breast, thighs, drumsticks.
  6. Flip chicken and sprinkle remaining salt/pepper on the meat on the boney side of the chicken.
  7. Set a wire rack in foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Put chicken skin-side up and refrigerate, uncovered, for 1 to 2 hours.
  8. With about 20 minutes remaining, light a 3/4-filled chimney starter filled with charcoal and allow 20-minutes to ignite. Meanwhile wrap 2 bricks with aluminum foil.
  9. After coals become mostly covered in fine grey ash, evenly spread all coals over half the grill, leaving the other half empty. Set the cooking grate and position the wrapped bricks directly over coals. Cover and pre-heat for 5 minutes. Clean the cooking grate (using dish towels to handle the hot bricks); scrape grill and wipe with a wad of vegetable-oil dipped paper towels. You should only be able to hold your hand 5″ above grill grate for 3 to 4 seconds.
  10. Set chicken with skin-side down over the cool side of the grill with the legs facing towards the fire. Using dish towels to handle the hot bricks put them lengthwise over each breast. Cover and cook for 25 minutes; until you see faint grill marks.
  11. Use a metal spatula to carefully ensure that the chicken hasn’t stuck to the grill. Use tongs and a kitchen towel, gripping legs, a flip chicken. Position with skin-side up directly over the coals with the breasts towards the center of the grill. Replace bricks over breasts, cover grill, and continue cooking for 12 to 15 minutes until the chicken becomes well-browned.
  12. Remove bricks (you won’t use them anymore) and flip chicken skin-side down to crisp the skin over the hot coals.  Continue cooking for at least 5 to 10 minutes, moving chicken around to cook evenly and to prevent flare-ups. When the internal temperature of the chicken reaches the proper temperature (165-degrees for chicken breasts and 175-degrees for thighs and drumstick), move to a cutting board and allow to rest, uncovered for 10 minutes.
  13. Meanwhile, add lemon juice into oil reserved from step 1. Add remaining thyme and rosemary, and adjust salt and pepper according to your taste. Carve chicken and serve, passing the sauce separately.

“Perfect” Poached Chicken Breasts with Cumin-Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

March 28, 2014

While Chris Kimball has a tendency to claim every one of his recipes is the best ever, I nevertheless wanted to investigate his latest claim that this recipe will render “perfect” poached chicken breasts. I remember he tried a something technique about 2 years ago (see here). The bottom-line is a little better than 2 years ago; the chicken is perfectly cooked and moist. His new technique use a vegetable steam to elevate the chicken from the hot pans bottom helps cook the chicken even more evenly. But my main complaint is the same as before. I care more about better flavor than perfect texture, and the lack of any carmalization whatsoever leaves a lackluster result. I paired the chicken with a delicious Cumin-Cilantro Yogurt Sauce; he also has a warm tomato-ginger vinaigrette; but leaving all the flavoring to the sauce makes this recipe just 3-1/2 stars. Still perfectly enjoyable, but coming up short.

Tasted better than the phone appears

Tasted better than the cell phone photo appears

I think that this recipe would be better if you quickly browned the chicken in a skillet before poaching. You can later use that same skillet to make your sauce, and use the sauteing of the shallot to build even more flavor.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $10
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 5:00 PM. Ready at 6:15 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original chicken recipe is here, and the sauce recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare them are given below:

Perfect Poached Chicken Breasts

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6- to 8-ounce each)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup salt
2 tablespoons sugar
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

  1. Trim chicken breasts, cover with plastic wrap and use a meat pounder to gently pound the thick ends until measures 3/4″ thick.
  2. Add 4 quarts water to Dutch oven, adding 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup salt, 2 tablespoons sugar. Whisk until salt and sugar are dissolved. Peel and smash garlic and add to pot.
  3. Put steamer basket into Dutch oven, which will prevent the chicken from touching to hot bottom. Submerge chicken with skin-side up, arranging so as to not overlap the chicken. Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  4. Place Dutch oven over medium burner, occasionally stirring liquid to ensure even heating, for 15 to 20 minutes until the water measures 175-degrees. Remove your pot from burner, cover, and allow to sit for 18 to 22 minutes until the chicken registers 160-degrees.
  5. Allow chicken to rest of a cutting board for 5 minutes, covered tightly with aluminum foil.
  6. Meanwhile make your sauce according to the recipe below.
  7. After resting, slice chicken on bias into 1/4″-thick slices, set onto serving platter, cover with sauce, and serve.

 Cumin-Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon lime juice
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

  1. Mince shallot and garlic. Chop 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro.
  2. Place a small skillet over medium burner, and heat 1 tablespoon olive oil until it begins to shimmer.
  3. Saute shallot for 2 minutes, then add in minced garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes and continue sauteing for 30 more seconds.
  4. Remove pan from heat and whisk in yogurt, water, lime juice, and another 1 tablespoon oil.
  5. Adjust salt and pepper according to your taste.
  6. Cover to keep warm until ready to serve, but stir in cilantro just prior to serving.

Easier Fried Chicken

February 1, 2014

While my kids love fried chicken, I hate having to deal with the 5 cups of leftover oil. The 1-3/4 cups of oil used in this recipe is not enough to cook the chicken evenly, but it is enough to create a wonderfully crispy exterior.  Once the chicken is crispy, the chicken finishes cooking in a 400-degree oven. As an added benefit, while the chicken bakes a lot of the excess oil from frying drained away into the baking sheet. The results are crispy and less greasy than typical fried chicken. The only slight drawback is the coating on the bottom chicken becomes a little soggy as some of the chicken juices come out during baking. 4-stars.

Uses only 1-3/4 cups of oil

Uses only 1-3/4 cups of oil

If you have a splatter-screen, be sure to use it during frying. While the chicken is well seasoned, next time I will kick up the spices a little. I like it spicy.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $6 for 3-1/2 pounds.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

3-1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
Table salt
dash hot sauce
3 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-3/4 cups vegetable oil

  1. Trim away any excess fat, and cut breasts in half so that they are roughly the same size as the rest of the chicken pieces.
  2. In a large bowl, add 1 cup buttermilk, 1 tablespoon salt, dash of hot sauce, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, and pinch of cayenne. Whisk until combined, and add chicken. Turn until entirely coated. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to brine in refrigerator for 1 hour (or up to overnight).
  3. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 400-degrees.
  4. In a medium bowl, add 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons black pepper, 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 3/4 teaspoon paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Whisk to combine. Add 1/4 cup buttermilk and combine using your hands until you get small clumps.
  5. One piece at a time, dredge chicken in flour mix and press onto chicken so that you get a thick, even coating. Set chicken skin-side up on a large place and repeat dredging with remaining chicken.
  6. In an 11-inch straight-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven, add 1-3/4 cups vegetable oil, set it over a medium-high burner and heat until the oil reaches 375-degrees. Place chicken in oil with the skin-side down and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until it becomes golden brown. Flip and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the second side becomes golden brown. Meanwhile, line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and put a wire on top.
  7. When chicken has browned, move to wire rack/baking sheet, and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until the chicken reaches its final temperature; 160 for breasts, and 175-degrees for legs and thighs. Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes prior to serving.

Coq au Vin

January 19, 2014

There are only a handful of recipes that make up part of who I am as an individual. Coq au Vin is one of them. I first had the dish is Paris in 1992, but was unable to replicate its rich sauce upon my return home to San Francisco. It took me 20 years of trial and error (and the invention of the internet) for me to even come close. Coq au Vin taught me the important lessons of patience and perseverance in my 20′s. My life would have been different had I chosen a different item for that 1992 Parisian menu. Last night, I made my best Coq au Vin yet. 4-1/2 stars. A few minor tweaks will easily bring this up to a full 5-stars. Delicious and worth the 3+ hours.

Your 3 hours will be richly rewarded

Your 3 hours will be richly rewarded

The secret to delicious Coq au Vin is patience. It takes over 3 hours, and even after removing the fully-cooked chicken, it still requires reducing the sauce as much as 50 minutes. In Step 10, take the time to measure out the sauce to ensure you’ve reduced it far enough. After 35 minutes, I still had nearly 4 cups of sauce (see photo at bottom of post), though I was expecting only 2 cups.

Comments:

  1. I recommend using salt pork. I modified the recipe below so I will use it next time. Last night I used thick-cut bacon, but the smokey flavor of the bacon doesn’t integrate completely into this recipe.
  2. This recipe is more typically usually accompanied only by parsley potatoes. I served them with mashed potatoes today.
  3. Chris Kimball says to use 24 frozen pearl onions, and to thaw, drained, and pat them dry with a paper towel. In the past I have been unable to find frozen pearl onion, except sold in a disgusting pre-made cream sauce. I did try the cream sauced variety (from Birds-Eye) once, but will never use them again. Today, I did see that Birds-Eye also sells a larger bag of un-sauced, frozen pearl onions. I used my fresh boiler onions.
  4. Chris Kimball recipe doesn’t call for any brandy, but I added some based upon Julia Child’s recipe. She adds and flames the Cognac just after browning the chicken, but I did it after softening the mushrooms, because of the 1/2 cup of chicken fat that I removed in Step 5.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $18.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 3:00 PM. Dinner time: 6:20 PM.

Chris Kimball’s version of this recipe was in his 10th Anniversary America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

6-oz Salt Pork
4-lbs Bone-in chicken thighs
8-oz Pearl Onions (Labelled boiler onions in my supermarket)
10-oz white mushrooms
1/4 cup brandy
2 medium cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 bottle medium-bodied red wine
2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaf
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 pounds russet potatoes (for mashed potatoes) or small new potatoes (for parsley potatoes).

  1. Remove the rind and cut the salt pork into lardons; 1/4″ x 1″ match sticks. Cook the salt pork in a dutch oven for 10 minutes over medium heat until browned, using a spatter screen if you have one (which you will also use for the chicken). Remove salt pork to paper towels and pat to remove any excess grease. Set aside until ready to serve. If your chicken is not yet prepared as part of Step 2, then remove pot from heat.
  2. Meanwhile while the bacon is cooking, prepare your chicken by trimming away any excess fat. Dry the chicken using paper towels and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. If you have less than 2 tablespoons of pork fat, add vegetable oil. Cook the chicken in two batches over medium-high heat, cooking for 8 minutes per side (a total of 32 minutes). Again, use a splatter screen if you have one, because the spattering chicken makes a big mess. After each batch is complete remove to a plate and set aside.
  4. While the chicken cooks prepare pearl onions and quarter mushrooms. If using fresh pearl onions, roll the onions between your hands to remove as much of the papery exterior as possible, then slice off root ends. Add the onions to boiling water for 1 minute, empty to a strainer then shock in an ice water bath. This will help you remove any remaining outer skin.
  5. Remove all but 1 tablespoon fat from the pan (I removed 1/2 cup of extra fat), and cook the quartered mushrooms and pearl onions over medium burner for 10 minutes. Pour brandy into pot and light it on fire with a long match or BBQ lighter. Swirl the pan and let the flames go for about a minute until they start to burn out naturally.
  6. Press garlic cloves directly into pot and add 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Cook for 30 seconds, then add flour and cook for 1 additional minute.
  7. Add wine, chicken broth and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Add thyme, bay leaves add 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  8. Return the chicken to the pot, nestling the pieces so that they are submerged. Cover pot and cook chicken over medium-low burner for 45 minutes, maintaining a slight simmer; until chicken reaches correct internal temperature; 175 for dark meat. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken when done, placing in a large bowl and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm.
  9. While the chicken cooks, put a large pot of salted water on the stove-top and begin heating for your mashed potatoes.
  10. Reduce sauce, uncovered, for between 35 and 50 minutes until the sauce has reduce to about 2 cups and is thick. Replace the chicken in the pot for last 5 minutes to reheat.
  11. Remove pot from heat and put chicken on serving platter. Fish out the 2 bay leaves, whisk in the butter and adjust salt and pepper according to your taste. Pour sauce over chicken and spring with pork and parsley.
After 35 minutes I still had nearly 4 cups

After 35 minutes I still had nearly 4 cups; keep reducing!


Best Chicken Stew

December 29, 2013

My favorite food at this time of year is stew, because of its depth of flavor, but also because it warms my kitchen and fills my home with wonderful aromas during the long cook time. I have always felt that Beef Stew has reigned supreme, as assumption recently confirmed by this disappointing Pork Stew that I made last month. So I was extremely surprised when today’s Chicken Stew turned out so rich and delicious. The collagen in the wings added great texture and richness, the bacon added depth and a meaty flavor. I recommend serve with rustic bread. Overall, a delicious, 4-1/2 stars, with perfect texture and meaty flavor.

Great stew from chicken thighs

Great stew from chicken thighs

Comments / Issues:

  1. The recipe says to cut each chicken thigh in half, but this leaves the chicken in chunks that are too big. So I had to eat my stew with a knife. I would recommend cutting into quarters, rather than halves in step 1.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $9
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Ready at: 6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Kosher salt and pepper
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 pound chicken wings, halved at joint
1 onion, chopped fine
1 celery rib, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
5 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine, plus 2 tablespoons for seasoning
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 pound small red potatoes
4 carrots
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

  1. Set a rack to lower-middle of your oven and preheat to 325-degrees. Trim away any excess fat from chicken thighs, and cut in half crosswise. Lay thighs out onto a baking sheet and lightly sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and set thighs aside.
  2. Chop bacon into pieces and cook in large Dutch oven over medium-low burner for 6 to 8 minutes, stir occasionally. When the bacon has browned, use a slotted spoon to remove bacon to a medium bowl. While the bacon cooks, cut your wings at the joints, chop the onion fine and mince the celery.
  3. Increase burner to medium, add wings to your Dutch oven, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes flipping half way through cooking. After both sides are well-browned. move wings to bowl with browned bacon. While the wings brown, chop onion, celery, peel garlic cloves and mince thyme.
  4. Add onion, celery, garlic, anchovy paste, and thyme to fat in pot. Saute, still over medium burner, for 2 to 4 minutes until a dark fond forms.
  5. Increase burner to high, and use 1 cup broth, 1 cup wine, and 1 tablespoon soy sauce to deglaze the pan. Bring the liquid up to a boil, and continue to boil until the liquid evaporates; stirring occasionally for about 12 to 15 minutes.
  6. Add butter to the pot. After melting, spread flour evenly and stir until combined. Little by little, whisk in 4 cups chicken broth until it becomes smooth.
  7. Add wings, bacon, potatoes, carrots, and bring up to a simmer.
  8. Put in oven and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes; stirring once after 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the unpeeled potatoes into quarters, and peel the carrots and cut into 1/2″ pieces.
  9. Remove Dutch oven from oven and place over high burner, and use a wooden spoon to moisten the brown ring around the top of the stew, and scrape browned ring to combine with stew.  Add thighs to pot, bring up to a simmer, and return to oven to continue to cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes more. Use a fork to ensure that the chicken offers no resistance and the vegetables tender. While the stew cooks, chop your 2 tablespoons of parsley.
  10. Fish out and discard chicken wings, and add 2 tablespoons wine. Adjust salt and pepper according to your taste, and sprinkle with parsley before serving.
Scrape down that ring of fond

Scrape down that ring of fond


Sweet and Tangy Oven-Barbecued Chicken

December 21, 2013

While looking for a quick midweek meal, this recipe seemed to tick all my boxes; kid-friendly, ready in under an hour, not too fussy, and most of the ingredients were already in my kitchen. Unfortunately the final results were extremely disappointing. The very light browning of the chicken in step 4 was far too little to build up any real flavor. Overall, the chicken was extremely one-dimensional, with an over-powering bbq sauce. To make matters worse, the sauce didn’t adhere to the skin, making the chicken seem slimy. As I was taking the internal temperature of the chicken, the tongs would remove all the sauce/crust leaving bare spots. At least the chicken was perfectly cooked; 165-degrees. Just 2-stars; Edible, but not much more to say than that.

Too slimy; just 2-stars

Too slimy; just 2-stars

Comments:

  1. The results were slimy. The sauce slid right off chicken as I picked it up using tongs to take the internal temperature.
  2. While I prepared the extra sauce for serving in step 8, the chicken was already so overpoweringly dominated by the bbq sauce that adding any more was completely out-of-the-question.
  3. I’d recommend using a splatter-screen when you brown the chicken, so saving a big mess on your stovetop. If you don’t have one, its not a big deal, but will mean a little more cleanup.

Rating: 2-stars.
Cost: $8.50
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 5:00 PM. Dinner time 5:45 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons grated onion (from 1/2 small onion)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  1. Set an oven rack about 5 inches from the broiler element, and pre-heat (using bake) to 325-degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, add 1 cup ketchup, 2 tbsp grated onion, 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 tbsp Dijon mustard, 3 tbsp molasses, 2 tbsp maple syrup, 2 tbsp cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon chili powder and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Whisk together and set aside.
  3. Trim away any excess fat from chicken, pat dry using paper towels, and season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.
  4. Put a 12″ oven-proof skillet (non-reactive) over high burner. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and pre-heat until the oil begins to smoke. Brown the chicken, skin-side down, for 2 minutes until lightly golden. Use a splatter screen if you have one. Flip the chicken, using tongs, and brown the second side for another 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, and place chicken breasts on a clean plate and set aside.
  5. Discard any fat from the skillet, add sauce mixture (off heat) and use to deglaze the pan. Put skillet over medium burner and simmer sauce for 4 minutes. The sauce will thicken and a spatula run through the sauce will leave a clear trail.
  6. Again, remove the skillet from burner and add chicken back to pan, flipping with tongs to thickly coat the chicken with sauce. With the skin-side up, spoon a few extra spoons of sauce over each piece and bake at 325-degrees for 11 to 12 minutes. The internal temperature of the chicken should be 130-degrees.
  7. Set oven to broil and cook for another 6 to 12 minutes, until the internal temperature of the chicken should be 160-degrees.
  8. Remove the chicken to a serving platter. While the chicken rests for 5 minutes, whisk the sauce and put in a small bowl.

Crispy-Skinned Chicken Breasts

December 13, 2013

This is my first recipe from the January / February 2014 issue. Because I didn’t already have the pickled, hot cherry peppers called for in the base recipe, I instead made the Crispy-Skinned Chicken Breasts with Lemon-Rosemary Pan Sauce. Both recipes can be made on a weeknight with about 40 minutes of effort (plus an hour of waiting). If you don’t have the hour to wait, you can de-bone and salt the chicken in the morning before work. The secret of this recipe is to start the chicken in a cold-skillet with a Dutch oven weighing down the chicken to ensure firm contact with the skillet. The trick paid off and the nicely crisp and rendered skin was absolutely delicious. The sauce was good, but pretty standard, and I ended up with twice as much sauce as necessary. 4-stars, which based upon the level-of-effort is a great payoff. I would still like to try the Hot Cherry Pepper version, and maybe even the Maple–Sherry Vinegar variation.

Perfectly crisp skin.

Perfectly crisp skin.

The recipe requires you to de-bone the bone-in chicken, because boneless chicken isn’t generally sold with the skin on. I saved the bones and tenderloins in a gallon-sized freezer bag for making my periodic batch of homemade chicken stock.

Comments:

  1. While the recipe doesn’t remind you, I would definitely recommend using your splatter screen (if you have one). The skin renders a lot fat and the 10 minutes in Step 5 will make a big mess on your stove-top.
  2. I estimated the price at $5.50 based upon $1.50/lb bone-in chicken. But actually I got my chicken for free, because of a scanning error at the supermarket. In actuality, I paid less than $1 to make the recipe, because I also have free homemade chicken stock and my own rosemary bush.
  3. If you are defrosting frozen Chicken stock in Step 4, I would recommend 1m15s per cup in the microwave. But beware that many of the cartons you buy in the supermarket are not microwave compatible.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $5.50 (serves only 2 people)
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 5:00 PM. Dinner time 6:40 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

Chicken Ingredients:
2 (10-to-12-oz) bone-in split chicken breasts
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Pan Sauce Ingredients:
1 shallot
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chicken broth (5-1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Remove the chicken breasts from the bone but leave the skin intact. Put the chicken on a cutting board with the skin-side down. Start by running the tip of a boning knife, between the breastbone and the meat. As the meat pulls away from the bone, angle the blade to follow the rib cage and cut away from the ribs. You will still see that the meat is connected via the wishbone. Run your knife along both sides of the wishbone until it becomes free from the meat. Finally, the tenderloin needs to be removed (and saved for another use) and any excess fat should be trimmed away. Repeat with second breast.
  2. On the skin-side, evenly poke each breast with the tip of a paring knife 30 to 40 times. Flip over and poke the thicker end of each breast between 5 and 6 times. Working with one breast at a time, lay plastic wrap on-top of one breast, and use a meat pounder to pound to an even 1/2″ thickness. Sprinkle meaty side of each breast with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Set breasts on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (but up to 8 hours).
  3. Use paper towels to pat your breasts dry, then sprinkle both sides of each breast with 1/4 teaspoon pepper per breast. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to cold 12″ skillet, and swirl until evenly coated. Put breasts in the skillet with the skin-side down, and set a heavy skillet or Dutch oven on-top of the chicken to flatten the chicken while it cooks. Turn on the burner and set it to medium heat. Cook chicken for 8 minutes, using a splatter screen if you have one.
  4. Meanwhile, mince your shallot and rosemary. I had to defrosted my frozen chicken stock in microwave for 1m15s per cup.
  5. After 8 minutes remove the Dutch oven and continue to cook for another 6 to 8 minutes, until the skin is very crispy. Use a splatter screen if you have one. Use a metal spatula to flip the chicken, then reduce the burner to medium low. Cook until meat is cooked through, and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Move to two individual serving plates while preparing the sauce.
  6. Pour off all but 2 teaspoons (not TABLEspoons) of oil from the plan. Turn up burner medium, and saute shallot for 2 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.  Turn up burner medium-high, and use 3/4 cup chicken broth and lemon juice to deglaze the pan. Once the sauce has reached a simmer cook for 2 to 3 minutes until thickened, adjusting burner to maintain an aggressive simmer. Add back and accumulated juices from the serving plates, cooking for 30 seconds.
  7. Remove the pan from the heat and add butter, minced rosemary, 1/8 teaspoon table salt and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper. To maintain the crispy skin, spoon the sauce around the chicken instead of on top of it. Serve.

Honey Fried Chicken

December 3, 2013

Every year Cook’s Country introduces a new fried chicken recipe, and each year Chris Kimball declares that new recipe to be the “best fried chicken recipe ever”. It seemed impossible to surpass this Spicy, Extra-Crunchy Fried Chicken from a few years ago. But Cook’s Country removed the milk, and the problem of brown-spots completely disappears. Later, I thought this Korean Fried Chicken was the pinnacle of fried chicken, which used pure corn starch (i.e. no flour). This year it was Honey Fried Chicken; “AAA, number one, best recipe of all-time for fried chicken”, Chris Kimball proclaimed. I was skeptical. This year’s chicken recipe includes all the past innovations; water instead of milk, corn starch instead of flour, liquid batter instead of dry coating. This year’s innovation: Twice frying the chicken, using a classic french fry technique.; to fully-crisp the exterior without overcooking the interior. 5-stars.

Delicious, Kid-friendly Fried Chicken

Delicious, Kid-friendly Fried Chicken

Actually, this recipe most closely resembles the Korean Fried Chicken, except that it is seasoned with sweet honey instead of sugar/soy sauce. Considering my audience; five teenaged boys; the sweetness made this a perfect meal.

Overall innovations:

  1. Use water instead of milk: The sugars in the milk solids browned too fast (not enough to adversely affect the flavor but it’s definitely visible; see photos here and here)
  2. Use corn starch instead of flour: This is a trick used by Chris Kimball to keep his shrimp tempura tender. The gluten-free results will be more tender than a coating made with flour.
  3. Use liquid batter instead of dry breading. This produces a more even coating, that is more prone to slicking on the chicken. A dry breading tends to lose a lot of breading during cooking.
  4. Twice frying the chicken, using a classic french fry technique: This allows the skin to fully-crisp, without overcooking the interior.

Comments/Issues:

  1. Because of the limitations of the number and size of my mixing bowls, I ended up using a small bowl to just the chicken in Step 3. But I had a hard time working with the steeper curves and am wondering if it would have been easier to use a pie plate.
  2. When cooking any fried chicken, you should try to use a splatter screen to make your stove-top cleanup a little easier.

Rating: 5-star.
Cost: $10 for 3 pounds.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Huge
Start time 5:00 PM. Dinner time 6:40pm

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

Brine Ingredients:
1/2 cup salt (4 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar (4 ounces)
2 quarts cold water (4 ounces)
3-lbs bone-in chicken pieces

Batter Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups cornstarch (6-3/4 ounces)
3/4 cup cold water
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 quarts vegetable oil

Honey Glaze Ingredients:
3/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons hot sauce

  1. Cut your split breasts cut in half so that they are approximately the same size as your drumsticks and thighs, then trim away any excess skin or fat. In a large bowl filled with 2 quarts cold water, add 1/2-cup salt and 1/2-cup sugar. Stir until dissolved; add chicken, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to sit in refrigerate for between 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. In a medium bowl, add 1 cup cornstarch, water, pepper, and salt. Whisk until smooth and refrigerate while the chicken brines.
  3. Sift 1/2-cup of cornstarch into a third, medium-sized bowl or pie plate. After chicken is done brining, remove and pat dry using paper towels. Coat chicken one piece at a time with cornstarch, then shake to remove any excess, and set on a clean platter.
  4. Add 3 quarts vegetable oil to a Dutch oven, which should measure about 2″ deep. Put over medium-high burner and begin to pre-heat oil.
  5. After about 6 to 7 minutes as the oil approaches 350-degrees, whisk batter to recombine ingredients and put half the chicken into batter and turn until entirely coated. Remove the chicken allowing the excess batter to drip back into the bowl, then add to 350-degree oil. Adjust burner as required to maintain the temperature between 325-and-350-degrees. The first batch you will need to crank up the heat, but during later batches that probably won’t be necessary.
  6. Fry for 6 to 7 minutes, until the chicken begins to become crispy. Remove partially cooked chicken from oil and set on a clean plate lined with paper towels. Once the oil is again approaching 350-degrees, repeat steps 5 and 6 with remaining raw chicken. While the chicken cooks, line a rimmed backing sheet with Aluminum foil and put a wire rack ontop.
  7. Again, heat the oil back up to 350-degrees and re-fry the fist batch for 5 to 7 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked; breasts reach 160-degrees and thighs/drumsticks are 175-degrees. Remove chicken back to wire rack, and repeat the second fry with the second batch.
  8. While the second batch is in it’s final frying, add together honey and hot sauce to a large bowl, stir to combine, and microwave for 1-1/2 minutes. Working one piece at a time, dip chicken in honey and turn until coated, then return to wire rack with the skin-side up, and allow to briefly drain before serving.

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Spicy Hoisin Glaze

October 27, 2013

When Chris Kimball published this recipe a few months ago (September/October 2013 issue), I made the this Molasses-Coffee Glaze mostly because that was all I had in my refrigerator. While it was good, I really want to make today’s Spicy Hoisin Glaze. I happily took advantage of the unseasonably warm October weather to make today’s recipe. But I got home late and I didn’t have the requisite two hours. So I reorganized the steps and cut the brining down to correspond to the 25 minutes that the coals took to ignite. The chicken was ready in about 1 hour, but the chicken breast was bit blander with such a short brine. Next time if I want a quicker brine I will increase the salt, and will consider 30 minutes as the absolute minimum. In the end, the chicken was perfectly cooked to 160-degrees.  I prefer today’s glaze; 4-stars even given the shorted brine.

In a rush it can be made in about 1 hour

In a rush it can be made in about 1 hour

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball offers a range spiciness by adjusting the Sriracha sauce between 1 and 2 tablespoons. I used 2 and my picky-eater son still enjoyed it, but next time I will try 1-1/2 tablespoons to make him happier. I was happy with the full 2 tablespoons.
  2. Another change I tried was using fewer charcoals. The original recipe calls for a slightly overflowing chimney starter, which seemed wasteful for just a few quick-cooking, boneless chicken breasts. So today I used about 20% less (a slightly under-filled chimney starter), and I didn’t notice any issue. The coals were still scorching hot, so much so that I could barely glaze the chicken without pulling my hand away. Chris’ original logic in using so much charcoal was to get the Maillard reaction in 2 minutes per side, and with fewer coals it took me 2-1/2 minutes per side. But since the chicken still needed some time on the cooler side of the grill, the chicken was still perfectly cooked. I hit the 160-degree mark exactly.

Rating: 4-star.
Cost: $6.
How much work? Medium/Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 5:30 PM. Dinner time 6:30 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Grilled Glazed Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts is here, and the original recipe for the Spicy Hoisin glaze is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today is as follows:

Spicy Hoisin Glaze Ingredients:
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 – 2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder

Chicken Ingredients:
1/4 cup table salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Non-stick vegetable oil spray

  1. If you need to eat in 1 hour’s time, light the charcoal following the instructions in step 3. If you have 1-1/2 to 2 hours, then brine the chicken before lighting the charcoals.
  2. Trim the chicken breasts to remove any excess fat or skin. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/4-cup table salt and 1/4-cup sugar with 1-1/2 quarts of cold water. Add chicken to brine, cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator for an hour (or until the coals are ready; i.e. step 5).
  3. After chicken has been brining for 30 minutes, prepare your charcoal grill by completely opening both the top and bottom vents. Fill a chimney starter so that it is slightly overflowing (mounded) with briquettes and light, which will take about 25 minutes to fully ignite.
  4. While the charcoal ignites, prepare the glaze by whisking together the 2 tablespoons rice vinegar 1 teaspoon cornstarch in small saucepan. After the cornstarch has dissolved, continue whisking in the hoisin sauce, corn syrup, Sriracha sauce, grated ginger and five-spice powder. Place over a high burner and bring to boil; about 2 minutes. Continue boiling for 1 minute until the glaze has thickened. Empty sauce into a small bowl or cup.
  5. Remove the chicken from the brine, and use paper towels to pat it dry. Combine 2 teaspoons milk powder and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl and evenly sprinkle each side with half the milk powder, spraying each side with nonstick cooking spray to moisten the powdered milk.
  6. When the coals are ready, create a two level fire by emptying 2/3rds on half the grill, and the remaining 1/3rd over the other half of the grill. Pre-heat grate for 5 minutes then clean a rub with paper-towel dipped in vegetable oil.
  7. Put chicken with the skin-side down directly over the hottest side of the grill. Grill for 2-1/2 minutes, then flip chicken (leaving on the hot side). Brush with glaze while the second side is cooking for another 2-1/2 minutes. Flip the chicken again (skin-side down) but over the cool-side of the grill. Brush with glaze while the skin-side is cooking for 2 minutes. Flip and brush with glaze twice more, and remove when the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160-degrees.
  8. Allow chicken to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes before serving.

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Parmesan-Dijon Sauce for Two

October 1, 2013

I unsuccessfully attempted this “foolproof” recipe once before; the chicken overcooked and became dry while I waited for the crumbs to brown. This time I pre-browned the crumbs to the desired doneness before breading the chicken. The darker breading added better flavor, and the chicken remained moist. As an insurance policy, I added a Parmesan-Dijon sauce, which added even more flavor. One minor problem, I used the regular deli ham my son has been using for his lunches. The ham slices were too thin and sprung a leak; some of the Swiss cheese oozed out of both breasts. Overall, the meal turned out fantastic; 4-1/2 stars. Much better than last time, because of the darker bread crumbs.

Regular sliced deli ham springs a leak

Regular sliced deli ham springs a leak

Also, I cut the recipe in half because I only needed to feed my two sons.

Issues:

  1. While Chris Kimball says to use thinly sliced ham, the truth is that the ham must be cut thick according to deli-standards. True, if he was talking about a ham steak then it would be considered thin, but my deli counter had to cut the ham at twice the regular thickness to get the desired 1 ounce per slice.
  2. The 4″pockets I cut into the chicken breasts were not big enough to hold two 6″ ham/cheese packets. I squeezed them as much as I could, but the pockets didn’t close and there were places where the bread crumbs were attached to ham instead of chicken. But the thick ham still managed to keep 99% of the cheese from leaking out.
  3. The bread crumbs were too pale, and pale bread crumbs have less flavor that well toasted ones. I toasted them for 6 minutes; well beyond the 3 to 5 called for in the recipe. But they toasted only very slowly when I baked the chicken, so the chicken was overcooked. Next time I’ll Next time I’ll toast the crumbs in step 1 for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they become almost as dark as I want the final crust.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $7 (for two servings)
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Started: 5:00 PM.  Ready:  6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
13 Ritz crackers
2 slices hearty white sandwich bread
3 tablespoons butter
4 thin slices deli ham (about 8 ounces)
2-1/2 ounces shredded Swiss cheese (1 cup )
Salt and pepper
1 large eggs
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Parmesan-Dijon Sauce Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup milk or cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan Cheese

  1. Set an oven racks to both the lowest and middle positions. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in microwave for 50 seconds. Tear bread slices into pieces and crumble crackers directly into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse about 8 times until coarsely ground. Sprinkle melted butter evenly over bread crumbs and pulse 3 more times to incorporate. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and bake on the middle oven rack until deep golden brown; about 8 to 10 minutes; stirring every few minutes so that the bread crumbs brown evenly. Immediately remove crumbs and put in a pie plate (or leave on baking sheet if the bread crumbs aren’t overdone in order to save cleaning another dish). Keep your oven going at 450-degrees.
  2. Meanwhile grate your Swiss cheese, which should yield about 1 cup. Lay out a slice of thickly cut deli ham and arrange 1/4-cup of cheese in a 4″ line (about the length of the pockets you cut into the chicken). Roll tightly and set aside.
  3. Dry your chicken breast using paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use a paring knife to cut a 4″ pocket into the thickest part of the chicken; being careful not to cut all the way through. Put two ham/cheese rolls inside each pocket. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  4. Use a fork to beat the eggs and mustard together in a pie plate. Measure 1/2-cup flour onto another plate. Working like an assembly line, coat chicken lightly with flour, dredge in egg wash and allow excess to fall back into pie plate, coat in bread crumbs and press lightly so that they adhere. Place coated chicken in an oven-safe skillet.
  5. Bake on lowest rack for 10 minutes, then move the chicken to the middle rack. Reduce oven temperature to 400-degrees and continue baking for 20 to 25 minutes longer. The chicken will be done when the chicken registers 165-degrees. Remove the chicken and put on a clean cutting board or serving platter. Tent with aluminum foil while preparing the sauce.
  6. Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet over medium burner. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes; a classic Blond Roux base. Then slowly whisk in the milk/cream and salt. Cook for 4 minutes, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and whisking constantly until the milk begins to simmer and thicken.
  7. Remove from burner and mix in mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and Parmesan until well combined and the cheese has melted.

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