Chicken Chimighangas

February 24, 2013

If you’ve ever made Chimichangas, you’ll know that the first 15 second of frying are incredibly tense. I used a combination of tongs and metal spatula to hold the burritos tightly in place until the tortilla becomes crispy enough to hold the seams together. Despite all my precautions, I’ve always had about 1/3 of my Chimichangas partially open up during frying; a splattering mess. Today’s recipe completely solves that problem, with an “old school” solution to my most vexing chimi-problem. Simply paste the seams closed with a mixture of water and flour. Viola! My blood pressure remains low with 0% chance of leakage. My greatest culinary discover in 2013 (so far). Particular surprising since I don’t generally trust Chris Kimball with Mexican food. Delicious. 4-stars, but can easily become 5-stars once a few minor issues (see below) are worked out.

Easy Chicken Chimichangas without the worry

Easy Chicken Chimichangas without the worry

Chimichangas are just deep-fried burritos, and deep-frying anything can often make them more delicious (of course also less healthy). They are a dietary splurge, and I’ve been making my own beef-recipe for a few years. Unfortunately, the 3-1/2 hours required means that I only make them a few times a year.  However, today’s Chicken Chimichangas can be made in just over an hour. They are delicious (though not as inherently flavorful as beef) and definitely worth the moderate effort.

Issues:

  1. Chris Kimball says to cook the chicken breast to 160-degrees in just 15 minutes. I found that it wasn’t nearly enough and that I needed a full 25 minutes. I see that my chicken breasts were more than 6-ounces each, so be sure to work off temperature rather than time.
  2. Issue #1 caused another problem. After 25 minutes on the stove-top my rice had turned to mush. So I suggest paying close attention to the size of your breasts; size does matter. If they are on the larger size reduce the par-cooking of the rice in step 2. I will try 2 minutes next time. If you successfully find the diminutive 6-ounce breasts called for in the recipe, then microwave the rice for the full 5 minutes.
  3. I used a cast-iron dutch oven, which calls for 1-3/4 cups of chicken broth, but if you are using a non-cast-iron dutch oven then the recipe calls for using only 1-1/4 cups. I’m not sure why.
  4. Chris Kimball calls for simply dividing the mixture in 4 equal parts; one part for each Chimichanga. But the variable size of the chicken breasts make this unworkable. I had enough mixture for 6 chimichangas; not just 4.
  5. I found that there was not enough paste (it went on thickly), so I double the amount of paste in the recipe below to prevent myself from running out.
  6. Of course, the Chimichangas could use a little more spiciness. Next time I’m going to double the chili powder and cumin, or maybe add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
  7. Frying the Chimichangas in just 3 cups of oil meant that the tops became scorched. Next time I will try to fry them in 6 cups of oil for more even cooking. (see how even they look with 6 cups; photo here)

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $8.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium/High.
Started: 5:00 pm  Ready:  6:15 pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe from Season 5 of Cook’s Country is here. The descriptions of how I cooked them today are given below.

1-3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1/2 cup long-grain white rice
Salt and pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6-ounces each)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can pinto beans, (15-ounce)
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon water
4 ten-inch flour tortillas
3 cups peanut or vegetable oil
Serve with salsa, sour cream and/or diced avocado.

  1. You’ll need two cutting boards, so designate one for vegetables from the start. Mince chipotle so that you have 1 tablespoon. Add 1-3/4 cups chicken broth to a 2-cup measuring cup together with 1 tablespoon of minced chipotle. Stir together using a fork.
  2. In a medium bowl, add 1/2 cup rice, 1/2 cup of the broth/chipotle mixture and 1/4 teaspoon table salt. Stir to combine, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, use paper towels to pat the chicken dry and sprinkle with salt and ground pepper. Finely dice your onion and peel your garlic cloves. Also, rinse your pinto beans under cold running water.
  4. Put a dutch oven over medium-high burner and heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil until it just begins to smoke. Add minced onions and cook for 2 to 5 minutes (see Issue #2); until they becomes softened but not at all browned.
  5. Add chili powder, cumin and press your peeled garlic cloves directly into pot. Stir for 30 seconds, then add the remaining 1-1/4 cups broth mixture (or 3/4 cup depending upon type of pot), the half-cooked rice, and the rinsed beans. Bring the mixture up to a boil.
  6. Reduce your burner to medium-low. Lay chicken on-top of other ingredients in the pot, cook, and flip after 10 minutes.  Continue cooking on the second side for an additional 5 to 15 minutes until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160-degrees.
  7. Remove chicken and place on a cutting board, allow the chicken to rest for 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, use paper towels to wipe out the bowl used to parcook the rice (you don’t want to mix in an half-cooked grains of rice), then empty the cooked rice mixture into the bowl. Wash your now-empty Dutch oven and dry thoroughly.  Also chop cilantro yield 1/3-cup, and shred your 4-ounces of cheddar cheese.
  8. Dice the cooked chicken into 1/2″ pieces. Add chicken, cilantro and cheese to bowl and stir until everything is evenly combined.
  9. Put 4 tortillas on a serving plate, and cover using another overturned serving plate. Microwave for 1 minutes to soften tortillas.
  10. Add 2 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons to a small/tiny bowl; use a fork to combine into a paste-like consistency.
  11. Make burritos one at a time. Lay out the warm tortilla on your work surface. Use a pastry brush to paint the entire edge of the tortilla with paste. Tightly wrap the top and bottom of the tortilla forming a stuffing-filled tube (i,e, leaving the ends open). Gently press down to seal the burrito and flatten the ends. Paint the end with a little more paste (see photo below) and fold over ends to seal both sides of the burrito. Repeat with remaining filling.
  12. While you are making the burritos, pre-heat 3-cups oil in the clean Dutch over medium-high burner for 10 minutes; or until it reaches 325-degrees. Fry two burritos at a time, seam-side down, for 2 minutes per side. Adjust the temperature to ensure that the oil remains between 300-and-325-degrees at all times. Drain over a wire rack and use paper towels to blot away as much oil as you can. Once the oil has returned to 325-degrees repeat cooking process with the remaining burritos.

Chicken Fingers with Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce

February 19, 2013

I cook kid-friendly dinners five days per week, because my work provides me with a substantial free lunch. Today, I tested another kid-only recipe; chicken finger.  While this is the easiest nugget recipe yet, it lacks spices (I mean literally has no spices). The recipe calls for cooking in just 1 cup of oil. While it makes for easy cleanup, it is also not enough oil for them to cook evenly. I used dutch oven, which had higher sides than a regular skillet, and made for less of a mess on my stovetop (plus I used my splatter screen). 2-1/2 stars. Healthier than McDonalds, but no tastier.

Shallow fried chicken

Shallow fried chicken

I also made Chris Kimball’s sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce, but found that it was disproportionally sweet. The rice vinegar I don’t think made a big enough difference to justify it’s cost over plain white vinegar (or a combination of white and cider vinegar). Be sure to start the sauce before nuggets (or during brining). I didn’t start it in time and ended up putting the sauce in the freezer for a few minutes to obtain the proper serving temperature. I modified the recipe below to correct the problems and 2-1/2 stars for the sauce.

Comments:

  1. Shallow frying means less even browning. but only 1 cup of oil is really nice. Lack of brining and spices made this only average. I guess if you
  2. Optional, 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  3. Dipping sauces can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week.
  4. 12″ heavy-bottomed skillet but I’d recommend a Dutch oven
  5. Each 12-oz chicken breasts made about 12 nuggets.

Rating: 3-stars.
Cost: $5 for 2-pounds.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 4:45 pm  Ready:  6:00 pm.

Chris Kimball’s original chicken finger recipe is here, and his recipe for the Dipping Sauce is here.  The descriptions of how I cooked it today are given below.

Chicken Fingers Recipe:

1-lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour
1-1/2 cups panko
1 large egg
1-1/2 teaspoon plus 1 cup vegetable oil
Salt and ground black pepper

  1. Start making the sauce before you begin the chicken. Set an oven rack to the middle of your oven and preheat to 200-degrees.
  2. Trim away the white and yellow fat from your chicken, and use paper towels to pat the chicken dry. Cut it crosswise into 1/2″ wide slices.
  3. Set out three pie plates, adding flour to the first, and Panko to the second. In the third pie plate, add 1 egg, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon table salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.
  4. In batches of a few pieces at a time, dredge the chicken in flour, and shake off any excess. Use tongs to coat the chicken in egg mixture, allowing any extra mixture to drip back into the pie plate. Finally, put in panko and press the crumbs so that they adhere to the chicken. Put the breaded chicken on wire rack while you repeat with the rest of the chicken fingers.
  5. Add 1 cup of vegetable oil to Dutch oven. Pre-heat over medium-high burner for about 7 minutes until it reaches 350 degrees. Fry the chicken in two batches for about 2 minutes per side, until the chicken is golden brown and crispy.
  6. When move, move to a clean baking sheet lined with paper towels, and keep warm in oven while you fry the second batch.
  7. Serve immediately with dipping sauce, or with lemon wedges.

Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce:

Pinch red pepper flakes (1/16 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1/2″ piece fresh ginger, cut in half (1/8 teaspoon ground ginger)
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup apricot preserves or jam
Salt and ground black pepper

  1. Add all ingredients in a medium saucepan and put over medium burner. Bring up to a boil , then reduce to medium-low and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. It should have slightly thickened.
  2. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into bowl. Press down on solids using a rubber spatula to yield as much sauce as possible. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper according to your taste.
  3. Allow sauce to cool, maybe putting it in the refrigerator depending on how quickly you need it.
  4. Makes about 12-oz, and any extra sauce can be kept refrigerated for about 1 week.

Batter-Fried Chicken Nuggets with Homemade BBQ Dipping Sauce

February 10, 2013

My homemade Chicken Nuggets originated from a copycat McDonald’s recipe, and slowly evolved over the years based upon my kids taste and suggestions. About a year ago, I adopted some brining improvements from these Cook’s Country’s chicken nuggets; which have reigned supreme. So you can imagine my surprise when a comment left by a fellow food blogger lead to the crowning of a new “best chicken nugget” (at least in my household). Using this batter intended for whole chicken pieces, applying it to nuggets. The results were amazing. The nuggets were lighter, but still crunchy. It was almost like biting into a cloud.

The best nuggets yet. Like biting into a cloud.

The best nuggets yet. Like biting into a cloud.

Some of the changes required to make this recipe work for nuggets.  (1) I reduced the brine ingredients by 50%. Because nuggets are more compact than bone-in chicken it doesn’t need as much brine. (2) The nuggets should only be brined for 30 minutes for they will be too salty. (3) I also reduced the batter ingredients by 50%, which was enough to 3 chicken breasts (about 30 large-sized nuggets).

Comments:

  1. I am intending to put together another post that pulls together everything you need to know about chicken nuggets into a single place; 3 different nugget recipes, plus 4 to 5 dipping sauces. I’m tired of everybody saying “serve with your favorite dipping sauce.”

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $5 for 2-pounds.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Medium/High.
Started: 4:45 pm  Ready:  6:00 pm.

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

Brine:
2 cups cold water
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 boneless chicken breasts

Batter:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (2-5/8 oz)
3/4 cup cornstarch (3-1/2 oz)
2-1/2 teaspoons pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups + 1 Tablespoon cold water (7 oz)
1-1/2 quarts (6 cups) vegetable oil

  1. If you like your sauce cool or cold, make it before proceeding with your chicken, If you like it warm, you can make it while the chicken brines in step 2.
  2. Cut chicken breasts into nuggets; about 7 to 10 nuggets per breast. Make the brine by whisking together 2 cups cold water, 2 tablespoons table salt and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in medium bowl. After the sugar and salt have dissolved, add chicken pieces, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in another large bowl add together the flour, cornstarch, pepper, paprika, cayenne, baking powder, salt, and water. Whisk until the batter is smooth and refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. After brining, place a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1-1/2 quarts of vegetable oil and begin pre-heating for about 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, discard brine and pat chicken dry using paper towels.
  6. Re-whisk the batter to ensure an even consistency. Add half your chicken pieces to the bowl with the batter.
  7. When the oil reaches 350 degrees, remove chicken from batter one piece at a time and let the excess batter drip back into the bowl to avoid a doughy crust; add chicken piece to hot oil.
  8. If you want to serve the both batches together, pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees to keep the first batch warm while the second batch cooks.
  9. Fry nuggets in 2 batches for 8 minutes per batch. The crust will become deeply golden brown. After 3 minutes stir the chicken to ensure that it has not stuck to each other (or the bottom of the pan). You will probably have to break some of the nuggets apart.
  10. Place the chicken on wire rack set over a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Allow it to drain then pat with paper towels. Place in 200-degree oven while you prepare the second batch.
  11. Bring oil back up to 350 degrees and repeat from step 6 with remaining nuggets.

BBQ Dipping Sauce:

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoons chili powder
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

  1. Add apple cider vinegar into a small saucepan, heat and whisk together garlic powder, onion powder and chili powder. When it starts to steam, add Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, molasses, and brown sugar. Reduce burner to medium/low and allow to simmer for 5 minutes to thicken.
  2. Makes 9 ounces.

Classic Pot Roast

February 2, 2013

When speaking of food, “old-fashioned” usually implies something tried-and-true, delicious, and taking more time or effort than today’s culture is willing to invest. I think of Pot Roast as old-fashioned; requiring more time than effort. So why haven’t I ever in my life made a Pot Roast? Because If I’m going to spend 6 hours making dinner, then I want it to be spectacular, and my impression of Pot Roast has always been that it is merely average. Today’s recipe was a success with both boys (the picky eater and the Junior Chef) both eating several helpings.  I did learn a few things: (1) a 3-1/2 pound roast is too small to divide into two parts while still remaining slice-able. Use a 4-1/2 pounder, or don’t separate into two mini-roasts is Step 1. (2) Check the roast after 3 hours in the oven. Overcooking will result in a dry roast. (3) Start the roast by Noon for a 6PM dinner so that you can keep the oven temperature to 300-degrees.  There were a few other minor issues (see comments below), but it turned out delicious; 4-stars.

I had to slice thick than 1/2"; too tender.

I had to slice thick than 1/2″; too tender.

Comments:

  1. My Pot Roast was a little dry, which I think was a result of overcooking. Because I started the roast late (at 1PM), I increase the temperature to 315-degrees to ensure dinner wasn’t pushed past 7PM. A little more planning on my part will mean ensure that I can keep the oven temperature to 300-degrees.
  2. The Roast size (3-1/2 to 4 pounds) was perfect for a hungry family of four (including mashed potatoes). So Chris Kimball claims that this will serves 6 to 8 people seems too optimistic. I think 4-1/2 pounds is a better size, both in terms of serving more people (and having some leftovers), but also because splitting a 3-1/2 pound roast into two mini-roasts meant that the roasts were too tender, too easily shed-able, so that I had to cut into 1″-slices rather than 1/2″-slices.
  3. This recipe makes way too much gravy; 3 cups when I needed less than 1 cup. I would cut the gravy ingredients in half for those given below. The extra gravy wasn’t worth the 2 extra cups of broth I added in Step 10.
  4. Chris Kimball says that chilling the whole cooked roast overnight will improve the flavor. Also that it will be more moist.
  5. The recipe calls for three pieces of twine per min-roast. If you plan for four pieces of twine, then you should be good. But by starting with three, I ended up use five pieces to fix it.
  6. While 1 carrot did indeed yield 1 cup of chopped carrots, I needed 2 celery stalks to get the 3/4 of a cup.

Rating: 4-stars
Cost: $16
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Started: 1:00 PM.  Ready:  7:00 PM

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

3-1/2 to 4-pound boneless beef chuck-eye roast
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions
1 large carrot, medium chop (1 cup)
1 to 2 celery rib, medium chop (3/4 cup)
2 medium garlic cloves
Total of 2 to 3 cup beef broth
Total of 3/4 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme leaves (added before the 4 hour’s cooking)
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (added at the end)
Ground black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

  1. If you have a chuck-eye roast, then you will see that it has a natural seam. Pull it into two smaller roasts and trim away any large chunks of fat. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon kosher salt (or 1-1/2 teaspoons of table salt), and put on a wire rack and allow to sit at room temperature 1 hour.
  2. After 30 minutes, cut 2 medium onions in half and slice them thinly (sliced regularly; not pole-to-pole), which should yield about 2 cups. Place a Dutch oven over medium burner and add 2 tablespoons butter. Once the foaming subsides, add sliced onions and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until they are beginning to brown; stir occasionally.
  3. While onions cook, adjust a rack to lower-middle of your oven, and pre-heat to 300 degrees. Chop your carrots and celery into medium chunks. Peel 2 medium garlic cloves. Also cut eight 12″ lengths of kitchen twine.
  4. Add chopped carrot and celery to Dutch oven, and continue to cook for 5 more minutes; again stir occasionally. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
  5. Add in 1 cup beef broth, 1/2 cup red wine, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1 bay leaf, and 1 thyme sprig. Bring up to simmer.
  6. Meanwhile, use paper towels to pat the beef dry. Season liberally with freshly ground pepper. Tie up each piece of meat separately into loaf shape using 4 to 5 pieces of kitchen twine, which will ensure even cooking.
  7. Place meat on top of vegetables. Cover Dutch oven with large piece of Aluminum foil then cover with the lid, which will trap all of the moister inside the pot. Bake at 300-degrees for 3-1/2 to 4 hours, rotating pot halfway through cooking time.
  8. Check the roast after 3 hours for doneness to ensure that your don’t overcook. When done, a sharp knife will easily slip in-and-out of the meat.
  9. Allow the roast to rest on a cutting board loosely tented with aluminum foil while making the gravy.
  10. Pour the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a 4-cup measuring cup (I only ended up with 1 cup of liquid). Let to sit for 5 minutes and skim any fat from the surface. Add enough broth so that you have 3 cups of liquid.
  11. Fish the bay leaf and spring of thyme from the vegetables and put in blender. Add the 3-cups liquid to the blender. Blend for 2 minutes until it becomes smooth.
  12. Add gravy to a saucepan placed over medium burner to heat. Meanwhile, remove the twine and slice the roast into 1/2″-thick pieces. Arranging on a serving plate.
  13. Finish the gravy by adding chopped thyme, another 1/4-cup red wine and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Adjust salt and pepper according to your taste. Pour part of the gravy directly over the meat on the serving platter, and pass additional gravy in a gravy boat.

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