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


  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.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

October 25, 2013

22 cloves of garlic sounds more like a recipe to keep vampires at bay, than something to make for anyone whom you might think about kissing within the next 7 days. But don’t fear, the slow-roasting of the garlic mellows the edge and deepens the flavor. The garlic is not overpowering; rather it’s nicely balanced and adds interest to an otherwise plain side-dish. I made these potatoes last week as part of my Bistro Dinner; which consisted of Salmon Cakes with Lemon-Herb Tartar Sauce and these Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Overall, the meal was a big hit; and these potatoes were a 4-star side dish.

Nice flavor adds interest of mashed potatos

Nice flavor adds interest of mashed potatoes

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $1.50.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 5:15 PM.  Ready: 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original Garlic Mashed Potatoes is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

22 small-to-medium-sized cloves garlic (3 ounces; 2 medium heads garlic)
2 pounds potatoes
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 cup half-and-half, (warm)
1-1/2 teaspoons table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Leaving the skins on the garlic cloves, and avoiding any large cloves, put the garlic in a small, covered skillet and toast over the lowest possible burner for 22 minutes, shaking the pan every few minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes and put the whole, unpeeled potatoes in a large saucepan. Cover with 1″ of water, and bring to a boil over high burner. Turn down burner to medium/low and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
  3. Garlic will be done when they have dark brown spots and the cloves are somewhat softened. Cover skillet and allow to sit off-heat in skillet for 15 to 20 minutes more until they fully soften.
  4. Use a paring knife to cut off the woody end and peel the garlic cloves. Set aside.Potatoes will be done when a paring knife meets very little resistance. Drain potatoes.
  5. Cut stick of butter into 8 pieces and add to empty, and still hot, saucepan, allowing the butter to fully melt.
  6. Use a fork to spear potatoes and peel using a paring knife. Processing potatoes in batches, cut the potatoes into big chunks as necessary to fit into the hopper of a ricer or food mill. Add peeled potatoes into ricer and process, emptying back into large saucepan with melted butter. Also process the peeled garlic cloves.
  7. Use a wooden spoon to combine the half-and-half, and 1-1/2 teaspoons table salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Rich Chocolate Tart

October 18, 2013

As a chocolate lover, I gazed in amazement at the picture of this chocolate tart on the Cook’s Illustrated website. It was a thing of absolute beauty, and I was sure it would taste just as amazing. It did. The recipe did require some equipment that I didn’t have: 9″ tart pan with removable bottom, and 2 cups of pie weights. So I made the 20 mile trip to buy the pan, though there was a problem with the pie weights (see Issues below).

Brand new masterpiece from November 2013 issue

Brand new masterpiece from November 2013 issue.

The only caveat is that the tart is difficult to make in 1 day, requiring about 9 hours of clock time. I mistakenly started making the crust at noon, hoping the tart would be finished in time for 7pm dessert. It wasn’t. The pie crust takes about 3 hours, including 1 hour to cool before you start making the filling. Then another 5 hours to make the filling and bake the tart, including a full 4 hours of cooling before moving onto the glaze. The final glazing steps will require an additional 2 hours before slicing, including a total of at least 1-1/2 hours of waiting.  Of course, the recipe is worth the wait; 4-1/2 stars. I will definitely make it again.

Delicious tart was worth the effort

Delicious tart was worth the effort

Comments / Issues:

  1. I accidentally used a whole stick of butter for crust (8 rather than 6 tablespoons). So the dough did not form into a ball in step 6. To compensate, I had to add more flour until the dough turned into a ball. The 1/2-star deduction from a perfect score was because of the dough, which might have been caused by my own error (and not the recipe). The dough didn’t taste enough like almonds, and was a little too cake-like.
  2. After driving the 20 miles to buy pie weights, I was discouraged by the lilliputian container; about 4-1/2 ounces for $6. I guessed that I would need $18 of pie weights. So I put off that purchase to buy them online, and I used 1-pound of dried kidney beans to make the tart.
  3. I wasn’t able to make chocolate curls as suggested for topping, but will try again next time using a straighter block of chocolate and vegetable peeler. Chris Kimball also says that I could top it with coarse salt, but I wasn’t prepared to risk the entire tart. Another serving suggestion: lightly sweetened whipped cream flavored with cognac or vanilla
  4. Chris Kimball says that you can use skinned hazelnuts in lieu of almond slices, which will similarly need to be toasted in Step 1 of making the crust.
  5. Chris Kimball recommends using dark chocolate containing between 60 and 65% cacao. Two recommended brands include: Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Premium Baking Bar, or Callebaut Intense Dark Chocolate, L-60-40NV.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $10.
How much work? High.
How big of a mess? High.
Started: 9:00 AM.  Ready: 7:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original tart recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

Crust Ingredients:
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup sugar (1-3/4 ounces)
1 cup all-purpose flour (5 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

  1. Toast the sliced almonds for 5 minutes over medium heat until toasted; stirring often to ensure even toasting. Allow to cool for 5 minutes,
  2. Meanwhile, cut 6 tablespoons butter into 1/2″ pieces, and set aside until step 5. Then in a small bowl, add the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream, and beat to combine. Set aside until step 6.
  3. Add toasted almonds and 1/4 cup of sugar to food processor, and process for 15 to 20 seconds until nets are finely ground.
  4. Add 1 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pulse for 10 one-second pulses. I had to scrape out the corners of the bowl.
  5. Evenly spread butter over flour mixture, and pulse for 15 one-second pulses until resembles coarse meal.
  6. With the food processor running, and the egg yolk mixture from Step 2, and process for 10 seconds until the dough forms a ball.
  7. Empty dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap, and press out until it forms a 6″ disk. Refrigerate the wrapped dough for 30 minutes, until the dough becomes firm but still workable.
  8. Lay out dough between two sheets of plastic wrap, then roll into an 11″ circle (If dough becomes too soft or sticky, refrigerate until the texture improves). Refrigerate the 11″ disk for 15 minutes on a sheet pan.
  9. Spray your 9″ tart pan with non-stick cooking spray. Remove dough from refrigerator, but leave it on the sheet pan (to aid flipping). Remove the top layer of plastic wrap. Put tart pan upside down, and press so that the pan’s edges cut the dough. Flip (sheet pan and all) so that tart pan is now upright. Remove plastic wrap, and use your rolling-pin to finish cutting the dough. Reserve both sheets of plastic wrap and the dough scrapes. (see photos for flipping technique).
  10. Gently push dough down to the bottom on the tart pan. Roll dough scrapes into 3/4″-thick rope, and line the edge all the way around the pan.
  11. Gently push dough rope into the pan’s fluted sides, and lay the plastic wrap on top of the dough, and use a measuring cup to smooth the dough along the edges (see photo). The sides should be about 1/4″-thick. Use a paring knife to neatly trim away the dough down to the level of the rim of the tart pan. This time you can discard the scraps.
  12. Put tart pan in freezer for 25 minutes until firm. Meanwhile, set a rack to the middle of your oven and begin preheating to 375-degrees.
  13. Put on a baking sheet. Spray a 12″ square sheet of aluminum foil with non-stick cooking spray, and lay over pie crust with oiled-side-down. Empty 2 cups of pie weights to maintain shape; I used dried kidney beans instead. Bake for 25 minutes, rotating the crust half-way through baking to ensure the crust is evenly cooked.
  14. Remove pie weights and aluminum foil and continue baking at 375-degrees for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the crust becomes golden brown.
  15. Place one a wire rack and allow to cool completely for 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Also remove 4 tablespoons of butter (for filling) so that it properly softens, and 2 large eggs so that the come up to room temperature.

Filling Ingredients:
1-1/4 cups heavy cream (10 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large eggs

  1. Finely chop your 9 ounces of dark chocolate and add to a large, heat-proof mixing bowl. Unless you chop up your chocolate, the pre-heated cream would have enough residual heat to properly melt your ingredients in Step 4. Cut your butter into thin slices.
  2. Begin preheating to 250-degrees, with your oven rack still in the middle of your oven.
  3. Combine 1-1/4 cups heavy cream, 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Put over a medium burner, and bring it up to a simmer.
  4. Empty simmering cream into bowl with chocolate, cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes without stirring. Use a whisk to slowly stir until combined, being careful not to incorporate any air into the mixture. Add butter slices and continue to whisk until it becomes completely incorporated.
  5. Put eggs through a fine mesh strainer and carefully whisk into chocolate until it becomes glossy.
  6. Empty filling into prepared tart crust and gently move crust from side-to-side until the filling is evenly distributed and the surface is smooth. Use a toothpick to pop and air bubbles that you see.
  7. Bake, with tart on a baking sheet, at 250-degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, until the outer edge is barely set. You may see very faint cracks on the surface, but the filling will still wobble when moved.
  8. Leave on sheet pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack for 1 hour. The refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 3 hours (but up to 18 hours) until the filling becomes chilled and is completely set.

Glaze Ingredients:
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon hot water

  1. Remove the tart from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you begin the glaze. Finely chop 2 ounces of chocolate.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons heavy cream and 1 tablespoon light corn syrup to a small saucepan. Bring up to a simmer over a medium burner, stirring occasionally to combine.
  3. Once you bring it to a simmer, remove the pan from burner. Add the chopped chocolate, cover, and allow the chocolate to soften for 5 minutes. Gently whisk without incorporating any air until smooth.
  4. Add hot water, and whisk until shiny and pourable. Quickly pour the glaze over the middle of the tart, and tilt the tart so that the glaze runs to the edges. In my case, I wasn’t quick enough and the glaze had cooled too much, so I had to use the blade of a chef’s knife to even out the glaze (which left a few marks).
  5. Use a toothpick to pop and bubbles, and allow to cool for at least 1 hour (but 2 hours is better, as my glaze hadn’t quite hardened).
  6. Remove the outer ring of the tart pan, and use a thin-blade metal spatula (or chef’s knife) to loosen the tart from the pan’s bottom, and slide onto your serving plate.
After 1 hour glaze still hadn't fully hardened.

After 1 hour glaze still hadn’t fully hardened.

Salmon Cakes with Lemon-Herb Tartar Sauce

October 14, 2013

While I was looking to put together a nice weekend meal, I noticed that Chris Kimball has already suggested a few combination of recipes. Tonight’s meal was part of his Bistro Dinner; featuring Easy Salmon Cakes , Creamy Lemon Herb Dipping Sauce and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. The whole meal came together in under an hour, and while at first glance the combined length of ingredient list may seem intimidating, most ingredients are already in you panty / refrigerator.  And because the salmon cakes and tartar sauce use many of the same ingredients, it only looks twice as long. The results are amazing; 4-1/2 stars, without making too big of a mess.

Delicious Salmon cakes.

Delicious Salmon cakes.

Chris Kimball’s prior salmon cake recipe from the year 2000 used a lot of the ingredients that he now criticizes; flour, eggs to bind the bread crumbs to the outside of the cakes. He even called for sandwich bread as a filler. While the cakes in the new recipes barely hold together before frying, they eventually cook into a cohesive patty without the need for fillers or binders. Also his prior recipe had us chopping the salmon by hand; whereas the new recipe simply limits us to 2 pulses per batch. My advice is to forget about his Y2K-recipe and only use this updated 2011 recipe.


  1. My price of $15.50 is based upon the non-sale Salmon price of $10/lb. Of course, salmon often goes on sale for $6. That would bring the price down to just over $10 for 8 cakes, including the dipping sauce.
  2. When ordering the fish, ask for 1-1/3 pounds of fish, which will yield the requisite 1-1/4 after skinning. The guy behind the fish counter was happy to skin my salmon for me. He did a masterful job and left almost no pink attached to the skin, which he discarded for me.
  3. The Creamy Lemon Herb dipping sauce is delicious, but makes more than 1/2 cup. For this recipe you can either cut the recipe in half, or slice some cucumbers to eat along side. Chris Kimball didn’t develop a new sauce for this 2011 recipe; but his sauce from the year 2000 is so good that there was clearly no need.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $15.50 for 8 cakes.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 5:15 PM.  Ready: 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original salmon cake recipe is here. The original recipe for the Creamy Lemon Herb Tartar Sauce is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

Salmon Cakes Ingredients:
3 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Lemon; half for juice and half for lemon wedges
1 scallion
1 small shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1-1/4 pound skinless salmon fillet,
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Creamy Lemon Herb Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
2-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 large scallion
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Ground black pepper

  1. First make the tartar sauce, which needs 30 minutes rest to allow the flavors to combine. Measure out 1/2 cup mayonnaise into a 1 to 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup, which you can also use a mixing bowl. Add juice from 1 lemon (about 2-1/2 tablespoon juice). Mince parsley, thyme and both white and green part of scallion. Add 1/2 teaspoon table salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mix until combined, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add 3 tablespoons panko, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and pinch of cayenne. Cut lemon in half lengthwise, then juice half the lemon into bowl and cut the remaining lemon into 4 wedges and set aside for serving. Thinly slice scallion, mince shallot and parsley; adding to bowl then stir everything until combined.
  3. Cut salmon fillet into 1″ pieces, and divide into 3 even batches. Pulse each batch for just 2 pulses. The salmon should be relatively uniformly chopped into 1/4-inch pieces. It is OK if some pieces that are bigger than 1/4-inch, as it is more important to avoid over-processing into a paste. Add each batch to the mixing bowl containing panko/mayo, and repeat with remaining batches. Carefully mix until evenly combined.
  4. Put 3/4 cup panko in a pie plate, then use a 1/3-cup-measuring cup (leveling mixture using dip and sweep) to create 8 even piles on a baking sheet.
  5. Carefully form each salmon pile into a cake, dip into panko so that it is lightly coated, and gently form into 2-3/4″ by 1″ patty, putting each patty back onto baking sheet.
  6. Add 1/2 cup vegetable oil to a 12″ skillet, and pre-heat over medium-high burner for 4 minutes until the oil begins to shimmer.  Fry cakes without moving them for 2 minutes, and flip when golden brown. Flip and fry second side for another 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown.
  7. Remove to paper-towel lined plate and allow to drain for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges and dipping sauce.

Grilled Turkey Breast with Mango and Pepper Salsa

October 9, 2013

I’ve made this turkey before, but my Kingsford coals would petered, and I’ve always had to finish cooking it in the oven. Today, the charcoal didn’t die and the turkey turned out fantastic. The rich smokiness and odd shape convinced everybody that I was serving pork, but the lean turkey and flavorful, sweet topping made for an extremely healthy meal. Proof that healthy food can be delicious; if you have 3-1/2 hours. 4-1/4 stars with minimal mess.

So delicious you'll forget its healthy

So delicious you’ll forget its healthy


  1. When I was looking back at my past blog to make the recipe, the recipe seemed hard to follow. So today I wanted to make the recipe clear and simple. I’ve also made this recipe as deli meat for my kid’s school lunches. Last year I even tried making an herb butter for the turkey (which was a mistake).
  2. I’m not completely sure why my charcoals were successful today, when they have failed in the past. My theories are: (1) the unseasonably warm temperatures helped keep the grill hotter, (2) I emptied the coals in step 6 before they were completely covered in grey ash; i.e. after 20 minutes instead of 30 minutes. That might have helped stretch out the coals burning time. (3) Or it’s possible the Kingsford may have tweaked their formula, based upon past issues.
  3. Chris Kimball tries to explain how to tie a butcher’s knot. But watching this season’s ATK gave better advice; use a double starting knot so that you can tighten your knot without slipping as you make the second knot.
  4. The recipe for this Salsa isn’t listed under the “related recipe” of the turkey, and the exact measurements weren’t given on the ATK episode. But I finally found the recipe for Mango and Pepper Salsa here.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $13.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Started: 2:30 PM.  Ready:  6 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

1 bone-in, skin-on turkey breast
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2-cup wood chips
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Ground black pepper

Mango and Pepper Salsa Ingredients:
1 large, ripe mango
1/2 large red bell pepper
1 small shallot
3 tablespoons lime juice , from 1 to 2 limes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Table salt
Cayenne pepper
1/4 cup unsalted pepitas

  1. Use your fingers to separate skin from meat, then use a knife to cut the whole skin from the breast, being careful that the skin stays in one piece. Set the skin aside for the time being. Use a boning knife to completely remove each breast half, cutting down along the rib cage and following the curve until the breasts are free. Discard the bones or save them for making turkey stock. (I ended up with 4 pounds of meat/bones for stock)
  2. Cut one 36″ length of kitchen twine and seven or eight 16″ lengths of kitchen twine.
  3. Evenly sprinkle both sides of each breast with a total of 4 teaspoons kosher salt (2 teaspoons per breast). Lay one breast on the cutting board with the cut-side facing up, then place the second breast with the cut-side facing down. Arrange so that the thick end of one breast is over the tapered end of the other breast, which will eventually result in a cylinder of turkey with a roughly equal diameter. Lay the turkey skin over the breast, tuck the ends underneath the turkey.
  4. First, loosely tie the 36″ length of twine lengthwise around the turkey. If you try to over tighten the turkey halves will fall apart, and you’ll have to start over. Then very firmly tie a 16″ length of twine cross-wise at the center of the roast (see note above about tying a double starter knot). The tighter you tie the center string the more evenly your roast will cook. Next firmly tie a 16″ length of twine cross-wise at both ends. Finally continue tying up the roast with kitchen twine until it is bound at 1″ intervals.
  5. Once the knots are tied, stretch the skin (which is already tied underneath) so that it covers as much of the roast as possible. Put the roast on a wire rack, set over a rimmed sheet pan. Place it uncovered in refrigerator for 1 hour. Meanwhile soak 1/2 cup of wood chips in water, so that they’ll smoke rather than burn.
  6. With about 20 minutes to go, ignite a full chimney started filled with charcoal. It should take about 20 minutes until the coals become fully ignited. Empty the coals on half the grill, leaving the other half without any coals. Drain the wood chips and sprinkle evenly over the coals. Allowing the grill to preheat for 5 minutes will make it easier to clean.
  7. Rub 1 teaspoon vegetable oil over the roast and sprinkle with pepper (it already has plenty of salt).
  8. Place the roast near the coals, but not directly over them. Cover and close the bottom vents half-way, then set the top vents 2/3rd-of-way closed. After 30 minutes rotate the roast 180-degrees. After another 40 minutes the internal temperature of the roast should reach 150-degrees.  If your internal temperature is not 150-degrees, begin to preheat your oven to 375-degrees because your charcoal won’t be enough.
  9. While the turkey is on the grill, make the salsa. Toast the pepitas in a small skillet for 4 to 5 minutes, and mix into salsa just before serving. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the mango. Cut the fruit away from the pit, and then cut into 1/4″ dice (Chris Kimball gives advice on dicing Mangoes). Remove pepper’s white core and seeds, and cut into 1/4″ dice. Mince the shallot and cilantro. Add all the ingredients except the toasted pepitas to a medium bowl (or serving bowl).
  10. Move roast to the hot-side and cook, covered, for 10 to 20 minutes, rotating every few minutes so that the skin browns evenly until the internal temperature reaches 165-degrees. Tent loosely with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
  11. Cut away twine and slice into 1/2″-thick slices. Add the toasted pepitas to the mango salsa, and serve.

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.


  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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