Grilled Chicken Leg Quarters with Lime Dressing

June 25, 2015

For some reason my DVR has stopped recording Cook’s Country episodes, so I went online a few days ago I saw this recipe for grilled chicken quarters; a perfect match for the beautiful June weather. I also love this recipe because it doesn’t require me to separate the thigh from the leg; but the downside is that it is a little more difficult to eat as one big piece. Most of the preparation takes place the night before; making a flavorful paste and preparing the chicken. It’s best to leave let it marinate overnight; allowing time for the bright flavors to work their way deep into the chicken (Chris Kimball says a minimum of 1 hour). The chicken was very flavorful and bright. 5-star, for its simplicity, ease of preparation and it’s fullness of flavor.

Delicous 5-star meal

Delicious 5-star meal

My house it 90 years old without central air conditioning, so at this time of year, I love keeping the heat of cooking is outside. My kitchen (and my whole house) stays much cooler.

Comments:

  1. The original recipe says to reserve just the 2 teaspoons of paste for up to 24 hours. Instead, I added the olive oil in Step 1 (instead of Step 8). I think it preserved the paste from oxidizing and gave more time for the flavors to permeate the olive oil.
  2. The sauce was perhaps a little salty. The original recipe calls for 4 teaspoons kosher salt, but next time I will try it with only 1 tablespoon of kosher salt.
  3. I with their was a little extra sauce, to eat with my bread and potatoes.
  4. If you plan to make this on a gas grill, pre-heat by turning all your burners on high. Cover, and allow to heat up for 15 minutes, before cleaning and oiling. To cook turn down the primary burner to medium, and reduce the other burners to low. Adjust the primary burner as necessary to maintain a grill temperature of between 400 to 425 degrees.

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

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

4 chicken leg quarters (about 3-pounds)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons grated lime zest plus 2 tablespoons juice
2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (1 teaspoon of dried oregano)

  1. Peel garlic cloves. Mince garlic or press into a small bowl. Add kosher salt, sugar, lime zest, 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne; mix to form a paste. Set aside 2 teaspoons of garlic paste in a small bowl (I re-used the same small bowl), whisking together 1/4 cup of olive cup oil, lime juice, which you will use in Step 8 to make the dressing.
  2. Leaving drumsticks attached to thighs, trim away and extra skin and fat, pat dry using paper towels. Arrange on a cutting board with the skin-side up. Make 4 deep, parallel, diagonal cuts into each leg quarter: 1 across drumstick, 1 across joint, and 2 across the thighs. Each cut should reach the bone. Flip the chicken over and make 1 diagonal slash across the back of the drumstick.
  3. Rub paste from Step 1 into chicken, and allow to marinade in the refrigerator for between 1 and 24 hours.
  4. Completely open up the top and bottom vents of your charcoal grill, and ignite a chimney start willed with 6 quarts of charcoal. Allow to ignite for 20 minutes until the top-most coals are partially covered with fine gray ash. Create a 2-level fire, by emptying two-thirds of coals over one half of the grill, and the remaining one-third of coal on the other half.
  5. Put the cooking grate in place, cover and pre-heat for 5 minutes. Clean the grill, and dip paper towels in vegetable oil and wipe.
  6. Arrange chicken with the skin-side upward on the cooler side of the grill. Cover and allow to brown for 9 to 12 minutes. Flip the chicken, cover, and continue to cook for 7 to 10 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165-degrees.
  7. Without flipping (skin-side still down) slide the chicken to the hotter side of the grill and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the skin becomes nicely brown. Flip chicken and cook for about 3 more minutes; until the chicken, measured at the leg joint, becomes 175-degrees. As the prices come up to temperature, remove them to a serving platter and tent them with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, finish preparing the sauce by chopping 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro and
    2 teaspoons of chopped fresh oregano. Add into the bowl and mix. Pour half the dressing over the chicken and pass the remaining dressing separately.

 

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Chicken Flautas

June 19, 2015

I love recipes with lots of leftovers so that I have food to bring to work for lunch the next day. This recipe is perfect; making between 20 and 24 flautas; enough for almost an entire week’s worth of lunches. Generally Chris Kimball does not make very good Mexican food; this is a recipe that I’ve personally been developing for about 9 months; trying to make my lunchtime chicken taste more like pork or beef. The results are very good; I use tomato paste, dark beans and a few anchovies to add meaty flavor (no, of course it doesn’t taste fishy). I used chicken thighs because they won’t dry out if I cook them until they become shreadable. I guarantee; you will not believe that you are eating chicken. 4-stars; great depth of flavor, but there are textural issues with the tortillas when reheating in the microwave. Optimally, reheat them in conventional oven.

So good you'll forget it's chicken

So good you’ll forget it’s chicken

With beef prices roughly double from what they were a few years ago, I have been eating a lot of alternatives. I posted these pork taquitos earlier this year. While pork is more flavorful with a richer, more succulent texture, chicken is a healthier option.

Comment:

  1. The topping you add can elevate these flautas from 4 to 4-1/2 stars. Some of my favorites toppings include: guacamole or diced avocado, sour cream, lime juice, and of course, salsa. Also, after the tortillas have become crispy (or if reheating in a conventional oven) I love to sprinkle grated cheese over the top and run them under the broiler until the cheese browns a bit.
  2. Sometimes, instead adding vegetable oil to the pot, I use the skin from a few pieces of chicken and render out the fat; using that chicken fat in lieu of vegetable oil. It adds about 4 to 5 minutes; bit does two things: (1) adds flavor, and (2) also helps build up the fond on the bottom of the pan which translates into deeper flavor in the final flautas.
  3. If reheating prepared pre-made flautas, bake in oven at 300-degrees until heated all the way through; about 20 minutes, flipping half way through reheating. If you have to reheat them in a micowave, bake them in Step 14 until the tortillas become very hard, and flip them half way through re-heating.
  4. When I first was developing this recipe I did not add the cheese to the mixture, rather I topped the  chicken prior to rolling (in Step 13) with grated cheese. This had two drawbacks; first the flautas I prepared first had more cheese than the last flautas in the second batch. But beyond that, as the cheese melts during baking it oozes out the open ends and burns.
  5. 4-lbs of chicken thighs yields 1-1/2 pounds of shredded chicken meat. I think I prefer to use closer to 5-lbs.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $11 for 20 to 24 flautas. (plus toppings)
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 3:30 PM. Ready at 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s doesn’t have a recipe for flautas. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

1/2 bag dried, dark kidney beans, or 29-oz can of beans.
2 teaspoons vegetable oil (see Comment #1)
4-to-5-lbs bone-in chicken thighs
1 large onion
2 jalapeno
1 red bell pepper
2 teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 Tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 clove garlic
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (3 filets)
juice from 2 limes
1/3-cup chopped cilantro
8-oz mild cheddar cheese
20 to 24 small fajita-size flour tortillas
Server with diced avocado, diced tomato, salsa

  1. For best results, soak 1/2-pound of dried beans for 8 hours or overnight. Use 1-1/2 tablespoons salt for 2 quarts of water. Otherwise if you don’t have dried beans or the time to soak them overnight, you can use 29-ounce can of dark kidney beans.
  2. Remove the skin from the chicken thighs. Pre-heat 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil a large dutch oven set over medium-high burner; when the oil begins to shimmer. Place half the chicken skin-side down in skillet; cook for a total of 7 minutes, turning once, until both sides are golden brown. Wipe out pot using paper towels, add another 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil and repeat this step for the second batch of chicken.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare your ingredients. Dice your onion and jalapeno, removing the seeds (as desired to control the heat of the final flautas). Peel the 2 cloves of garlic. Also in a small bowl, add 1 Tablespoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons oregano, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons coriander, 2 teaspoons ground black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
  4. After you are done cooking the second batch of chicken, reduce burner to medium. Add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, your onion, jalapeno, bell pepper and  and 2 teaspoons salt; allow to soften over medium burner for 5 minutes. Use the liquid exuded from the vegetables to deglaze the bottom of your pan.
  5. Add tomato paste and pressed/minced garlic; continue to cook for 1 minute. Add the contents of the spice bowl from Step 4; allowing the flavors to bloom for 1 minute.
  6. Add chicken stock and beans, bring up to a simmer over high burner. Cover pan, turn down burner to medium-low and maintain a simmer until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thighs registers about 185-degrees, 30 to 40 minutes longer.
  7. Remove chicken to cutting board and allow to rest until cool enough to handle.
  8. Meanwhile, turn up burner to medium and allow cooking liquid to gently boil; about 20 minutes. The beans should become thickened with very little liquid remaining. Meanwhile, begin to pre-heat your oven to 375-degrees.
  9. Use your fingers (or two forks) to shred the chicken, discarding bones and anything that feels like excess fat or cartilage. Add shredded chicken directly to the pot once your beans have finished reducing.
  10. Zest 2 limes and squeeze their juices; adding to the pot; mixing until everything is evenly combined.
  11. Grate cheese on the large holes of a box grater and add shredded cheese to pot. Mix until evenly combined.
  12. Prepare a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, lightly sprayed with non-stick vegetable spray.
  13. Prepare the flautas in batches of 10 to 12. Form 1/4-cup (2-1/2 ounces) of chicken mixture into a line in running along the center of tortilla. Tightly roll up flauta and lay on baking sheet so that the weight of the flauta holds the tortilla closed.
  14. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, then flip for 5 minutes. If you plan to re-heat them in the microwave then bake until the tortillas become very hard.
  15. Repeat from Step 12 with the second batch.
  16. Serve immediate with toppings of your choice (see comment #1).

Italian Sausage with Grapes and Balsamic Vinegar

June 14, 2015

The sweet Italian sausage and the grapes yielded a delicious, unique flavor; but not immediately recognizable as grapes. While delicious, the flavor profile was a bit monotone in its sweetness; I would have liked a little bit of heat or something else to offset the sweetness. Perhaps it might be interesting to try them with Hot Italian Sausages; but that may be too much heat; Perhaps just a little cayenne or paprika. The recipe as written is good; especially for kids who love sweet things. 4-stars.

Good; but a little monotone.

Good; but a little monotone.

Comment:

  1. While Chris Kimball says that this serves 4 to 6 people, the 1-1/2 lbs of sausage was only 6 sausages. I think this recipe realistically serves 3 people as a main course.
  2. Later in the week I made a variation of this recipe that is serves two; but I used a full pound of sausage instead of the 3/4-lb called for in that recipe. I think the bottom line of the number of servings is this; allocate 2 sausage for each diner.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $8.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 5:30 PM. Ready at 6:00 PM.

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

1-lb seedless red grapes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1-1/2 lbs sweet Italian sausage
1 onion
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

  1. Prepare your grapes by cutting them in half lengthwise (through where their stem attached); which should measure about 3 cups. Cut onion in half, peel, and slice thin. Set aside until Step 3.
  2. Pre-heat 1 tablespoon vegetable in a 12″-skillet over medium burner until shimmering. Put sausage into pan and cook for a total of 5 minutes; turning once half way through. Tilt skillet, and use paper towel to remove excess fat from the pan.
  3. Add grapes and onions to pan; over and around the sausages. Then add 1/4 cup water and cover immediately with lid. Cook for about 10 more minutes; turning once; until the sausages reach between 160-and-165-degrees. Remove sausage to a plate lines with paper-towels, and tent with aluminum foil.
  4. Increase burner to medium-high; add salt and pepper to grape/onions. Spread out into an even layer and cook for 3 to 5 minutes without stirring; until browned.
  5. Stir and continue to cook for 3 to 5 more minutes; stirring often. The mixture should be well browned, but the grapes should still retain their shape.
  6. Turn down burner to medium and mix in 1/4 cup wine and 1 tablespoon fresh oregano. Use the liquid to deglaze the pan and cook for 30 to 60 seconds; just until the wine has reduced by half. Remove pan from burner and mix in 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar.
  7. Put sausages on serving platter and spoon grape/onion mixture on top. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint.

Peri Peri Chicken

June 10, 2015

The funny name, which comes from the African Piri Piri pepper, made this recipe very fun for my kids. Chris Kimball’s version of Peri Peri chicken uses Arbol Chiles, which are much easier to find, and marries with a traditional two-level barbecue technique. He further slows the cooking by using tap water in a disposable aluminum pan to help moderate the temperature of the cool-side of the grill.  The recipe’s varied list of ingredients made me skeptical; peanuts, chiles, five spice powder and lemon. But in the end, the flavors meld into a deliciously unique barbecued chicken. Unfortunately, I relied too heavily on the clock and stepped away from the grill with the chicken over the hot-side of the grill; which resulted in too much of a char. While this was only a 4-star execution, it’s a 4.5 star recipe; for its deep, complex richness.

Delicious; even if a little over charred

Delicious; even if a little over charred

While the recipe requires refrigerating chicken overnight with the paste applied, it makes the actual day of the barbecue very easy. You essentially do all the preparation the night before. Chris Kimball’s Yankee palate has influenced the recipe by providing a wide range of chiles; from 4 to 10. Today, I only used 4 because I was worried about my two sons. Next time I will use 7, because 4 chiles was quite mild.

Issues:

  1. Flare ups during Step 6 overly charred my chicken. It was my fault, because I walked away from the grill for a few minutes. The charring will happen much faster than you think; so don’t leave the chicken unattended even for a minute during Step 6.
  2. If you are using a gas grill; pre-heat the grill for 15 minutes with all burners on high. When ready to cook chicken primary burner to medium-high and turn off all other burners. Use two disposable pie plate; each filled with 1-1/2 cups of water; directly placed on 1 of the gas burners (opposite to the primary burner).

Rating: 4-to-4.5 stars.
Cost: $10.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Ready at 5:50 PM.

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

8 garlic cloves
1 shallot
4 to 10 arbol chiles
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest plus 1/4 cup juice (2 lemons)
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 bay leaves, crushed
6-lbs bone-in chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, and/or drumsticks)
1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts
1 large disposable aluminum pan (13″x9″)
Lemon wedges

  1. Peel 8 cloves of garlic and 1 shallot; roughly chop and add to blender. Also add to blender: 4 arbols, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons salt, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 tablespoon five-spice powder, 2 teaspoons lemon zest, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, and crumble 3 bay leaves.
  2. Process for 10 to 20 seconds until smooth. Taste the paste and add up to 6 more chiles; spice level will be hotter as paste than on chicken.
  3. Finely chop peanuts and add to a large bowl (I mixed some paste with the peanuts to prevent the nuts from flying everywhere as I chopped them). Also add the paste to bowl and stir to combine.
  4. Using a metal skewer to poke skin side of each chicken piece between 8 and 10 times. Add chicken to large bowl and toss until chicken is evenly coated with paste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for between 6 hours and 24 hours.
  5. When you are ready to grill, open the bottom vents halfway and set a disposable aluminum pan filled with 3 cups of water on 1 side of the grill. Ignite a chimney starter filled with charcoal (about 6 quarts). After 25 minutes when the upper-most coals are partially covered with ask, evenly empty the coals on the side of the grill opposite the pan of water. Replace the grill grate, cover, and open the lid vent half-way. Pre-heat grill for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the cooking grate.
  6. Put the chicken with skin-side down over the hot side of the grill and cook for between 2 and 5 minutes until brown and blistering in spots. Flip chicken and continue to cook the second side for 4 to 6 minutes until the second side in browned.
  7. Move chicken with the skin-side up to the cool-side of grill; with the legs and thighs closer to the fire and the breasts further away. Set cover so that lid vent is directly over the chicken. Cook for between 50 to 60 minutes until white meat registers 160-degrees and dark meat registers 175-degrees.
  8. As the individual pieces of chicken come up to temperature remove them to a serving platter and tent with aluminum foil; allowing to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Pass separately with lemon wedges.

Modern Succotash with Poblano, Bacon, and Cilantro

June 8, 2015

Of course I’ve heard of succotash, but it wasn’t until the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated that I really knew what it was; a corn and bean side dish. While Chris Kimball published this basic recipe (using butter beans); I made a variation that included bacon, poblano and cilantro. It was very quick and easy to make; almost all the effort was in preparing the vegetables. I was surprised at how delicious this simple side dish was; both my two sons loved it. The flavors were fresh, and rest of the flavors offered great depth. 4-1/2 stars.

I never knew what succotash was; until current issue of Cook's Illustrated

I never knew what succotash was; until current issue of Cook’s Illustrated

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball warns against using frozen or canned corn in this dish. After tasting the dish, I see how important the freshness is to the success of the recipe. While I agree, that also means that this is a very seasonal dish. I read that it is traditionally served around thanksgiving in New England; a time of year when there is no fresh corn.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $5.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Low/Medium.
Start: 5:30 PM. End time: 6:00 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

15-oz can pinto beans, reserving 2 tablespoons liquid
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 slices bacon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion
1/2 poblano chile
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3 cups kernels cut from 4 ears corn
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

  1. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of liquid from beans with the 2 teaspoons lime juice. Set aside. Rinse the rinse beans and drain in a colander. Cut off kernels from ears of corn, and set aside with rinsed beans. Finely chop your onion, and cut your 1/2 poblano into 1/4″ pieces. Peel and mince your two garlic cloves.
  2. Chop bacon and cook in a 12″ non-stick skillet over medium-high burner for 5 to 7 minutes. Once crispy, use a slotted spoon to remove bacon to a paper-towel lines plate and set aside.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons butter to skillet with the bacon fat, add chopped onion, diced poblano, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to skillet. Saute vegetables for 4 to 5 minutes under they begin to brown. Add minced garlic and 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander; cook for 30 seconds.
  4. Turn down burner to medium; add corn kernels and rinsed beans. Cook for 4 minutes; until corn and beans have cooked. Add bean liquid/lime mixture and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Remove skillet from burner; mix in minced cilantro and adjust salt and pepper according to your taste. Sprinkle with crispy bacon and serve.

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