Asian Grilled Chicken Thighs

asian thighs

 

Today is a beautiful Sunday! Fall is in the air with high temps in the South running in the upper 60’s and I have stumbled upon newly found energy to do things around the house. Grass has been cut hopefully for the last time, cars washed, clothes are washing, I just finished vacuuming and I’m about to fire up the grill for dinner and make some tasty Asian grilled chicken thighs.

You could use any cut of chicken, but we’ve been buying a lot of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Not only are they reasonably priced, darker meat seems to have more flavor (along with more fat, but then again, fat IS flavor). The recipe for this dinner is all in the marinade and the longer it marinates, the better the flavor. I’m going to skip cooking instructions because the way you cook chicken is entirely up to you. I’ve roasted chicken this way and it’s been delicious, but today I want to take advantage of the weather, so I’m using the grill.

Soak any chicken you prefer in the following, then simply cook and enjoy! It’s also a great way to make “Teriyaki” wings for a tailgate!

Marinade:

  • 1 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • the juice from 2 Navel oranges
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 4 Keffir lime leaves or you can substitute the juice of 2 fresh limes
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh ginger or 1 tbsp ground dried ginger
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Combine all ingredients. Add chicken to big Ziploc bag, cover with marinade and put in the frig. The longer it marinates, the better, but at least 1 hour if you can’t let it go overnight.

Discard the marinade and cook the way you’d like!

Orange-Fig Glazed Chicken

honeyorange

 

For the past few months, my blog has taken a back seat with catered events rolling in one after another at work, so I apologize to my loyal followers and will do a better job over the coming months of posting a weekly blog entry. About a month ago we ran across a sweet deal at Costco when we found boneless, skinless chicken thighs at a really good price. It had 6 packs containing 5 boneless thighs bundled into one pack (so you can freeze the whole pack and tear off and thaw meals as needed). I believe Costco does most all their chicken this way, but lately I’ve been buying a lot of dark meat chicken. I grew up eating white meat chicken so I’m a late follower to the moistness and deliciousness of dark meat.

Since we’ve had this big pack of thighs in the freezer, I’m constantly trying new things to cook them. Normally I make a glaze of cranberry sauce and wine cooked down to a syrup, with some garlic added, but being out of cranberry sauce forced me to try something new and that’s how this recipe came about. This is what I could make with what I had in the pantry (and bar), but the point here is to play around with what you’ve got on hand. To make a good glaze you need some sort of fruit item (preserves, cranberry sauce, jam, etc) and some sort of acid (in this case some wine). Boiling contents down to a syrup will marry all the flavors and make an incredible glaze for meat. Boiling it down also releases the alcohol and leaves only the rich flavors.

  • 5-6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (or use breasts if you prefer)
  • 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning blend (I look for Badia brand which is cheap and tasty)
  • 1 tbsp fig preserves
  • zest from 1 orange and juice from same orange
  • 1 tbsp Drambuie liqueur (made from scotch whiskey and honey)
  • 1 tbsp Cabinet Sauvignon wine
  • 1 tbsp mined garlic

Arrange thighs on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the Cajun seasoning. Roast in a 400F oven for 15 minutes.

While the chicken is in the oven, in a small saucepan, combine remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until the glaze is thick and will cover the back of a spoon.

Remove chicken from the oven and spoon the glaze over the chicken. Return to the oven and cook for 5 more minutes then check the temperature. Chicken needs to be 165F to be done and kill all salmonella or other harmful bacteria. If yours if 165F, it’s done. If not, continue cooking until internal temperature is reached.

Chicken Pad Thai

padthai

It’s a new year, and I’ve decided to try and cut back on my beef and pork intake. I’m trying to be a flexitarian and eat mostly vegetables with limited fish and chicken, but it’s not always easy to be strict, especially when I’m in charge of feeding 1500 college students every day at work. Because so many kids that age are more health conscience than their parents were, I get to experiment with new recipes from time to time and this one was a major hit with the students and the staff, AND it falls into my new dietary plans. If you’re not brave enough to try tofu, use some shrimp with the chicken. It’s really quite easy and extremely tasty, and some have asked that I share the recipe, so here it is.

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 pound firm Tofu, cut into 1/4″ dice, or 1/2 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 5 tbsp Asian fish sauce, or 2 1/2 tbsp each of low sodium soy sauce and Asian Oyster sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp red curry paste
  • 3/4# cooked linguine pasta
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped rough
  • 2/3 cup salted peanuts, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup bean sprouts (optional), can be added at the final stage in the pan

In a small bowl, toss 1 tsp fish sauce with the chicken. In another small bowl, toss 1 tsp fish sauce with the tofu. Set aside.

In a medium sized glass bowl, combine the remaining fish sauce, water, lime juice, rice wine vinegar, sugar, salt, cilantro and curry paste and mix well using a whisk.

Using a wok or large frying pan, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes per side until chicken is done. Remove chicken from the pan. Next add another tbsp oil and cook the tofu (or shrimp) for 2-3 minutes per side, until heated through and starting to take on color. Remove the tofu from the pan. Add the remaining tbsp of oil and the chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute until garlic is fragrant and beginning to brown. Add back to the pan the cooked chicken and tofu (shrimp). Toss in the cooked linguine pasta, then pour in the liquid sauce and cook until mixture starts to boil. Pour pan contents back into your glass bowl and mix well, then serve immediately.

Serves 6

Chicken & Dumplings Casserole

chicken-dumpling-casseroleChicken and dumplings is a southern staple, and always a great seller at work. Lately I’ve had a problem though with some customers complaining that they didn’t get enough dumplings (no one ever complains about getting too many). It’s hard to satisfy everyone’s love for the dumplings with spreading them around so everyone gets some, so I started looking for an alternative. That’s when I ran across this recipe on the internet and thought I’d give it a try. Everyone loved it! Now they want the recipe.

This has the be one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever tried and it worked flawlessly. It was delicious! The trick to this recipe is not to stir any of the layers together.

  • 4 cups cooked, shredded chicken (you could use the chicken from a store-bought rotisserie roasted chicken and skip the step of cooking chicken for a shortcut)
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 2 cups baking mix (like Bisquik… I used the Pioneer version in the one at work)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth or water

In a 13″x9″ glass baking dish, pour the melted butter. Top with the chicken, then the seasonings.

Combine the milk and baking mix and pour over the chicken. DO NOT STIR!

Combine the soup and broth/water, pour over the baking mix and again, DO NOT STIR!

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes, until bubbly and browned. Let rest on the counter for 10 minutes before serving (this will ensure it’s not runny).

 

Cranberry Glazed Chicken Thighs

cranberrythighs

 

Here’s an easy way to dress up chicken for your next dinner party or everyday meal. This glaze can be used on any type of poultry (chicken, duck, turkey) and it makes more glaze than you will need, so just keep the extra in a sealed container in your fridge for a later use. I have been buying skinless, boneless chicken thighs which cook relatively quick in the oven and have a lot of flavor without all the fat, but you can use any cut of chicken. Just adjust your cooking time accordingly.

  • 5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 can cranberry sauce, the jellied kind
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (from box or can)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

In a sealable container, put the chicken thighs seasoned with the Cajun seasoning and garlic powder. Add the olive oil. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour but overnight for best flavors.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Put the thighs on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes and check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. They are done at 165F.

While the thighs are baking, in a saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring often. Boil for 5 minutes until the sauce thickens into a nice glaze.

Once the thighs are done, brush the glaze over the thighs and put under the broiler for 2-3 minutes to caramelize the glaze and brown the tops of the thighs.

Southern Fried Chicken

 

This week, I’ve been enjoying some time off from work, so for dinner tonight, I decided I’d cook up a big “country” style dinner. Nothing says country like some fried food and nothing fries food as well as my great-grandmother’s iron skillets. I have no idea their age; she received them as wedding presents in the first decade of the 20th century and they weren’t new when she received them. They were passed to my grandmother and then to me, and I treat them like they were gold plated! They NEVER have seen the inside of a dishwasher, and only when I cook something like creamed corn, do I even put soap in them. Normally, they get a swish of hot water when the pan is still hot, then they are wiped out and dried off for the next use. Because of years of this kind of use, they are slicker than any non-stick pans available on the market today.

Tonight’s dinner consisted of fried chicken, fresh lady peas, fried fresh okra, boiled heirloom potatoes with a little garlic butter, a pan of cornbread (must for a southern dinner) and a pitcher of sweet iced tea.

Since I am constantly asked how I make fried chicken with such a delicious crust, I thought I’d share that recipe with you this week. There’s really nothing special about my fried chicken, but my customers love it. Some people double bread their chicken, and I’m know to do this when making homemade chicken tenders, or frying boneless skinless chicken breasts, but for good ole’ bone-in chicken, simply follow this recipe:

1. Find a bowl (or a pot if you don’t have a large enough bowl) that’s large enough to hold the amount of chicken you’re planning to cook.

2. Wash the chicken and place it in the bowl. Cover chicken with non-fat cultured buttermilk, and let it soak for at least 20 minutes.

3. Find a second large bowl or pot. Take the chicken out of the buttermilk and put into the second bowl. Using a 5# bag of flour (all purpose or self-rising, whatever you have on hand), pour the flour over the chicken. You need to use enough flour to totally incase the chicken. The chicken has to be embedded in this big bowl of flour, so yes, you’re going to end up wasting a good bit of flour in the end. Toss the chicken to coat well, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss some more and then let the chicken stay in the flour for at least 20 minutes before frying.

4. To fry the chicken, use either an iron skillet, large teflon coated skillet (if that’s all you have), a stock pot or a deep fryer if you have one. Get the grease good and hot. On the stovetop, I usually cook on medium high. In a deep fat fryer, 375F is ideal. To test and make sure your oil is hot enough, sprinkle a little flour in and see if it fizzles and bubbles. Cook the chicken in one even layer (if using a pan) for 8-10 minutes, then flip and cook 8 more minutes (actually your cooking time will depend on the thickness of your chicken and if it’s white or dark meat). White meat cooks faster than dark meat, so to make sure your chicken is cooked thoroughly, invest in a digital meat thermometer.

White meat chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 165F. Dark meat requires an internal temp of about 180F or it will be pink on the bones.

Tip # 2.. DO NOT drain the chicken on a paper towel/plate. This makes the crust soggy. To keep the crust crispy and allow the grease to drain off, place a cooling rack (like you use for cookies) over a plate with a paper towel on the plate (in between the rack and the plate). Drain the chicken on the rack. That’s how we keep chicken crisp in the restaurants while holding for service and that tip works with anything fried with a crust.

For fried okra, follow the same steps, but use cornmeal instead of flour!

 

Grilled Pizza

When you live in a 1950’s ranch, with 8′ ceilings, you’re always looking for ways to cook without firing up the oven and heating up the kitchen. We’ve had this really nice gas grill for a couple of years and all we ever do is cook steaks, burgers and chicken on it, so lately we’ve been reading up on things we could make on the grill. Tonight we decided to try a grilled pizza!

Not knowing what to expect, we thought this would be a pain in the ^&*!! but it was actually quite easy and very tasty. It reminded me of an artisan pizza from a pricey restaurant, perhaps because of the toppings we used, but the crust turned out thin and slightly crisp, like a pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven.

I can gladly offer a crust recipe to you, but all I did was pick up a powdered pizza crust mix from Walmart (it was even their brand) and followed the directions, which were basically “add water and stir”. Once you’ve got the dough together you will need to shape it. Start by flouring or lightly dusting with corn meal, a cutting board (better yet if you have a cookie sheet without sides, that’s ideal, because you can use it to transfer to and from the grill).

Once you’ve shaped your dough (it doesn’t have to be totally round as mine wasn’t), put it on a lightly floured (or corn meal dusted) sheet pan for grilling.

Make sure the grill is clean and spray it with cooking spray, then turn it on wide open. Once the grill is hot (when you can’t hold your hand over it for more than 2 seconds), slide the dough off the cookie sheet onto the grill and close the lid. Cook for 2 minutes.

 

 

 

 

After 2 minutes, open the grill and check underneath the dough to see if it is getting browned. If it is on one side, but not another, use a spatula or tongs to rotate the dough 90 degrees and cook for another minute. If it is not beginning to brown, cover the grill and continue to cook a minute at a time until the bottom has begun to brown. It should only take a couple minutes if you have a hot grill. The top of the pizza dough will start bubbling up with air pockets.

 

 

 

 

Once the pizza dough has browned lightly on one side, use your cookie sheet or pizza peel to remove it from the grill. Use a spatula to flip the dough over so that the grilled side is now up. Keep the grill covered so it retains its heat for the next step.

 

 

 

 

Transfer your pizza back onto the cookie sheet or cutting board. Now add your toppings. We used pesto sauce from a jar, some diced chicken, sun-dried tomatoes and some fresh, un-stretched Mozzarella cheese (purchased in a ball), but you can use tomato sauce, standard toppings, grilled vegetables, whatever you would like. Just be careful not to use too much sauce (no more than 1 ladle full) or your dough will get soggy.

Slide the topped pizza back onto the grill. If you are using a gas grill, reduce the heat. If working with a charcoal grill, close the vents on the cover almost all the way. Close the lid and cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until the bottom begins to char and the cheese is bubbly. Pull off the grate with a spatula onto a cutting board or other flat surface and let rest for a couple minutes before cutting into slices.

This was our finished pizza!

Fancy Chicken Salad

I grew up eating chicken salad. Not “Fancy” chicken salad, just good old chicken salad made with chicken, celery, egg, dill pickles and mayo and to this day, that’s the way I prefer mine. Over the years, I’ve made different versions of chicken salad for my customers and all have been a hit, but nothing like the response I get from this version of fruity chicken salad that I began calling “Fancy” chicken salad on our menu at work.

I owned a catering business in Birmingham and this was a most requested recipe. At the Birmingham News, I’d make Fancy Chicken Salad, usually at least 20 pounds, and be sold out within 45 minutes of opening our doors for lunch. Customers would order it by the pound to pick up on Fridays and take home for the weekend. They liked the recipe so much, it was published in The News’ food section once. After leaving The News, I’ve worked in several corporate accounts (that’s what I am, a corporate chef) and at every account, customers line up for this recipe. I can never make enough; it sells out long before lunch ends. Every time my company moves me to a new account, the customers at the old one email talking about “missing my chicken salad”. So I’m posted this recipe for all my faithful customers, friends and readers. Like every recipe I prepare at work, this one is easy. Once you’ve chopped up the ingredients, that’s it. There is no “special ingredient”, nothing out of the ordinary that I do. The only 4 things I can say that make my recipe different from other’s chicken salad are these:

  1. Never put the chicken in a food processor, instead, tear it with your hands. We aren’t making cat food so it should resemble something from a can, which leads to the second note.
  2. Don’t use canned chicken. Take the time to boil some chicken. If you take a shortcut, it won’t taste the same. As for the chicken I use, any cut. But at work, because of what’s in inventory, it’s 95% of the time boneless, skinless breasts.
  3. If you’ve had my chicken salad before and you want yours to taste the same, use KRAFT mayonnaise. I’m not knocking Duke’s, or whatever you like, and if you’ve never had mine personally, use whatever you like, but there is a difference in mayo. I’ve made mine at work and home with KRAFT because I grew up eating KRAFT. The few times I’ve made it with Hellman’s, in my opinion, it wasn’t as good, and I don’t normally buy Duke’s because I can’t afford to pay $5 for a jar of mayo when I can get KRAFT for $2.50
  4. NEVER under any circumstances, load the chicken salad with mayo. You want just enough to hold it together. How much is that? You’ll just have to see. I don’t put a measurement because it’s hard to say. It depends on the chicken, the size pieces your chicken is, the size you cut up the ingredients, etc. You can always add more mayo but you can’t take it out. That’s a good rule of thumb for any cooking!

So now that I’ve told you my “secrets”, here’s the recipe for Fancy Chicken Salad:

  • Cooked, pulled apart chicken (about 4 cups total)
  • 1 Red Delicious Apple & 1 Granny Smith Apple
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped (I prefer to use the tops also, so don’t discard those. They have the celery flavor and the leaves add color to the chicken salad)
  • 1 1/2 cups dried, sweetened cranberries (I usually just use a whole bag from Oceanspray and don’t even measure)
  • Mayo (amount needed will depend, but will be at least 1 cup)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans or candied walnuts (optional)

That’s it! Cook chicken and shred/dice in a large bowl. Cut apples into a small dice (leaving skins on) and add to the chicken. Add the celery and dried cranberries. Mix in mayo, just enough to hold all ingredients together. You don’t want it “swimming in mayo”. Toss in some nuts if you like (I do sometimes, don’t others. Depends on my mood and who I’m serving. A lot of people have nut allergies). Season with salt and pepper (this too is up to you and your taste buds.. add some, taste it, add more if you think it needs it).

It’s great to eat on top of a green salad, made into a sandwich or wrap, or splurge and enjoy it on a buttery croissant!

Chicken Supreme over Low Country Cheese Grits

Several years back when I represented Bruno’s Supermarkets, I participated in the “Taste of the Summit” food exhibition at The Summit shopping center in Birmingham. This elegant take on a southern favorite, creamed chicken and grits, was my featured recipe for the event. I also cooked this one on Good Day Alabama’s morning cooking segment in 2002. In this recipe, I take a few fresh ingredients that are everywhere in the south come summer time and incorporate them into the dish. The “grits recipe” is the same recipe I use with I make “shrimp and grits”.

For Chicken Supreme:

  • 6 slices thick cut bacon, cut into pieces
  • 1 # boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders, diced (or you can skip this step and pick up 1 rotisserie chicken at the grocery store and remove the meat from the bones)
  • 2 cups fresh corn (removed from the cob)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tbsp fresh Thyme leaves

In a small sauce pan, combine the corn and milk and cook over medium high heat for 5 minutes or until corn is tender. Drain corn, reserving the milk.

Cook the bacon in a skillet until brown and crispy. Remove bacon and reserve. In bacon grease, cook the chicken until done (5-6 minutes) and remove from the pan. To the bacon grease, add the butter and flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes, then add the warm milk you cooked the corn in and the heavy cream. Cook, stirring quite often, until mixture thickens and will coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper and toss in the chicken and cooked corn.

Serve chicken over a bowl of cheese grits. Top the creamed chicken with crumbled bacon, cherry tomatoes and fresh thyme leaves.

Low Country Cheese Grits:

  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup grits (quick cook are best, but NOT INSTANT)
  • 1 cup Mexican or Taco Blend shredded cheese

In a stock pot, cook the bacon until brown and remove bacon from the pot. To the bacon grease add the chicken stock and cream and heat until just boiling. With liquid starting to boil, whisk in the grits and cook, whisking constantly, for 4-5 minutes. Be careful not to let the grits “bubble” on your hand as the boiling grits have the consistency and temperature of LAVA.

Remove grits from the heat and whisk in the cheese. Add the crumbled bacon to the cooked grits.

Creamy Tomato-Basil Pasta with Chicken

I’ve been asked to offer more pasta dishes at the Chef’s Table in the cafe at work, so this week I’m making a rich and creamy tomato basil pasta with a small side salad dressed with my great grandmother’s simple Italian dressing. This is a one-dish dinner for those of you looking for something quick and easy to prepare after work.

  • 3 cups uncooked Penne pasta
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomato vinaigrette (in bottle on dressing aisle of grocery store, Kraft makes one, I prefer the Publix brand)
  • 4-6 boneless skinless chicken tenders
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup fat free low sodium chicken broth (from can)
  • 1 tsp each black pepper and garlic powder
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped or 2 tsp dried basil leaves
  • 4oz Neufchatel cheese, cubed (Philadelphia makes one that’s available near the cream cheese on the dairy aisle of the grocery store, comes in an 8oz block so you can make this recipe twice from one)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside in a large bowl (or I personally just put it back in the pot I cooked it in and use that in place of a bowl for easy cleanup).

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken tenders and cook 4-6 minutes or until thoroughly cooked through. Remove the tenders and dice them into bite-size chunks. Add the wine to the pan to “deglaze”, swirling around and scraping up any burnt bits that are on the bottom of the pan. Add the vinaigrette, spinach, grape tomatoes, basil leaves, chicken broth and the Neufchatel cheese in that order, then add the garlic powder and black pepper. Turn heat down to medium low and cook, stirring constantly, until a creamy thick sauce is produced (3-4 minutes). Add the diced chicken to the sauce and combine.

Pour the sauce/chicken mixture over the pasta and toss well to combine. Sprinkle each plate with the shredded Parmesan just prior to serving.

Serves 4

Simple Italian Vinaigrette:

This is how my great grandmother made a simple Italian vinaigrette to dress salads on a daily basis.

Put 1 clove of garlic in a coffee cup. Add 1/2 tsp salt and crush the garlic and salt together with the end of any kitchen tool that’s blunt enough to do so. Add the juice of 1 lemon and enough olive oil to incorporate.