Provencal Chicken and Tomato Roast

We lived for two months in our new house without a functional oven. We coped well, adapting several recipes for the stovetop, slow cooker, or grill. Now that we have a new oven, it’s almost more difficult to prepare dinner. We’re asking ourselves not only what should we make for dinner, but also how should we make it?

Should the local, all natural, free-range chicken I just picked up at Hen House be braised, sautéed, stir fried, baked, or roasted? After living without an oven, naturally I would choose a technique that I hadn’t employed in months. But what is the difference between baking and roasting?

Most people who cook intuitively know the answer to this question, but have difficulty putting it into words. I know that baked potatoes and roasted potatoes are very different, but what distinguishes them? According to The New Food Lover’s Companion (which I fondly refer to as the “Google Book”), “The primary differentce between baking and roasting is that the latter is typically done at higher heats, requires fat and isn’t covered.”

The Companion goes on to say that roasting is “a method that ideally produces a well-browned exterior and a moist interior.” After reading that, the choice for my Good Natured Family Farms chicken was clear. The most memorable roasted chicken recipe in my binder (from Gourmet, of course) is for separated legs roasted with a combination of sweet, fresh tomatoes, and salty, sun-dried tomatoes. The vegetables in this recipe are outstanding and, I imagine, could be roasted without the chicken.

Provencal Chicken and Tomato Roast 
Serves 2
2 chicken legs, separated into thighs and drumsticks
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
2 plum tomatoes, quartered
2 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 red potatoes, cut into ¼-inch half moons
¾ cup halved cherry tomatoes
2 pieces sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, cut into slivers
10 Kalamata olives, pitted and whole
¼ cup water

Place a large, 4-sided, metal sheet pan in the oven and pre-heat to 475.

Toss chicken with 1 Tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss plum tomatoes, celery, and potatoes with 2 Tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the chicken, skin side down, on one half of the sheet pan. Place the oiled vegetables on the other half of the pan. Roast for 20 minutes.

Turn the chicken and roast 15 minutes more.

Scatter the cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives over the vegetables. Drizzle with ¼ cup of water. Roast 10-15 minutes more, or until chicken is done.

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Ain’t No Thang But a Chicken Wang

What makes chicken wings so tasty? They’re tiny, which gives them a better meat-to-skin ratio. However, their tininess presents some problems as well. They always take longer to cook than you think. It’s virtually impossible to get a meat thermometer into them. And they look ridiculous in pictures. Okay, maybe that last one isn’t size related.

This Christmas, Glenn and I were the fortunate recipients of a variety of barbecue rubs. We couldn’t wait for it to be warm enough to fire up our Weber, so we coated these wings in copious amounts of Smokin’ Guns Rub and tossed them on my two-burner grill. In retrospect, we may have been a little overzealous with the rub. They turned out tasting a little chemically (which is funny because I didn’t get that taste at all when I was licking my finger and sticking it in the jar of rub) and pretty orange. I’m not ready to write off the rub completely — it was a well-balanced sweet and spicy rub with maple, cumin, and paprika flavors — but next time I won’t be so liberal.

And next time I cook wings inside, I’ll stick them in the oven. I don’t think they got a very even heat distribution on the stove-top grill, so the skins burned before the meat cooked all the way through.

Orange Chicken

I am never going to Panda Express again. Okay, that’s not true, but I will definitely make this Orange Chicken again. It was almost as easy as driving all the way to the other side of town for take out.

Sometimes I get a little carried away with themed dinners (remember the Indian Feast?) and Valentine’s Day seemed like the perfect excuse to go over the top with Chinese food. It started out simply — I saw an recipe for Orange Chicken that I just had to try. I thought I’d throw in some tried and true Pork Dumplings. Then I accidentally bought wonton wrappers instead of dumpling wrappers, so when I went back to the store I picked up some cream cheese to make Crab Rangoons. Next thing you know, we’re having a four-course meal. Since this was the first Valentine’s Day Glenn and I have ever spent together, I figured we’d make up for lost time.

The Orange Chicken was everything I hoped it would be. The sauce had strong citrus flavors, which made the entire dish tangy and bright. The recipe seemed a little light on the garlic and ginger, so Glenn doubled it. The great thing about making it yourself is that you can make it as spicy or sweet as you want.

The Pork Dumplings turned out perfectly. The water was barely simmering when I put them in — it was 212 degrees, but there were no bubbles — and I think that helped keep them in tact.

The Crab Rangoons didn’t exactly turn out. Several of them burst in the oil, others seemed understuffed, and the rest were nothing special. I didn’t notice any correlation between the wrapping techniques and the tendency to break (I tried folding them in half to form a triangle, folding the corners over the top to form a square, and bringing all the corners to the top). I wasn’t too disappointed since I never intended for these to be a part of the meal anyway.

It was a bit of an endeavor to have everything done at the same time, but we worked out a nice little schedule. First, we prepped each piece. Glenn cut the chicken into pieces and tossed it with egg and flour; he chopped and measured the ingredients for the sauce; he mixed the pork stuffing; I assembled the dumplings and rangoons. That took a little more than an hour with two people working the whole time. Then we took a break for an hour. Then we went back and put the rice on, fried the rangoons, and fried the chicken in batches. When I put the last batch of chicken in, Glenn added the corn starch to the sauce to finish it off and I put the dumplings in the (not really boiling) water. That took about half an hour.

We froze the leftover dumplings and rangoons (you can boil and fry them straight out of the freezer) and we stored the chicken and sauce separately so the breading wouldn’t get soggy. I’m off to reheat it all now.

Panko and Ginger Crusted Chicken with Bok Choy Salad

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I think I’m going to convert to a new method of recipe organization. I used to get a recipe from a magazine or from a friend, make it, eat it, and file it away. No matter when Glenn asked, Can we make that Moroccan Chicken again? I’d say, We just had that! I like trying new things and I’m afraid of falling into my mom’s Midwestern casserole rotation.But there’s no real risk of that happening and there’s nothing wrong with making the same dish twice. Now that I’ve reopened my recipe box, it’s a disaster. So what now? A three ring binder? Mac Gourmet?

The inspiration for this change? These two old faithfuls that I dug up for my sister. This chicken is nothing special, but if you’re looking for chicken that’s tender and crunchy, this is it. The bok choy salad, on the other hand, blows any other Asian inspired salad out of the water. Sweet, salty, crunchy. Yum. It’s only good the first time around (the noodles and nuts get soggy overnight), so I guess you’ll just have to have seconds.

Panko and Ginger Crusted Chicken with Stir Fried Vegetables and Sweet and Sour Mustard

Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup Chinese mustard
  • 2 Tb rice wine vinegar
  • Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat for five minutes.

Chicken:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups panko
  • 2 Tb minced ginger
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tb canola oil
  • Cut each breast lengthwise into 4 strips. Combine panko and ginger in a bowl. Lightly beat egg in a bowl (I like to thin the egg with half a shell of water). Dip chicken in egg and coat with panko. Saute in oil 3 minutes on each side.

Vegetables:

  • 2 Tb canola oil
  • 1 Tb minced ginger
  • 2 cups chopped bok choy
  • 1/2 cup julienned leeks
  • 1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • Heat oil. Saute ginger 30 seconds. Add bok choy, leeks, and water chestnuts and saute for 3 minutes. Add bean sprouts and cook 2 minutes.

Serve chicken and vegetables on a plate drizzled with sauce.

Bok Choy Salad (from Glenn’s mom)

  • 3 oz Ramen noodles
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 Tb soy sauce
  • 1 bok choy, shredded
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • Crumble noodles. Roast noodles, sunflower seeds, and almonds 8-10 minutes at 350.
  • Bring sugar, oil, vinegar, and soy sauce to a boil and let cool.
  • Toss all ingredients and serve immediately.

Paprika Roast Chicken with Sweet Onion

DSC0270030 Minute Meals, Fast Easy Fresh, Everyday Quick Kitchen — every magazine has a section of recipes that are supposed to be easy to make after work. The idea that we only have 30 minutes to spend in the kitchen on any given evening seems ridiculous to me — almost as ridiculous as the idea that these recipes will only take 30 minutes to prepare. The recipe’s estimated prep time does not include a trip to the grocery store, deciphering the recipe, interruptions, washing dishes, or the fact that it is being prepared by amateur cooks. It usually takes me at least double the estimated prep time. And that’s fine. Because after a long day of staring into a computer monitor, i need at least an hour of washing, peeling, chopping, cooking.

Of course, I am young and single and I don’t have kids and I get off work at 4:30. So I can hear everyone saying, Just wait until you…, but I hope that if I ever I still spend an hour a day with a cutting board, a gas burner, and a kitchen sink.

All that being said, this really is a fast, easy recipe (as long as you don’t feather the chicken yourself). The most difficult thing about it is keeping the smoke alarm from going off. Seriously, before you put the chicken in the oven, open a window and point a fan at your smoke alarm. And when you open the oven door, step to the side, because your chicken will be spitting delicious grease all over you.

Carmelized Chipotle Chicken

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Well, my subscription to Gourmet expired last month, but I’m not too sad about that. Of course, Gourmet won’t publish any new issues after this month, but I’m not too sad about that either. When I opened my first issue (I received a free subscription with an excessive purchase from Sur La Table), I couldn’t find the recipes. I finally found them in the back, buried under travel articles, restaurant reviews, product endorsements, and ads that I could barely discern from the content. Once I found the recipes, I saw that they contained long lists of ingredients that weren’t readily available in my grocery store and employed techniques that I had never heard of. While the magazine acknowledged the rare ingredients with suggestions on how to order them, it never suggested substitutions. Fortunately, I am very smart and figured out the substitutions and techniques on my own (thank you, Joy of Cooking, for including special appendices on these topics). Things improved a bit after Gourmet redesigned several months ago, but they never found a way to appeal to the everyday 30-minute meal types or the locavore organic foodie types.

I shouldn’t complain too much because I’ve made, enjoyed, and recommended plenty of recipes from the magazine over the last year. I still have three issues sitting on my kitchen counter waiting to be dogeared and coffee-ringed. And from one of those issues, I bring you Carmelized Chipotle Chicken.

Gourmet wrote, “There’s enough chipotle here to make your lips hum, but not so much as to overshadow the balancing act created by the other ingredients — toasty garlic, onions, and ketchup, plus a kiss of brown sugar and cinnamon.” The final result did not disappoint. The glaze was a little difficult to spread, so next time I won’t thicken it so much and I might puree it. Other than that, do exactly what they tell you to do. (I didn’t make two whole chickens, of course, but just did four drumsticks.)