Thursday, January 21, 2010

and now, here's the real SUPER Chicken.

SUPER Chicken!

Chicken! The meat that saves. Everyone eats chicken. Other new meats are safe to eat, as long as they...yup, you guessed it, as long as they taste like chicken! Well, stop the presses, isn't that the news of the millennium?!!!

Chicken saves every time. With every cooking challenge we face, with every last-minute dinner quandary that comes our way it's always SuperChicken to the rescue!

Superbowl! For foodies who are not football fans, this is not a salad bowl large enough to feed a gaggle of grown-ups; this is the pro football game of the year! This is when friends gather around a coffee table and TV set to drink and eat casually, with foot stomping, with arm waving, with loud laughing and calling out of expletives directed to the TV set. This is when screaming with a mouthful of habanero-honey chicken wings is proper etiquette, when jumping into the air in mid-sentence is encouraged; when fist-banging is supported.

The Superbowl is the one time each year when chicken and football collide in a happy blending of friendship, smiles, half-time entertainment, do-you-remember-whens, cheese and peppers and dips and chips and one last eating binge before we get serious about diets and working out after the holidays!

Having grown up in Greece and Australia, I didn't know about this Superbowl or it's traditions until I was well into my twenties. Somehow, and without much prodding, I managed to get the hang of it pretty easily--the eating and drinking part. I still have a problem with the football, but that will never get in the way of my gathering with friends in a warm and casual setting for a little beer and wings and such. Hey, I do have the priorities in order!

In honor of chicken and football and all that make-the-cooking-easy-so-I-have-time-with-friends business, here is a chicken recipe with economy, with ease of preparation, with swiftness of cooking and with flexibility of flavor. Read along and see what I mean.

Super Stuffed Chicken Breasts
6 medium-large (bone-in) chicken breasts
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T vegetable oil
salt & pepper
1 t garlic powder (I don't use this, but others may want a little extra flavour on the outside of the breast too)
I prefer leaving the skin on the chicken. It contributes to the overall flavour of the dish, it keeps the breast meat from drying out and...well, it tastes good when it's all crispy and golden.
Score the skin of the chicken breasts lightly by running a sharp knife along the skin and barely into the meat. This will expedite cooking and allow some of the outside flavouring to get into the meat. Massage in the vinegar and then the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (and garlic powder, if you are using).
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 T dry dill
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
8-10 oz. frozen chopped spinach (not thawed) or 4 cups fresh (washed & drained)
1/2 cup craisins
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup water
1 cup shredded Monterrey jack cheese
salt & pepper
Pre-heat oven to 385F. Heat oil in heavy pan, add onions and garlic and sprinkle with salt to aid in the onion releasing juices. Saute until onions are golden-brown, mix in spinach and cook until it has thawed completely. Mix in other ingredients, except for the cheese. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce to a simmer and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Turn off the heat, stir in the cheese and allow this mixture to cool to the touch.
With your hands and a sharp paring or boning knife, follow along the natural separation of the breast meat and open up a big pocket, from the thick side of the breast almost all the way to the other (tapered) side.
When stuffing has cooled enough to handle, use your hands to stuff each breast generously. Close open end of chicken breasts with bamboo skewers or sturdy wooden toothpicks. This will insure that each breast cooks evenly and that the stuffing remains in the breast. Place the stuffed breasts in a large roasting pan, skin side up. If there is any cooking liquid left, pour that over the chicken.
Bake for anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the chicken breasts and the temperature calibration of your oven. (Ovens don't necessarily register a true temperature, that's why it's important to invest in a meat thermometer and learn to use it as a tool for checking the internal temp of the meat.) I remove the pan from the oven at 160F internal temp and allow the meat to rest for about 15 minutes. The internal temp will continue to rise. If you prefer to cook the chicken until it registers 180F (recommended), by all means do that.
Once you are ready to serve the chicken, you can cut each breast in half, providing that your knife is sharp and big enough to cut through the breast bones.
Here's the flexibility part:
If you don't like spinach, use 4 cups of chopped mushrooms instead
Another option would be to use 2 cups chopped mushrooms with half of the spinach
If you prefer, use frozen chopped broccoli instead of the spinach
If you don't have craisins, substitute raisins
If you don't have dill, use 2 T chopped fresh Italian parsley
If you'd like a little more kick in the cheese component, use crumbled feta cheese
If you're big bacon fan, add 1/2 cup chopped bacon to the onions at the beginning of the cooking
If you don't want to chop the bacon, lay half a strip of bacon over each breast
Cheap, easy, quick, easy serving with veggies cooked inside the meat, flexible enough so you use what you like and what you have on hand...SUPERchicken, indeed!
© 2010 Despina Panagakos Yeargin