Chicken is a standby in the kitchen where a few flavour alterations can turn it into a completely different dish. It’s like a palette on which you can brush whatever paint colours you feel like.
Because it has a relatively mild flavour, it lends itself well to pairing with distinct flavours like lemon and lime; ginger and garlic; hot sauces and spices.
It’s a reasonably-priced protein and without the skin and the pockets of fat that hide just under the skin, it’s also a very lean one. Both these dishes call for removal of all skin and visible fat.
Boneless bits of chicken cook very quickly, so they are a good option for busy evenings when the cook arrives home from work to make a quick dinner before a meeting or activities in the evening.
Adding a few vegetables to the dish or tossing together a side salad rounds out the nutritional needs of a main meal quickly and in an appetizing way.
As our lives speed up with the beginning of school and a wide variety of activities for young and old, quick chicken dinners are valuable for busy nights.
Even a chicken roasted on the weekend when there’s a little more time for cooking, makes wonderful meals a day or two later, as cold meat to be added to a salad with fresh fruit, nuts and a light dressing; or with a light sauce over rice or pasta, bulgur or quinoa.
Chicken dishes often heat up well for lunches, or the meat can be sliced and served cold in a sandwich or wrap for lunch or snacks.
It’s a very versatile meat.
Look for more chicken recipes in my book, Jude’s Kitchen, available wherever books are sold, including Mosaic books downtown or in Rutland’s Willow Park; or at wineshops around the Okanagan.
Poppy Chicken with Lemon & Cumin
This chicken dish cooks up quickly and is just delicious served over thin egg noodles, which also cook very quickly. You could cut up the chicken and vegetables earlier in the day, then remove them from the refrigerator and cook this up in just a few minutes. Try pairing this with the Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery’s 2011 Townsend Jack Unoaked Chardonnay, with its complementary citrus notes, harvest fruit flavours and crisp, dry finish. It’s a good value wine, as are the others in this series.
2-3 boneless chicken breasts or thighs
1 celery stalk
1 tsp. (5 ml) cumin powder
flour, salt & pepper, for dredging
zest from half a lemon
1 clove minced garlic
1 c. (250 ml) chicken broth
juice from half a lemon
1 tbsp. (15 ml) poppy seeds
Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and chop onion, celery and carrot into small dice.
Dust chicken pieces with cumin, then dredge them in flour, salt and pepper until well-covered in the mixture.
Heat a drizzle of oil in a non-stick, or heavy-bottomed, deep frypan over medium-high heat.
Add the onions and cook for a minute or two, then the celery and carrot and cook and stir for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, zest half a lemon and mince the zest. Mince a clove of garlic, and set aside.
Push the vegetables to the side of the pan or remove and add the chicken pieces and a pat of butter and cook, turning them over after a couple of minutes, until nicely browned on both sides.
Add lemon zest and garlic to the pan and stir about with the chicken and vegetables.
Add chicken broth and stir in until the mixture is bubbling and becomes slightly thickened.
Add the lemon juice and poppy seeds and serve over rice or egg noodles.
Serves 2 or 3.
Donna’s Ginger-Lime Chicken
This is based on a WeightWatchers’ recipe, but a few alterations have been made to it. The chicken comes out moist and flavourful, as long as it’s not overcooked. Serve with a variety of salads or a vegetable rice pilaf. Leftovers are delicious sliced up cold in a green salad. Try pairing this with the Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery’s 2011 Larch Tree Hill Riesling. The notes of fresh lime in this wine match well with the lime in this dish, while the well-rounded fruit flavours go well with the honey and ginger in the chicken marinade. It’s a well-balanced wine that goes well with exotic spices.
4 small chicken breasts or thighs
1/4 c. (60 ml) low-sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp. (45 ml) fresh lime juice
2 tsp. (10 ml) finely minced lime zest
2 tbsp. (30 ml) finely minced ginger root
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp. (15 ml) honey
1 tsp. (5 ml) favourite hot sauce
1/4 c. (60 ml) fresh cilantro, chopped
Bone and skin chicken breasts or thighs.
Combine soy sauce, lime juice and zest, ginger, garlic, honey and your favourite hot sauce (mine is Sriracha) with a couple of spoonfuls of the chopped cilantro in a glass dish or bowl which will hold the chicken snugly.
Before adding the chicken, remove a couple of spoonfuls of the marinade to brush on the chicken as it finishes cooking.
Add chicken to the marinade, turn to coat all of it, and cover and refrigerate for two to 4 hours.
You may either barbecue or broil the chicken pieces to cook them.
Either way, remove the chicken from the marinade and broil or barbecue over high heat for about five minutes a side, brushing the top with reserved marinade once you turn them.
When chicken is barely done, but not over-cooked, remove and serve sprinkled with the remaining chopped fresh cilantro.