Winnah Winnah Chicken Dinnah

In an effort to save time this week, I purchased a family pack of chicken breasts yesterday with the plan to marinate them in various sauces and grill or broil them before slicing and serving over salad greens (harvested from our garden) for lunches.

Step one: trim the fat. The family pack was not my usual brand of Amish-grown chicken so I spent more time than I liked trimming off all the excess fat. I considered weighing the trims but decided that was being too anal. After I trimmed it all down, I pounded the breasts to a more even thinness. Chris had offered to grill them up after the sun went down so I thought this would speed the process.

Step two: marinate. We had about 1/3 of a bottle of this fajita seasoning marinade left so I put that in with two of the breasts.

For the next group, I used some of a mojo sauce marinade that Chris had found. Its the same brand as the fajita and its really not my favorite brand as they are all made with high fructose corn syrup. Today, he found the brand we normally buy, Goya Mojo Criollo at a new little market on Waverly (just south of Saginaw, behind Walgreens).

For the last group, I mixed Dijon mustard, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika with garlic powder.

Marinated overnight, I decided to have Chris grill it up and I would use some of it for dinner tonight. On a whim, I bought these new Fold-it things from Flat Out during my speedwalk shopping trip through Meijer last week. Basically a flat bread with a built-in hinge to make a sandwich, I picked up the Rosemary & Olive Oil variety and immediately knew I’d be doing something with caramelized onions.

Tonight, I sliced up 1 1/2 Vidalia onions, heated up 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter then added the onions, letting them cook slowly until they were goldeny brown and sweet:

After these were done, I chopped up some cilantro from the jungle. Heat 1 Fold-it in a non-stick skillet. Top with a little shredded cheese and let melt. When the chicken comes off the grill, slice it. Add to the flat bread and top with cilantro and caramelized onions. You could also consider a little pineapple, grilled maybe…

Now the question is, which marinated chicken variety would go best?

Chicken Roulette

Well, that would require that I be able to tell them apart. I am pretty sure we both ended up with Mojo marinated chicken but uh, you can see my dilemma.

It was good, no matter what. Bodes well for future lunches.

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Caribbean Grill Stir Fry

In a perfect example of fusion cooking, I made a Caribbean Grill- Stir Fry dinner tonight.

First, we had some turkey marinating in Caribbean Jerk sauce.  It had been marinating since Sunday so it was definitely time to use it.

Second, I needed to use some of my bok choy and water spinach from the Farmer’s Market last week.

I convinced myself that this would work perfectly.  And it almost did.


To refresh, the turkey had been marinating in Caribbean Jerk sauce since Sunday. As it turns out, this is just a little too long. We’ve used this marinade before and its pretty good on grilled meats. However, like many marinades, it has acids in it to tenderize the meat. Know what happens when the acid works overtime? You end up with ceviche of a sorts.

the citric acid causes the proteins in to become denatured, which pickles or “cooks” the meat/fish without heat.

Ceviche made with shrimp is quite good- I’ve made it before. Chicken “acid-cooked” then under the broiler for 10 minutes is a little tougher to swallow- literally. Fortunately, the red bell pepper and onion slices I also put under the broiler came out quite tasty.  Isn’t this beautiful?

Perfect Grilled Onion
Perfect Grilled Onion

 

Now for the stir-fry part of the meal! I researched recipes using water spinach but didn’t find much beyond “stir fry with garlic.” So, that is what I did.

Ingredients:

1 bunch water spinach, bottom of stalks removed (the thicker parts
1 head of baby bok choy, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, sliced or chopped, your choice
garlic & ginger, mashed together
cooking oil (peanut, canola, vegetable, olive- whatever’s handy)
sesame oil
tamari soy sauce
Gomasio

Directions:

Heat 1-2 teaspoons of the cooking oil over medium heat in a non-stick pan.  Add the garlic-ginger mash and saute about 30 seconds then add the onoin.  Continue to cook 2-3 minutes more before adding the bok choy.  Sprinkle some sesame oil over the vegetables, add more garlic and ginger if you want.  Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the water spinach to the pan.  Keep the leaves moving in the pan, tossing with the bok choy and onions.  When the spinach is wilted but still a nice bright green, toss with a teaspoon of soy sauce and garnish with Gomasio.

 

Notice no salt? Gomasio is a Japanese condiment made with salt.  I use the garlic version but you can get it plain, with seaweed added and other varietes from Eden Foods.  A quick and simple lunch I like is 1/2 an avocado, mashed and mixed with canned tuna, chopped tomatoes and Gomasio then served on crackers or rice cakes.

 

Caribbean Grill Stir Fry
Caribbean Grill Stir Fry

Blah-blah Sweet Chili Marinated Chicken

As much as I’m trying to cook from scratch these days, there are times when convenience is key. Or quick. After a few rounds of experimentation, Chris and I discovered that we like a few of the prepped items from the meat department at Kroger. They do a stuffed chicken breast or pork loin- the apple almond is good, the other flavor is mediocre. They also have a Parmesan crusted chicken breast that is basic but tasty and easily jazzed up with sauce or seasoning of one’s choice.

Tonight’s request was the Parmesan chicken with “the creamy mushroom sauce you made once.” I’m pretty sure that is the “sauce” I made for pasta, from Cooking Light.

So, I sent him off to get the Parmesan chicken and some cream. One of the nice things about this chicken and the other ready-to-cook items is they are often on sale. The chicken breasts are usually as little as 2.99 a pound. However, tonight they did not have any in the meat case. So, we decided to try this Sweet Chili marinated chicken instead. Along with some snap peas and leftover risotto.

Verdict: Decidedly underwhelmed.

The problem with marinating full chicken breasts is that the sauce just can’t get to the deep parts of the meat before the acid starts to cook the outside. As a result, you get chewy meat with only spotty flavor. If I’m marinating chicken, I either pound the breast thin or butterfly them. They cook faster too, especially when sauteing.

I baked the chicken in the oven at 350. After 20 minutes I added the snap peas to the pan, tossed them in salt/pepper and garlic powder then added a little balsamic vinegar. I poured some of the pan juices over my chicken after but it didn’t really help.

Now the risotto, we really like that. From Lundberg, the Organic Porcini Risotto is creamy and has a nice earthy mushroom flavor. For added yum, mix in some lightly sauteed fresh mushrooms and garlic or shallot.

Fair warning: there is another flavor of this risotto with spinach that we absolutely did not like despite attempted improvements. Dry and dusty tasting, the cardboard box had more going for it than the seasoning packet.