Chic chicken

Creative touches add pizzazz to quick meals.

Chic Chicken 311 (photo credit: MCT)
Chic Chicken 311
(photo credit: MCT)
As much as we may talk about Slow Food, it’s a rare household that has the luxury of low, slow, all-day preparations. In a world where dinner is sandwiched between the exhaustion of work-work, homework and housework, we need Slow Food fast. So when it comes to fast, easy weeknight meals, we all tend to play fowl. It’s no wonder. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts make for inexpensive, no-brainer suppers. Slap them on the grill or toss them in a saute pan.
Could anything be easier? But it’s awfully easy to run afoul of the fowl.
We overcook the tender bird or fall into a chicken rut and make the same old, same old over and over.
So we’re offering up five fabulous new guises for everyone’s favorite dinner ingredient, including something dressy, something grilled and a quick saute.
✔ 1 Tbsp. olive oil ✔ 2 Tbsp. green curry paste ✔ 600 gr. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into chunks ✔ Zest of 1 lime ✔ 11⁄3 cups coconut milk ✔ Juice of 1 lime ✔ Small handful fresh cilantro (coriander), chopped
Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan.
Add the curry paste and cook over high heat 1 minute. Add the chicken, lime zest and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until thickened slightly.
Stir in the chopped cilantro and lime juice. Let stand for a few minutes, to allow the sauce to become creamier before serving. The flavors will deepen when the sauce is slightly cooler. Best served with plain white rice.
Start this recipe a day ahead to allow time for the peppers to marinate. This juicy, succulent dish pairs beautifully with Chardonnay.
✔ 3 large bell peppers (red, yellow and green) ✔ 1 small orange ✔ 3 Tbsp. white or golden balsamic vinegar ✔ 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced ✔ 9 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided ✔ 1 Tbsp. kosher salt, divided
✔ 11⁄2 tsp. black pepper, divided ✔ 6 chicken breasts, with skin ✔ 6 slices crusty sourdough bread, 1 cm. thick
Heat grill to medium-high. Place the bell peppers on the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until well charred. Cover and set aside until cool.
Use a vegetable peeler to remove zest from half the orange. Cut zest crosswise into thin slices.
Wipe most of the charred skin from the peppers. Cut in half and discard core and seeds. Cut into 1⁄2-cm. slices.
Combine peppers with orange zest, vinegar, garlic, 6 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp.
salt and 1⁄2 tsp. pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 3 days, stirring occasionally (see note below).
Heat grill to medium-high. Brush both sides of the chicken and bread with remaining 3 Tbsp. oil. Sprinkle chicken with remaining 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Grill chicken until cooked through, at least 3-4 minutes per side. During the last 2 minutes, place the bread on the grill and turn it to lightly toast both sides.
Top each piece of bread with a chicken piece, transfer to a platter or individual plates, and let rest, loosely covered with foil, 5 minutes. Top chicken with peppers and serve.
Note: When in a hurry, use ready-made roasted peppers, strain and add the orange zest.
This red wine riff on the Silver Palate’s Chicken Marbella is fruity, bright and Zinfandel-friendly. Start this recipe the night or morning before. Use whole chickens cut into pieces or chicken breasts or thighs.
✔ 1⁄2 cup Zinfandel ✔ 1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil ✔ 1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar ✔ 1⁄2 small orange with peel, cut in half, then in 1⁄2 cm. slices ✔ 1⁄2 small lemon with peel, cut in half, then in 1⁄2 slices ✔ 1⁄2 cup raisins ✔ 1⁄2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved ✔ 1⁄4 cup drained capers, plus 1 Tbsp. brine ✔ 4 bay leaves ✔ 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced ✔ 2 Tbsp. chopped rosemary leaves ✔ 2 tsp. kosher salt ✔ 1 tsp. black pepper ✔ 2 medium-size chickens (about 1.8 kg. each), cut into pieces ✔ 1⁄4 cup packed brown sugar
In a large bowl, combine everything except the chicken and sugar. Marinate the chicken in the mixture and refrigerate for 12-24 hours, turning occasionally.
Preheat oven to 180º. Arrange the chicken, skin side up, in a single layer on two rimmed baking sheets. Pour the marinade, including the fruit, olives and capers over the chicken. Sprinkle with brown sugar and bake, basting every 15 or 20 minutes, until cooked through, about 50-60 minutes. (If using boneless, skinless chicken breasts, reduce baking time to 25-30 minutes.) Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken, fruit, olives and capers to a platter or plates. Spoon pan juices on top. Serve hot or at room temperature.
✔ 1 cup lentils, rinsed ✔ 1 small red onion, cut in half, divided ✔ 1 bay leaf ✔ Coarse kosher salt ✔ 2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. red wine vinegar, divided ✔ 2 celery ribs, finely chopped ✔ 1 bunch radishes, trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and sliced ✔ 7 Tbsp. fresh mint, minced, divided
✔ 3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard ✔ 1⁄4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided ✔ Freshly ground pepper ✔ 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts ✔ Flour, for dredging
Place the lentils in a saucepan with enough water to cover by 5 cm. Add half an onion and the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer until the lentils are just tender, 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. vinegar. Drain the lentils and transfer to a medium bowl.
Discard the onion half and the bay leaf.
Finely chop remaining onion half.
Mix the onion, celery, radishes and 3 Tbsp. mint into the lentils. Set aside.
Place the mustard in a small bowl.
Whisk in the remaining 2 Tbsp. vinegar.
Gradually whisk in 1⁄4 cup oil. Add remaining mint. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside 3 Tbsp. dressing to use as a sauce. Mix remaining dressing into lentils to taste.
One chicken breast at a time, place the meat between wax paper; hit with a rolling pin a few times to flatten slightly to an even thickness. Transfer chicken to a plate; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Spread flour on another plate. Dredge the chicken in flour; shake off excess.
Place 2 large non-stick frying pans over medium-high heat; warm 1 Tbsp.
oil in each. Add 2 chicken breasts to each pan. Saute until cooked through, 4-5 minutes per side.
Slice the chicken, transfer to warmed plates, and spoon lentil salad alongside.
Drizzle chicken with the reserved dressing and serve.
If you are using a large food processor, you may need to double the basil sauce ingredients to get it to grind properly. Use any leftover basil sauce for pasta or seafood.
✔ 2 boneless, skinless chicken cutlets ✔ Coarse kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper ✔ Grated zest of 1 lemon ✔ 11⁄2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, or more ✔ 1⁄4 cup basil leaves, packed ✔ 1 Tbsp. walnut pieces
Place the chicken on a plate. Sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper and lemon zest. Brush with olive oil. Let marinate while preparing sauce.
In the bowl of a small food processor, combine the basil, walnuts, salt and a generous amount of pepper. Process until finely ground. With the machine running, gradually add 11⁄2 Tbsp. olive oil.
Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning.
Prepare a grill for direct-heat grilling over high heat. Add the chicken, cover and cook as desired, 3-4 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Transfer to warmed plated. Top with basil sauce and serve.