Mexican Fried Chicken and Drop Biscuits

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Let me tell you guys something–something extremely important.

When it comes to food, there are very few things I love more than fried chicken and biscuits. I love the mashed potatoes and collard greens or green beans I’ll often eat alongside them. But honestly for me, the main stars of a meal even consisting of chicken and biscuits, are –without question–going to be the chicken and biscuits.

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The chicken biscuit is something that most people here in the States can get anywhere.

Chik-fil-A are famous for their chicken biscuits drizzled with the red sauce. I’ve been known to slice a Popeye’s biscuit and layer it with chicken I took off the bone of a spicy breast and drizzled with honey to make a sandwich. And KFC has…something. I think. I don’t know. Maybe. (Haven’t been there in *years*).

Maybe you’ve brought home a bucket of chicken from one of the above places, then served them with the refrigerated Grand’s biscuits. Maybe you made the chicken and used the refrigerated biscuits. Or, maybe you’ve done the reverse and made the biscuits, but bought the chicken.

No judgment here. All of the above are cool. I like Popeyes. I like the flaky-style Grand’s biscuits. And to be honest, frying chicken and making biscuits from scratch may be something that scares more than a few folks, and I’m sure there are others who just don’t think that making either from scratch is worth it.

While I don’t judge taking those shortcuts, you guys still know what I’m about to say, right? I mean, cooking IS my sport.

So, it stands to reason that I’m gonna say that making fried chicken from scratch at home, IS worth it. Making biscuits from scratch at home, IS worth it. Scared of making fried chicken from scratch? Even more scared of making biscuits from scratch?

Don’t be. I got you.

Here’s what I love about this recipe: it takes one of my favorite food combinations, and gives it a twist that is not only yummy, but pretty simple to pull off, especially where the biscuits are concerned. The chicken is set overnight in a buttermilk marinade that ensures it will be extra juicy and tender, then tossed in a flour breading that’s mixed in with Mexican seasonings (chili powder, cumin, oregano) and fried until golden brown and crisp.

Now I know in some of my past posts I’ve talked a bit about the technique of making scratch biscuits being key to ensuring that they turn out right. Typically, I will ALWAYS freeze my butter and use a box grater to cut it directly into the flour to ensure that the butter is evenly distributed. Then, I take care to knead the biscuits as little possible to make sure they don’t end up tough.

Maybe all of those above tips seem scary. Maybe you don’t have a box grater and don’t feel like getting one right this second. Maybe the idea of kneading dough AT ALL is a no-go.Guess what? You can STILL get great biscuits. With drop biscuits, there’s no freezing the butter, no grating it in, no kneading. It all comes together in one bowl and the dough is then scooped out with a 1/4 cup measure onto a baking sheet, and baked off just like that. They come out golden brown/craggy on the outside and soft/fluffy on the inside. They’re also near impossible to screw up.

As you guys can see, once I had this finished I took a big piece of the chicken, sliced a biscuit in half, plopped a few pickles on top, then shook some Frank’d Red Hot on, and had myself a pretty sensational chicken biscuit. Why not all of you do the same for yourselves?

(Linking up to Fiesta Friday #163)

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Mexican Fried Chicken and Drop Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Chow.com and America’s Test Kitchen

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Ingredients

For the Fried Chicken

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), cut into 8 pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breast/wing pieces, 2 breast pieces)
  • Canola or peanut oil for deep-frying
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

For Biscuits

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk, chilled
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted then slightly cooled, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing on top of biscuits
  • About 1 tablespoon of your choice of a combination of mixed dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage all work fine)

 

Directions

For the Fried Chicken:

Brine the Chicken: In a large gallon sized re-sealable plastic bag, combine the buttermilk, kosher salt, garlic and Mexican oregano. Add the chicken and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours and up to overnight.

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat at least 2-3 inches of the canola or peanut oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a large wire rack over a baking sheet next to the stove. Place another wire rack over a baking sheet and set it aside (this will be for the finished chicken)

Combine the flour, chili powder, cumin, baking powder, and corn starch together in a bowl with a fork. Remove the chicken from the brine, shake off the excess and place in the flour mixture, using the fork to help the dry ingredients adhere to the chicken. Place the chicken on the wire rack baking sheet. (I recommend chilling the chicken like this for about 35 minutes to an hour if you have the time and space in your fridge. But if not, that’s okay.)

When the oil is heated, take the chicken and just before you add each piece into the oil, re-dip each piece in the flour ingredients. Add to the oil, no more than three at a time. (Also bear in mind that you’re going to need to adjust the heat to maintain the temperature of 325 degrees) Using a pair of tongs, fry the chicken until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or a spider, remove the chicken from the oil and place it on the second wire rack baking sheet. Keep it in an oven or a microwave to keep the chicken warm. Repeat this process with the remaining chicken until done.

For the Biscuits:

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position in an oven and preheat it to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, table salt, baking soda and herbs together in a large bowl. In a medium sized bowl combine the buttermilk and melted butter  together until small clumps form.

Use a rubber spatula to incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ones, stirring just until the mixture comes together. Place the bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Spray a 1/4 cup measure with nonstick cooking spray, then scoop a level amount of batter out and onto the parchment paper lined baking sheet. Repeat until you’ve scooped out the rest of the batter, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Freeze the biscuits for about 30 minutes, then bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Brush the tops with the 2 tablespoons melted butter and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

 

Gumbo Ya-Ya

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I’ve never been to a Mardi Gras celebration before. I’ve never been to New Orleans before. I think I would like to go to both one day, despite my being an introvert. Mardi Gras just so I can say that I did it. New Orleans, mainly for the food (of course).

And speaking of food, another disclosure: until now, I’ve never even cooked or had real gumbo before. That one, I’ll concede is a bit more serious. I’ve made Jambalaya several times before, but gumbo was something I hadn’t tackled. I wouldn’t even order it in a restaurant if it was on the menu. Why?

Sigh. Well…the word ‘gumbo’ itself derives from the vegetable okra and….I don’t like okra.

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Actually, false. I don’t not like okra. I kinda hate it. A lot.

I know. But it’s true. I just can’t get with that gelatinous inner texture. Triggers my gag reflex. And since just about everyone cooks gumbo with okra, I just steered clear of it. Not because I didn’t think I wouldn’t like the rest of the stew that is the dish itself. I always knew that when made correctly, it was probably delicious. I just didn’t want it with that darn okra inside.

This year though, it finally hit me: if I was so curious about gumbo, why not just make it for myself WITHOUT the okra?

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*taps temple* See? Thinking.

Gumbo purists who believe gumbo isn’t gumbo without okra may want to just stop reading right here and move along. Personally I don’t recommend it, as this stuff I’m peddling today is damn tasty with or without your funky okra, but hey, it’s your world.

In my view, as long as your gumbo has a delicious base of well-seasoned broth and meat, then it’s still a gumbo worth trying. This one has both, mainly because it’s a genuine from scratch process from start to finish. That’s right, Buttercup: not only are we starting out with fresh meat, we’re making our own chicken broth.

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Don’t freak out. It’s not that serious, I swear it’s not. Making chicken broth is simple; you throw a whole bird in a stock pot with some water, herbs and veggies, and as the saying goes, set it and forget it for a while. It’s an extra step, but you’d be surprised the difference it makes, especially in a dish like gumbo where the broth is so essential to its success.

The only other laborious part of making gumbo is the roux: the flour-oil mixture you make that serves as both a slight thickener and a flavor booster. So long as you stay attentive to it, keeping a watchful eye AND a regularly stirring hand, it should turn out fine. After that, you’re pretty much done doing ‘work’. Just dump in your broth, spices and veggies and let that sucka go until the flavors have melded and it tastes like money.

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We’re huge meat lovers ’round here, so I not only had the chicken from the scratch-made broth, but smoked andouille and smoked turkey sausage in my gumbo as well. The flavor that the sausage adds is pretty much everything. Don’t leave at least one type out. As for the rest, I know that gumbo proteins can range from chicken, sausage, shrimp or even crawfish. All of these would be delicious in this; just add the meat towards the end so that it doesn’t overcook in the time it takes for the gumbo flavor to develop in the broth. As for veggies, well…I’m gonna just recommend that you do what works for you. That means if you like okra, throw it in. If you’re like me and you don’t, forget about it. If there’s another veggie that tickles your fancy, I’d say go ahead and throw it in there too. This is for Mardi Gras. Who cares about rules? Laissez les bon temps rouler, eh?

Oh! But please, PLEASE don’t leave out the scoop of rice on top. That part I must insist on.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #159, co-hosted this week by Zeba @ Food For The Soul and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative CookY’all be easy.

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Gumbo Ya-Ya

Recipe Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

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Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (about 6 pounds; you can use 2 3lb. Chickens if you like)
  • 16 cups water
  • 2 medium-size yellow onions, quartered
  • 2 ribs celery, each cut into 6 pieces
  • 4 bay leaves, divided
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoning salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 1 cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 pound andouille or other smoked sausage, finely chopped, plus 1 pound smoked sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions or scallions (green part only)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

 

Directions

In a large heavy stockpot, place the chicken, water, the quartered onions, celery ribs, 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper together. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Partially cover and allow to cook for about 2 hours, until the chicken is tender.

Remove the chicken from the pot, place on a plate or in a bowl and cover with aluminum foil until cool enough to handle. Strain the broth and allow to cool.

In a large pot or a Dutch oven, pour about 2 tsp vegetable oil and add the onions and bell peppers, cooking until they are softened and slightly translucent. Remove the veggies to a small bowl, and saute the sausage until slightly browned on both sides. Remove the sausage to another small bowl and set aside. Do not drain off the grease from the pot.

In the same pot, combine the vegetable oil and all purpose flour over medium heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon to make a roux until the mixture has thickened and is the color of milk chocolate, about 15-20 minutes. (Don’t walk away from it, roux can burn VERY easily.) Add the veggies, garlic, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, remaining 2 bay leaves, remaining salt and cayenne and the Worcestershire sauce. Pour in the strained broth, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and allow to cook for about 1 1/2 hours, tasting and adjusting for seasoning.

Remove the chicken meat from the bones and roughly chop, then set aside. Discard the carcass. Place the chicken and sausage into the gumbo broth and allow to cook for about 15-20 minutes. Take off the heat and use a wide spoon to skim the fat off the surface. Sprinkle with the green onions and parsley and eat with crusty bread, or over rice.

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Pulled Brown Sugar Chicken

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There are, naturally, plenty of Golden State Warrior fans to be found out here.

I’ve kinda become one myself for various reasons.

First, one of their starting power forwards, Draymond Green, went to my alma-mater Michigan State University. In Spartan country, we have a saying of “We Bleed Green”meaning that no matter what happens or where we go, we’ll always be Spartans and the ‘green’ (from our school colors of green & white) will always flow through our veins. I tend to follow college athletics more closely than the pros, but if there’s a Spartan on the team,  I’ll usually be rooting for them to win by default.

Yeah, it’s that serious.

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The other reason I tend to root for Golden State is that I just like the Curry family; Golden State’s point guard Stephen, his wife Ayesha, and their two kids. Lord knows they’re an attractive bunch, but I also like that Steph and Ayesha have been together since they were kids and by all appearances, seem happily married. I’m sure most of us sports fans remember the post-game press conference a little over two years or so ago when Steph brought their eldest daughter Riley with him in front of the cameras and she completely stole the spotlight with her charisma and spunk. That was so cute to me.

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After that press conference, I noticed a definite spike in the branding of Steph Curry as a ‘family man’, with a brighter spotlight on his wife and kids and the dynamic they have as a family. As it turns out, Ayesha Curry is a foodie and a lover of cooking and baking, which, is another detail about her that makes me a fan. She recently opened a pop-up restaurant to showcase her cooking skills, landed her own show on Food Network, and this past fall released her very own cookbook, “The Seasoned Life.”

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As both a GSW and Curry family appreciator, (and an avid cookbook collector) I knew that I wanted the book. My older sister made it a birthday present for me and as soon as it arrived in the mail from Amazon, I immediately started thumbing threw it for the first recipe to try out.

You guys know me well enough to know that it was DEFINITELY gonna be something with the word ‘chicken’ in it. But I do think that even if it wasn’t my favorite protein, I still would’ve picked this dish first. In the recipe notes, Ayesha herself says that if there is any recipe that someone has to try from the book, it’s this one. Upon testing that theory, I gotta say that I totally understand why.

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The title may be somewhat misleading or off-putting; for some people brown sugar with chicken may sound like a clash of ingredients and flavors that just shouldn’t mix, but au contraire. The brown sugar is but one of the ingredients in one of the best damn sauces I’ve EVER had; the sweetness is balanced with soy sauce, fresh ginger and garlic. It friggin works. Trust me.

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The chicken first gets seared over the stove,then baked in the oven until it’s fall apart tender and the sauce has thickened into syrupy, sticky, sweet/salty/slightly spicy stuff that is honestly delicious enough to slurp up all on its own with a spoon.

I mean, my GOD, is it good.

Ayesha hit a solid three pointer, Curry-style with this chicken. It’s officially received the Cooking is My Sport Stamp of Approval. So, I guess she can say that now she’s *really* got it made. Smile.

Linking to Fiesta Friday #157, co-hosted this week by Andrea @ Cooking with a Wallflower and Su @ Su’s Healthy Living.

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Pulled Brown Sugar Chicken

Recipe Adapted from “The Seasoned Life” by Ayesha Curry

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Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Garlic powder & onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • About 2 stalks of green onion, chopped

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take a fork and prick the chicken breasts all over evenly. Season both sides generously with the kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.

In a large Dutch oven, melt the butter with oil over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken in the pot (working in two batches if need be) until both sides are browned, about 3-5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate when they are done and cover with foil.

Add the onions to the pot and saute until they are translucent and softened. Halfway through, add the minced garlic and continue to cook until the garlic becomes fragrant—don’t let it burn. Pour the chicken broth into the pot and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom bits up with a wooden spoon.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, dark brown sugar and ginger. Pour the sauce into the Dutch oven and let it cook with the onions and garlic for about 2-5 minutes until sauce has slightly thickened.

Add the chicken back to the pot, cover with lid (or aluminum foil) and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and continue to bake until the chicken is tender and can be pulled apart with a fork and the sauce is thickened, about 30 minutes more.

When chicken is done, sprinkle with green onion and serve atop rice if desired.

My Favorite Thick and Chunky Chicken Stew

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Can I ask a random but still perfectly serious question?

Why do people make/eat/like watery stew?

I don’t get it.

Whenever I see a dish given the name of a ‘stew’ with chunks of stew and vegetables literally swimming, no DROWNING in a broth bath I just cringe. It really hurts my feelings, guys. Because I know that person is selling themselves short and settling for something that I reallllllly wouldn’t call a stew.

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Call it a soup. Maybe even  call it a ‘stoup’ like Rachael Ray does. Just don’t call it a stew, k? That’s kinda disrespectful.

For me, if I could put it in one word, the biggest difference between a soup and a stew really does come down to as TEXTURE. The base of a good stew just has a different texture than a soup. It SHOULD have a very different feel to it both when you stir it up in the pot, and when you’re eating it. If you can’t tell the difference between a soup or a stew, or a stoup and a stew, then it’s very likely that your stew’s texture is…off.

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Should it be pasty thick? No. After all, it’s not a pot pie filling. However, it does need to be robust and have some body. It’s got to be thick enough where the liquid coats the back of the spoon when you dip into it. You shouldn’t be able to ‘slurp’ it up like a broth, but at the same time it should be loose enough where you can dip biscuits and/or rolls in it and soak up the extra goodness.

If all this sounds a little complicated, well…good. Now you realize how serious this is. Watery stew is no laughing matter. A good chicken stew was one of those things that when I was learning how to cook, I knew I wanted to nail early on. And I really do think that at this point, I have.

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My chicken stew is one of the recipes on the blog that three years after I first posted it, still gets some of the most traffic. And you know what? I don’t mind blowing my own horn a tad bit by saying that I really do understand why.

It’s a damn good stew. It’s become a staple dish in my house and my family is always very enthusiastic when I make it. It’s pretty easy to do, coming together in about an hour. It’s one of those dishes you can make a huge batch of and have enough to last throughout the week. Not only that, it’s also a perfect comfort food dish for this time of year.

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So why am I doing a revamp? Well for one, I think you guys deserve better pictures of it than the bunch I churned out three years ago when I knew jack-squat about food photography.  Second, since then I’ve added a few ingredients to my chicken stews that I make now that I think make it taste even better than the original. Third, I’ve also made a new provision in the recipe for those of you out there that don’t have the time or inclination to chop your veggies. Because yes, sometimes even Jess uses those bags of veggies on the frozen foods aisle. No shame in my game.

This stew is everything I love about fall and comfort food; thick chunks of chicken (breast, cause you guys know me by now), a medley of my favorite vegetables: sweet potatoes, corn, carrots, mushrooms– all simmered together in a rich and robust gravy–NOT A BROTH.

Because we know better. Right? Of course right.

Happy Fiesta Friday #142, co-hosted this week by Elaine @ foodbod and Michelle @ O Blog Off.

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My Favorite Thick and Chunky Chicken Stew

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport.com

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Ingredients

  • 2 and 1/2 pounds of skinless, boneless, chicken breasts, cut into bite sized (about 1 inch) chunks
  • 1/2 cup flour
  •  1 Heaping teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 Heaping teaspoon of onion powder, plus 1/2 tablespoon
  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into equal bite sized chunks
  • 8 oz of cipollini onions, cut in half (one medium size yellow/sweet onion diced will also work fine)
  • 8 oz of fresh or frozen corn
  • 8 oz of baby bella mushrooms, stems and gills removed, caps roughly chopped
  • 8 oz of carrot chips
  • 1 teaspoon, plus 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, divided
  • 1 1/4 cup of stout beer
  • 3 cups of low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup of water, plus 4 tablespoons, divided
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1-2 tbsp of Dijon mustard
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons of corn starch

Note: The vegetable options for this dish are very flexible. If you don’t feel like chopping them up yourself, I’ve used a 16 oz. bag of frozen mixed veggies with this recipe before with perfectly fine results. Use what works for you.

Directions

Mix the flour, onion powder, garlic powder and 1 teaspoon of pepper together in a Ziploc bag. Add the chicken chunks to the bag, seal, then toss to coat thoroughly, so that there is an even layer over meat.

Coat a large on-stick pot or Dutch Oven with olive oil. Brown meat over medium- high heat. Don’t worry about it cooking all the way through, just cook long enough to give it some color. Don’t worry about the thick layer that forms on the bottom of the pot: it’s supposed to be there.

De-glaze the pan with the stout beer. Once the bottom of the pot is no longer sticky, add the chicken stock, water, honey, dijon mustard, sweet potato, onions, carrots, mushrooms, bay leaves, corn, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and 1/2 tablespoon of onion powder and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer stew covered, for 45 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste, if need be.

Dissolve the cornstarch in 4 tablespoons of cold water and add to the stew. Cook uncovered over medium heat for an additional 30 minutes, until thickened. (If stew still has not thickened after 30 minutes, you can add 1 additional tablespoon of cornstarch. It’ll thicken. You’ll see.)

   

Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches

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I’m really not a huge fan of authentic Italian food.

I don’t like lasagna. I don’t like carbonara. I don’t care for the white heavy cream based sauces that can be found in a lot of Italian dishes at all. I’m not one for using lemon in savory applications. I’m actually not even a huge fan of cheese in general. If it weren’t for pizza, I could probably live without eating it entirely.

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My love for Italian food can basically be summed up in a plate of pasta (preferably spaghetti, rotini or ziti) and a mess of meaty marinara sauce dumped on top of it. If I’m feeling really “adventurous” there’ll be Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

And that just about does it.

Everything else I’m probably going to want to pass on.

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All of the above is what makes today’s recipe somewhat special.  I count it as me daring to be ‘adventurous’ and cook then eat something Italian that isn’t just pasta and meat sauce.

I needed to cook something that would last for the week but I didn’t really know what. I looked through the sale ads and didn’t seem any meat that was on sale except for pork chops and pork loin (neither of which I really felt like cooking or eating). So then, I went digging through my freezer to see if I’d bought any meat a while back then saved for later and just forgot about it.  Turns out, I had. I found two packs of chicken cutlets (chicken that’s thinly sliced and/or pounded thin by the butcher ahead of time).

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Most times meat that’s been prepared into cutlets is for the purpose of sandwich making. The protein is thinner, so it cooks relatively quickly and can fit on pieces of bread without much hassle. I’ve already made chicken schnitzel before on the blog with great results, but I wanted to make something new that I could post and share.  I’d also made shredded chicken into tacos just a couple weeks ago, so using the cutlets for that for that seemed kinda redundant.

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As a cook and eater with Southern roots, I’m of the opinion that it’s pretty tough to go wrong with chicken that you bread and fry, no matter what cuisine we’re talking about. Then, because a good red sauce is one part of Italian food that I like, I figured throwing them together couldn’t result in too shabby a meal. It also wouldn’t take a very long time to make, So for all those reasons, I decided to go ahead and make Chicken Parmesan for the first time, ever.

I really, REALLY liked the results.

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The best marinara sauce I’ve had to date is the one I made for my Pizza Hut-style breadsticks and Pan-Pizza that I made a while back on the blog, so that’s what I decided I would use for this recipe. I did a double batch because I love my sauce and wanted to have plenty to eat during the week for leftovers, but you can always cut it in half if you’re a less is more kind of a person.

Anytime you let chicken soak in an overnight buttermilk bath, you know that you’re going to have chicken that cooks up very moist and tender. I let mine chill for the whole 24, and once again I proved to myself that chicken breast haters are just doing their chicken breast wrong in how they treat it. The cutlets came out VERY moist and juicy on the inside. Chicken breading can sometimes run the risk of being bland and tasteless, but the method of including cheese with the actual breadcrumbs that the chicken is fried in gives it a GREAT flavor and texture. The crust came out perfectly crisp and golden when fresh and even when reheating the leftovers throughout the week, I found that I liked it even after it had gone soft.

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If you’re not a fan of Ciabatta bread, or you can’t find a grocery store or bakery in your area that carries it, that’s totally fine. Pepperidge Farm bread slices have also worked for me. I will say though, that for these sandwiches you want to use a bread that when toasted is big and sturdy enough to support the weight of the hot chicken and won’t get flat and soggy when you pile on the cheese and warm sauce. So please don’t sell yourself short; go for the good stuff.

The verdict is in and…Chicken Parmesan can sit with us. Finis.

Happy Fiesta Friday #132, co-hosted this week by Sandhya @ Indfused and Nancy @ Feasting With Friends.

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Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

For the Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 (15oz) cans tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 tsp dry basil
  • 1 tsp dry marjoram
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the Chicken:

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk, divided
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 loaf crusty italian bread, crust removed, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
  • 5 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 quart Tomato Sauce  (see above recipe)
  • 10 ounces shredded mozzarella or Italian blended cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, basil, or a mix
  • 1 loaf of Ciabatta bread or another sturdy crusty bread for sandwiches

Directions

Split chicken breasts in half horizontally. Working one piece at a time, place inside a plastic zipper-lock bag and pound with a meat pounder or the bottom of a skillet to an even 1/4-inch thickness. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add 1 1/2 cups buttermilk and minced garlic to bowl. Season with 2 tablespoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Turn chicken with hands until salt, pepper, and garlic are evenly incorporated and all the chicken is coated in buttermilk mixture. Transfer to a large zipper-lock bag, press out the air, and seal. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Meanwhile, place bread slices on a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. Leave out on counter for at least 4 hours and up to overnight until mostly dried.The next day, break bread into rough pieces (leave the wire rack in the rimmed baking sheet) and combine with 4 ounces Parmesan cheese in the food processor. Season with black pepper. Process until bread is finely ground, about 20 seconds. Transfer mixture to a large shallow bowl or pie plate.

Place flour in a second shallow bowl or pie plate. Whisk eggs, 2 tablespoons buttermilk, and 1 tablespoon of the flour in a third pie plate. Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons buttermilk over the breadcrumb/Parmesan mixture and incorporate with your fingertips. The mixture should be mealy, but hold together in clumps if you squeeze it together with your hands.

Working one piece of chicken at a time, remove from the bag and add to flour. Turn to coat, shake off excess, and add to egg mixture. Turn to coat, letting excess drip off, and add to breadcrumb mixture. Turn to coat, piling crumbs on top and pressing down firmly so a thick layer adheres. Transfer coated chicken to the wire rack and repeat with remaining chicken breasts.

Adjust broiler rack to 8 inches below the heat source and preheat broiler to high. Place ciabatta cut-side-up on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Place under broiler and cook until well browned and crisp, about 2 minutes.

Transfer top bun to a large cutting board. Spread bottom bun with extra sauce and top with chicken cutlets, shingling them so they all fit in a single layer covering the bread (cutlets should already have sauce and some cheese on them). Top with more cheese. Return to broiler and cook until cheese is fully melted and starting to bubble and brown.

Remove from oven and immediately close sandwich, pressing down firmly to seal. Let rest for 1 minute. Slice into 6 to 8 single-serving pieces and serve. 

Sweet Paprika Chicken Tacos

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I finally got around to going to see “Captain America: Civil War” two weeks ago. I figured it wasn’t going to stay in theaters for very much longer and my twin sister (who had already went with her husband to see it) had been nagging at me for weeks to see it because she, like practically everyone else, thought it was one of the best movies thus far  in the Marvel universe line-up.

For being a Captain America movie, the script actually manages to cram quite a few of the Avengers into the storyline, with the addition/introduction of several other new characters. I was aware of this before going to the movie and was concerned that it would make the film a little too busy and crowded. “Age of Ultron” was kinda lackluster in my opinion, and  several of the other latest Marvel movies I thought were overall decent, but nowhere near as good as the first Avengers movie.

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Well long story short, the hype over “Civil War” is completely justified. It’s a great movie, really second only to “The Avengers”movie in my opinion. The writers did a good job of making the plotline flow with enough finesse to where you don’t feel like it’s busy or convoluted. We knew that a showdown between Captain America and Iron Man was coming sooner or later, and it was interesting to me how that came about, the positions the two heroes took, and the sides that the others ended up taking. This just viewed like an overall “smarter” superhero film. It’s even good to the point where the absence of Hulk and Thor from the film didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

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My favorite part of the movie was the introduction of Chadwick Boseman’s character Prince T’Challa  aka, Black Panther. He’s a real scene-stealer, his costume is badass, and the way that “Civil War” ends (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it) makes me VERY excited for the Black Panther film that’s currently in production.

Besides Black Panther, my other favorite character of the film was Paul Bettany’s character Vision. There’s a scene in the movie where he’s in the apartment Tony Stark set aside for him and Scarlet Witch at the compound, reading through a recipe. It’s pretty hilarious watching this A.I. superhero who doesn’t even eat attempt to cook; he makes a dish that incorporates paprika. Being the cooking enthusiast I am, my mind instantly thought, “Hmm. I wonder what KIND of paprika he’s using; regular paprika (pointless, it pretty much tastes like nothing), Hungarian sweet paprika (not too shabby if balanced with other spices), or smoked paprika (darn good stuff).”

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They never clarified what kind of paprika Vision used when making his dish, but shortly after going to see the movie I decided to go ahead and make one myself that would use up a good portion of Hungarian sweet paprika I had sitting around the spice cabinet and needed to use up before it started to lost its potency. I’d also been craving tacos for weeks and wanted an easy but still tasty way of getting some in my belly.

Enter this dish, stage left.

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Originally, this is supposed to be made in a slow cooker with chicken thighs. But not only was I too impatient and hangry for that, I also don’t like chicken thighs and prefer the cut of the chicken boob. So, I first adapted this recipe to be cooked in a Dutch oven rather than a crock pot, swapped out chicken breasts for the thighs, and finally I added some modifications to the spices that suited my own tastes.

What else can I say, you guys? I love what I do. Don’t believe what the haters tell you: making moist and flavorful chicken breast really is TOTALLY doable. Even quickly on a weeknight, which I think this dish would be wonderful to make for a relatively quick and delicious Taco Tuesday night dinner.

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It’s been a REALLY long time, but I’m glad to be back co-hosting this week’s Fiesta Friday #127   with my co-host and longtime blogging buddy Suzanne@aPugintheKitchen. We’d love for you to come and join in on the fun so,  please do click the link, read the rules and share your tasty posts/recipes with us all.

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Sweet Paprika Chicken Tacos

Recipe Adapted from Food & Wine

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic Power
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion (about 1 1/2 cups), finely diced
  • 6 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/3 cup sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons of light brown sugar (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime-juice
  • 12 warm 6-inch flour tortillas

Directions

In a large Dutch oven, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt, black pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Add the chicken to the pot, making sure to not overcrowd the pan. Cook until richly golden brown and seared, about 4 minutes per side. Pour in the white wine and deglaze the pan. Transfer the chicken and the juices to a separate plate or container and cover with aluminum foil.

Set the pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, paprika, and chili powder and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the spiced onion mixture to the Dutch oven. Pour in the chicken broth and crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the mixture for seasoning. This is where you can add the light brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce if you like. Place the seared chicken breast back into the pot. Lower the heat down to medium-low, cover and cook until chicken is fall apart fork- tender, probably about 20-35 minutes..

Remove the chicken from the sauce and transfer to a work surface. Using two forks, shred the meat. Stir the shredded chicken back into the sauce and add the lime juice . Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Using a slotted spoon, spoon the pulled chicken into the warm tortillas and top with desired condiments. Serve right away.

Chicken Tikka Masala

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So I think I did a post a few months back telling you guys about how the pitcher and lid of my Ninja Blender died and went to Ninja Blender Heaven (i.e., they melted beyond repair in the stupid dishwasher of my apartment. Yes, I am still pissed off about that).

It took me a while to finally get around to going to the manufacturer’s website to go and order the parts for my replacement and when I finally did, I got yet another unwelcome surprise: the model of the pitcher and lid that I needed was temporarily out of stock and there was no EDT on when they would be in stock again.

Of course, this was something I wasn’t made aware of until AFTER I placed the order for them. Of course.

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To the company’s credit, they didn’t actually take the money out of my account until roughly about 3 weeks later when the pitchers were back in stock. A few days later and boom, the package came in the mail and I once again had a Ninja Blender that I could use.

I was relieved, because God knows the motor stand had been looking uber stupid by itself on my countertop for the past three months or so.

Now that I had my Blender back, I already knew the first thing I wanted to use it to cook. It was a recipe I’d seen a while back and gotten SUPER excited about…then got SUPER disappointed over because it would require the use of either an immersion blender or regular blender. Neither of which I had access to.

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Aarti Sequeira is still to date, my favorite of the winners of Next Food Network Star with Jeff Mauro coming in a close second. She’s just so bright and effervescent and it translates into her cooking, which mainly centers around Indian cooking. Indian cuisine isn’t something I’ve done a lot of cooking with, but I always knew that when I did finally give it a whirl, my introduction was going to be guided by Aarti.

And as expected, she did NOT disappoint.

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I don’t know why I seem to have a habit of using recipes that I’ve never made before to feature on the blog. It’s somewhat of a risk considering that it might not actually turn out. But as with the others, this wasn’t the time that that happened. My first attempt at Chicken Tikka Masala was…. successful.

Like, VERY successful.

As in “This chicken is long gone and I’m still thinking about and missing it like it’s an old friend” successful.

The thing is, you will need a blender (or at least a food processor to make it). The first application comes from throwing together a ginger-garlic paste used to marinade the chicken AND flavor the sauce of the dish. There is a substitution option given in the recipe for it but I’m pleading with you… if you’ve got the tools, just take the effort and initiative to make the paste. Please. Your taste buds will thank you.

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The second use of the blender comes in with pureeing the tomato sauce down so that it’s smooth. I didn’t mention this in the print out version of the recipe but I’ll go ahead and say it here: I have seen what happens when you put a hot liquid substance in a blender and crank it up high right off rip.

It ain’t pretty. Don’t do it. Before I even pureed the tomato mixture I took it off the heat and let it cool down for about 5 minutes or so. Even after that, I pureed the tomatoes in increments, and it only took about three blends before everything was ready. And most imporantly: I avoided making a HUGE mess. Just as you should.

My take on Chicken Tikka Masala differs from Aarti’s in several ways: number one, she used plain yogurt in her marinade. I don’t know, but whenever I marinade chicken in yogurt I am always predisposed to using Greek. I went ahead and did the same thing here and I don’t think it caused any huge issues.

Second, Aarti grilled her chicken before adding it to the tomato sauce. Most of you guys already know how grills and I get along (We Don’t. The End.), so I did go ahead and just sear my chicken in oil on the stove top. Once again: I think it was a perfectly fine substitution, but if you’d prefer to grill it, by all means do so.

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People stay hating on using chicken breast in cooking. I really don’t care. I know how to cook it so that it’s not dry and chalky and a hot mess soooo, I will always, ALWAYS default to chicken breast. Who’s gon check me, boo?

This dish cooks down to a stew like consistency and since I like extras in my stew, I went ahead and threw in a can of chickpeas to give the dish some extra protein. It was a good choice.

What can I say about the taste? Well I have to admit that going into making the dish I was worried about the acidity of the tomatoes overpowering everything else. That doesn’t happen. The Ginger-Garlic paste provides SUCH a strong and effective counter balance to the tomatoes. The chicken cooks down so nice and tender in the sauce–and I gotta say I think that Greek yogurt really helps in making it stay moist. Your tongue and stomach will just want to give you a great  big hug after you eat a huge bowl of this stuff. Mine did.

Oh yes! And eating bread on the side with this is just mandatory. Naan bread, preferably. Where are you supposed to get Naan you ask? Right here Silly Billy Gum Drops. Your’re welcome.

Happy Fiesta Friday #122 on this the first week in June!, co-hosted by Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau and Aruna @ Aharam.

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Chicken Tikka Masala

Recipe Adapted from Aarti Sequeira

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Ingredients

For Chicken Marinade:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt, whisked until smooth (I used Greek, but regular will probably be fine)
  • 3 tablespoons Ginger-Garlic Paste, recipe below (or 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger and 3 cloves garlic put through a garlic press or finely minced)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (or thighs if that’s your preference; chicken breast is just mine), poked with a fork, and cut into large bite-sized chunks

For Masala Sauce: 

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter (or ghee if you can get your hands on some)
  • 1/3 cup Ginger-Garlic Paste, recipe below (or 6 cloves garlic and 2-inch thumb ginger minced)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 8 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 cups water
  • Oil, for the skillet
  • 1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves, or maple syrup (this is optional)
  • 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained
  • Minced fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Cooked rice, naan, or crusty piece of bread, for serving

For Ginger Garlic Paste

  • 1/2 cup cloves garlic, whole
  • 1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup canola oil

Directions

Make the Ginger Garlic paste first: throw all of the ingredients in a blender together and puree until it is smooth. It’s okay if it’s a little chunky, but it should have a ‘pasty’ consistency. You may not need it all, but DO NOT throw out the leftovers. Save it in a small jar for the next time you make this dish (there WILL be a  next time, trust)

For the Marinade: In a large bowl, mix together the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Marinate at least 30 minutes, or in the refrigerator up to overnight.

Place a Dutch oven or heavy bottom non-stick pot over your stove top and place over  high heat with the oil.  Try to shake off as much of the marinade as you can with your hands, but don’t sweat it if the chicken’s not completely clean. When the oil is hot, sear the chicken in the pot until browned on all sides. If you used Greek yogurt, some of the remaining excess may form “curds” in the bottom of the pot. That’s ok, the heat will cook off the majority of it and the rest dissolves in the sauce. (Don’t worry that the chicken will still be a little uncooked, it finishes cooking in the sauce). When the chicken is evenly browned, remove from the pot and place on a plate, cover with foil.

For the sauce:  When you’re ready to make the curry, lower the heat of the pot down to medium heat and add the olive oil and butter (or ghee). When the butter has melted, add the Ginger-Garlic Paste. Saute until lightly browned around the edges. Add the tomato paste and cook until the tomato has darkened in color, about 3 minutes. Add the garam masala and the paprika and saute for about 1 minute to draw out their flavors.
Add the tomatoes, salt, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. You may need more water depending on how much liquid the tomatoes give off.

Pour the sauce into a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender, and process until smooth. Pour back into the pot and bring back up to a boil. Add the chicken and  chickpeas, fenugreek leaves or maple syrup, if using. Take the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes or until chicken is fork tender.  Garnish with minced fresh cilantro, and serve over rice, with naan, or a crusty piece of bread!