Chimichurri Meatballs

As the Spring winds down and we get geared up for summer, I start getting craving for certain flavors that I associate with summer. The flavor of fresh herbs reminds me of summer.

A few months back, I made chimichurri for the first time. I absolutely loved it.

It’s bright. It’s fresh. It’s sharp. It’s one of those condiments that I just want to put on everything.

So y’all know me: I’m definitely going to try.

My first chimichurri had a basil base. This one has a parsley and cilantro one. I know some people have a real hate-hate relationship with cilantro, so I actually think that you can use whichever combination of those herbs that you want and it’ll still turn out fine. But I do have to insist on the herbs being fresh, especially since they’re going in both the chimichurri and the meat itself.

One of the things I like most about this is how easy it is to put together. I even feel fairly confident about putting it in the “You Can’t Mess This Up. No, Seriously” categories on the blog. If that and the yummy pictures doesn’t give you enough incentive to try this out, I don’t know what will.

The base for the chimichurri actually doubles as as a seasoning for the meatballs themselves, which  means that you’re going to get double the chimichurri flavor in one bite. The herbs get blitzed together with some garlic in a blender, then half gets set aside, while half goes into the ground meat. (I’ve made this with both beef and turkey and it’s turned out great either way, so don’t worry about swapping out one for the other if you’re not a red meat person).

I prefer to bake my meatballs in the oven for a more even cook. To minimize the mess, I usually line a sheet pan with aluminum foil, then place a baking rack on top of that, sprayed with PAM. It makes for a pretty easy clean up. However, these can be cooked in a skillet. They probably won’t be as round by the end, but that definitely won’t affect the taste.

I actually made a double batch of the chimichurri sauce to have on the side with these. It’s just that good. The bright, fresh and zesty flavors lend themselves so well to the seasoning of the meat, and when it’s added as a condiment I wanted to have a bit of it with every bite. It tasted like summer and I couldn’t wait to share it here. Enjoy.

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Chimichurri Meatballs

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh parsley
  • 2 cups fresh cilantro
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 pound ground beef (or turkey)
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (preferably fresh)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt and pepper
  • onion powder
  • 1/3 cup olive or vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Puree the parsley and cilantro with the garlic cloves in a blender.

In a large bowl, combine half of the garlic-herb mix with the ground beef. Season generously with salt, pepper, and onion powder. Add the beaten egg. Add the breadcrumbs. (Try to stir with your hands as quickly as possible, the more you stir, the tougher the meatballs can be)

Shape into meatballs (about 2 tablespoonfuls each). Place 1 1/2 inches apart on a lightly greased rack on an aluminum foil-lined jelly-roll pan.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until browned.

Pulse the remaining herb mix in a blender with the olive or vegetable oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then serve with the meatballs.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #276, co-hosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats & Greens.

Halal Style Chicken and Rice

My older sister lived in NYC for two years while she was getting her Masters. I remember that while she was there she told me about the halal carts that she bought food from in the street. She raved about the Halal Chicken, and was so positive that I would rave about it too, if I were there to try it.

Unfortunately, I still haven’t made it out to New York to try street Halal Chicken. But today’s post, I think, is a decent substitute to tide me over until I do–because that day is coming. I’m sure of it.

When food in general is called ‘halal’, it refers to food that is processed or prepared in a certain way as to be permissible under Islamic dietary laws. Halal meat is supposed to be slaughtered and cleaned in a specific way. When you refer to Halal chicken in another context, such as street food, most people (especially in the US) are going to think of it as a chicken and rice dish with primarily Mediterranean flavors.

My take on Halal Chicken starts with a yogurt marinade. I learned a few years ago when I made Chicken Shawarma that marinading chicken in yogurt is an excellent way to keep it from drying out while cooking. I wouldn’t leave the chicken in it overnight though, as the marinade does have lemon juice. Sometimes if chicken sits too long in an acidic marinade, the acid in the lemon could begin to break down the proteins in the meat, and it will end up cooking mushy. A few hours is all this one needs.

I used my electric griddle to cook the chicken, but if it’s a bit warmer where you are and you’ve got one, I think that grilling it would give even better flavor. If you’ve got neither one of those, a cast iron or regular skillet will work fine as well. When the chicken seared on my griddle, I found that the residual yogurt created a blackened crust on the outside of it that is often associated with halal chicken. It smelled soooo good while it was cooking.

The rice and white sauce come together easily and quickly. The turmeric and cumin are a must to give the rice that warm, smoky taste. I also cook mine in chicken broth to give added flavor. I’m so proud that when my sister tried this, she announced that it tasted JUST like the halal chicken she used to buy on the streets of New York. High praise indeed. If you’re like me and have never been to NYC and still want to find out what the fuss is about the halal chicken, maybe you’d like to try this out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Halal Style Chicken and Rice

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

Ingredients

For the Chicken:

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac
  • salt and pepper
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups whole fat plain yogurt
  • 2 1/2-3 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast

For the Rice:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain Basmati rice
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper

For White Sauce:

  • 1 cup of whole fat, plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Place the chicken breast in gallon size resealable plastic bags, or in one large container.

Combine the lemon juice, herbs, spices, garlic, olive oil and yogurt together in a blender. Taste and adjust for seasoning, then pour over the chicken breast.

Turn the sealed bags over a few times to make sure marinade throughly covers chicken. Refrigerate for at least one hour and up to four hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium high heat in a skillet, or you can use a griddle, like I did.

Cook chicken until browned on its sides, about 4 minutes per side. If need be, you can finish it in the oven; place a wire rack over a foil lined sheet pan and bake chicken for about an additional 5-10 minutes. (The inner temp should read about 165 degrees Fahrenheit)

Keep chicken loosely covered with foil while you make the rice.

Melt the butter in the bottom of a medium size pot. Add the turmeric and cumin and cook until fragrant but not quite browned, about 1 minute.

Add the rice and stir. Add the chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring the heat the high and allow to come to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes without disturbing.

Remove from the heat and allow to sit for an additional 15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.

For the sauce: combine all of the ingredients together and taste and adjust for seasoning.

Serve with pita bread, lettuce and tomatoes and hummus.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #266, co-hosted this week by Laurena @ Life Diet Health and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Chicken Lo Mein

There are usually only three things that I’ll want when ordering Chinese takeout. These three things are also the standard by which I judge whether or not the place has good food or not. I figure that they’re deceptively simple; not hard to do per se, but also so simple that they’re easy to mess up. When they’re done badly, they’re awful. When they’re done well, they’re fantastic.

Sesame chicken.

Lo mein.

Egg rolls.

Together they’re the perfect trifecta of takeout. The only thing better than finding a great place that makes it, is being able to make it yourself at home. (Not to mention, it’s cheaper.)

I’ve been making my own egg rolls and lo mein for several years now. I posted the recipe for the egg rolls here shortly after first starting Cooking is My Sport, but I waited to post my recipe for lo mein. I wanted to wait and see if I could improve it while also keeping it pretty simple, with ingredients that could be found in most general grocery stores.

This is a great weeknight meal to make. Once you get all of the ingredients together and prepped, the dish comes together pretty quickly. I used cabbage and carrots with the noodles and chicken, but if there is any other vegetable that you prefer to have instead, feel free to use it. Stir fries are very flexible recipes and this one is no exception. The sauce for the noodles is sweet from hoisin, salty from the soy sauce and tangy from the rice wine vinegar. It’s delicious, and I’ve found myself using it for more than just a stir-fry sauce. I’ve used it as a dipping sauce for egg rolls, spread it on sandwiches–it’s that good.

Now I just have to get around to making my own Sesame Chicken. TBC.

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Chicken Lo Mein

Recipe from Jess@CookingisMySport

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • onion powder
  • ground ginger
  • black pepper
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

For Stir Fry

  • 1 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 20 oz. shredded cabbage
  • 10 oz. shredded carrots
  • About 15 oz of your choice of Asian style noodles (I prefer wide and flat ones, like Guan Miao Sliced Noodles)
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint, chopped
  • 2-3 stalks of green onion, chopped
  • peanuts and sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

Arrange chicken in one layer in a sheet pan. In a small cup, stir together 1/4 cup of soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar.

Sprinkle an even coating of onion powder, ground ginger and black pepper on both sides. Pour the soy sauce-vinegar marinade over the chicken, stirring it a few times to make sure it’s evenly coated. Allow to sit for about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a glass measuring cup combine the 1 cup of hoisin sauce, 1/2 cup of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar and sesame oil and whisk together with a fork. Set aside.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a wok or other large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken to the wok and cook on both sides until it’s cooked through. (You may have to do this in batches).When the chicken is done, remove it to a separate platter and keep loosely covered.

When chicken has finished cooking, heat some more oil into the wok. When it’s nice and hot, add the carrots and cabbage to the wot and allow to cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the skillet to another platter, and wipe the skillet clean.

Meanwhile, cook your noodles according to the package directions and drain when they’re finished. Keep the heat on the stove up on high and add 1 more tablespoon of oil to it. Add everything back to the wok/skillet: chicken, vegetables and noodles, and stir together. Pour the stir fry sauce from the glass measuring cup over the lo mein and stir quickly so that it’s evenly mixed. (You may not need to use it all; it all depends on how ‘saucy’ you want the lo mein to be. Use your own discretion.) Allow to cook for 1-2 more minutes–this is just to make the sauce coat the noodles.

Remove from the heat and add the fresh mint and green onion to the lo mein. Sprinkle with the peanuts and sesame seeds.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #259, co-hosted this week by Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Three French ‘Hen’ Pies

I just realized that in the five years I’ve been doing this series, I’ve never addressed just how silly the song the 12 Days of Christmas really is.

I guess now’s a good time as any for me to do so: The 12 Days of Christmas is silly.

12 Days of gifts sounds great in theory. But when you actually stop and think about the so called ‘gifts’ that somebody’s true love picked out…meh.

I mean, five gold rings are fine I guess, but…what exactly am I supposed to do with seven swans ‘a-swimming’ or four calling birds?

A twelve person drumline may be cute, but…does that partridge happen to be sitting in a pear money tree? Cause if not…keep it.

Come to think of it, most of the gifts given during the 12 Days of Christmas were birds. And since I am a cook, and we are all just here for the food anyway, let’s just think of it as a bunch of poultry. I’ve got no use for a bunch of live birds. But dead, butchered poultry? That’s something I can definitely use.

So let’s pretend that on the third day of Christmas, your true love didn’t send you three French hens. Instead, they sent you three (or more) of these pies. (Hen is, after all, chicken so it’s not too big of a leap.)

I like to try to throw a savory recipe into the baking series, just to mix things up. Last year was this tourtiere pie. I wanted to do it again, and from very early on, I had what I thought was a pretty good idea of a place to start. A few years back I did a post where I made a chicken pot pie filling that I paired with biscuits. For these pies, I took that chicken pot pie filling and stuffed it into a delicious, flaky pie crust that I had made before last year for some Jamaican beef patties. (How’s that for recipe recycling?)

There are a lot of corners you can cut in making these to make the process go faster: you absolutely can make the filling for these with either rotisserie chicken or leftover turkey. I did. You absolutely can use a bag of frozen vegetables. I did. You can also make the filling and pie crust ahead of time, leave it in the fridge overnight, then come back the next day, assemble and bake so that the actual dinner prep takes less than an hour. I did.

It’s the 3rd Day of Christmas, so why not swap out 3 French Hens for these French Chicken–I mean HEN Pies?

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

DAY 2: CHRISTMAS ELF BITES

DAY 3: THREE FRENCH HEN PIES

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Three French 'Hen' Pies

Recipe Adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients

For Pie Crust

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1/2 cup butter flavored vegetable shortening, frozen
  • 3/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon cold water, plus more if needed
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

For Filling

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 16 oz. bag of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Onion Powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tbsp-1 tbsp. honey mustard (depending on taste preference)
  • 4 cups chopped, cooked chicken (from 1 large rotisserie chicken) OR leftover turkey
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (if needed)

For Assembly

  • 1 large egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons of water

Directions

For Pie Crust: In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt and pepper with a fork. Use the large holes on a box grater to grate butter directly into dry ingredients. Slice the shortening into small chunks and sprinkle into the flour. Mix together with a fork or a rubber spatula. (Mixture should resemble coarse bread crumbs, with chunks of butter/shortening throughout) Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the water, beaten egg and vinegar. Mix together until just combined, then turn out onto a cutting board or pastry mat dusted with flour. Working quickly, pat and press with your hands until you have a mass of dough that holds together. Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at LEAST one hour, but preferably overnight.

In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat until the onions are translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the bag of frozen veggies, cook for further 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute more. Remove the vegetables and garlic from the pot.

Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour. Cook until the mixture is just starting to turn golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the vegetables back to the pot, along with the bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme. Season with salt, black pepper, onion powder and the honey mustard. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in the cream, and chicken and return to a simmer. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes more. Remove the mixture from the heat.

(If you need to thicken the mixture up, dissolve the cornstarch in about 1/2 cup of cold water with a fork, then stir this into the chicken mixture, allowing it to cook uncovered for about 5 minutes more until it reaches the desired consistency)

Refrigerate the filling overnight to allow the flavors to develop.

Preheat oven to 375°. Remove the dough from the fridge and divide into quarters. Keep the other 3 in the fridge while you work with one. Sprinkle a clean surface with flour. Roll dough out with floured rolling pin to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 4-5 inch circles and place two heaping tablespoons of filling on each. (Don’t overfill, it will mess up your finish) Use your fingers to rub the bottom edge with water or egg wash, then pull the top edge over the filling and press down to fuse the two edges together. You may crimp the outer edges afterwards with a fork if you like. Repeat until you’ve used all of the dough, keeping unused rounds AND filled pies in the fridge as you work to keep the dough cold as possible.

Once finished, line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil, and lightly spray with cooking spray. Place pies on pan. Brush the tops with the beaten egg, then bake on the middle rack until dough is cooked through & golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving.

Linking up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #253, co-hosted this week by Liz @ Spades, Spatulas, and Spoons and Mila @ Milkandbun.

Braised Beef and Basil Chimichurri

I would like to send out prayers, thoughts, and good vibes to everyone out here on the West coast that’s being affected by all of these terrible wildfires. We’re not exactly close to where the actual fires are occurring, but the smoke has been traveling down to where we are, and the air quality has suffered terribly from it.

It’s a terrible situation–one that I hope will pass soon, and that the rebuilding efforts for all of those affected can proceed as best as they can.

How do you guys like to eat your steak?

I’ll go first, and be honest: my go to is a medium tri-tip with A1 on the side. Even if the steak is fantastic enough to eat completely on its own, I still like that primo steak sauce. I’ve only had one steak, ever (at an Emeril Lagasse restaurant) where the steak was delicious enough to where I turned down the A1 completely. Y’all can judge me if you want, but that’s just the way I like it.

I mention my general steak preferences because with this recipe, I kinda stepped outside of my comfort zone and tried something that I had never even eaten before, let alone cooked for myself. I braise beef all the time, but chimmichurri was uncharted territory. I knew that it was green and that it was eaten with food like tacos. But I had no idea what it was supposed to taste like, or if I would even like it myself.

Having now made it, I can now report back to all of you that I now know several things about making & eating chimmichurri, namely that I DO like it, very much. I’ve seen several variations with various herbs used here and there, but I decided to keep things simple for my first time. I use a base of fresh basil and oregano–two herbs that I think play really well against each other. I also put in a very generous amount of garlic, because I love it and because I can. But what REALLY brings all the flavors of the chimmichurri together is the balsamic vinegar that gets added at the very end–the acidity cuts through the sharpness of that garlic and makes the freshness of the herbs that much more fresher.

I kept the seasoning on the braised beef really traditional, on purpose. I’m glad that I did that. It’s a perfectly delicious pot of meat all on its own by the time it’s done, but once you add the basil chimmichurri to the savory beef, the beef moves away from being something you’d typically associate with stick to your ribs food for the autumn, and kinda reminded me of something I’d like to eat in the summertime on a porch deck. So I guess it’s kind of a best of both worlds thing.

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Braised Beef & Basil Chimichurri

Recipe Adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs of beef sirloin, (you can also use top blade steak, chuck roast or tri tip that you cut into large chunks)
  • A few dashes of low sodium soy sauce
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup whole grain mustard
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of your favorite steak seasoning; I used The Gourmet Collection’s Pepper Steak Spice Blend. You can find it at TJ Maxx/HomeGoods)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark, doesn’t matter)
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup oil (olive, vegetable or canola will all work), plus more for searing
  • 1 large onion
  • 2-3 cups low sodium chicken broth (the meat is going to release more liquid in the oven, this is just to make sure it’s submerged enough to braise)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Onion powder, Garlic Powder

For Chimichurri Sauce

  • 8 oz fresh basil, chopped
  • 4 oz fresh oregano, chopped
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup (olive, vegetable or canola will all work)
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, garlic, mustard, brown sugar, pepper, oregano leaves, smoked paprika and oil. Stir together until it forms a paste. Set aside

Rub the meat with the steak seasoning on both sides, then place it inside 2 resealable gallon size bags. Evenly divide and pour the seasoning paste over the meat. Reseal the bags, then turn/toss the bags around, massaging the paste into the meat so that it’s evenly seasoned. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven or other heavy pot, bring it to a high heat, just before it smokes. Sear the meat on both sides until browned (in batches if need be), then remove to a plate.

Saute the onions in the leftover drippings for about 5 minutes until they’re softened/translucent. Add the bay leaf and chicken broth and stir, allowing it to come up to a simmer. Taste and adjust for seasoning (I added plenty of onion powder, garlic powder and pepper).

Place the meat back in the pot, (or you can remove it to a 13 x 9 baking dish) cover tightly with either a lid or foil, then place in the oven. Allow to braise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the meat is tender and can be pulled easily with a fork.

Meanwhile, make the chimichurri sauce: place the basil, oregano and garlic together in a food processor or a blender. Pulse a few times, then blend on high until they’re finely minced/combined. Remove to a medium bowl, then slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking together with a whisk or fork. Add salt & pepper, then 1 tablespoon of the vinegar. Taste it and if desired, add the second tablespoon. Serve on top of the braised beef.

I’m very pleased to be co-hosting this week’s Fiesta Friday # 250 along with Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog.Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com. Please join us!

Pickle Brined Chicken Tenders

Alright y’all, listen.

I know what you may be thinking, but before you say anything or just click away because you feel like this is just a bad idea, just stay for a few minutes hear me out.

Yes, I mean you too. Stay.

So, I too was skeptical when I first heard about this. Not gonna lie, I was even a tad bit grossed out. I like pickles on my sandwiches, but the idea of my chicken tasting like a pickle? Not so appetizing.

But fortunately, that’s not what’s going on here at all. Let me be clear: you are not going to take a bite of this and just taste pickle.

I promise, you won’t.

The whole purpose of brining in the first place is to flavor and tenderize the meat so that it stays juicy and doesn’t dry out while frying. Most times people do this by brining their chicken in buttermilk. I’ve brined chicken in both buttermilk and now, pickle juice.

Would you like to try and guess which one that I prefer?

Yep. The pickle juice. Seriously.

Normally when I did my buttermilk brines before, I would flavor the buttermilk with some spices, just to try and get some extra flavor infused into the meat. But this time, I didn’t have to bother; the pickle juice does all the work for me. All I did to prepare the chicken for the brine was throw it in a gallon size Ziploc bag, then pour the pickle juice over it, seal the bag, then put it in the fridge and walk away. That’s literally it. The spices in the pre-made pickle juices worked together to not only keep the meat moist, but they infused incredible flavor into it as well.

Once the chicken is taken out of the brine, it gets tossed into my tried & true flour mix & batter. This is the best fried chicken batter I’ve ever had or made, bar none. The crust is just out of this world. It crunches in your mouth. It’s full of flavor. It stays absolutely PUT. Even when it gets cold. Even after it’s been refrigerated, OVERNIGHT. Believe me, once you’ve made it this way, you will never go back to another fried chicken batter as long as you live.

I’m not worried about sharing this recipe with y’all because I know that once you put aside your doubts and just try this out, I’m going to make pickle brining believers out of all you. The results will speak for themselves. Your meat is going to be so tender and juicy, with just the *faintest* tang from the pickle juice. That tang is offset perfectly by the savory saltiness of the crust. It works– I was honestly surprised by how well it works.

You know how much I was won over by this? Every time we finish off a jar of pickles now, I keep the jar of juice in the back of my fridge, impatiently waiting until we go through enough of them to have enough juice to brine another batch of chicken so I can fry it up again. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what it is. Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #237, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

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Pickle Brined Chicken Tenders

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Ingredients

  • About 3-4 lbs of chicken tenderloins
  • Up to 3 cups of pickle juice (enough to fully submerge the chicken, but if you don’t have enough then supplement with buttermilk)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of Lawry’s or other seasoning salt
  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite mix of dry herbs (like basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary)
  • Plenty of seasoning salt & pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon of onion powder
  • Vegetable, Canola or Peanut oil for frying (4-6 cups)

Directions

Place the chicken inside gallon size resealable plastic bags, or a large shallow dish with a lid. Pour the pickle juice over the chicken, seal and refrigerate overnight.

In a medium size, shallow bowl/baking dish, combine the all purpose flour with the seasoning salt, pepper,  and dried herbs. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch, rice flour, onion powder and water with a large whisk or flour until thoroughly combined (it’ll be thick, like tempura batter. If need be, you can thin it out with a few tablespoons of additional water).

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with wax paper or plastic wrap on the bottom, then place a wire rack on top.

Remove the chicken from the pickle juice and discard it. Dip each piece of chicken in the shallow dish of all purpose flour with a fork to get a light dusting on both sides, then dip it into batter, holding it up to allow some of the excess to drip off. Then, re dip it into the all purpose flour until the wet batter is sufficiently covered. Place the chicken on the wire rack to allow batter to set, about 2-3 minutes.

Working in batches of no more than 3 pieces at a time, fry the chicken in the oil. Turn it occasionally and monitor the temperature of the oil (a instant read thermometer works GREAT for this) as you work until it is golden brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. (It may look a little pale, but it browns more when you take it out, so don’t worry) When finished remove chicken to another sheet pan lined with paper towels and a wire rack to drain.

Vanilla Wine Braised Beef

I remember a long time ago, way back before I could even cook at all, that I really liked vanilla extract. Whenever I saw my mom take it out, I knew that something delicious was going to get baked. You know how some little kids love the smell of permanent markers? When she wasn’t looking I would sneak into the kitchen, open her spice cabinet and just smell the vanilla extract. I’ve always loved what vanilla can do to sweet treats, and now that I bake a lot myself I absolutely will not do without it.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I first saw savory applications of vanilla in recipes. I was intrigued and admittedly, a little unsure. I tried to envision what a savory vanilla dish would taste like, but couldn’t really get a grasp on it by thinking alone. The obvious concern is that it’s going to make the food taste too sweet, which then makes me nervous about wasting money on ingredients–if you bake with vanilla often, then you know it isn’t too cheap.

But y’know, as with most other things you’re afraid of trying, the best way to get over it is to just… try it out and see what happens. This was my first attempt to put vanilla into a savory dish, and I’m happy to say that it went pretty well.

It starts out with a spice rub that you’re going to let marinade on the meat overnight. It’s also got soy sauce (my go-to ingredient for just about ALL of my marinades by the way), and a splash of orange juice. After you sear the meat the next day, you put together the braising sauce that’s made of wine, tomatoes, and the vanilla extract. Don’t worry if it seems a little…’tomato-y’ at first. Once it gets time for the flavors to develop in the oven, they do balance out.

I think that this is a very, very good recipe to use for those of us who aren’t used to eating vanilla savory-style. It’s an easy braise with easy to find ingredients, and actually very little hands-on time. I paired this beef with the Sweet Potato Challah Buns I made a little while back and they made absolutely DELICIOUS sandwiches. Just saying.

Sharing this at this week’s Fiesta Friday #233.

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Vanilla Wine Braised Beef

Recipe Adapted from Nielsen Massey

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Ingredients

For Spice Rub:

  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Seasoned salt and black pepper
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Soy Sauce
  • About 4 lbs of chuck roast, London broil, or tri-tip steak cut into large cubes

For Braise:

  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 (28 fl. oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 fl. oz.) can tomato sauce
  • juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Seasoned Salt and pepper
  • A few dashes of soy sauce

Directions

Combine the dry spices together in a small bowl with a fork. Place the beef cubes into 2 freezer gallon size bags. Sprinkle soy sauce onto the surface of the beef and use your fingers to gently massage it in. Divide the spice mix evenly between the two bags. Seal the bags, then toss around until the meat is evenly coated. Place both bags into a bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven over high heat. Sear the meat on all sides, 1-2 minutes per side until browned. Keep the seared meat in a bowl covered with foil, as you may need to do this in batches so as not to crowd the pan.

Deglaze the pan with about 1 cup of broth, then add the onions. Saute until the bits are loose and the onions are softened, about 5-7 minutes, then add the garlic. Continue to cook until most of the liquid is cooked off and the garlic is fragrant. Temporarily remove from the heat.

In a small saucepan combine the wine, sugar and the vanilla. Whisk together over medium heat and allow to reduce by half. Remove from heat.

Pour the rest of the broth, the dice tomatoes, tomato sauce, reduced wine, orange zest/juice, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and the rest of the spices into the Dutch oven with the onions/garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, allow to cook down for about 10-15 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning (But flavors will also further develop while braising).

Place the beef cubes back into the Dutch oven, cover then braise in the oven for 2– 2 1/2 hours until beef is fork tender.