Asian Turkey Meatballs

Asian Turkey Meatballs

You guys are all seeing the Internet hoopla about “The Dress” aren’t you?

For those that aren’t, you should so you can join in on the conversation. Here ya go: check it out.

See? Now, let’s say it all together. What colors is the dress?

BLUE AND BLACK.

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Wait, what?! I know some of you guys aren’t like Jas and ACTUALLY see white and gold? What’s the matter with you? The Dress is blue and black; blue and black, I tell you!

This actually sparked a debate in my house last night; me and Ashley stand by the assertion that the dress is blue and black. Jas and my mom are convinced it’s white and gold. We were split right down the middle. I just couldn’t see it. I didn’t understand. It was a mystery.

But apparently the whole thing boils down to the ability of the cones in our eye retinas to mix and process colors through out brains. The people that see blue and black have cones that are better able to do this; people that see white and gold have cones that are…different.

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(Ha ha Jas.)

But in all fairness, since last night I have taken another couple looks at the picture (this is all  over social media by now so it’s kind of impossible not to) and I will admit: if I try really, really, REALLY hard…then I can see the dress as white and gold. It’s like mentally flicking a light switch on in my brain and literally ‘forcing’ myself to see white and gold. It only lasts for a few seconds, but it does work. Honestly it reminds me of one of those optical illusion pictures where there are actually two drawings within one and depending on whether or not you’re left brained or right brained, you see one or the other.

My first instinct with this dress will always make me see blue and black, but if I try to, then I can see white and gold.

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I know what you’re thinking: “Jess. What does The Dress have to do with this post?”

I was getting to that. See, this post has been in my Posts folder on the WordPress dashboard for nearly a month. I’ve been purposely passing it over in favor of other recipes and at one point, considered deleting it altogether. It’s not that this is a bad recipe; it’s actually delicious.

The problem was I just didn’t like the way the pictures turned out. Or at least most times, I didn’t.

Photographing brown food is really hard, guys. If you have crap lighting, then forget about; it’s not gonna work. But even under the best lighting circumstances imaginable, there’s still the risk that the dish you’re shooting will turn out looking…not appetizing.

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I did what I could to prevent this from happening; including other colors,making sure my sauce was fresh and shiny and sticky, and creating texture with sesame seeds…but when it was all said and done I still wasn’t sure.

At one point, I would look at these pictures and think that the meatballs looked good. Then the next day I’d look at them and think they looked like….

Well, you get it.

But today I feel like they don’t look too shabby. And considering I DID put in the work in cooking and photographing them, I figure I’d make it worthwhile and just put the friggin post up regardless. You guys be the judge.

Just think of it like The Dress photo; give it a few tries and see if you can see things differently than my more negative/self-depreciating side. Let me know if it works. And if it doesn’t, then do me a favor: don’t feel obligated to point it out. Just don’t tell me. Deal?

Oh yeah and Happy Fiesta Friday #57 at The Novice Gardener.

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Asian Turkey Meatballs

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

For the Meatballs:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage (about 1/4 head)
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 ounces shitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 egg white
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
  • 4 scallions, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 2 -inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha chile sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 head Boston lettuce, leaves separated

Directions

1. Make the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer the cabbage to a plate to cool.

2. Wipe out the pan, then add the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and the mushrooms. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to the plate with the cabbage to cool.

3. Lightly beat the eggs and egg white in a large bowl. Add the pork, scallions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and cornstarch. Add the cabbage, mushrooms and a few grinds of pepper and mix with your hands until just combined (do not overmix). Dampen your hands and shape the meat mixture into 18 balls (about 2 inches each); arrange on the prepared baking sheet.

4. Make the sauce: Mix the hoisin sauce, Sriracha, vinegar, sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a bowl; set aside 1/2 cup for serving. Brush the meatballs with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake until cooked through, 18 to 22 minutes. Serve in lettuce leaves with the reserved sauce.

Marcus Samuelsson’s Chipotle Chicken

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a habit of doing some kind of reading just before I go to bed. No matter where I am, whether it’s been at home, in a hotel while traveling, at my dorm room and apartment when I was in college, or even visiting at another person’s house, I always have a book that I carry with me and place on a night stand just beside the bed within arms reach that I read before I go to sleep. Besides the fact that I think it somewhat helps my body ‘wind down’ to sleep, I’ve always just really loved reading.

Now what exactly I read has shifted somewhat over the years. At first and for a while, I mainly stuck to fiction but as my interests have evolved, so has my reading preferences. For a while I was in a real historical non-fiction/biography kick, so I was reading those a lot.  But nowadays, my bedside reading mainly comprises of two things: cookbooks and food magazines.

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I’m serious you guys. That’s what I ‘read’ before I go to bed just about every night. I’m looking across from my bed right now and I can tell you exactly what’s there if you don’t believe me:

The Food Network Magazines from November 2014, December 2014, and January 2015 (they’re still there beacause I haven’t gotten around to cutting out the clippings of the recipes I want to try yet- but I will. Scout’s honor)

My recipe notebook for when I’m in the kitchen and recording a new recipe- it’s not very organized and it’s actually pretty beat up and stained with food from my haphazard kitchen adventures, but it does have a special place on my nightstand.

“Marcus Off Duty” by Marcus Samuelsson

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The third one has been a really particular favorite ever since I received it for a Christmas present from my older sister Ashley. I was just thrilled to get this book, guys. Number one, IT’S SIGNED by HIM (which literally made me scream when I opened it on Christmas Day, so not kidding) Number two, I’m a huge Marcus Samuelsson fan; aside from his MAD skills in the kitchen I really love his approach to reinventing comfort food as both sophisticated yet still approachable for ‘ordinary folk’ like me. Also, he’s one of the snappiest dressers I’ve ever seen, and rather easy on the eyes if you know what I mean *wink wink*

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The story of his rather extraordinary life is written in the wide diversity of his food, something that’s made very apparent in this latest cookbook of his. Ever since Christmas it’s stayed on my nightstand and not a day goes by when I don’t find myself coming back to skim through this book and pick something out that I really want to try out and make.

This recipe was the first one that I’ve gotten around to making because (of course) I’m always looking for new things to do with chicken. This may sound extreme for me to say, but it’s the truth so I’m gonna say it anyway: this is just about some of the best chicken I’ve ever had. Seriously. The marinade has so much complexity of flavors and they really do hit all the right notes; first you get the acidity from the lime juice, then the sweet citrus of the orange and chili sauce, and finally the heat from the adobo creeps up on you from the back of your tongue just as after you swallow. I have no idea how he manages to do that in just one recipe but I nonetheless bow down to Marcus’ greatness.

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One bite of this dish really makes you realize that this is somebody who not only knows how to cook, but also really understands the way the tongue processes and ‘reads’ flavors so to speak. What’s even more crazy is that he can do that with boneless, skinless chicken breasts- which I’ve noticed most chefs turn their noses up at as boring and tasteless.

This recipe originally called for the meat to be placed on skewers and either broiled or grilled. I did that, but I forgot to let my skewers soak overnight and could only let them sit in water for about an hour- which apparently wasn’t long enough to keep them from being scorched. No way was I letting burned, blackened, ugly skewers ruin my photoshoot, so I just slid the chicken off for the camera and dressed it up with how I ate it after it was done; wrapped in a tortilla with rice on the rice. So friggin GOOD.

I’m late to the Fiesta Friday #54 party this week, but that’s okay. Thanks to Angie@TheNoviceGardener for hosting, and  Sonal @simplyvegetarian777 and Josette @thebrookcook for co-hosting.

And HUGE thanks to Marcus for his cookbook, as well as this bomb.com chicken.


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Marcus Samuelsson's Chipotle Chicken

Recipe Courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson

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Ingredients

For the Marinade:

  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup chili sauce
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo (or more to taste)’
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. chile powder

For the Chicken

  • 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 medium red onions, cut through the root into sixths
  • 18 (6 inch) bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh

Directions

1. Make the marinade: Combine all the ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and process until smooth. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if you need to.

2. Make the chicken: Put the chicken into 1-gallon zip-top bag, add 1/2 cup of the marinade and massage to coat all the chicken. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours (or overnight). Reserve the rest of the marinade.

3. Preheat the broiler; if using a gas grill, preheat to medium.

4. While the grill or broiler is heating up, slide 1 piece of onion onto each skewer, followed by 3 pieces of chicken. Continue until you’ve filled all the skewers. Arrange the skewers in a single layer with salt and pepper and brush 1/4 cup of the reserved marinade.

5. Broil the chicken skewers, without turning them, until the chicken is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. If grilling, they’ll take 5 to 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter and garnish with the sesame seeds, cilantro and basil.

6. Bring remaining marinade to a boil in a small saucepan and serve with the skewers.

Sambal Chicken Skewers

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So, I have a confession to make.

I’m a really bad griller. It’s true. If you ask me to grill you something, I am probably, most likely, almost definitely going to mess it up.

I’m sure that the whole thing is probably easy enough to do if you’ve got a gas grill, but we only have a charcoal grill at my house and for the life of me, I cannot keep that thing hot enough to cook the food. Don’t get me started on using smokers and special types of wood and all those other fancy doohickies (did I spell that right? I don’t think I did.)

I remember one Memorial Day a couple of years back where I tried to help my Mom grill. When we couldn’t keep the coals hot enough, we finally got the idea in our heads that we needed something to feed the flames since the coals obviously weren’t cutting it.

Don’t ask why, but for some reason, we decided to go with old newspaper.

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Well, it got the coals hot enough, for sure. It all just started going south AFTER we put the meat on the grill…and the newspaper started flaking and flying up all over the place, sticking to the food.

Good times, Good times.

Long story short, we ended up rinsing off the meat and just finishing it all in the oven and slow cooker that day. But it still served to teach me a very valuable lesson: I’m NOT a griller. At least not now. Maybe one day I’ll just sit down and force myself to learn. I could also just find a guy to date who knows how to do it and just leave all that grilling business to him. Either one would work.

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I say all of this because it’s very frustrating for me when I see or find a recipe that I would reeeeeeeeeally like to try, but it’s supposed to be grilled. My culinary shoulders give a little slump every time I see that and I just think,

“What? It’s supposed to be grilled? But…but…I don’t know how to grill. I suck at grilling. How am I supposed to do make this if it’s supposed to be grilled? No fair!”

Most of the time, I just end up putting said recipes aside for the day that I do end up learning to grill. But not this time. This time, I just couldn’t put it aside. I wanted to make this recipe, darn it. And I didn’t want to let grilling get in the way of me and my food.

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Bon Appetit is such a dangerous website for me. I can browse it for 5 minutes, and suddenly I want to cook absolutely everything I see there. That’s what happened with this recipe. I saw it, and I just knew, people. I knew I had to make this, come hell or high water.

I may not know how to operate my charcoal grill…but my oven? She and I are on very good terms with each other.

I made this recipe work for me, people. And really, I’m so glad I did. Because grill or no grill, it’s really so friggin delicious. The marinade is what really makes the flavors pop. The rice wine vinegar gives a slight tang and acidity to the chicken that is somehow tempered by both the saltiness of the fish sauce and the sweetness of the ginger and brown sugar. The hot chili paste doesn’t bring as much heat as you would think it would- I would describe it more as more of a smoky flavor. The Sriracha is where the heat comes in, sneaking up on you in the back of your throat even after you’ve swallowed the chicken. I’ve eaten a lot of chicken breasts and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy to inject them with much flavor. But this really does do the job.

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I did make some modifications to this recipe for my own purposes: first, I obviously baked them in the oven rather than grilling them. But the original does call for them to be grilled, I can see how they would taste even better if they were. So if you’re good at grilling, then by all means, go for it. Second, rather than just putting the marinade on the meat the same day as cooking, I did let them it sit overnight in the fridge, just to make sure all the flavors would fully permeate. However, if you’re in a hurry this isn’t necessarily mandatory. Third, the original recipe called for you to take the used marinate, bring it to a boil over the stove, then brush it over the finished chicken.

Yeah…I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. I know that boiling the marinade is ‘supposed’ to take the bacteria out of it. But my paranoia and just the idea of eating something that raw, uncooked chicken sat in made me feel queasy. I just re-made the whole marinade and warmed it up over the stove. That way I don’t have to worry that I’ve poisoned myself and my family.

So, Grill. We managed to avoid each other once more. Perhaps we shall meet one day- but that day is not today.

Guys, I give you…Sambal Chicken.

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Sambal Chicken Skewers

Recipe Adapted from BonAppetit.com

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha
  • 2 teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch–2-inch pieces
  • Sesame seeds, optional
  • 8 bamboo skewers soaked in water at least 1 hour

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Whisk brown sugar, vinegar, chili paste, fish sauce, Sriracha, and ginger in a large bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat. Thread 4 or 5 chicken pieces onto each skewer.

3. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and place a wire rack over it. Spray rack with non-stick cooking spray. Lay chicken skewers on rack and bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, until chicken reaches inner temperature of  165 degrees.

4. While chicken is baking,make a second batch of the marinade and warm in a saucepan over the stove.

5. Brush sauce over finished chicken and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Sesame Glazed Sweet Potatoes

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I’ve mentioned to you guys before that when I find a new habit or trend, or something  in general that I like, I will wear it out TO DEATH until I’m either sick of it, or until I find a new something to wear out to death.

Me and my twin sister Jas are really alike in that (among other things: our DNA  also happens to be exactly the same.) Take movies for instance; when we were growing up, we went through a phase where when we found a movie we liked, we watched it every chance we got. I find a new favorite song and it gets put on constant repeat on my iPod . I find a new interesting tv show and will faithfully watch it ever week, or if its old, I will have entire marathons of it on Netflix until I get through it all.

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So far as good goes, I’m on a root vegetable kick right now.  For a long time, I’ve just always wanted to eat a side of root vegetables with my dinner. Mostly it’s been a mix between rutabagas and sweet potatoes. I can decide which I like more honestly. Although it may not seem like it, rutabagas too have a unmistakable sweetness to them that’s so clearly highlighted when they’re roasted. If you guys don’t believe me, then you should try this recipe for Herb Roasted Rutabaga that I posted a few weeks ago- if you’re not typically a fan of them, I promise you: I’m going to make you a ‘believer’ with 2 rutabagas, and a handful of dried herbs. Because I’m a miracle worker….okay not really, but I am a pretty good cook 😉

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 I’m experimenting with different recipes to mix things up so that I don’t get too bored. After all, variety’s the spice of life. Right now, this is my new sweet potato recipe that I’m really fond of.  Trust me, it tastes every bit as good as it looks.

I never would have thought initially to apply Asian style flavors to sweet potatoes. But let me tell you guys, it REALLY works. The saltiness of the soy sauce is perfect with the sweetness of the honey as well as the natural sweetness of the potatoes. The sesame seeds give it a subtle earthy and almost nutty aftertaste. I served them with a chicken stir-fry that I made my family for dinner ( the recipe and pics are very soon to follow).

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Random/Embarrassing Fact: About a year ago, I was on another carrot/sweet potato kick and I ate so many of them that I LITERALLY started turning orange. Seriously. I’m not joking. I went into my doctor for a general check up and she literally gasped and asked what happened to me. I didn’t notice until I stood under a fluorescent light in her office and held out my hands: my palms were the color of a carrot. My skin is naturally kind of yellow, so…suffice to say it just wasn’t a good look. I had no idea that consuming too much Vitamin A (which is dominant  in carrots and sweet potatoes) can do that. Now I do. So as delicious as these sweet potatoes are, I do try to be a little more careful to not make them take up the most space on my plate.

I try. I may not always succeed. Try this recipe and you’ll definitely understand why.

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Sesame Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Recipe Courtesy of Cookstr.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  •  5 orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (yams), peeled
  •  2 tbsp olive oil
  •  Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  •  2 tbsp sesame seeds
  •  1 tbsp honey
  •  1 tbsp soy sauce

 Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

2. Cut the potatoes into large chunks and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and season with salt and pepper.

3. Roast the potatoes for 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until almost tender.

4. Mix together the sesame seeds, honey, and soy sauce. Pour  over the sweet potatoes, and toss.

5. Roast 20 minutes more, or until well glazed and tender.

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Sticky Hoisin Chicken

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Throwing the word ‘sticky’ in front of just about any food has the potential to boost its appeal up by approximately 45%.

It’s true. Well…sort of. I kinda made that up. Just a little. Okay, so I made up the whole 45% thing.  But not because I don’t think it’s true, because I definitely could believe that it is. Think about it- foods that are sticky are usually the the types of things that make little messes on our fingers and lips that are good for us to lick and smack up to the last drop. We don’t care if they  make a mess- we’re willing to get down and dirty to enjoy them.

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Some of my favorite sticky foods consist of Snickers candy bars, crunchy peanut butter, honey, syrup, Rice Krispie Treats, caramel, sour gummy worms, sticky buns, Gushers (do they even still make those?), pecan pie-

I can definitely keep going, but you guys get the point.

One thing that I noticed about all those things though, is that they’re all ‘sweet’ things. But don’t think that my 45% Rule of Sticky Food doesn’t apply to savory food. It definitely does.

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Case in point: this dish. Guys- the word ‘sticky’ doesn’t just boost this chicken’s appeal up by 45%. Try doubling that number. And then some. Forget every takeout dish you ever had at your local Chinese restaurant. They don’t matter anymore. God knows I love chicken, but even this exceeded my expectations.

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For those unfamiliar with it, I always think of Hoisin sauce as the Asian version of ketchup or barbecue sauce. It’s quite sweet, but not quite as cloying as say, plum sauce. It’s my favorite ingredient to use when cooking Asian-inspired dishes, and the best part of it is that it has that ‘sticky sauce’ effect.

This recipe in and of itself didn’t create enough sauce for me, so I decided to tweak it a little bit. After the chicken was done baking, I poured off the excess juices that were in the pan into a saucepan, then I made the recipe for a marinade again and added it to the saucepan over high heat with about a tablespoon of corn starch. I let it cook until it began to bubble and thicken to that lovely, sticky consistency I was looking for. After it cooled down, I poured it over the finished chicken.

And voila. Sticky Hoisin Chicken. It was thoroughly enjoyed by yours truly and her family with these Baked Egg Rolls, but it would also go well with Low Carb Lo Mein Noodles. Or by itself- that would work too.

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Sticky Hoisin Chicken

Recipe Courtesy of Oprah.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine or white wine
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 12 small cloves)
  • 4 bone-in skin-on chicken breasts halves (about 3 pounds)

Directions

1. In a large bowl, combine hoisin sauce, wine, ketchup, soy sauce and garlic.

2. Trim chicken breasts of any excess fat and place in bowl. Toss to coat and place in refrigerator to marinate, about 10 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350°. Cover a jelly roll pan with foil; arrange chicken skin side up, spooning marinade on top. Bake until juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a breast reads 170°, 40 to 50 minutes.

 Transfer chicken to a platter; serve warm or at room temperature.

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