Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Grilled Chicken Week

     This week came about because we are trying to be healthier; like everyone else, when aren't we? Grant wanted to do something a little simpler, well, wanted ME to do something simpler for dinners, like grilled chicken. I was totally up for that, but of course, I couldn't just make the same recipe every night, I had to find some fun recipes that were also easy-ish and not defeat the whole purpose of the plan.

     I found some recipes online in various places and the result was pretty awesome! These recipes are originally for various amounts, and different types of chicken. I have changed each recipe for our liking: dinner for two. You may also click on the link to each recipe to see any changes I've made to the recipe or to the amounts.

     A friend gave me some pretty good tips for grilling chicken, so I thought I'd just do an introductory post to explain the specifics of how I'll be grilling the chicken so I won't need to do it for each post.

Grilling Tips:

1. I'm using medium sized chicken breasts which are about the size of my palm (roughly 6 inches long). And I'll be grilling them for approx. 6-7 minutes on each side. If you have larger ones, you'll need closer to 10 minutes per side.

2. Preheat grill on high. Then when you're ready to put the chicken on, turn down to med-low.

3. Spritz the grate with cooking spray several times so you're chicken is less likely to stick (Don't just spray the whole thing b/c you'll get major flare ups, just spritz it). Also, many people dip a paper towel in olive oil and using tongs, brush the grate with the paper towel. I myself haven't used this method, but most recipes will have you do this. I just find it easier to use Pam.

4. Place your chicken on the grill. If you want to give it that extra punch of prettiness, put it at an angle so you'll get cool grill marks. I place the large side of the breast closer to the middle of the grate since it's thicker and will need more time to cook. Close the lid and walk away.

5. Look at your watch (clock on your cell phone) and check the time so you know EXACTLY when to come back and check the chicken.

6. Flip your chicken to the other side. Close the cover, walk away again. Again, check your watch.

7. If basting, here's where you wanna do it. One thing I've learned is that if you put your chicken on the grill with a very sugary sauce on it (BBQ), it will be more likely to burn and char. You might like that, my husband, however, does not. It is better for me to wait and put it on the chicken at the end and cook the chicken for another minute to adhere the sauce to the chicken.

8. Plate your chicken and take it inside and let it rest for 5 minutes to allow the juices to settle. If you cut right into it, all the juices will flow out of your chicken leaving you with dry chicken, and no one ever said "MMM" while eating a dry piece of chicken. Never. Don't do it. You'll be tempted... but you'll be mad at yourself.

A lot of people have been requesting these recipes.
Here are some pictures of this weeks dishes:

Day Four: Mustard Grilled Chicken with Creamy Polenta

     I was blown away by this dish. First off, I don't like dijon mustard. Second, I've never cooked with polenta before, nor mascarpone cheese. I was in for a real treat with this one! I was so pleasantly surprised by this recipe! My husband and I both really enjoyed this one; I'll definitely be making this again! 

     The one thing I'll do differently next time is to actually get quick cooking polenta. Since I'd never cooked with polenta before, I had no clue that it came in any other way than what I'd already seen before: a tube. So, a tube I used. Now, don't get me wrong... it was extremely delicious; but because it was in tube form it was pretty solid, and took quite some time to get it to break down into a smooth consistency. It would just be easier with quick cooking polenta. They also didn't have any plain polenta at the store, so I was forced to use a sun dried tomato flavored polenta; no complaining on this end. I was worried how it would taste combined with the ingredients I was going to add to it, but it was just scrumptious! My husband said the polenta reminded him of corn chowder, which, who doesn't like a thick creamy bowl of corn chowder!? Here I'll explain exactly how I made the polenta, but I would probably use the quick cooking kind next time.
     That, combined with a delicious piece of mustard grilled chicken... just outrageous flavors! I must say that one thing I really liked was that the dijon wasn't overpowering, so if you're looking for very intense mustard flavor, maybe add some dry mustard into the mix. But for me, it was perfect, just mild and tasty! Get ready!

3 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 C dijon mustard
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic (again, I find it easiest to use jarred crushed garlic, about 1 tsp)
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Olive oil
3 C water
1 tube polenta (or get quick cooking polenta and follow the directions on the bag, which I'll do next time)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 ear corn, kernels shaved off
1/2 C mascarpone cheese (this is similar to cream cheese, and typically comes in a container)

In a resealable bag, add scallions, mustard, lemon juice, and garlic and mix. Add chicken to the bag and seal. Refrigerate for 6-8 hours. 

30 minutes before dinner, begin polenta. Bring water to a boil in saucepan. Slice tube of polenta into 1/2 inch chunks and whisk into water. You'll need some muscle for this step. Add salt, sugar, and continue to whisk that polenta until it begins to melt down to a smooth consistency. It will seem to take quite some time, but just stick with it, it'll get there (10-15 min). As it begins to form a smooth consistency, you can decide the texture you want it to be by adding more water. I started out with 2 cups and slowly added more along the way, and ended up with around 3 cups water.

Preheat your grill, lightly spritz grate with cooking spray. Place chicken on grate over med-low heat and grill for 6-7 minutes per side for 6-7 oz medium chicken breasts. Allow chicken to rest for 5 minutes.

Add fresh corn kernels to polenta and cook a few minutes more (5-10 mins). Stir in mascarpone cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. It should now be a creamy chowder type consistency. 

To serve, place chicken breast atop a generous bed of creamy, delectable polenta and enjoy!


Recipe Adapted from: Serious Eats

Day Three: Huli Huli Chicken with Pineapple and Coconut Lime Rice

     Many of the recipes I've chosen to do during this grilled chicken week calls for whole chicken, which I chose not to use, as I'm cooking for only my husband and myself. Therefore, I've adapted the recipes to just using 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts. If you would like to see the recipe for the whole chicken, please see the link at the bottom of the recipes. 

     This Huli Huli chicken is Hawaiian inspired with the pineapple juice and has a good punch from the soy sauce. This is really tasty! I also cut up a fresh pineapple to grill along with the chicken... so scrumptious! You could probably get away with using canned pineapple rings, which I've done in the past, but if you can find fresh pineapple in season, definitely go the extra step with the fresh... totally worth it! I also served this with a coconut lime rice.
     This recipe is a little bit more involved, but not difficult in the least, and definitely worth the extra few steps! The extra steps involve making a brine. More people are familiar with brines now since it's become this huge thing to bring turkeys at Thanksgiving (which if you haven't, you MUST try it! There is absolutely nothing like it! For a wonderful Turkey brine, try Alton Brown's.) For those that are still in the dark about brines, basically it's a flavored liquid that you marinate your lean meats in (it's not technically marinating, but we'll just use that word for now), in order to create more moist and flavorful meat. Usually, most brines will include water, salt, sugar, and other flavoring agents. Your biggest issue with brining is finding a container large enough, but for this recipe, since we're only doing a few chicken breasts, we'll just use a resealable plastic bag. 

2 C cold water
1/2 C soy sauce
1 tsp vegetable oil
1-2 cloves garlic
1 t fresh ginger (I have the jarred ginger, and it makes cooking with ginger much easier)
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

9 oz pineapple juice (I used a pineapple coconut juice)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 T C soy sauce
2 T ketchup
2 T rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic
1 T fresh ginger
1 t Sriracha

1 C dry rice
1 C coconut milk
1 C water
1 lime

1 fresh pineapple, cut into spears*

*Slice the top and bottom off the pineapple, and stand it up. Using a sharp knife, very carefully saw down the pineapple taking the rind off. Go back around, taking any leftover rind off and then slice the pineapple long ways down the middle. Slice each half in half again. Stand each quarter up, and carefully slice the hard core off. Then cut into spears for this recipe, or chunks for salads, stir fry, or snacks. It's kinda difficult at first, but after several tries, it becomes super easy.

For the brine, add vegetable oil to a small saucepan over med high heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add water and soy sauce and stir to combine. Add liquid to a plastic bag and add chicken. Refrigerate for up to 8 hours. (I did this step in the morning, so it was ready to go by dinnertime. 

30 minutes before you are going to eat, prepare your glaze. Combine pineapple juice, sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and Sriracha in small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes, or until thick and syrupy. Remove half of glaze to a separate bowl for serving (This is the step I forgot, and I seriously regret it. Once you put that glazing brush in the bowl and then the chicken, all is lost).

These pictures aren't the best, sorry bout that.

Once you've got your glaze pretty much done, you're ready to start your chicken. Preheat your grill. Lightly spritz the grate with cooking spray, and make sure heat is med-low. Place your chicken on the grate and cook away, undisturbed. For large chicken breasts cook 9-10 minutes on each side; for small-medium (6-7oz) sized breasts, cook 6-7 minutes on each side. Then add your pineapple spears to the grill and watch carefully so they don't burn to a crisp. But definitely get some good color on there and allow them to caramelize a bit.

Now that you put your chicken on the grill, lets get the rice started. For just the hubby and I, I make 1 C dry rice for our dinners. Here's what I did. Heat 1 C coconut milk in saucepan with 1 C water. Add the juice of 1 lime and 1 C rice. Allow to come to a boil and turn down heat to very low. Set that timer for 10 minutes and wait for super delish rice (Time and heat may vary, but I find I get perfect rice on my frustrating stove this way). 

When the rice has started go turn your chicken, and brush some glaze on the top. When the other side has had it's 6-7 minutes, turn the chicken and add more glaze. I let the chicken cook for just another minute or so to let the glaze kinda cook into the meat a bit. Plate your chicken and take it inside with you to rest while you finish up your rice. 

To plate, place pineapple over a bed of coconut lime rice, served alongside chicken. Serve with reserved glaze on the side. Ooh and aah over these delish flavors!

Recipe Adapted from: Serious Eats

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day Two: Greek Chicken with Tzatziki

     We really enjoyed this dish! The flavors were so strong and exotic! It was super flavorful! I served this with Near East's box of Mediterranean couscous and it was just the perfect match for the chicken and tzatziki! I was about to make Mediterranean couscous from scratch, but I just so happened to have a box in my pantry. I will definitely be making this again! Super tasty, and super easy! 

1/2 t turmeric
sea salt
1/4 c Greek yogurt
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
sea salt
Oregano for garnish

Olive Oil
1 red onion, sliced into rings
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper sliced into eighths

Tzatziki sauce:
1 C Greek yogurt
1/8 C fresh dill, chopped
1/8 C fresh mint, chopped
1 lemon, juiced
1/3- 1/2 English cucumber, peeled and finely chopped*

*If using a regular cucumber, make sure to seed the cucumber before dicing.

Combine turmeric and a pinch of salt with the Greek yogurt in a plastic bag. Add chicken and toss to coat. Marinate in refrigerator for 2 hours.

Preheat grill. Spritz grill with Pam and place chicken breast on the grate. For small to medium breasts, grill 6 -7 minutes per side. For large chicken breasts, grill for 9-10 minutes per side.

Drizzle vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on grill at the same time as chicken and turn with chicken. Watch closely so the vegetables do not burn, but only slightly begin to char; or let them burn, whatever you like!

Start couscous. Make according to box directions. Add ingredients to pot, bring to a boil, add couscous and remove from heat and allow to sit for five minutes before fluffing with a fork.

While chicken is grilling, make tzatziki sauce. Combine yogurt with the fresh dill, mint, lemon juice, cucumber. Season with salt. Refrigerate.

Serve chicken on top of couscous with a dollop of tzatziki sauce. Serve grilled vegetables alongside chicken. Be amazed at your awesome skills!

Recipe Adapted from: Food Network

Monday, July 16, 2012

Day One: Grilled Chicken with Pepper Peach Relish

For the Chicken
1/4 t salt
1/8 t each of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts; roughly 6 oz each

For the Glaze
1/4 C peach preserves
2 T lemon juice
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes

For the Relish
1 medium peach, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 C red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/3 C yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1 green onion (scallion), finely chopped
2 T fresh mint, minced

Prep and Heat the grill to medium.

Combine the spices and rub onto chicken; set aside.

Combine ingredients for glaze; set aside.

Combine ingredients for relish; set aside.

Spray grill lightly with cooking spray (careful with this, spray in spurts so as not to attract huge flareups). [Alt. Using tongs, brush the grate with a paper towel coated in oil].

Place chicken on grill and cover; cook for roughly 6 minutes on each side. Baste frequently with glaze.

Serve with pepper peach relish.

I served this with an orzo side dish.
I cooked 1/2 C of orzo, tossed it with 2 T olive oil, 1 T fresh basil, and some salt and pepper.

     This was pretty delicious. The relish gave this a great pop of flavor. Very simple to make, especially if you make the glaze and relish earlier in the day (which would probably make it more flavorful anyways). I also thought that it might be really good to add some jalapeno to the relish next time I make it. I will definitely make this one again; we both really enjoyed it!