Friday, August 20, 2010

Honeyed Chicken Diable

For our first venture into the fast-paced world of dinner-blogging, we wanted to do something grandiose. Something with panache and flair, that dripped style and class. The sort of meal that royalty might dine on, if they were feeling particularly ostentatious.

Then we realized that it was already past dinner time, we were short on groceries, tired and too hungry to be particularly picky. In other words, it was a week night. Suddenly, our search through the recipe pile became just slightly less centered on things that would be fascinating to write about and photograph and fawn over, and a liiiittle bit more (read as: "entirely") focused on things that could quickly be turned into a meal from the few ingredients we had on hand. We might decide to really branch out and try something exotic at a later date. Tonight, we dine on inexpensive, expedient simplicity!

To that end, what better place to look than one of our many new-found 'magical' microwave recipes? After a few minutes spent poring over these weathered tomes of wisdom and unintentional humor ("Have you every tried 'TOFU?'"), we found just what we were looking for: a five-ingredient recipe that boasted a cooking time of less than half an hour.

The original recipe:
Honeyed Chicken Diable
(Found in Wave Lengths Vol 2, No. 9 Jan 1980)
  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1/2 c mild flavored honey
  • 1/4 c prepared mustard
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 (3 lb.) fryer chicken, cut into servings pieces
In a 8 x 12 inch microwave-proof dish microwave the butter on High for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in the honey, mustard, and curry powder. Place the chicken, skin side down, in the dish with thicker portions toward the outer edge of the dish. Microwave on High for 21 minutes (7 minutes per pound). After 14 minutes rearrange chicken and turn each piece. Baste with sauce. Allow chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4.

It sounded fairly solid right off the bat, but there were a few revisions we felt could be made without turning it into a completely different meal. First off, the butter... outta there. There are plenty of recipes where it's integral and just can't be avoided, but we really didn't get the sense that this was one of them, so it got the axe. We didn't happen to have a whole chicken just lying around, but we did have a pound of boneless/skinless breasts ready to go. Next, we found that there was a box of bread crumbs left over from some previous night's meal, and the more we thought about it, the better it sounded to do some lightly-breaded chicken strips, as opposed to the baked chicken breasts we normally end up making. Finally, we discussed it, and came to the conclusion that neither of us had a particularly warm and fuzzy feeling about how well breaded chicken strips would turn out in the microwave. It seemed that despite being a miracle of modern science and all, the microwave just wasn't going to be a fit for this recipe as much as the good, old-fashioned oven. So, essentially we kept the sauce (mostly), and the chicken (somewhat) from the original recipe.
Pictured: something we just don't feel too comfortable microwaving.
Our revised recipe:
Honeyed Chicken Diable Strips
  • 1 lb chicken breast, cut into strips
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup mild flavored honey
  • 1/4 cup prepared mustard
  • 1/2 tbsp curry powder
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together honey, mustard and curry powder in a small bowl. Coat chicken in sauce then cover lightly in bread crumbs. Arrange on a foil lined cookie sheet.  Bake for approx. 12 minutes on each side.

Nothing says 'gourmet' like Food Club brand mustard.
That's past its date. By... almost a year. Yikes!
[Edit: It's been brought to my attention that it
is, in fact, NOT 2011. Heh. "Yikes," indeed.]
The sauce turned out to be just fine without the butter, and the slightly thickened consistency made it perfect for holding the bread crumbs in place. It's a pretty straightforward honey-mustard flavor, but the curry gives it a wee kick. We already upped the curry content slightly in our version, and I'd personally consider using quite a bit more in the future, or toss in some chili powder (or perhaps cayenne pepper) to spice it up a bit more. As it stands, the honey does a solid job of balancing the spice and flavor, so even if you're not a fan of curry, don't summarily exclude it. The light breading further dialed down the intensity of the flavor, so we made some extra sauce for dipping, and it turned out to be just right.

J-"Is it food yet?" T-"No. Go sit down."
"Yes... now it's food."

While the chicken was going, we decided to whip up some quick and easy potatoes to round out the meal, so we took three potatoes, rinsed and peeled, then thinly sliced, and put them in a dish. Next, we put a bit of extra virgin olive oil, and a hearty helping of Cavender's seasoning. For the olive oil, we didn't measure it exactly, but you'll want to put just enough to get a thin coat on all of the slices to make the seasoning stick and keep them from burning. Too much, and they'll quickly end up being very oily. Just use your best judgment, and it'll be fine.

I don't particularly remember using that mutant
potato on the left, but apparently we did.
As far as the Cavender's seasoning is concerned, we've also made these with seasoned salt, garlic powder and black pepper, and it turned out well.

By the time we were done prepping the potatoes, it was time to flip the chicken strips over, so we just covered the potatoes in foil, and put them in the oven when we put the chicken back in. We ended up leaving them in the oven for a little bit after the chicken was done. The cooking time on the potatoes is somewhat subjective: if you want them on the crispier side, you're obviously going to want to leave them in for a bit longer. We took them out when they were still somewhat soft, and I think it ended up being about twenty minutes total time in the oven.

The verdict:
Overall, it turned out well! The curried honey chicken nuggets were tasty, fast, and provided a slightly different take on some pretty standard fare, and the potatoes did an admirable job of complementing the chicken. The prep and cook times were fairly minimal, the ingredients weren't extensive, and the result was solid. It's not something we'd make for guests, but it definitely hit the spot for a Thursday night at home.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

From My Grandmother's Kitchen

My wife and I recently inherited a vast wealth of recipes gathered by my mother, her mother, and God-only-knows how many ancestors prior. Flipping through these, we were amused by some (there's an entire stack of texts that treat the microwave oven like some inscrutable magic food-creation device sent to us from the heavens), but overall, we were left marveling at the fact that every single generation that had proceeded us hadn't keeled over at the ripe old age of thirty-two from massive cardiac episodes. It seemed as though most of them were designed specifically to be as artery-clogging as possible, and as we scanned through the massive smorgasbord of caloric debauchery, I found myself creating a mental checklist of the ones we'd never use. "Woah, I'm not about to fry that in that after soaking it in that," I'd scoff, then, "Hah! No thanks, I'd prefer to stave off Diabetes for at least another week or two," and then, choking down my shock and dismay, "Where do you even buy that much lard without a special permit?!"

Now, I'm aware that a lot of this can be chalked up to some of the following points of Grandma-fact:
  1. Grandma didn't know that putting a pound of anything in something probably wasn't particularly the healthiest of choices.
  2. They didn't have all this fat-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, no additives, carb-free, vegan, organic-tofu-soy-half-caf-no-foam-light-whip nonsense when she was young, and she turned out just fine, thank you very much!
  3. Butter makes things taste good.
  4. Back then, people got plenty of incidental, daily-routine, exercise besides just walking to the kitchen.
...and while that may all be true, we don't see any particularly compelling reason not to use the years of culinary progress that have been made since then to tip the scales (no pun intended, of course) in our favor by cutting some of those unnecessary fats and calories from these recipes.

In that spirit, we'll be culling through our mountains of recipes, and cooking them with an eye on keeping them a little bit healthier as needed. Some of them, it turns out, are already pretty lean, so we'll just tweak them here and there to suit our personal tastes. Either way, we'll post the original recipe, our revisions to it, then whip up a batch (or plate, or pot, or what-have-you), and let you know how it goes.