Weeknight Cooking: Down-and-Dirty Chicken Stir Fry and (Leftover) Fried Rice

A few weeks ago, my parents went on a weekend jaunt to Pennsylvania.  They had a grand time and brought back some neat swag, while my sister and I minded the house and the animals like the good offspring we are.

Or something similar.

When they got back, as is tradition, we got the rundown of the trip’s events.  Last year, when they went to Chicago, my mom opened up the map of the L and pointed out all the stations they’d stopped at; no luck this time, since PA’s not so big into mass transit.

(Damn.)

It’s all really interesting, really.  Case in point, I learned that the Yuengling brewery has always been family-run, and rather than just passing the company from generation to generation, anyone who wants to take over has to buy it at full market value.

Also that their current brewmaster is a lady; props to ladybrewers.  (Soon, I will join your ranks.  Soon.)

Also that during Prohibition, they kind of just said “fuck it” and made ice cream.

(See!  You just learned three things about Yuengling that you didn’t know when you started reading this post.  How do you feel?)

But for all that their stories are interesting, and that I like hearing about the things they ate and the places they went and the things they did, every time they get home I’m just sitting there, trying to be excited about all of these things, and thinking “goddamn it, why don’t I get to go anywhere fun?”  They’ve been taking these little weekend trips since like my sophomore year of college, with increasing frequency in the past few years, and goddamn it I’m jealous.  I want to take time off and go do fun things just because I can.

My dad said “so…do it?  Just go somewhere for the day.  Nobody’s saying you can’t.”

Fine.  Touché, papabear.

There’s an interesting downturn to the trip; when my mom got back to work on Monday, she learned that Stephen King had flown out of the airport on one of the days she took off.  And she tried the leftovers of this stir fry; taste-bud-lust ensued.

Down-and-Dirty Stir Fry and (Leftover) Fried Rice

Ooh! A recipe two-fer!

Quick Chicken Stir Fry

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 pound thawed frozen vegetables (plus whatever you have leftover in the crisper)

Cooking Directions

  1. Thaw your chicken and cut it into 3/4″ chunks. Toss it in a large bowl with the flour, ginger, garlic, salt, and sesame seeds.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the soy sauce, sriracha, hoisin, sesame and chili oils, lemon juice, and remaining salt and ginger.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken for just under thirty seconds, then add about two tablespoons of the sauce mixture. Toss to coat, then cook two to three minutes more.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and add the vegetables plus another tablespoon of the sauce. Let cook until the vegetables have heated through and gotten a good sauce coating. The remaining sauce can be served on the side for anyone who wants a little extra.

Fried Rice

Ingredients

  • 2 cups leftover cooked white rice
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • cooking oil

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots; cook until just softened, about four minutes.
  2. Push the vegetables to the side and add another teaspoon of oil to the center of the pan, then add the rice and ginger. Stir to combine.
  3. As the rice browns, keep stirring and adding oil as necessary to keep it from sticking or going soft. When the rice has just started to brown, kick the heat up to high and add the soy sauce; stir, and once the sizzling has gone down reduce the heat to medium. Cook until crisp.  (Note: you’ll need way more oil than you ever thought you would, so be prepared.)


Eating around the Web This Week:

What’s cookin’ in all y’all’s kitchens this week?

Advertisements

Weeknight Dinner: Parmesan Chicken and Mad Sprouts, Y’all

Mama and I were working on the shopping list for this week and she jotted tonight’s dinner down as “chicken Parmesan .  I had to make her cross it out; don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea about what it is we’re having for dinner.

(I can’t explain how much my sister/papabear love chicken parm.  Every time someone suggests it they both ask what it actually entails to clarify, too, which– it just doesn’t compute to me.  But they’re both huge fans.)

Nope.  Parm chicken =/= chicken parm.

See?

See?

I guess the concept’s pretty much the same, though.  They’re like..dish cousins.  Like Who, What, When, Where, Why, and their cousin How.

(That was totally a thing when I was in first grade.  Thanks for the memories and the excellent fun playing with words, Mrs Shyer.)

The recipe itself is actually pretty straightforward; I’m sharing more for the breading tips, which are numerous per usual.

Y’all should know how I feel about breading by now.  If you missed it, I’ll catch you up: breading is one of my favorite things.

There is no such thing as loving mise en place too much, honest

There is no such thing as loving mise en place too much, honest

Just a quick rundown of everything you see here, and then we’ll get started: chicken (probably a given), flour, panko (or the breadcrumbs of your choice), Parmesan cheese and/or whatever it is you’d like to mix in with the breading.

Also eggs.  Eggs are pretty important.

1. Prep your Breading

This is easy.  Dump out about 2 cups of breadcrumbs into a bowl and wait for me to blow your mind with the next instruction:

mix it with your flavoring.

Crazy.

Crazy.

I’m using Parmesan cheese and some various green spices (oregano and parsley, plus a little salt and pepper).  Shake the bowl around a little bit; it’s a proven fact that shaking a bowl is the most effective AND the most fun way to mix dry ingredients.  Whisking be damned.

2. Make an Assembly Line

My mom asked if I really needed to use this many pie plates.  ALWAYS, mama.

My mom asked if I really needed to use this many pie plates. ALWAYS, mama.

And be fussy about how you do it; I can’t sell that point enough.  I used to look at this whole setup and think “yeah, that makes sense, but who wants to put that much effort into their breading?”

The answer is you.  You do.

And you do want to use pie plates; the high sides keep things from sloshing over, and the wide surface area lets you make sure everything gets covered.

3. Bread

Just to head y’all off with another tip: you do want to use tongs for every step after flour.  Otherwise your hands will be a disgusting mess and you will hate everything and/or get lots of egg in your breading and vice versa.

First, drop your chicken in the flour and flip to coat.

Parm Chicken - floured

This gives the chicken a protective crust to keep the moisture in, and also gives the egg and breading something to stick to that isn’t slippery bird goo.

Next, into the egg.

Parm Chicken - egged

..so that the breading will have something to stick to that isn’t dry floury bird.

And finally, into the breading.

..because it’s delicious.  Did you need an explanation?

Parm Chicken - broiled

And from there you just cook as planned.  These puppies got baked and finished with a broil for crust color, but do what you like.  It probably wouldn’t hold up to a deep fry so well, but a pan fry would hold it nicely.  And like my frying steps, it’s easily adapted to other meat products and/or foodstuffs.  Eggplant is the one that comes to mind, but I’m sure you could use it on a whole host of things.

This special weekday edition of how-to brought to you by the fact that dinner was otherwise too basic to post a recipe!  I’ll make up for it over the weekend, I promise.

How To: Make the best fried chicken. Ever.

I don’t know if I ever mentioned this here, but: true story, deep frying is my super power.

Most niche super power ever, I know.

Here’s an example of a scenario that actually happened, in case you don’t believe me: my mom begged me for the looongest time to tell her what I put in my onion ring batter to get them super fluffy and wonderful, and after an age I caved and told her.  But using the same batter, under the same conditions, with the same tools, mine still had more puff and crunch to the batter coating.  And no one can explain why.

I should get a cape, or something.

But with great power comes great responsibility (I was visited by the cliche fairy this morning) and I’ve decided that it’s my responsibility to try and share my skills with the world.  And so I present to you, Bee’s guide to the Best Fried Chicken.  Ever.

STEP ONE: Brine.

Salty chicken water, my favorite.

Salty chicken water, my favorite.

Want to know how to keep chicken moist?  You brine.  Mix up a quarter cup of table salt and two cups of water until the one dissolves into the other, and then sit your chicken pieces down in it and let them take a nice, long, salty bath.

I like to let mine sit for abooout a day; this round they sat in the fridge from about 5 AM to 5 PM, but I have done more and I have done less and my chicken still stays moist.  Tip for if you’re crunched for time: poke holes in your chicken with a fork.  (You don’t need to go more than a quarter inch deep.)

Before you fry, make sure you rinse the chicken and drain it.  Well.  Patting it dry may also be something you consider.

STEP TWO: Batter.

This batter works for everything, fyi.  You name it, this batter makes the perfect coating for when you inevitably decide to fry it.

The beer is not optional.

The beer is not optional.

It’s also really, really easy.  1 cup flour, 1 cup cornstarch, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and whatever spices you want on your chicken/fryable foodstuffs (I went simple today; paprika, black pepper, and salt).  Whisk it up a little, and then dump in some of that beer we talked about (you need it for the fluff and the body; club soda just doesn’t cut it).

Those bubbles are a very good thing.

Those bubbles are a very good thing.

I never, ever measure on this part.  You want to wind up with something the approximate consistency of pancake batter, so just kind of…pour and mix until you get that.  I don’t know how else to explain it.  This time I used the entire can of Yuengling; I usually use bottled Sam’s, though, and wind up with a quarter left to drink.  Who knows?

STEP THREE: Pre-Fry and Fry

Start with a biiig Dutch oven (if you haven’t noticed by now, I really really love cooking in Dutch ovens; they’re maybe the most useful things, ever.  And cast iron cooks better than anything else).  Fill it about two inches deep with the oil you’ve chosen to fry with (canola, vegetable, peanut, whatever you’re using) and crank your burner to heat it up.

You’ll hear it when it’s ready.  But if you’re keen on having a specific temperature guideline, shoot for the territory around 350.

Whoops!  I forgot the flour on this batch.

Whoops! I forgot the flour on this batch.

Now move to that that nice, dry chicken of yours.  Coat it very lightly in flour, and get ready for the messy part: battering.

(Using tongs will help, a little.  But after a few dips the batter on the tongs will cook, so you have to keep cleaning them in between dips.)

Dunk your chicken/fryables into the batter, turn to coat, and then plunk ’em right down in the oil that you were heating this whole time.   (Make sure they’re in a single layer and not touching each other, that’s pretty important.)  Turn the heat down to medium and let those babies sizzle.

Cooking time will obviously vary depending on the size of your pieces.  Onion rings take about three minutes, total.  Whole breasts will take about six or seven a side.  I cut these breast pieces into thirds, and wound up with about five for the first side and four for the reverse.  This is another one of those experience-tells-me-when-its-done-and-therefore-times-are-for-lesser-fryers situations, but I tried to keep an estimate in my head for y’all.

When everything looks nice and crispy, yank ’em, let ’em drip, and set them on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet to let any extra oil drip off.  You’ll want to keep them in the oven if you’re doing a second batch (300 will be good to keep ’em warm).

PART FOUR: Filling Your Stomach

How's that for a slice of fried gold?

How’s that for a slice of fried gold?

I don’t think I need to tell you how to do this part.  My only tip is to try not to cram it all down your throat at once; choking is something that no-one likes.

Mostly: enjoy your moist, better-than-sin fried chicken!  The beer is optional this time around, but really, what is fried chicken without it.

Question Time: any cooking super-powers in the house?

Weeknight Dinners: Chicken Cacciatore

I think I’m getting lazy with weeknight dinners this past week.  They’ve all been so low-maintenance, it’s killing me a tiny, tiny bit.

Alternate explanation is that I’ve been incredibly tired and work has been a raging pile of grr, but that would be rational.  We don’t do that here.

I got home super late yesterday (between sweating all of my stress out at the gym, not being able to buy stamps again because my boss is the male equivalent of a bimbo, and talking to my old coworkers at the library (and maybe getting my old job back part time!)) it was like quarter to 4 by the time I got home.  Which obviously meant my mom was freaking out about how long dinner would take.

(By freaking, I really mean ‘inquiring insistently’.   Pardon my hyperbole, mama.)

The greens just want to assert their awesome presence, don't mind them.

The greens just want to assert their awesome presence, don’t mind them.

Dinner was really, really cooperative in that, at least: chicken cacciatore, with last week’s leftover polenta and pan-roasted broccoli rabe.  Yum.

Notice a trend with the meals-that-stick-to-your-ribs thing?  It’s something I do until I can walk comfortably outside without a coat.  Every day of winter before that is fair game for hot, hearty dinners that could feed starving families, as far as I’m concerned.

First order of business was to get my shit together.  Yeah, this stuff cooks for an hour and it’s fine, but the original recipe says ‘cook for an hour preferrably more‘.  That’s a real deadline, right there.  I only had barely over an hour.

Preparation is the key to success, or something.

Preparation is the key to success, or something.

Which included minor butchering.

Using the big girl knives!

Using the big girl knives!

The rest of it fell together pretty easy, and smelled deeeelicious.

Crispy skin, all day.

Crispy skin, all day.

Best tasting mushrooms, ever.  Arguably also the best looking, but I won't fight you as hard on that one.

Best tasting mushrooms, ever. Arguably also the best looking, but I won’t fight you as hard on that one.

And I swear to you, this sauce was the single easiest thing to assemble.  Ever.

Tomato paste in a tube is your absolute best friend.  Forever.  Forget your real friends and just get this.

Tomato paste in a tube is your absolute best friend. Forever. Forget your real friends and just get this.

..and into the oven it went.  Which gave me time to work on my sides: that nice rabe (with a little bit of leftover spinach) and crispy fried polenta.

Pre-fried.  Really weirdly Jell-o like on the bottom, too.

Pre-fried. Really weirdly Jell-o like on the bottom, too.

Once the chicken was out of the oven (an hour and fifteen, take THAT, recipe!) it was time to nom.  About damn time.

Be still, my watering taste buds..

Be still, my watering taste buds..

Mine!  Mine mine mine!

Mine! Mine mine mine!  This plate is actually mine, and I’m so proud.

My only regret: I didn’t thicken the tomato sauce after it had a chance to bake with the chicken, so it wound up a lot more brothy than I might have liked.  A quick slurry would have fixed it, but it was one of those “I am getting hangry I do not care at this point” kind of deals, since daddy and sister were punching holes in my neatly constructed dinner schedule.

As they do.

Chicken Cacciatore
adapted from Food 52

Ingredients

  • chicken breasts, skin on and halved widthwise
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 medium carrots chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 cups tomatoes, chopped fresh or canned
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 1 teaspoon each thmye and sage

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add enough oil to sear the chicken and brown in batches, skin-side down, until all sides have been crisped. Remove and set aside.
  3. Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook until all sides have browned. Add the 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and cook until all liquid has evaporated. Remove and set aside.
  4. Add the chopped onions, a pinch of salt, and about another half-teaspoon of oil. Cook until soft, then add the carrots and cook briefly. Add the tomato paste, black pepper, and red pepper and saute briefly, then add the tomatoes and remaining 1 cup red wine vinegar. Mix and bring to a simmer.
  5. Toss the spices with the mushrooms and return them to the pan, then add the chicken– nestle them down into the tomato and vegetable mixture, but don’t submerge them. Cover and transfer into the oven.
  6. Let cook at least one hour or until sauce has begun to reduce. If sauce is still thin, remove chicken and whisk in a slurry of 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of cold water.

What’s your biggest cooking regret from the week (so far)?

Weeknight Dinners: Grilled Lemon(y) Chicken

I so, so badly wanted to make a Lemony Snicket joke, but I couldn’t think of a way to mesh the words “Snicket” and “chicken” seamlessly enough.  So many regrets.

Know what I don’t have any regrets over, though?  This chicken.  This delicious, very pro-spring chicken.

(See, that’s sort of a half pun.  I’ll take it.)

One of these days, the winning prettiest plate will actually be mine.

One of these days, the winning prettiest plate will actually be mine.

Technically, not a weeknight dinner: it was Saturday’s.  But it’s easy enough to be a weeknight dinner, so I’m cheating and using it as one.

You won’t tell the Blog Police, will you?

We decided on a grilled roaster, which I seasoned with coriander, lemon zest, and pepper.  Butter, quartered lemon slices, and fresh cilantro were all stuffed under the skin– and let me tell you, those lemon pieces were the best idea ever.

Baawk baaawk, says the tasty bird.

Baawk baaawk, says the tasty bird.

I taught my mom what “spatchcocked” means this weekend.  And then I kept saying it, because I like the word.

Spatchcocked.

Spatchcocked.

I’ll stop now.

Vegetables: how do I love thee, let me count the ways...

Vegetables: how do I love thee, let me count the ways…

Sides were standard issue; oven-roasted asparagus and lemon brown rice.

Which got suuuper lemony.  Note to Self: do not put the lemon in quite so early next time.

Crispy skin!  Lemony finish!  Nothing not to love.

Crispy skin! Lemony finish! Nothing not to love.

When the chicken came off the grill, it got a second spice with more fresh cilantro, lemon juice, and olive oil.  Perfection.

Grilled Lemon Chicken

Ingredients

  • whole roaster, backbone removed
  • 1 lemon, zested and halved
  • 4 tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Cooking Directions

  1. First, prepare your chicken: cut the butter into small pats and tuck under the skin. Follow with half of the chopped cilantro. Finish by tucking in quartered lemon slices (cut from one of your lemon halves). Starting with the cut-side, rub the bird with the coriander, black pepper, and lemon zest.
  2. Next, grill: cook the chicken about 20 minutes each side. Keep an eye out for flames licking at the bird.
  3. Then, put together your marinade: whisk together the juice from the second lemon half, the remaining cilantro, and a pinch of kosher salt. While whisking, drizzle in the olive oil. Brush over the chicken right off the grill and let rest 2-5 minutes before serving.

What’s your preferred way to prep a bird– or do you have a cooking technique that you just love talking about?  

(Spatchcock.  Really, I’ll stop.)

Weeknight Dinners: Arroz con Pollo

I am not a Wednesday person.  I used to love Wednesdays; Wednesdays meant the week was halfway over, Friday was on the horizon, and the weekend was looming right after that.

Now, Wednesdays mean I have to work late, which means cooking is always a tight squeeze.  Grump grump.

Tonight was made particularly sticky by the fact that my sister’s shifts got screwed up (boo), and my dad was working late (double boo)– but that all added up to something that was wonderful, against all odds.

I’ll be frank: I got extra time to cook.  Which means I could make that most beautifully time-consuming delicious pot of Spanish goodness that is arroz con pollo.

arroz con pollo

This is one of my family’s (and mine!) favorite recipes, snatched shamelessly from an episode of America’s Test Kitchen (because Chris Kimball knows what’s up).  It’s rich, it’s loaded with vegetables, and it’s an excellent go-to one-pot dinner– except for the fact that it takes a lot of time and in my experience an acute awareness of said time, it’s pretty much perfect in every way.

Did I also mention it’s delicious?  Because it is.  We fight over the leftovers.

First, the chicken gets marinaded in vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano.

arroz con pollo: marinade

Next, prep everything else.  This is vital for making arroz con pollo when you’re on a wacky schedule; make sure everything is ready so you’re not running around trying to chop pimientos while your rice is burning away in the oven.

YUM

YUM

Here’s where I got to wait and do work-things.  5-5:30, best half hour of my lifeee–

–okay back to cooking.  Chicken gets seared, and the vegetables sautéed.

IMG_0056IMG_0062

Add liquid and simmer; add rice, and hit the toasty oven.

I love that container now, but it used to scare the pants off me.

I love that container now, but it used to scare the pants off me.

IMG_0084

Once that cooks forever, you get to do my favorite part– pulling apart the chicken!

Forks are your friend.

Forks are your friend.

Toss the chicken with pimientos and more cilantro than your body has room for, and you’re all set to eat your heart out.

IMG_0100No recipe tonight because tired pup is tired.  It might make its way up here if I feel motivated tomorrow, but just google around a little bit for the ATK arroz con pollo recipe.  I added celery tonight and did things a little out of order; the results were awesome, but the base recipe is just as delicious as is.

/shrug

 Follow my blog with Bloglovin