Chicken Caesar Sandwiches

You know how I mentioned I’ve been on a sandwich kick lately?  And also how I love Caesar salad and eat it all the time?  Yeah, I loved this meal.  I’ve had chicken Caesar wraps and sandwiches at various restaurants (and several hospital cafeterias – blech).  None of them were ever worth ordering again, but this version will be making many reappearances in our house.  Ciabatta bread is always my favorite for sandwiches and it is brilliant here.  The original recipe calls for proscuitto but with the anchovy paste in the dressing, the proscuitto pushed the saltiness over the edge for me.  Next time I’ll just use regular or turkey bacon instead.  Also, Ina suggests arugula as the greens on the sandwich.  It seems that arugula and my tummy just do not agree, and every time I eat it I feel queasy almost immediately.  Needless to say, I won’t use that again.  Romaine lettuce makes more sense to me in this context – it is a Caesar sandwich after all.  Whatever personal adaptations you use to help this suit your tastes, give it a try.  If you like chicken Caesar salad, I think you’ll love this.

Chicken Caesar Club Sandwiches
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2 chicken breasts (whole or boneless, skinless)
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large clove garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1-1½ tsp. anchovy paste
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1½ tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup mayonnaise
1 long loaf ciabatta bread, or 4 ciabatta sandwich rolls
Romaine lettuce leaves, washed and dried (or baby spinach or arugula)
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Sliced bacon, cooked until partly crisp

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Lightly rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and season with kosher salt and pepper.  Roast for 30-40 minutes, until cooked through.  Let rest 10 minutes, then slice thickly.  Set aside.

To make the Caesar dressing, combine the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until finely minced, scraping down the sides as needed.  Add the anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice and mayonnaise.  Process until smooth and well blended.  Adjust seasonings to taste if necessary.  Refrigerate the dressing if not using right away.

Slice the bread in half horizontally.   Toast if desired.  Spread both cut sides of the bread lightly with the Caesar dressing.  Layer the bottom half of the bread with the romaine leaves, then top with shaved Parmesan, cooked bacon slices, and sliced chicken.  Top with additional romaine if desired.  Place the top half of the bread on top, enclosing the sandwich fillings.  If using a loaf of ciabatta, slice the assembled sandwich into individual servings.  Serve immediately.

Source: adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

Garlic Lemon Chicken Kabobs

This recipe may look familiar, because I posted it before in the very early months of my blog.  I decided to give it a little revamp because it’s still a favorite meal in our house.  Also, I recently discovered that the combination of these kabobs plus tzatziki sauce is aaah-mazing.  The chicken is quite delicious on its own, but I think tzatziki sauce makes almost everything better.  So in case you have a fantastic meal of chicken gyros and you have leftover tzatziki sauce, don’t let it go to waste.  This quick, simple marinade makes for moist and flavorful chicken and a meal that comes together in no time.

Sometimes I grill veggie kabobs to go alongside the chicken, but this time around I opted for cherry tomato salad.  If you do decide to make veggie kabobs, it is easiest to put the veggies on separate skewers from the chicken pieces so that each can cook separately and the correct grilling time doesn’t have to be a balancing act.  Now that grilling season is getting into gear, this is a staple you’ll be glad to have in your repertoire.

Garlic Lemon Chicken Kabobs
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3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ¾-inch pieces

In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.  Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and mix to coat with the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.

Prepare a medium fire in a grill.  If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 20 minutes before use.

Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers and discard the excess marinade.  Lightly oil the grill grates.  Place the kabobs on the grill, cover, and cook until the chicken is opaque throughout, about 8-12 minutes, turning once or twice during cooking.  Transfer to a warmed platter and serve immediately.

Source: adapted from Williams Sonoma

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

It’s a bit strange that I’ve never posted a chicken fajita recipe before considering just how much I love them.  They are almost always my choice when dining at a Mexican restaurant.  We also make them at home quite frequently, but the kind we used to make was sort of a cheater version that wasn’t even remotely authentic or very similar to the restaurant variety.  The moment I saw this recipe, I knew it was going to blow our old method away.

The chicken is marinated briefly with a mixture including lime juice and Worcestershire sauce, and then cooked on the grill with the onions and peppers.  The combination of marinating and grilling made the chicken amazingly delicious.  In fact, I think Ben’s exact words were, “This chicken is a miracle,” but that might have been the margaritas talking ;).  Even the tortillas themselves are warmed on the grill, giving them nice grill marks and a little extra flavor.  The whole meal was also excellent as leftovers.  I’m already thinking about pulling out the grill in winter to make these because I don’t think I can go for months at a time without them.  In case you’re looking for a way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, look no further!  I can’t wait to have them again.

Grilled Chicken Fajitas
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1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
6 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1½ tsp. brown sugar
1 jalapeño, seeded, ribbed and diced
1½ tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
1 tsp. salt
¾ tsp. pepper
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied (6 halves total), about 1½ lbs.
1 large red onion (about 14 oz.), sliced into ½-inch thick slices, rings not separated
2 large bell peppers (about 10 oz. each), stemmed, quartered and seeded
8-12 (6-inch) flour tortillas

In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, 4 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, jalapeño, cilantro, salt and pepper.  Reserve ¼ cup of the marinade; set aside.  Place the chicken breast halves in the marinade, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.  Brush both sides of the onion rounds and peppers with the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, using a large chimney starter, ignite 6 quarts of charcoal briquettes and burn until the coals are fully ignited, about 20 minutes.  Empty the coals into the grill, spreading them in a single layer.  Place an additional 20 unlit coals over the lit coals on one side of the grill to create a tw0-level fire.  Place the grill grate over the coals and allow to heat for 5 minutes.  Scrape the grate clean with a grill brush.  (For a gas grill, light all burners to high, cover and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes.  Leave one burner on high and turn the rest down to medium.)

Remove the chicken breast halves from the marinade and transfer to the hotter side of the grill; discard the left over marinade.  Place the onion rounds and peppers on the cooler side of the grill.  Cook the chicken until it is well browned, 3-4 minutes.  Using tongs, flip the chicken and continue grilling until it is no longer pink inside (or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center reads 160˚ F.)  Meanwhile, cook onions and peppers until spottily charred and crisp-tender, about 8-12 minutes, turning once or twice as needed.  When the chicken and vegetables are done, transfer them to a large plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

In 2 or 3 batches, transfer the tortillas in a single layer to the now empty grill on the cooler side.  Cook until warm and lightly browned, about 20 seconds per side.  When the tortillas are done, wrap them in a clean kitchen towel or foil.

Separate the onions into rings and place them in a medium bowl.  Slice the bell peppers lengthwise into ¼-inch strips and add them to the bowl with the onions.  Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved unused marinade and toss well to combine.  Slice the chicken into ¼-inch strips and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons of reserved marinade in another bowl.  Arrange the chicken and vegetables on a large platter with the warmed tortillas and serve.

Source: adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles, originally from Cook’s Illustrated

Lemon Chicken

I’m really amazed at how my tastes change with the seasons.  It’s certainly not intentional, but when the weather warms up I’m immediately in the mood for light, spring-inspired fare.  (Likewise, once fall rolls around, I’m all about chili and everything pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin!)  I have started to really enjoy lemon in desserts and baked goods, but I have yet to make many main dishes with lemon as the primary flavor.  The marinade and sauce provide just the right amount of lemon flavor without being overpowering or sour.  My main change was to dial down the amounts of fresh herbs because I thought they seemed a bit too much and I wanted the lemon to shine through.  I served this with baked garlic rice pilaf and roasted broccoli, and we thought the rice was the perfect compliment with its own little hint of lemon flavor.

Lemon Chicken
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2 tbsp. lemon zest
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2-4 lbs. of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or drumsticks
2-3 tbsp. melted butter
Thinly sliced lemons, for garnished

Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper in a large zipper-lock plastic bag.  Seal the bag and shake well to blend.  Place the chicken pieces in the bag with the marinade, pressing out excess air and sealing once more.  Refrigerate and let marinate for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and transfer to a baking dish, skin-side up, reserving the leftover marinade.  Brush the top of each piece of chicken with melted butter.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until the skins are crispy and well-browned.  Halfway through baking, pour the remaining marinade over the chicken pieces in the baking dish.  Once fully baked, cover loosely with foil and let rest 10 minutes before serving.  Transfer to a serving platter, garnish with lemon slices and serve.

Source: adapted from Simply Recipes

Garlic Rosemary Roast Chicken

So here’s the deal – I really want to give you all a week’s worth of Easter-inspired recipes.  But, the thing is, I am just not at all in the mood for the usual Easter foods.  It may be because I’m on call during the actual Easter holiday so I won’t be cooking for it, but I think it’s more an issue of the weather.  Spring has sprung (at least a little), and this has me in the mood for all kinds of fresh, light foods – ham is not one of them.  The whole typical holiday spread just isn’t inspiring me at all this year.  But who says you have to have ham on Easter?  I say make whatever you like.  And what I’ve been making and loving lately is this roast chicken.

To me this seems a more fitting centerpiece for an elegant spring meal, though really it would be great in any season.  It is light, tender, and packed full of flavor.  This recipe involves brining the chicken, which I think makes all the difference in producing a tender and moist meat.  If you’ve previously been intimidated by roasting a whole chicken, don’t be!  It’s really not complicated and the end result is impressive and delicious.  Yes, I get the heebee jeebees wrestling around with the raw chicken while prepping it, but it is totally worth it in the end.  You may notice that the exact time for roasting the chicken isn’t listed below – this is because it is so important to cook the chicken until a thermometer reads the correct temperature.  Simply basing doneness on time is not adequate and unsafe.  For me, it probably took an additional hour after lowering the oven temperature, but it will vary so be sure to check the temperature!

Garlic Rosemary Roast Chicken
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For the brine:
½ cup table salt
10 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cups hot water
1½ quarts cold water

1 whole chicken (3½-4 lbs.), giblets discarded

For the garlic-rosemary paste:
2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/8 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

For the sauce:
10 cloves garlic, unpeeled
½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1¾ cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
½ cup water
¼ cup dry white wine
1 spring fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper, to taste

To prepare the brine, combine the salt, garlic and rosemary in a air-tight plastic bag, sealed with excess air pressed out.  With a meat mallet or a rolling pin, pound the garlic cloves until smashed.  Transfer the mixture to a large Dutch oven, bowl or stockpot.  Stir in the hot water and let stand 10 minutes to release the flavors.  Mix in the cold water and stir to dissolve the salt.  Immerse the chicken in the brine, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.  With an oven rack in lower-middle position, preheat the oven to 450˚ F.  With a rack inside a roasting pan, spray the rack lightly with cooking spray.

To prepare the garlic rosemary paste, combine the rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a small bowl.  Mix well.  Rub 1½ teaspoons of the paste inside the cavity of the chicken.  Gently loosen the skin over the breast and thigh on each side of the chicken.  Divide the remaining paste between the two sides of the chicken, slipping it underneath the skin.  Rubbing over the surface of the skin, distribute the paste over the breast and thigh on each side.  Tie the drumsticks together with kitchen twine.  Brush the surface of the chicken with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil.  Season with freshly ground pepper.  Place the chicken breast-side down in the roasting pan and bake for 15 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, toss the garlic cloves with the oil for the sauce.  After the chicken has roasted for 15 minutes, toss the garlic cloves into the roasting pan and bake for 15 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 375˚ F.  Rotate the chicken so it is breast-side up.  Brush the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil over the breast.  Add 1 cup of the chicken broth and water to the roasting pan.  Return the pan to the oven and continue roasting until the chicken is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast reads 160˚ F.  Transfer the chicken to a large serving platter and cover loosely with foil.

Transfer the roasted garlic cloves to a cutting board.  Pour the liquid from the roasting pan into a liquid measuring cup; let sit a few minutes, then skim the fat off the surface.  You should have about 2/3 cup of liquid (add water if needed).  Peel the garlic and mash the cloves into a paste with a fork.  Combine the roasting liquid in a small saucepan with the mashed garlic, the remaining ¾ cup broth, wine and rosemary.  Heat over medium-high heat until simmering.  Reduce heat and continue to simmer about 8 minutes, until partly reduced.  Discard the rosemary sprig and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste.  Carve the chicken and serve with the sauce.

Source: adapted from The New Best Recipe

Chicken Chili

I know, I know – spring is just around the corner and chili is probably one of the last foods on your radar right now.  The weather has warmed up marginally and we have seen the sunshine again.  However, this chicken chili is worthy of your immediate attention.  Why?  Well for starters, this is the time of year here in Indiana when the weather may seem to be warming up a bit, but there is always at least one more bitter cold spell, and often one more snow still to come.  So when that time comes, this chili will be just the thing to get you through until the spring really arrives.

More importantly, I think I like this chili even better than my old favorite.  That’s really saying something considering just how much I love that recipe.  I can’t even put my finger on exactly what it is that I prefer about this version, but I can tell you that we had this for dinner three nights in a row, as well as a lunch or two, and I was still sad when it was gone.  It wasn’t difficult to throw together, and it’s pretty darn healthy on its own.  Of course I can’t resist eating mine with Fritos…mmmm, delicious!

Chicken Chili
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3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
4 cups chopped yellow onion (2-3 onions)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 bell peppers (I used 1 red, 1 orange and 1 yellow)
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. dried oregano
1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, finely diced
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 (28 oz.) cans whole peeled tomatoes in puree, not drained
2 (15 oz.) cans beans, drained and rinsed (I used 1 can black and 1 can pinto beans)

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Place the chicken breasts on the foil, and season with salt and pepper.  Fold the foil over the chicken breasts to make a “packet”.  Roast 30-40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.  Allow to cool enough to handle, then shred or chop into bite-sized pieces.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Sauté the onions 10-15 minutes, or until tender and translucent.  Add the garlic to the pot and sauté just until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Mix in the chopped bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, oregano, chipotle, and kosher salt.  Cook 5 more minutes.  Place the canned tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse briefly so the tomatoes are cut to large chunks.  Add the tomatoes with the puree to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the shredded chicken and the beans, and allow to simmer for another 20 minutes.

Source: adapted from Pink Parsley Catering, originally from Barefoot Contessa Parties by Ina Garten

Chicken Tequila Burgers

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been all about burgers lately thanks to these fabulous oven fries.  When I saw this recipe for chicken tequila burgers, I knew I would love them.  I love margaritas.  I love grilled tequila lime chicken.  Obviously, I would love this dinner – and I did.  These are easy to make and extremely flavorful.  You can taste the tequila and the lime – not too much, just the right amount.  We simply topped ours with sautéed bell pepper, onion, and lettuce.  If you really need a condiment, I think the cilantro mayo from the salmon burgers would be a nice addition, but I prefer to leave these without a sauce so the flavor of the burger itself really shines through.

The recipe calls for the use of a food processor to pulse the ingredients into a mixture that can be made into patties.  I had never done this before, instead always buying pre-ground chicken.  But with a freezer full of chicken breasts, I decided to give this method a try.  It worked very well and I didn’t have any problems at all.  If you don’t have a food processor, you could just as easily mix in the seasonings to pre-ground chicken and it would work fine.  The patties aren’t quite as sturdy as those made with ground beef, so the use of the broiler is an easy way to get them cooked and nicely browned without too much disturbance.  But really once they started cooking, they firmed up and were easy to flip.  Enjoy!

Chicken Tequila Burgers
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2 cloves garlic, chopped
½-1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 chicken breasts (about 1 lb. total)
3-4 tbsp. cilantro
Zest of ½ a lime
1 oz. tequila
Dash of soy sauce
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
½ cup panko bread crumbs

For serving:
Burger buns
Sautéed bell pepper and onion

Preheat the broiler.  Line a baking sheet with foil and brush lightly with olive oil.  Combine the garlic, jalapeno, chicken breasts, cilantro and lime zest in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse several times until the chicken is uniformly ground.  Mix in the tequila, soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste, and panko.  Pulse a few more times until the ingredients are well blended.

Form the mixture into 4-5 patties and place them on the prepared baking sheet.  Broil the burgers for about 12-15 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking to brown both sides.  Check for doneness before serving.  Serve on buns with sautéed bell pepper and onion, and lettuce as desired.

Source: adapted from Cara’s Cravings

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

I have discussed my love of Caesar salad before.  This is nothing new.  Similar to my penchant for any double/triple chocolate overdose anything, I’ll try almost any variation of Caesar salad, and chances are I’ll be happy with it.  This isn’t the first Caesar recipe I’ve posted, and it probably won’t be the last, but I must say this is my current favorite.  I think Caesar dressings I’ve had in restaurants all lay somewhere on a spectrum.  Some are more of a lighter, oil-based dressing similar to a vinaigrette, while others are creamier (what I consider a more traditional Caesar).

This one is on the creamy side of things, with mayo taking the place of the raw eggs used in a more traditional Caesar dressing.  I’m not against using raw eggs, but I love this version because I can make a batch or two of the dressing and keep it stored in the fridge with no worries.  Making your own croutons is a must – they are so easy, and so delicious.  You can play around with the seasonings to suit your tastes.  I’m embarrassed to admit how often I used to buy the bagged Caesar salad kits, but I’m proud to say I haven’t bought one since discovering this recipe.  This will definitely help save some money in the grocery budget!  This recipe makes plenty of dressing and croutons so you have them leftover for a quick side dish, or another main dish if you add some chicken.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
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For the croutons:
6 slices sandwich bread (or an equivalent amount of baguette slices, about 12-15)
3 tbsp. olive oil OR 3 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried parsley
Kosher salt

For the dressing:
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1-2 anchovies, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the salad:
Romaine lettuce
2-4 chicken breast halves
Shaved Parmesan cheese

To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 300˚ F.  Cut the bread into 3/4-inch cubes and place in a medium-large bowl.  (Trim the crusts off if you wish – I prefer to leave them on.)  Combine the olive oil or butter, garlic powder and dried parsley in a small bowl.  Stir together to blend well.  Pour the mixture over the bread cubes and toss gently until evenly coated.

Transfer the bread cubes to a baking sheet, spreading them out into an even layer.  Sprinkle with kosher salt.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Check to see if the croutons are golden and crisp.  If not, toss lightly and bake up to 15 minutes more.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Transfer to an airtight container until ready to use.

To make the dressing, combine the lemon juice, water, garlic, mayonnaise, Parmesan, anchovies and pepper in the bowl of a food processor or blender.  Blend until well combined and completely smooth.  Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Wash and dry the lettuce leaves, removing the greener leafy portions if desired.  Chop or tear the lettuce into bite size pieces and place it in a large bowl.  Season both sides of the chicken breast halves with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken on a grill or grill pan, until golden and cooked through.  Remove the chicken pieces to a plate, tent with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, add salad dressing to the lettuce (a couple tablespoons at a time) and toss to coat.  Add more dressing as desired.  Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and slice diagonally into long pieces.

Portion the dressed salad into serving dishes.  Top with homemade croutons, grilled chicken pieces, and Parmesan shavings.  Serve immediately.

Source: salad adapted from The Parsley Thief, croutons from Savory Sweet Life

Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya

I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here in Indiana it is just so.dang.cold every day.  Most days the only time I actually feel warm is while I’m blow-drying my hair (on the hottest setting, mind you), so I’ve really been in need of some hearty, warming soups and stews to get me through these last winter months.  This one-pot meal was a welcome addition to our menu.  With chicken, shrimp and andouille sausage, it reminded me of a deliciously chunky risotto.  I think the use of chicken thighs added a ton of flavor to this dish, so though I often try to substitute chicken breasts when possible, I think the thighs are important in this recipe.

This recipe makes good use of the food processor to significantly decrease prep time by pulsing the vegetables, rather than chopping them finely by hand.  You can certainly do it by hand if you wish, but I really appreciate any little time-saving step.  (Plus, Andrew loves to shout “GO!” before I turn on the food processor.)  Different varieties of andouille will have different levels of spiciness, so you may need to adjust your spices accordingly.  It seems the version sold at our butcher shop is on the mild side, so I seasoned with a Cajun spice blend just before serving and that did the trick.  So settle in, make some spicy jambalaya, and let’s wait out the cold together 🙂

Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya
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1 medium onion, trimmed and quartered
1 rib celery, cut into quarters
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and quartered
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tsp. vegetable oil
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
8 oz. andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into ¼-inch chunks (or crumbled, if in delicate casings)
1½ cups long-grain white rice
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. fresh thyme leaves
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained (¼ cup of juice reserved)
1 cup bottled clam juice
1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 lb. shrimp (31-40 per lb.), peeled and deveined
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Combine the onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until chopped fine, about six 1-second pulses, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice.  Be careful not to over-process.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken to the pot, skin-side down, and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Using tongs, turn the chicken and cook until golden brown on the opposite side, about 3 minutes longer.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.  Lower the heat to medium and add the andouille.  Cook, stirring often, until browned, about 3 minutes.  Transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon, and set aside.

Lower the heat to medium-low and add the chopped vegetables to the pan.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 4 minutes.  Add the rice, salt, thyme and cayenne; cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is coated with the fat, about 1 minute.  Add the diced tomatoes, reserved tomato juice, clam juice, chicken broth, bay leaves and cooked sausage to the pot.  Stir to combine.  Remove the skin from the chicken pieces and place the chicken on the rice so that the side the skin was just removed from is now facing down.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir once, keeping the chicken in the same general position, and continue to simmer until the chicken is no longer pink inside, about 10 minutes more.  Transfer the chicken to a clean plate or cutting board and set aside.  Scatter the shrimp over the rice, cover, and continue to cook until the rice is fully tender and the shrimp are opaque and cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

While the shrimp are cooking, shred the chicken into thin strands.  Once the shrimp are finished cooking, discard the bay leaves, stir in the chicken and parsley, and serve immediately.

Source: The New Best Recipe from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken noodle soup is such a classic.  I’ve been wanting to make it for a very long time, but to be honest I was a little intimidated.  This may seem strange considering that I have a slight obsession with soup, but it’s just that this is such a classic dish, I was worried whatever I made would fall short of greatness.  It seemed like a soup that could so easily be incredibly bland, and I just don’t do bland.  Bland foods were a fear of mine from childhood, and I’m still not over it.  I also didn’t want to spend hours and hours making chicken stock the old fashioned way.  I know, I know, homemade chicken stock is supposed to be great and everyone swears by it, but it honestly grosses me out a little bit (the whole chicken situation) and I was looking for a quicker option.

Cook’s Illustrated came to the rescue big time.  They created this fantastic version of chicken noodle soup that is packed full of flavor.  This recipe calls for a combination of chicken broth and homemade chicken stock.  The stock is made with a somewhat untraditional method, using ground chicken.  I was thrilled with the final result, and was amazed by just how flavorful the soup turned out.  The wonderful broth base combined with chicken, lots of veggies and egg noodles made for an amazing final product.  I used kale instead of Swiss chard simply due to availability, and I loved the lemony bite that the kale provided.  My only dislike was the chunks of potato added to the mix.  As we all know, potatoes need salt.  Because of the way these potatoes are added to the soup and cooked, they ended up with essentially no seasoning.  I didn’t really think they contributed anything in the way of flavor and I will omit them next time.  One final bit of praise is for the ratio of chicken, veggies and noodles to broth – it was perfect.  I don’t like soups that are primarily broth with an occasional chunk of the good stuff.  This was full of the chicken, veggies, etc. and the broth helped to accentuate the flavors.

Chicken Noodle Soup
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For the stock:
1 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
1 lb. ground chicken
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped carrot
½ cup chopped celery
1 qt. water
2 qt. low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. salt
2 bone-in, skin on chicken breast halves, cut in half crosswise

For the soup:
3 tbsp. cornstarch
¼ cup cold water
1 cup thinly sliced onion
½ cup celery, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 cup (4 oz.) egg noodles
4-6 Swiss chard or kale leaves, ribs removed and torn into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley

To make the stock, heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the ground chicken, onion, carrot and celery to the pot.  Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink, stirring frequently.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.  Add water, broth, bay leaves, salt and chicken breasts.  Cover and cook for 30 minutes.  Remove the lid, increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil.  (If the liquid is already boiling, remove the chicken breasts immediately and proceed.)  Transfer the chicken breasts to a plate and set aside.  Continue to cook the stock for 20 minutes, adjusting the heat to maintain a gentle boil.  Pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl or other container.  Press on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.  Discard the solids.  Allow the stock to settle for about 5 minutes.  Skim fat off the surface.

Return the stock to the Dutch oven.  Heat over medium-high heat.  In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water; whisk together until a smooth slurry forms.  Stir the mixture into the stock and bring to a gentle boil.  Add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook 10-15 minutes.  Add the egg noodles and continue to cook until vegetables are tender and the noodles are cooked, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the skin and bones from the chicken and discard.  Shred the meat into bite-sized pieces.  Add the chicken, Swiss chard or kale, and parsley to the soup.  Cook just until heated through, about 2 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, December/January 2009