Sunday, October 30, 2011

Chicken, Sweet Potato and Kale Stew

Chicken, sweet potato and kale? How could that be wrong? Unlike any of the stews I normally make, this one isn't brown.

Chicken, Sweet Potato and Kale Stew
from Cooking Club of America
click to print

1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces*
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 large sweet potato, peeled, coarsely chopped (2 cups)
1 1/2 c lower-sodium chicken broth**
3 c packed coarsely chopped kale or Swiss chard (I used a "bound bunch")

Toss chicken, flour, thyme, salt and cayenne pepper in medium bowl until chicken is coated.

Heat large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add oil; heat until hot. Add chicken mixture; cook and stir 3 minutes.

Add onion; cook and stir 2 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink on outside.

Add bell pepper, sweet potato and broth; bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pan. Reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, 5 minutes.

Stir in kale; cook, uncovered, 8 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center and vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

* I was a half-pound shy of the one pound the original recipe called for. Apparently a 3.93 lb bird doesn't offer much in the way of dark meat.
** from Better Than Bouillon

Vibrant as all get-out with it's healthy vegetables, this stew looks like a crazy mango salsa with some chicken fruit mixed in. Ultimately, the dish really needs the entire pound of dark meat, maybe cut into smaller pieces for better dispersion. What can I say, I like brown in my stew. That said, this was a nice change of pace and I'd certainly do it again, particularly since outside of mise-en-place it's done in 30 minutes, suitable for any weeknight.

Next time though, I'll do this in my Lodge Dutch oven and won't be shy about really browning the chicken before the onions are added to get those glorious brown bits.

  • chicken: $0.90
  • onion: $1.12
  • yellow bell pepper: $1.50
  • sweet potato: $1.62
  • kale: $1.99

Total: $7.13, but I'll round up to $7.50 to include flour, seasonings, and oil. That makes each of four 1.3 cup servings $1.88.

Skillet Chicken-Potato Pie

I chose to prepare this recipe for three reasons: I adore every single ingredient (mashed potatoes, not necessarily the refrigerated ones), it's listed in the Weeknight Cook section of the magazine (meaning it shouldn't take hours), and I get to use my cast iron skillet.

Skillet Chicken-Potato Pie
from Cooking Club of America
click to print

1 c frozen pearl onions
1 (1 1/2-lb.) pkg. refrigerated mashed potatoes
2 tbsp butter, divided
1 lb. chicken tenders or boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 c broccoli florets
1 c sliced baby carrots (3/8 inch)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c lower-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh dry sage
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Cook pearl onions according to package directions (my package said they were ready to use). Warm potatoes in microwave according to package directions.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Cook chicken 5 minutes or until golden brown and no longer pink in center, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken; cover loosely with foil.

Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in same skillet. Cook broccoli and carrots 2 to 3 minutes or until just becoming tender, stirring constantly.
What's better than brightened broccoli?

Sprinkle with flour. Stir in broth, pearl onions, sage, salt and pepper; bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 2 to 3 minutes or until sauce is thickened and vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, heat broiler. Return chicken and any accumulated juices to skillet.

Spread potatoes over top, leaving 1 inch around edge of skillet uncovered.

Broil 2 to 8 minutes (depending on height of broiler pan/skillet) or until potatoes are lightly browned, watching carefully to prevent burning.

I really didn't expect this to be served like a pie, but sure enough wedges can be dished. Like hot dessert pie, the potato crust held it's shape but the filling oozed. Unlike pie, I didn't care too much for this crust. The refrigerated mashed potatoes gave the dish a packaged-meal flavor. Next time, I'll make the mashed potatoes from scratch and I bet it will rock.

Done in less than an hour, this is one you could put together after work. Best of all, clean-up is a cinch since it's all cooked in one skillet. If you use cast iron, it's stupid simple clean-up as a hot water rinse is really all that's necessary.

  • pearl onions: $0.58
  • refrigerated mashed potatoes: $4.49
  • butter: $0.07
  • chicken: $0.90
  • broccoli: $1.97
  • carrots: $0.54
  • broth: $0.20

Total: $8.75 or $2.19 for each of four servings.

Cutting Up a Whole Chicken for Two Recipes

Recipes calling for white and dark meat, respectively, resulted in my buying a whole bird. I figured I'd get everything I'd need without excess flesh or ridiculous prices. The whole bird imaged above was 3.93 lbs, and priced at $0.69/lb, cost me $2.71.

I thought I'd covered how to cut up a whole chicken into working pieces, but I see now I hadn't. I regret I didn't get images of how I cut up this bird. It's sort of like how you'd carve a roasted turkey. But a raw bird is actually, in a way, easier.

When I butcher/cut up/bone a chicken, I do a hybrid between what Alton Brown and Andrew Zimmern do:
  • Alton Brown (see this video but fast forward to 3:30 and watch it through to 8:01), and
  • Andrew Zimmern (see this video and watch it from beginning to end)

Note that both are keen on the "oyster" and believe me, you don't want to skimp on that component.
Anyway, my end result is a plate of chicken pieces as well as a chicken carcass.
The carcass immediately went into a Ziploc gallon-sized freezer bag.

Then I removed the skin from the breasts and separated the tenderloins from the breasts. The breast skin went into the trash. The breast and tenderloin meat were cut into approximately 3/4" pieces for one of the recipes.

That left me with a plate of thighs, drums, and wings. I threw the wings into the bag with the chicken frame/carcass.

Then I proceeded, for the first time ever, to remove dark flesh from thigh and drum bones of a chicken. It took quite a few minutes as I'd never done it before. I was getting a little frustrated, wondering why my cheap ass didn't just buy the dark meat.

Here's a couple videos to get the job done, but realize now I should've watched them a couple of times before execution rather than try it from memory:
  • an unknown who apparently knows what he's doing with a thigh, though videography is poor and sound is extremely abrasive
  • Jacque Pepin deboning chicken Galatine Ballotine (watch this video from 5:30). Actually, if you're really into learning ways to prep a bird, watch the entire Pepin video, it's amazing.

The thigh and drum bones joined the wings and carcass in the Ziploc bag which went immediately into the freezer.

I'm glad to have done my own dark meat boning but I definitely need to exercise this practice to get anywhere near efficient. I also realize that I need to have my knives sharpened.

FYI, if I choose to have bone-in chicken breasts I essentially butterfly the bird first and then cut away what I want, leaving only a backbone.

Whole chickens available at Stater Bros for $1.29/lb but when on sale are as low as $0.69/lb.

Country Crock Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I'd not normally buy mashed potatoes from the ready-meal section of the store, but because I was following a recipe went all in. When browsing for prepared mashed potatoes (ready in the time it takes to reheat them), there were essentially two brands available. The other one and Country Crock.

The other one, I forget the brand...something like "Dining In", had a little flag emblazoned on the container claiming they use real butter. Looking at the ingredients, I saw that they indeed do use butter but not as much as they use margarine.

Believe it or not, Country Crock, the same company who make margarine uses real butter in their mashed potatoes! Look there in the ingredient statement below, butter is ingredient number four. (Click the photo for a close-up.) Of course they throw in some oil for good measure.

And don't forget the anti-microbial blend! Mmm!

Pulling the microwaveable bowl from the paper sleeve, I removed the lid and easy-peel film.

Rather than dirty a saucepan and reheating on the stove while stirring, I went with the microwave directions: nuke on high for 4-5 minutes, stirring once.

Voila! I had mashed potatoes. A little more wet than what I prefer, but they seemed alright. Tastewise they weren't too bad either.

Country Crock Garlic Mashed Potatoes available in a 24-oz container in the ready-to-reheat-and-eat case of your local Stater Bros. for $4.49.

Sweet Potato

A recipe in the queue called for a sweet potato. Rather than buy an orange-fleshed one with the brown skin known as a yam in North America, I bought a white one. I find that the white ones aren't quite as sweet as the orange ones.

Peel 'em just like a regular Russett potato.

And if you need it for a stew recipe, cut it into a small dice. Remember though that it's a potato. You'll be quite surprised if you unwittingly pop a cube into your yammer thinking it's a square of cheese.

Sweet potatoes, available from Stater Bros. for $1.48/lb. The one I picked up weighed in at 1.09 lbs.

Need a sweet potato recipe? Consider Chicken, Sweet Potato and Kale Stew for a main course or as sides such as Sweet Potato Cottage Fries and Mashed Sweet Potatoes.

Food Plan and Grocery List, 103011

This week is two chicken dishes, each made from one whole chicken that I'm going to cut into appropriate pieces. Both recipes are from the fall copy of Cooking Club magazine.

Skillet Chicken-Potato Pie
Chicken, Sweet Potato and Kale Stew

Stater Bros.:
  • Fage Greek yogurt: $4/5
  • whole chicken: $2.71
  • Hormel mashed potatoes: $4.49
  • kale: $1.99/bunch
  • carrots: $0.54/0.59 lb
  • broccoli crowns: $1.97/1.10 lb
  • yellow bell pepper: $1.50
  • sweet onion: $1.12/0.75 lb
  • sweet potato: $1.62/1.09 lb
  • TOTAL: $19.94

Total for the year: $1309.24

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 102811

Monday: Sango Sushi Combo A: $8.08
Tuesday: Nordstrom Cafe California Chicken Club, on a vendor
Wednesday: Jack in the Box Southwest Chicken Salad on a coworker
Thursday: Grill Hut ground beef kabob on a coworker
Friday: BJ's gluten-free pizzas with two coworkers: $50 SWAG

Total: $58.08
Total for the year: $1569.84

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Red Snapper and Wild Blend Saute Leftovers

Admittedly, I had concern my apartment would smell fishy when reheating some of the leftovers. But warming a portion of the Wild Blend Saute topped with a portion of Red Snapper in the preheated oven at 350°F for about 20 minutes made dinner a nice temperature without making this joint fish-stinkified.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Red Snapper

This red snapper and wild rice thing I've got going on was due to a friend's saying "some snapper and wild rice sounds good" compelling me to go on a recipe hunt. I chose a recipe found on a blog by a lady writing for Fabulous Friday. The photo of the fish looked great!

Not knowing how much "four fillets" actually is, I just went ahead and bought two fillets coming out at over a pound total. Looking back on it, I think the four fillets meant serving size fillets, as in 4-6 oz each.

Red Snapper
click to print

1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
salt and pepper to taste
2 fillets red snapper

Combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl.

Dip the fish fillets in the marinade, swishing to coat.

Heat a pan at medium high until hot. Place the marinated fillets in it.

Sometimes I wonder if I ever learn from what I've read or done. Here I should've really waited until the skillet was blazing hot. But adding both fillets, which take up the majority of the skillet leaving only little wiggle-room, too early caused them to sweat. And that means steaming rather than searing and browning.

Cook for 2 minutes per side to sear and brown the fillets.

Pour the remaining marinade in the skillet and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 5-7 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Serve on a bed of Wild Blend Saute.

The snapper turned out pretty well, though it didn't turn out with such caramelization that Fabulous Friday's fish had going on. Hers was so well caramelized it looked like a piece of chicken.

There were a couple of technical issues on my part that I would definitely do differently in the future. I'd wait until the skillet was scorching hot. And maybe stagger the addition of fish to the skillet instead of essentially dumping them in simultaneously. I'd also have a plan for how to turn the fish so I there was no dilly-dallying. The time it took me to figure it out certainly lended it's hand to my fish becoming brown. Of course, all of these changed would likely be unnecessary if I'd used fillet pieces.

Still, I'd try it again as the fish did taste good. The marinade would probably go well on chicken too. For chicken, I'd probably marinate it a couple hours or longer rather than simply dipping it in the marinade.

  • ginger: $0.15
  • garlic: $0.05
  • mustard: $0.27
  • pacific red snapper: $8.18

Total: $8.65 but we'll round up to $9 for oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. That makes each of four servings $2.25.