Firecracker Chicken


Happy 4th everyone! Another holiday…and another excuse to try some new recipes that also happen to be pretty unhealthy! But I figure if I do things like fried food only on holidays, that’s not so bad. Right? Right?!…

Anyhow, this is a recipe from a Cook’s Illustrated Best of 2008 book I got last year. For some reason it’s not on their web site, so I’ll post an abbreviated version of their usually OCD instructions. Nick and I were originally a little dubious because we’re not big fans of mustard sauce and it seemed a little thousand island dressingy, but it turned out better than we both expected. Nick was hankering for fried chicken and we both love spicy, so there you go. We both also prefer boneless fried chicken to meat on the bone — it just grosses us out picking meat off the bone sometimes. I changed the recipe slightly based on what I had on hand, and it still worked perfectly. None of the coating came away from the chicken as I was frying it, which has been the bane of my existence when it comes to fried chicken in the past.

Firecracker Chicken

1/4 c sliced pickled banana peppers, finely chopped
1/4 c pickling liquid from the banana peppers
1/4 c fresh lime juice
1/4 c yellow mustard
1/4 c veggie oil
1 t mustard powder
1 T sriracha
1 T ketchup
2 T brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 habanero, minced
4 green onions, sliced

~3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 c AP flour
1/2 c cornstarch
1 T salt
1 t baking powder
4 egg whites
canola or veggie oil for frying

1. Combine all ingredients for the sauce/marinade in a bowl and set aside.

2. Pound the chicken until 1/2-inch thick, then cut into strips. Place in a large ziploc bag, add 1/4 c of the sauce and squeeze the bag to coat the chicken. Marinade in the fridge for 1/2 to 2 hours.

3. When chicken has marinaded, combine flour through baking powder in a large bowl. Add 6 tablespoons sauce mixture and combine with your hands until it resembles wet, coarse sand. These clumps will stick to the chicken and make little crunchy parts when you fry it.

4. In another bowl whisk the egg whites until foamy. To coat the chicken, pat each piece dry on a paper towel. Dip in egg whites, let excess drip off. Lay in the coating mixture, cover the piece with coating, then press it into the chicken. Shake off excess coating, then place on a rack or tinfoil. Coat all chicken and let sit for 15 minutes (or refrigerate for up to 4 hours).

5. Heat oil in a large high-sided skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering (I use an old cast iron skillet with high, straight sides that I love). Fry the strips in batches until browned on both sides, 2-4 minutes per side. Serve with sauce for dipping.

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Chicken Tikka Masala


I consider this recipe one of my little victories because Nick actually likes it. I always figured he’d like Indian food (one of my absolute favorite cuisines) because he loves bold, highly spiced and seasoned foods. But the firs time I took him to an Indian restaurant, he didn’t enjoy it at all, really. Then again, my saag wasn’t very good there either, so I hoped it was because it just wasn’t a very good restaurant. I made this one night, and now Nick actually requests it. Success!!

This isn’t exactly very authentic, but since when is a dish often called “butter chicken” considered authentic anyway? I used a Cooks Illustrated recipe as a starting point, but then I mostly wing the spices from there. I don’t use any pre-blended spices (garam masala or the like), even though that might be a bit easier if I found a blend I enjoyed. I find it’s just as easy to pour the ground spices in a bowl first, keeping the genera ratios of spices the same for each batch. Sometimes I might add more cinnamon if I feel like it, sometimes more cumin, etc. I’d say that I easily doubled the amount of spices called for in the original CI recipe, though.

Also not traditional, I add a bunch of frozen peas right at the end of cooking. I usually don’t make a side dish with this (besides some naan from Trader Joe’s), so I’d feel guilty if I didn’t some kind of veggie in there somewhere. Feel free to add some potatoes to this dish to stretch the chicken and make it a little more economical as well. I’ll do my best on the spice quantities, but since I don’t measure them, they’re just guestimations. Go by your taste and add more as you go along.

Chicken Tikka Masala

2 lbs chicken breasts of combo breasts and thighs
1 c plain yogurt
2 T fresh grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t cumin
1 t coriander
1/2 t cayenne

2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes (I love Dei Fratelli)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
2 t fresh grated ginger
3-5 serrano chiles, chopped
~2 T coriander
~1 T cumin
~2 t cardamom
~1 t cinnamon or one cinnamon stick
~1/2 t black pepper
~1 t cayenne
~ 1/2 t tumeric
1 c heavy cream
12 oz frozen peas
cilantro, chopped, to taste

1. Cube chicken into large chunks and combine with other ingredients in a plastic bag. Marinate 1-2 hours.

2. Heat butter or olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions, chiles, garlic and ginger and saute until soft. Add dry spices and toast until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3. Add chicken to pan directly from marinade, letting excess drip off. Cook 7-9 minutes over medium, until browned in some spots, but without letting the spices burn. The yogurt will sort of caramelize and give a nice fond with the spices. The chicken will not be fully cooked.

4. Add tomatoes, stir well and simmer for 20 minutes over medium-low. Taste, season with salt and adjust other seasonings as you like.

5. Stir in cream, peas and cilantro. Bring back up to heat before serving over basmati rice and naan.

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Parmesan Pilaf


This is a recipe that was printed on the back of an Uncle’s Ben’s bag years ago. We used to eat it at my mom’s a lot, as it’s easy, fast, relatively inexpensive and good for you (perfect for weeknights!). They don’t make the Uncle Ben’s pilaf mix we used to use, but I just subbed regular white rice with some orzo pasta and it works well. I top mine with a ton of fresh lemon (or lime, if lemons are too expensive) because I’m a lemon freak and anything with broccoli gets doused in lemon.

I didn’t make this for Nick  because I figured he wouldn’t like it too much — too much broccoli and flavors that are too subtle. But surprisingly, he requests it now. The recipe as it is makes plenty of leftovers, which we love. You can easily halve the recipe if you want.

Parmesan Pilaf

1.5 lb chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
2 1/2 c long grain white rice
1/2 c orzo
6 c chicken broth
4 T (half stick) butter
6 garlic cloves, chopped
4 stalks fresh broccoli
2 handfuls grated parmesan

1. Brown the chicken in a Dutch oven or other pot with a tight fitting lid. Remove from pan.

2. Add butter and garlic over medium heat, saute for a minute until fragrant and butter is foamy. Add rice and toast in the pan for 4-5 minutes, until the grain obsorb the butter and turn nutty smelling.

3. Add the chicken broth and the reserved cooked chicken. Scrap the bottom of the pan to release the brown stuff (fond). Cover and cook for 12 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, chop your broccoli. I like somewhat large florets. I also peel the broccoli stems with a paring knife: slip the knife under the fibrous part of the peel, then hold it against the kinfe with your thumb and pull. It will peel off down the stem. The heart of the stems will be tender and lovely once cooked.

5. After 12 minutes of cooking, add the orzo to the pot and stir. Top with the broccoli, cover, and cook another 8-10 minutes. The broccoli will steam on top of the rice.

6. When rice and broccoli are tender, turn heat off and stir in parmesan. Season with S+P.

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Chipotle Chicken Pasta


This is not exactly what you would consider a healthy dish. Though, it does get veggie-haters to eat a good amount of veggies. So maybe the veggies even out the massive amount of heavy cream….right?!

Chipotle Chicken Pasta

1 lb short pasta, I use penne
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 c heavy cream
1 c milk
4-6 chipotles in adobo
1 small onion
2 T tomato paste
3 cloves garlic
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 large handfuls frozen peas
To garnish: chopped cilantro, green onions and parmesan

1. Cook pasta to al dente, timing it so the pasta is complete around the same time the sauce is ready.

2. Using a stick blender, or a blender jar, combine the seeded chipotles and milk until thick and foamy.

3. Clean and chop the chicken. Brown over medium-high heat until cooked through. Remove from pan. Add onions, garlic and red bell pepper. Cook 5 minutes over medium heat. Add tomato paste  and cook until caramelized, about a minute. Add milk and chipotle mixture and bring to a simmer.

4. When the pasta has 6 or 7 minutes of cooking time left, add the asparagus and the chicken to the pan with the chipotle mixture. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add cream and peas, simmer until asparagus is tender and sauce is thickened slightly. Adjust seasoning to taste. Combine the sauce with the drained pasta. Top each plate with green onions, cilantro and parmesan, to taste.

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Avgolemono is a Greek lemon and egg soup, usually with a base of chicken stock.

It’s a perfect soup for a number of reasons:
Creamy but with no dairy products – lactose intolerant friendly
Can be made with veggie stock – vegetarian friendly
Super fast and only 5 ingredients – everyone friendly

The only unfriendly bit about this is the amount of eggs if you’re watching your cholesterol. I imagine you could cut down on the amount of egg yolks in the recipe if you’re concerned about it. It really only works out to about 1-2 eggs per serving, though.


~12 c chicken broth or stock
7 lemons
10 eggs
1 1/2 cups rice
fresh dill for garnish

1. Bring your broth or stock to a simmer and add your rice. Cook until the rice is almost tender, about 5 minutes before it’s finished.

2. Crack your eggs into a large bowl. Juice the lemons into the bowl (through a sieve, watch out for pits!). Whisk that together well, and let it sit and come to room temperature before you proceed.

3. When the rice is almost tender and the eggs are room temperature, temper the eggs by adding a ladle of hot broth while whisking constantly. Keep adding ladles of broth one by one while whisking until you have double the liquid in the bowl than you started with. The egg mixture should now be hot.

4. Add the tempered eggs back into the pot of broth and simmer gently until the rice is fully cooked and the soup has thickened. Top with snipped dill to serve.

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Herbed Roast Chicken


I don’t roast chickens much, but this was a pretty good one that I might do again when the roast chicken bug bites. It’s adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe.

Herbed Roast Chicken

1 whole chicken, about 5 pounds, cleaned and trimmed of excess fat
1 T fresh thyme leaves, minced
6 scallions, green parts only, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 T butter, softened
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 t salt

For the pan sauce:
1 c chicken broth
2 t flour
juice from half of a lemon

1.Preheat oven to 450 F.  Butterfly the chicken by cutting out the backbone, then flattening the breastbone. Make 3-4 shallow cuts on legs and thighs.

2. Mix butter, scallions, thyme, garlic, zest and salt in a small bowl. Slip fingers between muscle and skin of the chicken, forming a pocket. Smoosh half of butter mixture under the skin and spread around. Rub more on the skin of the chicken, reserving 1 T of the mixture.

3. Heat vegetable in ovensafe 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place chicken skin-side down in skillet and reduce heat to medium. Cook until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and roast chicken 25 minutes.

4. Using tongs, flip chicken so skin-side is facing up. Using spoon or spatula, evenly coat chicken skin with remaining softened herb butter and return to oven. Roast chicken until skin is golden brown and chicken breast registers 160 degrees and 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer chicken to carving board and let rest, uncovered, 20 minutes.

5. To make the sauce, return the pan to medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Add the chicken broth and simmer to thicken, about 5 minutes, while scraping the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and reserved herb butter. Serve over chicken.

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Chicken Tequila Fettuccine


Yes, some of you may recognize this dish. It is a rip off of a California Pizza Kitchen dish. And it’s pretty good. Though, Nick didn’t like it much, because he’s got an issue with onion and bell pepper textures, and thought the flavors were too subtle. He likes flavors that hit you over the head. But don’t listen to him, it’s good.

Chicken Tequila Fettuccine

1 lb fettuccine
1/2 c chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large jalapeno, minced
1 c chicken stock
1/4 c gold tequila
juice of 1/2 lime
1 lb chicken breast
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 assorted bell peppers, thinly sliced
1 c heavy cream

1. Cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Time is so it’s finished around the same time as the sauce.

2. Clean and chop chicken. Saute until browned and cooked through in a large skillet, about 6 minutes. Remove from pan.

3. Add  jalapeno and garlic to same pan, cook 2 minutes. Add bell peppers and red onion, saute for 2 minutes until veggies wilt slightly. Add tequila and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits (fond). Add chicken stock, reserved chicken, and cream, and simmer until veggies are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Toss sauce with pasta, cilantro and lime juice before serving.

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