Curried Chicken Salad

I’ve always shied away saladized dishes – chicken salad, potato salad, coleslaw, egg salad…pretty much anything that is slathered in mayonnaise. I just don’t like the thought of yummy fresh ingredients swimming in mayo. But then I realized I could cut the mayo in salad dishes with sour cream or Greek yogurt…and now I’ve opened my horizons to all things saladized (except egg salad….that’s still on my no-thank-you list).

Curry Chicken Salad

I made chicken stock on Sunday, and decided to use the leftover meat to try out Ina Garten’s Curried Chicken Salad recipe. Curried Chicken Salad is such a retro dish, but it definitely deserves a comeback (if skinny jeans and neon can make it in the 21st century, then this dish certainly has a place in modern culture!) If you don’t happen to be making chicken stock today (come on, why not?) feel free to use bone-in split chicken breasts, as in Garten’s original recipe. You could even use a store-bought rotisserie chicken if you don’t have the time (or inclination) to cook a chicken today.

Curry Sauce

Before starting on this 5-star dish, I looked through the comments and reviews it received. That’s the great thing about finding recipes on the internet – you can get tips and suggestions from people who have actually tried it out. Whether it’s adding/substituting ingredients, modifying measurements, or handy information about the dish (like the fact that you will have WAY too much sauce!), reading the comments before making a new dish is always worth your time.

chicken salad fixins

Considering the number of people who gave Garten’s recipe rave reviews, I didn’t want to make many modifications. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – right? But I know my taste buds, and there are a few things I changed to suit my own tastes. The first thing I addressed was the mayonnaise situation – one and a half cups!? Gross….I cut the yick factor by replacing 1/2 a cup with low-fat plain Greek yogurt. Some reviewers of the recipe actually replaced all of the mayo with yogurt – which I may try next time. I chose to add a little red onion and Italian flat leaf parsley. I had them both on hand, and I like the extra crunch and color. But I stuck with the raisins (some suggested craisins or grapes) and cashews – and I think you could go heavy on both.

Curry Chicken Wrap

When it came to eating this fabulous curry concoction, I went with a wrap. A soft flour tortilla, fresh mixed greens, a generous squeeze or Sriracha, and a few extra cashews, and your taste buds will scream Thank you!! This would also make a great sandwich, a dip with pita chips, or just eat it with a spoon….

Curried Chicken Salad

  • 3 C. cooked chicken
  • 1 C. cashews
  • 1/2 C. celery, diced
  • 1/4 C. raisins
  • 1/4 C. red onion, diced
  • 1/4 C. green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 C. parsley, chopped
  • 1 C. mayonnaise
  • 1/2 C. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 C. mango chutney
  • 1/3 C. white wine
  • 3 T. curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

In a large bowl combine chicken, cashews, celery, raisins, red onion, green onion and parsley. For the sauce, whisk together mayo, yogurt, mango chutney curry powder, salt and pepper. Pour just enough sauce over chicken mixture to moisten. You will have extra sauce. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

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Pesto Chicken Lasagna

In the world of lasagna, this is a fairly quick lasagna. And by “quick” I mean it won’t take you four hours to prepare – but it might take one. If this were Sunday, I’d start my sauces at 10 am, make pasta from scratch, grate fresh mozzarella, and be wore out by the time dinner was ready (I’d also be fat and happy after I ate, and would be enjoying my labor for most of the next week!). But since this is the middle of the week, we’re going to cut some corners to make this meal in a timely fashion.

Pesto Chicken Lasagna

We’ll start with the sauce. Everything goes in the pot, simmers and is done. That’s it! 20 minutes, and you have yourself a fresh, homemade sauce for the pasta. The flavors are simple and mild, and will be a good accompaniment to the strong flavors of the Pesto Chicken and the creamy texture of the Lemon Ricotta.

Tomato Cream Sauce

Next is the Pesto Chicken. Pesto traditionally contains nuts (typically pine nuts). Although I’m a huge fan of pine nuts, I know that some people (like my step dad) can be deathly allergic – so when I think he might be around for dinner, I leave all the nuts in the freezer (except me, I don’t fit in the freezer…. and yes, the freezer is the best place to store nuts). In a dish like this, that is full of complimenting flavor elements, I don’t really miss the pine nuts in the pesto. But if you are appalled at the thought of leaving them out – then add them in!

Do you ever walk by your grocery store deli when they are pulling out the rotisserie chickens? Well it’s a bad idea – you’ll forget what you came to buy, and end up buying 2 of those chickens instead (one to eat on in the store, and one to take home for later!). The meat is so tender and juicy, and it makes for a great start to a quick weeknight meal. Remove the skin, pull the meat, and toss it in the pesto.

Pesto Chicken

And the last layer that takes a little prep work is the Lemon Ricotta. You’ll want to use both the zest and the juice of the lemon – the zest contains all the oils, and has a punchier flavor. But don’t expect an overpowering lemon flavor with this – we don’t want to bite into the lasagna and think lemon! The amount of juice and zest we are using is just enough to give it a fresh flavor that’s slightly zingy.

Lemon Ricotta2

Onto the no-prep elements to our dish – fresh spinach, grated mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, and no-boil lasagna sheets. Did you know they made those!? Whoever thought of that is a genius… For a weeknight lasagna, no-boil pasta is ideal. But you want to make sure that the top layer is completely covered with sauce – any parts that aren’t touching sauce will end up crispy instead of soft.

lasagna layers

For assembly, I start with a thin layer of sauce. Especially since we are using the no-boil pasta – you want there to be enough moisture around the sheets. So sauce first (about 1/2 cup, spread evenly around) followed by pasta, then sauce again. Next is the spinach. I prefer a little spinach on each level – but I think The Man would prefer a whole bag per level….so go with what you prefer. Keep in mind that it will wilt as it cooks, and there will be much less when it’s done. On top of the spinach goes the ricotta . Drop spoonfuls evenly around, and don’t worry about spreading it out – it will spread as it bakes. Next is the chicken, followed by mozzarella and then more pasta. Press down a little on the pasta, just to get the bottom layers all cozy together. Now repeat – sauce, spinach, ricotta, chicken, cheese, pasta. For the top, you want a light layer of sauce, and alot of cheese.

Pesto Chicken Lasagna2

After you’ve baked your lasagna til it’s bubbly and brown, let it sit for at least 20 minutes. I know, I know….after all this hard work and an hour in the oven, you are starving. But if you cut into it right away, you are going to end up with a sloppy mess. All your sauce will be left in the pan, and there won’t be a single recognizable layer. And it’s too hot to eat now anyways! So trust me….drink you a glass of wine and chill out. Once the lasagna cools, it will cut smoothly and plate in one solid piece. Enjoy ;)

Pesto Chicken Lasagna

  • No-boil lasagna sheets
  • Tomato Cream Sauce
  • Lemon Ricotta
  • Pesto Chicken
  • 8 Oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Fresh spinach
  • 1/4 C. parmesan cheese, grated

In a large baking dish, spoon 1/2 cup of sauce evenly into the bottom. Layer in lasagna sheets, slightly overlapping. Follow with 1/3 of tomato sauce, 1/2 of spinach, 1/2 of ricotta, 1/2 of chicken, and 1/3 of mozzarella. Top with layer of lasagna sheets and repeat, ending with third and final layer of lasagna sheets. Evenly coat lasagna with remaining sauce, mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350F for 50 – 60 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.  Allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Lasagna can be assembled in advance and kept refrigerated until ready to bake. Remove from the fridge half an hour before baking. Lasagna is always better the next day, so enjoy the leftovers!

Tomato Cream Sauce

  • 1 box Pomi chopped tomatoes (or 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 C. half & half
  • 2 T. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 T. olive oil

Combine all ingredients into a pan. Heat over medium until simmering. Reduce heat to low, continue to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool before assembling lasagna.

Lemon Ricotta

  • 8 Oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T. lemon zest
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1 T. Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

Pesto Chicken

  • 1 bunch basil (about 20 leaves)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 C. olive oil
  • 1/4 C. grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded

In a food processor, pulse basil and garlic until pulverized. Move to a bowl and add in oil, cheese, salt and pepper. Stir until combined. If too thick, add a little more oil (but do not make it super runny). Add in chicken, and toss to combine.

 

Chicken Ragu

After a quick sear and a long simmer, the chicken in this ragu will melt in your mouth. A little wine adds flavor to the sauce (a glass for the chef doesn’t hurt either!) and the fact that this dish is economical is the icing on the cake (or the cheese on your spaghetti…)

Chicken Ragu

I like to use boneless skinless chicken thighs for this dish. They are butterflied open (making them thin and quicker cooking) and the dark meat is so tender and flavorful. Not to mention that thighs are much cheaper than breasts. Lightly season the meat and pan sear both sides. You aren’t trying to cook the chicken through, you just want a little brown on them. The meat will finish cooking (and fall to shreds) in the sauce.

Browning Chicken

Once you’ve got the meat browned (you may need to cook the pieces in batches) it’s time for the onions. Don’t worry about any chicken or brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan – put the onions right on top. Moisture from the onions will help pull some of it up (and a douse of red wine will finish the rest!) Cook the onions for about 10 minutes, or until softened.
Saute OnionsTime to reach for the wine (the bottle, not your glass…) and pour in about 1/4 cup to deglaze the pan. Use your spoon to scrape up all the stuck on bits, and then bring the wine up to a simmer. It’s best to let it cook for a few minutes before adding anything else – this will allow the alcohol to cook out and the wine flavor to concentrate. Now you may be wondering what kind of  “red” wine to use. Personally, I’m not real picky about wine…in fact, we tend to go with cheap or on sale (or my favorite of all cheap and on sale). Avoid a sweet red, or anything labeled “table wine”. But anything you already have on hand (or wouldn’t mind drinking) will work great.

Deglaze with wine

Now everybody in the pot – tomatoes, chicken stock (boxed stock is perfectly fine here), brown sugar, seasonings and chicken. Stir it up (make sure the chicken is covered) and bring it up to a simmer. Put a lid on the sauce and reduce the heat to low. You want the pot to be slowly simmering – not boiling. One to two bubbles surfacing for second is ideal. After the first hour, you’ll want to remove the lid to allow some of the moisture to evaporate.

Chicken back in the pot

For the best results, the chicken needs to simmer for about 3 hours. I know, this is a long time – the long slow cooking helps keep the chicken tender and juicy, while turning it into bite sized shreds. But if you don’t happen to have 3 hours before dinner time, there are a few shortcuts that work great as well. Option 1 – dice up your meat. Obviously smaller pieces cook faster. I would season, sear, them cut into 1 inch pieces. Option 2 – use chicken that’s already cooked. But depending on how the chicken was previously cooked, will yield different results. Leftovers from a Beer Can Chicken, a store bought rotisserie chicken, or meat left from making stock would be best.

Long simmer

Every so often (half hour or so) you will want to give your pot a stir. Your chicken may need a little encouragement – use your spoon to gently break it apart. If you are worried the pieces aren’t shredding in a timely manner, feel free to pull it out and shred with two forks.

Once your chicken has successfully broken down, and your taste buds are drooling, it’s time for the pasta (yay, finally!). I like linguine for this sauce. The flat noodles are more substantial than say an angel hair, and the texture goes well with the sauce. Boil it up, drain it, then add it to the sauce. Let it cook for a few more minutes, to allow the sauce and pasta to become one. To serve, add a little torn basil, parmesan cheese, and fresh black pepper.

Chicken Ragu

Chicken Ragu

  • 1 1/2 Lbs. Boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 T. Cajun seasoning
  • 1 T. Italian seasoning
  • 1 T. Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 C. Red wine
  • 1 C. Chicken stock
  • 1 box Pomi strained tomatoes (or large can of pureed tomatoes)
  • 1 T. Brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Black pepper
  • 1 lb. Linguine

Combine cajun and Italian seasonings and lightly coat both sides of chicken. In a dutch oven, brown chicken in olive oil (do not worry about cooking through). Remove chicken from pan.

In same pot, saute onions until soft. Add in garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Deglaze the pot with the wine. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot. Allow wine to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Add in stock, tomatoes, brown sugar, salt, pepper and chicken. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce to low.

After 1 hour, remove lid. With a wooden spoon, gently break apart chicken. Simmer for 3 hours. Stir and break up chicken every half hour.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and add to sauce. Allow to cook in sauce for 5 minutes before serving.

Who Puts Peanut Butter On Pizza!?

I do! I put peanuts on there too….But it’s not what you think (because I’m sure you think it’s disgusting). Thai Chicken Pizza is The Man’s favorite pizza. In lieu of the traditional red sauce, I use a slightly spicy peanut sauce. Then top it off with the veggies you may find in a stir fry dish – red bell peppers, scallions, cilantro….and of course a little chicken (tossed in Hoison sauce). Does that sound a little better? Maybe the pictures will help convince you….

Thai Chicken Pizza

We’ll start with something normal – traditional pizza dough. Nothing strange here –  flour, water and yeast. A little salt for flavor and a little olive oil too. I use a stand mixer, but this can easily be done by hand. I measure out the flour first – using 1 Cup for each pizza. This will make about a 10-12 inch pizza. Then I add in the other dry ingredients (yeast and salt). Warm up a cup of water to around 115F. Slowly pour the water in until you have the right consistency. The dough should form into a ball (no crumbly bits) and should be slightly sticky. About 1/3 to 1/2 Cup of water per 1 Cup of flour. If you are using a mixer, turn it to “stir” and knead the dough for about 10 minutes. If making by hand, dump the dough onto a floured surface, and knead with your hands. You want the dough to be smooth and elastic – it should no longer be sticky. Oil up a clean glass bowl, dump the ball of dough in, and cover tightly with plastic wrap.

Dough

kneaded dough

I like to make my dough in the morning, and let it rise in the fridge. This acheives two equally important goals. First, it gives me more time in the evening for prepping toppings, tending to the child, and relaxing with (i.e. sipping a glass of vino with) The Man. Secondly, the cold fridge causes a slower rise. The longer the dough rises, the more time it has to develop flavor. And obviously, more flavor is good! I check the dough about an hour before we want to eat. If it’s already doubled in size, just leave it in for another half hour. If it hasn’t done a whole lot, pull it out and let it warm up. Within an hour, it should be up to size.

dough is risen

Alternatively, you can make the dough 1 – 2 hours before dinner time. Leave the bowl in a warm dry place, and allow it to double in size. On a perfect day, I let the dough rise outside. On a not-so-perfect day (too cold, too hot, windy, rainy, etc.) I use the “proof” setting on my oven. Within an hour, the dough is ready to use. Punch down the dough, and divide it into balls (1 per pizza…). Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rest while you prep your toppings. That’s right, back to the peanut butter….

dough is ready

We love peanut butter in this house (my 3 year old “needs” a spoonfull at least once a day). We also love peanut sauce! And it’s exactly what it sounds like – peanut butter that is thinned down (using water or stock) and kicked up with garlic, ginger, and soy sauce. It makes a great dipping sauce (chicken satay), or is great over stir fry. But my favorite usage is on pizza.

peanut sauce

Now that we have sauce, we need toppings – we’ll start with the meat. I have some leftover chicken from making stock on Sunday – but any cooked chicken will work. Cut or shred it into bitesized pieces, coat it in a few Tablespoons of hoison sauce. Next for the veggies. I like red bell pepper, onion, scallions and cilantro. But I think carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, bean sprouts, corn, or shredded cabbage would all be good additions. So use what you like and what you have (Pizza is an ideal way to clean out the fridge!)

thai chicken toppings

When I make pizza, I use a stone, a peel and the gas grill. If you don’t have these things, make your pizza on a cookie sheet and bake it in a hot oven 450F +. Why do I use the grill? Because it reaches and maintains high heat and mimics a traditional brick oven in flavor. Put the pizza stone in the cold grill and let them heat up together on high – this will prevent the stone from cracking. In theory. Personally, my pizza stones always crack (some quicker than others). But as long as it’s a clean break you can still use it…see??

cracked stone

Start by working your dough on a floured surface. When it is about halfway stretched out, move it to the floured peel. Everyone says to use cornmeal – but I have had zero luck with cornmeal. A thin layer of flour works great (too much, and it can burn the bottom of your pizza). Stretch the dough out, then give the peel a shimmy – to make sure the dough isn’t sticking. Start your toppings with a thin layer of sauce, followed by a sprinkling of cheese around the outer edge. The Man worked at Pizza Hut in high school – he says you need to do the cheese around the edge before you place on the toppings. I’ve never worked in a pizza joint – so I trust his word on it. Next layer on your toppings, and top with the remaining cheese. Leave the cilantro off – that will go on after the pizza comes off the heat.

Thai Pizza prebaked

Slide the pizza onto the cracked up stone (oh, you have one that isn’t cracked? Well aren’t you fancy….) and turn the heat down to medium. Check the pizza after 5 minutes. Take it off once the cheese is melted and bubbly, and the crust is starting to color. Once the pizza is off the grill, give it 5 – 10 minutes to rest. Then chow down.

Thai Chicken Pizza

Pizza Dough (for one pizza)

  • 1 C. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. yeast
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 – 1/3 C. warm water

Combine flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Slowly add water until you reach desired consistency. Turn to “stir” and knead for 7 – 10 minutes. Dump into oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for until doubled in volume. Punch down dough, and divide into balls (one for each pizza). Cover until ready to use.

Peanut Sauce

  • 1/4 C. peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 – 1/2 C. chicken stock (or water)
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. hot sauce

Heat up oil in a small sauce pan. Saute garlic for about 2 minutes. Add in peanut butter and remaining ingredients. Allow to simmer then remove from heat. You want the sauce to be slightly runny. Set aside until ready to use.

Thai Chicken Pizza

  • pizza dough
  • peanut sauce
  • 1/4 C. chicken, cooked and tossed in hoison sauce
  • 2 T. hoison sauce; extra for drizzling
  • 1/4 – 1/2 C. montery jack cheese
  • red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • onion, thinly sliced
  • scallion, sliced
  • small handful peanuts, roughly chopped
  • cilantro leaves

Preheat gas grill and pizza stone on high heat. Spread dough out on a floured pizza peel. Shimmy, to ensure it is not sticking. Spread on a thin layer of peanut sauce. Sprinkle 1/4 of cheese around the outer edge. Layer on all toppings (except for cilantro) and cheese. Transfer to the pizza stone, and lower heat to medium. Allow to cook for 10 -12 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and dough is cooked through. Transfer back to the peel, and sprinkle with cilantro. Allow to cool for 5 – 10 minutes before cutting.

The Stock is Out of Stock

ImageI spent some quality time with the WordPress app for Kindle at 4 o’clock this morning. I just couldn’t sleep, and I had some good ideas for my Sunday Dinner post (Rissoto – you’ll see that later this evening). In said post, I spent a good deal of time on why you should use homemade stock, as opposed to stock-in-the-box. And of course, when I got up this morning, I found that my stock-pile was completely spent. Damn….I can’t justify using stock-in-the-box – not today. I’m not completely opposed to it – but it’s Sunday (I have time) and good stock is kind of important (ok, it’s really important) in good risotto, and I just told you to make your own. So while at the store, I picked up some chicken pieces, and now I’ve got the pot going. Here’s what you’ll need if you want to do the same :

  • 1 Chicken, or chicken pieces (3-4 pounds)
  • 3 celery stalks (with leaves) rough chop
  • 3 carrots, rough chop (yes, I’m using baby carrots. But only because they were already in the fridge)
  • 1 bulb garlic, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 onions, quartered (leave the paper on)
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. peppercorns
  • any vegetable trimmings from leeks, brussel sprouts, fresh herbs, etc. (optional)
  • 12 C. water

Add all ingredients into a large stock pot. Pour in enough water to cover (about 12 cups). Bring to a simmer (do not boil) and reduce to medium low. Maintain a constant simmer, with no lid on the pot.

After one hour, remove chicken and allow it to cool (keep pot simmering). When cool enough to handle, pick apart the chicken. Discard the skin, keep the meat for a later use, and add all bones back to the pot.

Simmer the stock for at least another 2 hours.

Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Use immediately. Or store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Can be frozen for months. Skim off any fat that rises to the top.
 

 

Southwest Chicken Salad

southwest chicken salad

I have some things in my fridge that are nearing their eat-or-trash date – chicken breasts, leftover cornbread, cilantro, and a bag of mixed greens….I have a can of black beans and some salsa…I’m thinking about a Southwest style chicken salad!

If you ever get the opportunity to go to The Yard House – you MUST try their BBQ chicken entree salad (and a yard of LeftHand Milk Stout….). BBQ chicken, fresh avocado, thinly sliced and fried onions, roasted pasilla peppers –  the mound of toppings almost completely hides the lettuce. But there IS lettuce, so technically it IS a salad – even though it’s more like a borrito sans tortilla shell. Inspired by the Yard House and the items in my fridge – here is my take on a Southwest Chicken Salad.

Citrus & Cilantro vinaigrette

  • cilantro, handful
  • 2 T. citrus  zest
  • 1/4 C. citrus juice (lime and Meyer lemon)
  • 2 T. of  sour cream
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 – 1/2 C. olive oil
  • 1 T. Agave nectar (or honey)
  • 1/2 tsp. each salt, pepper, cumin

In a blender, combine cilantro, lime, garlic, agave and sour cream. Add olive oil slowly until desired consistency. Season to taste. Set aside

Black Bean & Corn Salsa

  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small can corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 Cup red onion diced
  • Salt, pepper, cumin
  • 1 – 2 T. Citrus & Cilantro vinaigrette

Saute onion and pepper until softened. Combine beans, corn, onion and pepper mixture. Season to taste, stir in vinaigrette.

Chicken Breast

  • thin sliced chicken breast
  • cajun seasoning

Season chicken and grill until cooked through. Rest for 10 minutes then slice into this strips

Onion Frizzles

  • red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 3 Tablespoons corn starch
  • salt and pepper
  • canola oil

Mix flour and corn starch. Toss onions in flour mixture, shake off excess. Fry in canola oil until brown and crispy. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cornbread croutons

  • leftover cornbread, cubed
  • 3 – 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder

In a bowl combine olive oil and seasonings. Toss cubes in oil. Spread onto sheet pan and bake at 400F for 20 minutes.

Assembly

Toss mixed greens and croutons in a few tablespoons of dressing. Once evenly coated, distribute onto serving plates. Arrange toppings in a circle, with an opening in the middle. Add one scoop each of salsa and black bean salsa. Slice avocado (1/2 per serving) and fan out. Fan out chicken. Drizzle chicken and avocado with spoonful of dressing. Put onion frizzles in the center. Sprinkle with pepper jack cheese and cilantro.

BBQ Chicken Macaroni & Cheese

While grilling beer can chickens on Sunday, I made it a point to have leftovers (which means I cooked 2 birds). There are countless dishes you can make with perfectly cooked chicken – enchiladas,  chicken salad, pot pie….or even BBQ Chicken Macaroni and Cheese. The ultimate comfort food mixed with succulent chicken, your favorite BBQ sauce, and enough vegetables to call it a one pot meal. Top it off with garlic breadcrumbs and now we’re getting ridiculous….

The complete recipe, with measurements can be found at the bottom of the post

hot beer

First you need the leftovers from Sunday’s Beer Can Chicken. Oh, you don’t follow my blog and cook every one of my recipes? Ok….here are some suitable alternatives then : a rotisserie chicken from your grocery store (remove the skin and de-bone), or boneless skinless chicken breasts (season and grill or pan sear). Shred the meat and toss in your favorite BBQ sauce.

Next we need to caramelize some onions. There is a big difference between onions that have been sauteed and onions that are caramelized  Both have their time and place, but today we are looking for melt in your mouth sweetness that takes a little time and patience. I like to start with a butter and olive oil blend on medium high. Slice your onions in half then into thin-ish rings (1/4 inch). Saute the onions until the edges start to color. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue to cook (stirring regularly) until the onions have turned that beautiful golden color. This should take no less than 30 minutes. When they are to your ideal done-ness, take the pan off the heat and cover with a lid. The trapped steam will help release the layer of sweet onion glaze that is clinging stingily to the bottom of the pan.

onions1onions2onions3

The topping for this dish is garlic bread crumbs. You can use any leftover bread to make bread crumbs. My favorite way to make these crumbs is with leftover garlic bread. Cut it into large cubes, pulse in a food processor, and call it done. The garlic, oil, and toasting is already taken care of! Unfortunately, I don’t have any garlic bread handy today…. not a problem, just a few extra steps. Start by lightly toasting your choice of bread. Cube and put it in the food processor with a small clove of garlic. Pulse until you get fine crumbs. Then toss the crumbs in a bowl with a little olive oil, salt & pepper.

bread crumbs

As far as cheese goes, I prefer a blend (usually of what I have on hand). Today I have extra sharp cheddar, colby jack, and pepper jack. I also prefer my cheese to be freshly shredded – conveniently I already have the food processor out. The best way to get creamy mac & cheese is with sour cream. While the pasta is still hot, toss it with a bit of butter and a cup of sour cream – just enough to coat. I like to add the spinach now too, so the heat will wilt it down some. Then add in the cheese and spices.

pasta and spinachchicken

Fold in the onions and tomatoes. Last but not least the chicken. Once everything is evenly distributed, pour it into a lightly greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and bake until Browning and bubbly.

assembled

As you can see, this recipe makes a ton of food! If you don’t intend on eating this much, ether halve the recipe or freeze a portion. Just leave off the bread crumbs until you are ready to bake. If you feel like changing things up, some good additions would be green peas, bacon, mushrooms, red bell pepper, leftover baked beans, or broccoli.

BBQ Chicken Mac n Cheese

  • beer can chicken (about 2 cups meat)
  • 1 lb. pasta, cooked and drained
  • 2 large onions, caramelized
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • fresh spinach (1/2 a 9 oz bag)
  • 1/4 Cup BBQ sauce
  • garlic bread crumbs
  • 1 Cup sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 16 ounces shredded cheese
  • 1 teaspoon each Cajun seasoning, mustard powder, black pepper

In a large skillet, heat 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil over medium heat. Saute onions until starting to brown. Lower heat and continue to cook and stir until onions are golden and cooked down.

Toss chicken in BBQ sauce and set aside.

Toss pasta with 2 Tablespoons of butter and 1/2 cup sour cream. Fold in spinach. Add in cheese, salt, pepper, and mustard powder – stir until pasta is coated. Carefully fold in chicken, tomatoes, onions and spinach. Pour mac n cheese in a greased baking dish, evenly sprinkle over bread crumbs.

Bake at 350 for 45 – 55 minutes (or until breadcrumbs are golden and filling is bubbly)

Beer Can Chicken

twins

Beer Can Chicken is great football-watching, sweat-pant lounging, lazy Sunday fare. The cooking method is slow, but it takes little to no messing with. After 2 hours of indirect heat on the grill, the bones fall out and the meat is melt in your mouth tender. It goes great with any side, and you can season to your liking. Nothing better to kick off the playoffs!

Two important factors to this dish are small chickens and cheap beer. Get 3 to 3 1/2 pound birds – anything bigger will dry out. They also won’t fit in my grill….and that is kind of important. As for the beer – don’t go buying some highfalutin craft beer (it will not increase the flavor of the chicken), and don’t spent much money. You want full flavor (not light beer) – we tend to go with Bud. You will be required to drink (or dump out, if that’s the way you feel about it…) 1/4 – 1/3 of the beer before you put the chicken on it. So make sure it’s a beer you don’t mind drinking.

Choose your dry rub. We like a little spice around here (that’s a joke – we like ALOT of spice around here) so I go with a house blend Cajun seasoning. Feel free to make your own blend, or use your favorite store-bought. You can’t go wrong here – lemon pepper, Cajun, Italian herbs, or just a simple salt and pepper – any and all will be great. The key to the seasoning is making sure you get plenty under the skin, as well as on top. Run your finger under the skin on the breast and thighs, and rub in a spoonfull of spice onto each piece. Then use another couple spoonfulls on the outside (including in the cavity). I like to do this in the morning, to give the flavor time to set in.

prepped

Next is the beer. Remove (use your chosen method) about 1/4 to 1/3 of the beer from the can. The beer will boil/steam  and fill your bird with moisture. If the can is too full, you may end up with boiling beer touching the meat – which isn’t good. Some people like to put some of their chosen spices, or aromatics (carrots, garlic, onion, etc) in the can. I don’t do this….but feel free to! Now to get the chicken on the can….spread it’s legs apart and just slide it on. Sounds kind of gross, putting a beer can up a chicken’s butt. But I promise, she won’t feel a thing. Once the bird is comfortable on the can, pull the leg bones around to the front. This will help stabilize the set-up (read : do this so your chicken and beer don’t fall over half-way through cooking).

seasoned

Every grill is different, and I can’t give you detailed instructions on how to use your grill. So use what you already know about your grill (temperatures, number of burners, hot spots, etc) and take what I have to say with a grain of salt. I start my Weber (with 2 burners) on high. After if has fully heated up (about 10 minutes), it is ready for the chicken. I turn the front burner completely off, and turn the back burner down to medium (or just under or over medium, depending on the temp outside). The chicken will go over the off burner (indirect heat). Put the breast side facing away from the heat source. Get her on, and close the lid. Open the lid just slightly and give it a peek – make sure the bird has clearance (isn’t touching the lid) and hasn’t fallen over. Now close the lid and walk away! Go watch the game, drink a beer, and hang out with your family.

grilling

The chicken will take 2 – 2 1/2 hours to cook. I like to give mine a peek after an hour, then every 20 minutes or so, until it’s done. You will know it’s done by checking the leg bone. Give it a wiggle – if you think “oh crap, it’s about to fall off!” then you are good to go! Use tongs (maybe 2 sets) to pull the bird (and beer) off, and place it upright on a cutting board. Wrap it loosely in aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 20-30 minutes before you cut it up. Be careful when handling the set-up – the beer can is HOT. And the beer inside is boiling and full of chicken drippings – so please refrain from drinking it (yes, I’m talking to you Dad!)

hot beer

For our sides tonight, we are having Jalapeno Cornbread and Broccoli Cheese & Rice Casserole. Other good accompaniments would be hashbrown casserole, baked potatoes, steamed broccoli, baked beans, or macaroni and cheese.

BC Chicken