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Chicken Parmesan (Grain-Free)

13 Jan


Parmigiana is a method of Italian cooking wherein breaded, fried cutlets are layered in cheese and tomato sauce. Originally made with eggplant (Melanzane alla Parmigiana), breaded chicken and veal cutlets are popular as well. There is some dispute as to where this dish came from; logic would dictate that the Northern province of Parma started the craze, but Southern regions Campania and Sicily also stake a claim in this dish. A common misconception is that the dish got its name from its inclusion of Parmesan cheese (despite the fact that mozzarella is the most common cheese used in this dish); but like Chicken Parmesan, Parmesan cheese got its name from the fact that it is produced in the Parma region (Parmigiano-Reggiano is its Italian name, denoting that the cheese also comes from the neighboring Reggio Emilia province).

While Chicken Parmesan is fairly well-known in the US, it’s of monstrous popularity in Australia, where it is called Chicken Parm, Chicken Parma, or even Chicken Parmy. Their take on the dish usually includes french fries, and was named the #37 best food in the world by CNN Traveler a few years back.

My take on the dish is surprisingly similar to the way I made it while working as a line chef many years ago; the only thing that’s changed is the breading ingredients. While plain tapioca or arrowroot starch works well for its first dusting layer, mixing the starch with some potato starch for the outer breading layer gives the outside a crisp texture. If you’re looking for a really authentic, slightly rough texture that only breadcrumbs can provide, you could toast your favorite gluten-free bread, cool it, then blend to make breadcrumbs. But as you’ll see from the pictures below, this simple preparation is pretty awesome, too.

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Apple, Bacon, and Duck Breast Salad

23 Dec


I love the idea of a good salad. They are simple to put together, and can be immensely satisfying under the right conditions. For me, a salad should be about varying tastes and textures, while still fairly satiating; after all, nothing’s worse than sitting down to 15 minutes of chewing and not feeling satisfied. In terms of satiety, duck breast is pretty high up there – it only takes a little to feel full, especially compared to something leaner like chicken breasts.

So I threw together this duck breast salad, paired with the opposing tastes of apple and bacon. Not too flashy, but it makes an excellent midday meal. There is a lot of good advice out there on how to properly cook a duck breast, but I really like my method: crisp it skin-side down in a skillet, then flip and transfer to an oven until it’s ready. It’s an easy process, assuming you have an oven-proof skillet. If you don’t, no big deal – simply leave a baking sheet in the oven as it heats, and transfer the breasts to the hot sheet instead.

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Chicken Tikka Masala

30 Sep


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Although I consider Butter Chicken to be the ultimate Indian chicken curry (I saved that recipe for my cookbook), Chicken Tikka Masala takes a close second. In fact, there is little difference in the dishes – both are usually made by adding roasted chicken pieces to a tomato-based curry sauce. Butter Chicken has more, well, butter.

The origin of Chicken Tikka Masala is disputed. It’s commonly believed that it was first whipped up in Indian restaurants in the UK (Glasgow in particular is often cited), but many argue that it was first influenced by dishes from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan well before it appeared in UK restaurants.

Putting the curry together is actually pretty simple – start to finish in under an hour. It gets a little complicated when the chicken comes into play, since it should be marinated for at least 6 hours beforehand (overnight preferred). But with a little forethought, this is an excellent weeknight meal.

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Yassa Poulet (Senegalese Grilled Chicken)

5 Aug


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Yassa Poulet (sometimes called Chicken Yassa) is a West African dish originally from Senegal, characterized by its spicy marinade of peppers, lemon, and onions. I was initially drawn to this dish because the marinade uses a crazy amount of onions, and they’re not wasted; instead, they are recombined with the chicken during cooking.

Many traditional recipes call for the chicken to be browned in a skillet and then braised with the marinade until tender. That sounds good, but our nice summer weather always compels me to grill, which left me with a conundrum; how do I reincorporate the onions into this dish after grilling? The answer turned out to be simple – caramelize the onions while the chicken is on the grill. Combining the sweet, delicate flavor of the caramelized onions and the bright, crispy grilled chicken was a pretty awesome move.

I’ve also found that this makes a perfect weeknight dinner – throw together the marinade before work (or the night before), then finish the dish in less than an hour when you get home. Since both the chicken and onions are relatively hands-off, it gives you plenty of time to prepare other accompaniments along the way. Sure, it’s a bit more work than something like my Simple Grilled Chicken Drumsticks recipe, but it’s totally worth it in terms of flavor.

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Chicken Kiev

24 Jun


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Chicken Kiev is a Ukrainian dish, possibly influenced by the French roulade (I’m a big fan of roulades – check out my German Rouladen recipe). This dish is characterized by rolling herbed butter into chicken cutlets. To me, this is an ideal meal; chicken breasts tend to be bland without some added fat or spices, and Chicken Kiev has both in spades. To make the butter easier to roll, my recipe calls for freezing the butter for 30 minutes before rolling – it makes a huge difference.

As a Russian linguist and teacher in my day job, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the spelling of the word “Kiev” in my recipe. The Ukrainian government officially changed the romanized spelling of their capital city’s name to Kyiv in 1995, mostly due to the fact that Kiev is the Russian pronunciation of the word. But in truth, Kiev is the original, Old East Slavic pronunciation of the city (technically it’d be spelled Kyev today). I think it’ll be interesting to see how the world spells and pronounces the word for this important city in the future – especially given the amount of attention this corner of the world has received recently. Personally, I like Kiev, but not as a slight to the Ukrainian people or government; I’m just a fan of Old East Slavic.

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Easy Roasted Chicken (Recipe from The Ancestral Table)

3 Jun


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

It’s hard to believe, but my cookbook, The Ancestral Table, has been out for nearly four months. I keep finding myself surprised whenever someone tells me they have and enjoy my book; for some reason I keep assuming that only our little family regularly uses it as a reference. So I thought it would be fun to take a week off from my regular recipes and share one from The Ancestral Table, as a gentle reminder to myself that there are other people out there who could use these recipes.

Deciding on a dish to share was really easy; we make this roasted chicken recipe at least once every two weeks. Simply put, it’s one of the easiest chicken recipes you’ll find, and it’s deliciously crispy and juicy. Cooking the bird directly in a skillet also makes it a cinch to whip the drippings into a flavorful gravy. Finally, we like to throw the bones and carcass into our electric pressure cooker for a couple hours to make some tasty and calcium-rich broth.

I’m also giving away a copy of my book this week, signed by me and Paul Jaminet (who wrote the foreword of my book). There are only a few copies like this one, so be sure to enter to win (instructions at the bottom of this post).

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Sweet and Sour Chicken (Paleo, Gluten Free)

24 Apr


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Let’s talk about Sweet and Sour Chicken for a second. It is probably not surprising to read that while this dish is served in Chinese restaurants in many Western countries, it doesn’t really exist in China. There are several sauces in China that incorporate both sweet and sour tastes, the most common being from the Hunan province, but they’re still a far cry from what you can get at your local Chinese-American restaurant. The reality is that this dish is now nearly more of an American dish than Chinese. On the flip side, the Chinese have their own interpretation of Western tastes – like flying fish roe and salmon cream cheese stuffed crust pizza (Hong Kong Pizza Hut).

But at the end of the day, it’s still a unique and comforting meal, and I thought it would be fun to try and replicate it using Paleo-friendly ingredients. My first order of business was figuring out how to make the sauce without resorting to ketchup as a base; instead, I used a combination of chicken stock, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, tamari, honey, and spices. For the chicken, I used my new breading technique highlighted in Tuesday’s chicken nugget recipe. Lastly, I found that gently simmering the sauce while I cooked the chicken helped the sauce ingredients to perfectly marry, resulting in a balanced, delicious flavor.

For this recipe in particular, I teamed up with the folks at Vitacost; they offered to have me experiment with their online store and see what I could come up with. I had been thinking of trying out this Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe for a while now so it seemed like a good fit. I was surprised at how easy and cost-effective it was to use their shop; many of the items in their store were comparable or even cheaper than what I can find locally. Not only that, they had many of the brands we already buy. It was a lot of fun to conceive an entire meal using only their store items (minus the produce and meat). I think Vitacost would be a great resource for three types of people: (1) those who don’t live near a gourmet or international market, (2) those who have a high cost of living (big cities, for example), and (3) those who don’t have time to rummage through the aisles of several stores to find the right ingredients.

Okay, let’s get cooking.

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Building a Better Chicken Nugget (Gluten Free, Paleo Recipe)

22 Apr


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

I have always been proud of my Paleo “Chick-fil-A” nugget recipe from a couple years back, and it has definitely been a hit with readers. If fact, I’m sure a few of you stumbled upon my little blog because of them. But to be honest, I’ve never been satisfied with the texture of the nuggets themselves; while they are very similar to the thin coating that you’ll find at Chick-fil-A, I personally prefer a spongier breading around my chicken nuggets. So while experimenting with breading techniques for my Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe, I happened upon my eureka moment – something I like to call “reverse battering.”

You see, I’ve always been taught to bread meats using a liquid-then-flour (or flour-liquid-flour/breading) method. Sounds logical, right? It’d be just crazy to not put flour or breading on nuggets before frying them. But after some YouTube surfing for Chinese recipes, I noticed that sometimes people would bread their food with starch and then egg before throwing it in the oil. Turns out it’s a genius idea for getting a light, crunchy, and satisfying texture for nuggets without having to deal with that whole pesky “wheat flour” or “breadcrumbs” stuff. The trick is in not heating the oil too hot, so as to keep the egg from burning; medium heat works perfectly.

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Thai Green Chicken Curry

21 Jan


I’m a big fan of Thai curries, and Green Curry is one of my favorites. It’s been a couple years since I tackled my last Thai curry (Panang Curry), so I thought it was time to share another recipe. Like in my Panang Curry recipe, this recipe is a template for you to adjust as you see fit; directions on how to change the protein or add vegetables are provided below the recipe.

The Thai word for Green Curry (แกงเขียวหวาน) actually translates to “Sweet Green Curry”, but that doesn’t imply that this dish is sweet. Instead, “sweet green” means “light green” in Thai.

While the idea of making curry from scratch may be initially daunting, nothing could be further from the truth. My curry paste has quite a few ingredients, but all you do is basically throw them all together and purée; the paste will keep for a month in the fridge and there’s enough paste to make three curries. Making the actual curry is even easier – it’s a 20-minute meal, if not less.

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Salt and Pepper Fried Duck Tongues

24 Dec


WAIT!! Don’t turn away just yet. If the idea of duck tongues is too much for you, know that you can make this exact recipe with shrimp instead and it’s equally tasty; in fact, this recipe is based on Salt and Pepper Shrimp (椒盐虾), a common Chinese dish that’s one of our favorites. I’ll probably do up the shrimp version of the recipe in the future.

Okay, now that I’ve coaxed you into staying, let’s talk about duck tongues. They’re very different from what you may be expecting from tongue – usually considered dense, muscled, and tough – and are instead tender and succulent. They carry an inherent richness which reminds me of escargot. They have a tender bone in the center of the tongue, that’s mostly cartilage; many people come to relish the slight crunch of eating the whole tongue, bone and all. They’re also very affordable considering their status as a delicacy: US Wellness Meats offers a pack of 50-60 tongues (which I used in making this recipe) for well under $10.

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