(Rice-Free) Jambalaya

Inspiration: I’ve always loved the flavors of jambalaya and consider it one of my favorite dishes (…I say that way too often, don’t I?). For the past several years at Mardi Gras time, I’ve been trying to concoct the perfect recipe for us – which isn’t a traditional one by any means. We always skip the celery and green peppers because we don’t prefer their flavors, and we skip the rice. But I’ve never quite gotten a version that we love just right – until now.

What we Loved: One of the reasons that I love jambalaya in any form is because there is so much going on. Bacon, chicken, sausage, shrimp – what a great variety. Another reason that I love it is because of the heat. This is a spicy dish that pairs well with a nice tall glass of ice water. This particular recipe had both of those components, and then some. After cooking for a few hours, the resulting sauce was amazing. It was rich and somewhat thick, with a perfect blend of seasonings (Cajun spices, peppers and onions that seemed to have melted away, bacon fat, salt, and the juices from all of the meats) that formed a solid backbone for the dish. And I also want to note how much we loved the chicken in this dish. It was the first thing that Brandon mentioned – that the chicken was ridiculously tender. As you can see in the photos, it started shredded apart all on its own. And the pieces themselves were some of the most tender pieces of chicken that I’ve ever tasted. We both truly adored everything about this meal.

Helpful Hints: This is a very spicy dish, so you might want to use less seasonings to suit your preferences if you don’t love really spicy foods. The serrano, cayenne, chili powder, and Cajun seasoning all lend quite a bit of heat, so you could leave some of these out if you’d like (though not the Cajun seasoning, because that flavor is pretty essential to the dish). 

Rice-Free Jambalaya
Source: Adapted from Guilty Kitchen

Extra virgin olive oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
6 slices bacon, diced
3 links Andouille sausage, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 serrano pepper, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
Kosher salt, to taste
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed

1. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil. Sprinkle the chicken well with Cajun seasoning, then add it to the pan. Cook until the chicken is just browned on the outsides. Remove and set aside.

2. Add the bacon to the pan, and saute until beginning to crisp. Add the andouille sausage and cook for a few minutes longer until the sausage begins to brown. Return the chicken to the pan.

3. Add the onions, red peppers, and serrano peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes more, until softened. Mix in all of the spices, stirring well to coat.

4. Pour in the tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Cook until thickened, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

5. Stir in the shrimp and cook until just barely cooked through, about 3 minutes. Serve.

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Fig Jam, Caramelized Onions, and Parmesan

Inspiration: I adore fig jam. And contrary to my old self of a few years ago, I adore sweet and savory main dishes. It seems to me that fig jam was really made for such applications, and I think it pairs particularly well with chicken (and cheese, for that matter – Parmesan, goat cheese, bleu cheese…).

What we Loved: This dish was just what I hoped it would be. Sweet and gooey fig jam; wonderfully bronzed, caramelized onions; and nutty, rich Parmesan. Those three ingredients really married together so well for a wonderful filling, and we thought that the chicken was really a perfect pairing for such a filling. Its mild flavor really let the stronger, richer flavors of the other ingredients shine. We paired this with some lima beans with a pat of butter and some salt and pepper for a simple, elegant meal.

Helpful Hints: Make sure not to overcook your chicken, which is easy to do when you’re baking boneless, skinless chicken breasts – they go from moist and delicious to dry, dry, dry relatively quickly. You might want to use a meat thermometer (set to 165), or you could just keep a careful eye, taking the chicken out at intervals starting at about 25 minutes to see if it’s done.

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Fig Jam, Caramelized Onions, and Parmesan
Source: Original Recipe

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 onion, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons fig jam
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan over low heat. Add the onions, and cook until browned and caramelized, about 45 minutes. Stir frequently and keep the heat low.

2. Cut a lengthwise slice into the top of each chicken breast to create a space for filling.

3. Add the fig jam, caramelized onions, and Parmesan into the pocket of each chicken breast. Season well with salt and pepper, and place in a baking dish.

4. Cook for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Simple Roasted Whole Chicken with Salt and Butter

Simple Roasted Whole Chicken with Salt and Butter

*Photo and Content Updated March 2012*

Inspiration: I’m a broken record at this point, but two chickens a month from our lovely and wonderful meat CSA (look for one in your area – they’re awesome!) means that I’ve roasted my fair share of chickens. Who would have thought that the simplest one would be our very favorite? We’ve made this three times already in the past couple of months, and really, I don’t have any plans to try any other roasted chicken recipes. This one is comfort food at its finest. Thank you Sunday for being the perfect vehicle for my comfort food suppers.

What We Loved: We’ll start with the chicken. It’s (a variation of) Thomas Keller’s favorite roast chicken recipe, so that should say a lot from the start, right? It’s so easy, easy, easy to make, and the flavor? Salty, buttery, delicious. As you can see from the photo, the skin develops a nice salt crust that is just wonderful. Keller suggests serving the chicken slathered with butter, and I just have to say – what a fantastic idea. I never would have thought of it on my own, but it really is one of the best things that has ever happened to roasted chicken. We like to put a nice dish of room temperature butter on the table between us, and I like to eat the crusty/salty pieces of chicken on their own and top all of the juicy, inside pieces with big pats of melting butter. Perfect.

Tips: Keller suggests serving this chicken with both butter and mustard. We haven’t tried the mustard yet (we can’t seem to get past how perfect it is without it), but I’m sure that it would be great for those who love mustard.

Simple Roasted Whole Chicken with Salt and Butter
Source: Adapted from Almost Bourdain, originally from Thomas Keller via Melanie Dunea’s ‘My Last Supper’

I’m really going to simplify this with easy instructions for how we make it. For more detailed instructions and to see the changes I make (I leave out pepper, thyme, and mustard), see the above link.

1 2-3 lb chicken
Kosher salt
Unsalted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 450. Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well inside and out with paper towels.

2. Add salt to the cavity of the bird, then truss the bird.

3. Salt the chicken well and evenly with about a tablespoon of Kosher salt.

4. Place the chicken in a roasting pan with a meat thermometer stuck into the cavity between the breast and the leg, deep into the meat and not touching bone. Cook until the bird reaches an internal temperature of 170, about an hour and a half.

5. Let rest for 15 minutes. Slice and serve with plenty of butter.

Chicken Breasts with Pesto, Sundried Tomatoes, and Parmesan

Inspiration: Pesto, sundried tomatoes, and some sort of cheese (usually goat cheese, but also Parmesan or mozzarella) is one of my favorite flavor combinations. In looking over my blog, I can’t believe that I haven’t posted many recipes yet with this great set of ingredients! Combined together, these three ingredients (and pine nuts are also a good addition) have a really wonderful Italian-inspired flavor that works so well  in any number of easy weeknight recipes. The combination works great for stuffed chicken breasts, which is something that I like to turn to when I want a simple and quick dinner with staples that I have in my pantry.

What we Loved: I’m a sucker for pesto, so I really love anything that includes it. Here, the rich, garlicy sauce pairs so well with the sweet, oily sundried tomatoes and the nutty Parmesan. Wrapped in a nice, tender chicken breast, you really can’t go wrong! I sprinkled these chicken breasts with a liberal amount of salt and pepper before baking, and that was actually one of my favorite parts of the meal. I just loved the salty crust that resulted!

Helpful Hints: If you’d like a brown sear on your chicken instead of the salt and pepper crust, you could saute it for a few minutes on both sides in a hot pan before placing it in the oven. I usually make a meal like this when I’m feeling especially lazy or busy, though, so I just like to throw mine in the oven from the start.

Chicken Breasts with Pesto, Sundried Tomatoes, and Parmesan
Source: Original recipe to serve 2

2 chicken breasts, butterflied but not cut completely in half
3 tablespoons pesto
1/4 cup packed sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Open the butterflied chicken breasts like a book. On one half of each breast (use the larger half, if there is one), place half of the pesto, sundried tomatoes, and Parmesan. Fold the other half of the breasts over the fillings.

2. Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish. Sprinkle liberally with Kosher salt and pepper, and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Cover with foil.

3. Cook at 350 degrees for 30-35 minute, until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink inside.

Tarragon Chicken

Inspiration: Fresh herbs are one ingredient that are always a challenge for me to use up before they go bad. When I put a fresh herb on the grocery list, I always like to make sure that I have several recipes in mind for its use. This one has been on my tarragon list for a while!

What we Loved: I was so happy with the tarragon flavor in this dish. I’m not very experienced with cooking with tarragon yet, and I’m still getting used to its flavor profile. It has a somewhat strong licorice flavor, and since this recipe calls for quite a lot of tarragon, I wondered if it would overpower the dish. Happily, the tarragon flavor was perfectly subtle and delicious. With each bite of chicken, I knew that the tarragon was there, but it wasn’t at the forefront of the dish. With the buttery components of the pan sauce and some fresh vegetables on the side, this was a simple comfort food dinner that we both really enjoyed.

Helpful Hints: If you let the chicken cook completely undisturbed for the first five minutes or so after you put it into the pan, it will really help to form a nice, brown crust!

Tarragon Chicken
Source: lbrookscooks, originally from Saveur Magazine

I made a few changes to the recipe. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter (divided)
2 chicken thighs, 2 drumsticks, and 2 wings
kosher salt and black pepper
8 stems fresh tarragon
1 cup chicken stock

1. Heat the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a saute pan over medium high heat. Season the chicken well on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the chicken skin side down in the pan, and let brown for approximately 5 minutes.

2. Flip the chicken, add four sprigs of tarragon to the pan, and cover.  Continue cooking until the chicken juices run clear, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, finely chop the remaining four sprigs of tarragon.

3. Transfer the chicken to a platter, and discard the tarragon sprigs from the pan. Drain the fat from the pan.

4. Return the pan to the heat, and add the chicken stock. Scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a spoon, incorporating them into the sauce. Cook until reduced by half, approximately 5 minutes.

5. Swirl in the remaining tablespoon of butter and the chopped tarragon. Serve the chicken with the sauce.

Lemon Chicken

Inspiration: My freezer is going to overflow with our CSA chickens soon if I don’t start cooking a lot of chicken for dinner!  When I ran across this bright and lemony recipe, I couldn’t wait to try it because it seemed so perfect for this time of year. With some fresh vegetables, a bottle of cold white wine, and the LOST series finale to park ourselves in front of, I couldn’t think of a better plan for a Sunday night.

What we Loved: B and I would both list chicken piccata as one of our favorite meals, so I had high hopes for this lemony chicken dish, too. As it turned out, B and I both loved it, and I might say that this recipe is my favorite roasted chicken recipe so far.  It’s tart and tangy, with crispy skin and that little touch of grease that makes dark chicken meat so good. I was amazed at how well the lemony marinade seeped into the chicken and provided such a tangy bite without being overpowering at all. What a refreshing meal!

Helpful Hints: I think that this chicken would be fabulous cooked on the grill!

Lemon Chicken

Source: Annie’s Eats, originally from Simply Recipes

2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed or very finely minced
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves, leaves removed and minced
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed and minced
Kosher salt and black pepper
2-4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (I used 2 wings, 2 thighs, and 2 drumsticks)
2-3 tablespoons melted butter
Thinly sliced lemons for garnish, if desired

1. Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and a big pinch of salt and black pepper in a large ziplock bag. Seal the bag, and shake well to blend. Add the chicken pieces, coating them in the marinade, and seal the bag while pressing out all excess air. Refrigerate and marinate for 2 hours.

2.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Transfer the chicken pieces to a baking dish, skin side up, and reserve the marinade. Brush the top of each piece of chicken with the melted butter.

3.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the skins are crispy and well browned. Halfway through baking, pour the remaining marinade over the chicken pieces.

4. Once fully baked, remove the chicken from the oven and cover loosely with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving, and garnish with lemon slices if desired.

Chicken Paprikash

Chicken Paprikash

*Photo and Content Updated March 2012*

Inspiration: We’re big on doing everything that we can to avoid food waste in our house, and one of the ways that we do that is by having a stash of meals that we can turn to when we need to use up certain ingredients. This is one of our sour cream meals – always a great use of that half-tub of sour cream that’s sitting in the fridge.

What we Loved: I really love chicken dishes with a nice pan sauce. There’s just something so delicious and comforting about a meal like that.  I particularly like the sauce in this recipe because it has a deep, rich flavor that’s smoky from the paprika and nice and creamy from the sour cream. And as an added bonus, this recipe is very easy to make and pulls together in no time. It’s perfect for a busy weeknight.

Helpful Hints: I served this with some buttered peas as a side dish this time around, but it really pairs well with any number of vegetables. Next time, I’m thinking that some mashed cauliflower drizzled with some of that rich paprika gravy would be wonderful. I’ve made this meal using both regular paprika and sweet Hungarian paprika, and we really preferred the Hungarian paprika. The flavor of the sauce was so much more rich and intense. So if you have access to Hungarian paprika, I’d really recommend it. Most Hungarian paprikas here are imported and look like this.

Chicken Paprikash
Source: Adapted from Allrecipes

I made several additions and changes to the above recipe. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
Salt and pepper
1 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream

1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat a pat of butter in a skillet, and brown the chicken on all sides. Work in batches so that the pan is not overcrowded, which will cause the chicken to steam instead of allowing a brown crust to form. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

2. Add a little more butter to the pan, and saute the onions until just tender. Stir in the garlic, paprika, and chili powder. Return the chicken to the pan, coating it in the onion mixture. Add the chicken broth, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked and the liquids are reduced to about 1/2 cup.

3. Stir in the sour cream,  and heat through.