A versatile, Italian food friendly chicken: Pollo con pesto

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Here is a lightly breaded chicken breast that seems to go with most any type of Italian food. It tastes just as great with a marinara as it does with an Alfredo, or even a fresh pesto like I served it here.

Lightly Breaded, Italian Seasoned Chicken Breast

Ingredients

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into ½” thick strips
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Italian blend seasoning
buttermilk or whole milk
oil for cooking

Directions

Place chicken strips in glass bowl and cover with just enough buttermilk or whole milk to completely submerge. Let stand for approximately one hour. Meanwhile, mix flour, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in shallow bowl.

Pour cooking oil in large skillet to cover bottom with approximately ¼ inch of oil and heat over medium high heat until shimmering. Dredge chicken breast in seasoned flour and fry for approximately four minutes and then turn and fry for three to four minutes on the other side. Set aside on paper towel lined plate.

Serve on top of your favorite pasta. Tonight I made fresh pesto. Here’s my pesto recipe.

Pesto

Ingredients

4 cups basil leaves packed fairly tight
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
½ cup grated Parmesan
4 cloves garlic
Kosher salt
Extra virgin olive oil (Start with ¼ cup)

Directions

First, toast your pine nuts by placing them in a skillet on the stove top and heating them on medium heat. Shake the pan often to prevent them from burning. It should take approximately 5 to 7 minutes to toast the pine nuts.

Place all ingredients except olive oil in food processor. Pulse several times to begin blending ingredients. Then constantly blend ingredients while drizzling olive oil into food processor. Use only enough oil to turn ingredients into smooth, thick sauce. The pesto should be able to hold a slight form. Add the pesto to your favorite pasta and blend well and serve immediately.

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Forget the Clown: Nutty Chicken Fingers

Here’s a great recipe for a crispy alternative to fast food chicken nuggets that kids will love. The best part is you can make these in less time than it takes to get in the car and drive across town to McDonald’s and you won’t need to worry about what your kids are eating.

Ingredients

1 cup finely chopped pecans
2/3 cup crushed corn flakes
2 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup buttermilk
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips

Directions

Preheat oven to 400° F and line 11×17 inch jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.

Combine the pecans, corn flake crumbs, dried parsley, garlic powder, and salt in a shallow bowl. Place chicken in another shallow bowl and pour buttermilk over chicken. Then roll chicken pieces in pecan mixture while pressing down on chicken to help adhere the mixture to the chicken.

Place in a single layer on the aluminum foil lined baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 12-15 minutes or until juices run clear.

It Doesn’t Have to be Red: Grilled Chicken with White BBQ Sauce

When one thinks of BBQ, one typically thinks of beef, pork, or chicken slow cooked and slathered in a tomato based red sauce. Now I love a good BBQ sauce; from the mild sweet to the mouth numbing fire bombs, but every once in a while I look for something different. That’s when I pull out my white BBQ sauce. Although this sauce works well on pork, I believe the tanginess of the vinegar and lemon simply complement the flavor of chicken. Here’s what I did today:

Ingredients

1 whole cut up chicken or your favorite pieces

Rub
1 T garlic powder
1 ½ t Smoked paprika
1 T Mexican chili powder
1 T Kosher salt

Sauce

1 C mayonnaise
1 T ground black pepper
1 T Kosher salt
3 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 T distilled white vinegar
2 T white sugar
A few splashes Tabasco sauce

Directions

To make the sauce:
In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, pepper, salt, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, and Tabasco sauce. Mix all together until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours to allow flavors to integrate. This sauce will keep for several days in the refrigerator so it is best to make this at least the night before.

To make the rub:

Simply add garlic powder, paprika, chili powder and salt in a sealed container and shake well to combine.

Rub seasoning mixture evenly over all chicken pieces. First grill chicken for a few minutes on both sides over direct heat to give chicken a little color. Continue cooking over indirect heat until chicken is cooked through. This will take approximately 45 minutes.

After chicken is finished grilling, pour sauce over chicken and serve.

Smoked Turkey, Havarti, and Roasted Red Pepper Panini

Although they are nice, you don’t need a panini press to make a great panini. They tend to be one of those devices that, unless you make a lot of paninis, they just take up a lot of valuable space in a kitchen. I make these great sandwiches using a George Foreman Grill.

When making paninis, you are limited by only your imagination. All you need are two slices of good bread, a meat, a cheese, some sort of veggie, maybe a condiment and you’re good to go.

Tonight I made paninis using sourdough bread, smoked turkey breast, Havarti cheese, Roasted Red Peppers, and my own honey mustard. This makes a very satisfying sandwich that isn’t too heavy. They go great with a nice, clean, crisp sauvignon blanc.

Ingredients

Two slices sourdough bread
3-4oz Smoked turkey breast
1-2oz Havarti cheese
Roasted red peppers
Blind Guy Honey Mustard (recipe follows)

Directions

Preheat grill. Spread bottom slice of bread with honey mustard. Then assemble sandwich in this order: turkey, Havarti, peppers. Place on grill and close lid. Let the bread toast for a few minutes. When grill marks begin to appear you can begin to apply a little pressure. Grill until heated through and grill marks are well defined; about 5 minutes total. Remove from grill and slice in half. Serve immediately.

Blind Guy Honey Mustard

Ingredients

2/3 C real mayonnaise
2 T Grey Poupon Dijon mustard with white wine (Not Country style)
3 T Honey
1 t Soy sauce
1 t Fresh lemon juice

Directions

Whisk all ingredients together until well blended. Chill for at least 2 hours. Overnight is better.

This also makes a wonderful salad dressing.

Badonkadonk: Beer Butt Chicken

Beer Butt Chicken right off the grill.

Beer removed and ready to carve.

If you have never had a beer butt chicken you are certainly missing something. This is some of the most moist chicken you will ever eat. Because the beer that is inserted up the chicken’s butt adds moisture while the chicken cooks, it is nearly impossible to end up with a dry chicken. Another nice thing about this, is that seasoning is only limited by your imagination. You can season it with anything. Maybe you are wanting to go with a herbed Italian flavor, or maybe something more southern, or maybe you want to spice it up and go full out Cajun; the choice is yours.

Here’s what I did tonight:

Ingredients

1 whole chicken 4 – 5 lbs
1 12 ounce can of your favorite beer
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Teaspoon onion powder
2 Teaspoons garlic powder
2 Teaspoons dried basil
2 Teaspoons dried parsley flakes
1 Teaspoon Spanish paprika

Directions

Preheat grill to approximately 350° F. If using a charcoal grill, arrange coals for indirect grilling. On a gas grill, I suggest preheating the grill with all burners on high but then adjust according to your grill that will allow you to grill the chicken using indirect heat. If that is not possible, I would suggest turning the burners down to low directly under the chicken and the others low enough to keep the heat at a fairly consistent 350° F. Although it is not entirely necessary, one other piece of equipment to have is a special made rack that will hold the chicken upright without worry of it falling over. These racks can be found almost anywhere grilling supplies are sold. The one I have is a double rack that allows me to grill two beer butt chickens at once.

Blend all the seasoning together in a bowl and set aside. Thoroughly rinse chicken under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle seasoning all over the chicken and gently rub into the chicken. Gently lift the skin from the chicken breast and rub some additional seasoning directly on the flesh of the chicken under the skin. Open the beer and promptly drink approximately ¼ to ½ the beer. Using an old fashion style can opener, puncture a couple more openings in the top of the can. Place a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken breast. Make sure that you do not insert the probe in too far and hit the rib cage. The thermometer will give you an incorrect reading.

Roast the chicken using indirect grilling until the chicken reaches approximately 165° to 170° F. A good rule of thumb is to allow approximately 20 minutes per one pound of chicken.

The trickiest part of cooking a beer butt chicken is removing the can. The can will be very hot and the beer inside will be equally hot. I suggest using a long carving fork to insert through the backbone of the chicken and lifting straight up. I also suggest wearing a rubber dishwashing glove on the other hand and using a thick potholder that you might not mind getting dirty and possibly ruined. Once the chicken is lifted up, use the other hand to firmly grasp the beer can and twist as you pull it out. Be careful not to squeeze the can too hard or you will possibly crush it and very hot beer will burn your hand. Once the can is removed you may carve the chicken and serve.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Here’s a very easy soup that is just a little out of the ordinary. It’s a nice change of pace from chilli with all the great Southwest flavors. I feel the freshly sliced avocado adds a wonderful element and the chipotle peppers gives a nice smoky flavor to the soup.

Ingredients

2 14.5 ounce can tomatoes
1 medium onion, cut up
2 clove garlic
4 tablespoons fresh, chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon sugar
8 cups chicken broth
1 ½ lbs cooked chicken breast shredded
2 or 3 chipotle peppers and a little adobo sauce from the can

Serving additions

shredded Monterey jack cheese
avocados sliced into strips
Tortilla chips
Sour cream

Directions

In blender or food processor combine undrained tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, chipotle pepper and sugar. Cover and blend till nearly smooth. Put mixture into a large pot with chicken broth and chicken. Bring to boiling. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

When serving, in this order, put crunched tortilla chips in a bowl with cheese, avocados, and sour cream. Ladle soup over; serve immediately. See picture below.

But Chickens Don’t Have Lips!

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Here is a recipe for Chicken Lips that I received from Peter Harman, chef and owner of Martini’s Grille in Burlington, Iowa many years ago. Peter also started a carry out store called Lips To Go and a restaurant in Iowa City, Iowa called Graze.

Here is Peter’s fantastic Chicken Lips:

Ingredients

2 pounds voluptuous chicken breasts
2 pounds flour
1 quart buttermilk
2 tablespoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons black pepper

Directions

Buy fresh boneless chicken breasts, big, jumbo babies, wash thoroughly then place on a cutting board, use a sharp knife to remove any fat or skin. Cut chicken into long strips about as thick as your thumb. Put the flour into a bowl and season it with salt and pepper. Pour the buttermilk into a bowl. Make sure the bowls you use are large enough to handle the chicken when it is added. Dip the chicken a few strips at a time into the flour, then buttermilk, then back to the flour. Coat well in each stage. Place them on a platter as they are breaded and reserve until cooking.

Heat frying oil in a large skillet or pot, fry daddy or outdoor cooker to 350 degrees. Fry the lips in batches and place them on a platter lined with paper towels. Dip the lips into the hot lip sauce and put onto a serving platter. Serve immediately with Budweiser Blue Cheese Dressing on the side.

Hot Lip Sauce
1 pound butter
2 cups hot sauce
1 tablespoon granulated garlic

Melt the butter in a pan large enough to hold it, do not allow it to boil. Pour the butter into a blender. Turn blender on to high, hopefully remembering to put the cover on first. Slowly pour in in hot sauce until it is incorporated, the sauce should be bright orange and become emulsified or slightly thick, add garlic and blend for about 30 seconds. This is Hot Lip Sauce.

Peter’s Budweiser Blue Cheese Dressing

1 pint heavy mayonnaise
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 large swig of Bud Fat
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 pound Maytag blue cheese crumbles

Put everything except the blue cheese into a large bowl, mix well. Add the blue cheese and lightly stir in. Some recipes are just that simple.