The Recipes

Day One: Chicken, anyone?

Chicken has always terrified me.  As a kid, my mom would cook the living crap out of tiny pieces of any poultry, pork, or any other meat for that matter.  It was only in my 20th year that I was treated to a delicious, juicy bird that made me realize that chicken doesn't have to be the lackluster menu item if it is prepared well.  I guess that's the crux of any food:  Prepare it correctly, season it well, and dang if it isn't good! 

Today for lunch, I decided to make a glazed and baked chicken with braised green beans.  Such fancy terms for things in this cooking business.

I was at my local market that, luckily for me, features local produce, a butcher for all things two- and four-legged, a fish monger, and a florist to boot!  I asked my poultry guy for a chicken breast and thigh; he asked me if I wanted the breast split.  "Sure, that would be great" was my response.  Turns out it was actually two breasts, so I was very thankful he split them.  I was in possession of my protein:  two skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts and one thigh of the same caliber.

Now, we all want to stay on the healthy side of things, but if you haven't experienced the dark meat of a chicken or indulged in the skin, I recommend you fix that error in judgment immediately.  The skin of chicken when well-prepared captures tons of flavor and is delightful and crispy.

Here's what I did:

Sweet-n-Heat Chicken

Ingredients:

Two chicken breasts, one thigh (see above)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 T. cayenne pepper
1 t. cumin
Pinch salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the chicken pieces on a wire rack on top of a cookie sheet.  I put parchment paper in between the two to ease my cleanup (yay!).  Liberally salt and pepper both sides of each chicken piece and drizzle olive oil over each.  Put the pan in the oven for 20-25 minutes; the skin should start to look a little crispy.

Now, start the glaze for the chicken and start the braised green beans (see below).

For the glaze, combine the maple syrup and spices with a healthy pinch of salt and pepper in a small saucepan.  Allow to simmer while chicken cooks partway.  Once your timer goes off at the 20-25 minute mark, baste the chicken with the glaze.  It was still a little loosey-goosey at this point, but still flavorful.  Set the timer for four minutes, and baste again.  The glaze will be getting increasingly sticky and gooey the longer it simmers.  Yum.  Repeat this step two more times, letting the chicken cook for 6 minutes the final stretch.

Summary of cooking the chicken: 20-25 minutes, then two four-minute segments, finish with a six-minute stretch.  The basting occurs three times.  Take the chicken out of the oven; allow it to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.  If you are nervous about the doneness of your chicken, check your cook temperature with a thermometer:  be careful to avoid the bones, and the internal temperature should be 180 degrees.

Meanwhile, pull your wilted, lovely green beans out of the pan and plate them.  After allowing the chicken to rest, plate the chicken as is, or slice according to your preference.

I ended up with a full breast and some thigh meat leftover... more ideas on leftovers from this fantastic meal to come.

Braised Green Beans

Put 3/4 c. of any kind of stock and 1/4 c. of water in a shallow sauce pan.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper.  Cut off the ends of the green beans and add to the pan; set heat to medium low and allow to simmer away while the chicken cooks.  Note:  As many other renters and homeowners, I am stuck with an electric stove.  I put the heat between 3 and 4, and reduced it to 3 after I saw a slight simmer going on.  Pay attention to your own crazy appliances!