Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chicken, going cheep, er, cheap

If you've checked your paper today, Winn-Dixie has a monster sale on chicken. That's different than a sale on monster chicken, mind you. Wings, thighs, drumsticks, breasts (boneless and split), as well as whole chicken are on sale for 40 percent off the regular price. Now's the time to stock up the freezer on a poultrypalooza. FoodMax has leg quarters on sale.

Here's some ideas of what to do with it. There are more chicken recipes on the blog, too, under "What's Cooking Tonight."

Classic Herb-Roasted Chicken
Rosemary has just finished blooming, which means it's at its most flavorful. Get a few sprigs and roast a whole chicken. You're going to play the role of "rotisserie" with this bird, but your patience will be rewarded.

1 4-5 pound chicken
2 sprigs rosemary
1 bulb of garlic (yes, the whole head of garlic)
1/2 lemon
2 large carrots, peeled
2 ribs celery
1 onion, sliced about 1/2 inch thick
coarse black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil
a sprinkle of Season All

Rinse the chicken and pat it dry. Preheat the oven to 475 (yes, 475). Trust us.

In a roasting pan, make a "bed" for your chicken by layering the whole carrots, onion slices and celery ribs. You're basically going to make your own roasting rack with these vegetables. They'll also flavor your chicken, as well as keeping the bottom of it from getting soggy.

Stuff the chicken cavity with the whole garlic head, the rosemary and the lemon. Rub the outside with the vegetable oil, then sprinkle with the pepper and Season All. If your celery and carrots came with the tops/leaves still on, rinse those and stuff them in the bird, too.

Put the chicken BREAST SIDE DOWN on the vegetables. Put the pan in the oven and roast at 475 for 20 minutes. Flip the chicken to BREAST SIDE UP, lower your oven temperature to 350. Let the chicken cook for another 40 minutes or so, until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 160 degrees. Remove the chicken from the oven, cover it with a double layer of aluminum foil and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before carving. The chicken will continue cooking even after it's removed from the oven. It will hit around 170 degrees during the 10-15 minutes it rests.

If you don't have a meat thermometer, err on the side of longer cooking time of 45 to 50 minutes.

Ginger Tempura Chicken and Watercress Salad
With Creamy Lemongrass Dressing

Serves 4

1 ½ pounds chicken breast halves, boneless and skinless

Creamy Lemongrass Dressing:
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 TBLS chopped lemongrass
½ tsp ground ginger
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
¾ tsp Asian fish sauce or oyster sauce
¼ tsp hot sauce
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 TBLS sugar

Tempura Batter:
1 cup flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp salt
1 cup lime-flavored seltzer water

3 cups canola oil, for frying

8 cups watercress, arugula or mixed salad greens
1 cup diced fresh or canned pineapple
½ cup shelled pistachio nuts, toasted

Slice chicken into ¾-inch strips horizontally across the breast. Set aside. In food processor or blender, combine all ingredients for lemongrass dressing; pulse until smooth. Set aside.

In large saucepan or deep fryer, place oil and heat oil to 350 F.

In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients for tempura batter. Dip each piece of chicken into batter, allowing excess to drip off. Gently lower battered chicken into hot oil and fry for 2 ½ - 3 minutes, turning once during cooking. Chicken will need to be cooked in a few batches, as pieces should not touch. (Chicken will not brown; it will remain a pale tan color.) Remove chicken to paper towels to drain.

In large serving bowl, place salad green, pineapple pieces and pistachios. Add dressing and toss well to coat. Place chicken over greens and sprinkle with toasted pistachios.

Orange Hoisin Spiced Chicken Wings

Serves 4

3 pounds chicken wings (about 12 – 14), room temperature

Spice Mix:
2 TBLS five spice powder
½ tsp ground ginger
2 tsps chili powder
2 tsps kosher salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper

Orange Hoisin Sauce:
1 bottle (8 oz) hoisin sauce
½ cup orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 tsp sesame seed oil
2 TBLS rice vinegar
¼ tsp chili powder
2 tsps orange zest
3 TBLS chopped cilantro

3 cups canola oil, for frying

In a gallon-size plastic bag with zip top closure, combine all ingredients for spice mix. Seal and shake well to blend.

Make Orange Hoisin Sauce by combining in small saucepan over medium-high heat hoisin sauce, orange juice concentrate, sesame seed oil, rice vinegar and chili powder. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for five minute. Remove from heat; stir in zest and cilantro. Cover and set aside.

In a deep saucepan or stockpot, add oil and heat to 350 F. While oil is heating, add chicken wings to plastic bag with spice mixture. Shake until all wings are coated. Remove wings from bag, place in pot and fry, in batches, for 6 – 8 minutes, or until skin is crispy.

Remove wings from oil and place on paper towels to drain. After final batch of wings is cooked, place wings in large mixing bowl. Pour Orange Hoisin Sauce over wings; toss well to coat.