Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Chicken in the 'nuke'

OK, so it's not technically correct to still refer to microwaving as "nuking" food, but "microwaving is too long for a headline.

I'm the first to admit that I'd be squeamish about the taste and texture of any raw meat, fish our poultry product cooked in the microwave. It wasn't until we bought a new microwave a few years ago that came with a roasting setting (complete with temperature probe) that I decided to give beef a whirl.

Chicken? I'm still out on that, which is why I was intrigued by these ideas from the poultry gurus.

Microwave ovens cook with high-frequency radio waves that cause food particles to vibrate, creating a friction that heats and cooks the food. Microwaves travel quickly and are extremely short, penetrating only about one inch into the food. This makes microwaving perfect for cooking thin pieces of meat like chicken tenders, because they can cook so quickly. In thicker pieces of meat, the deeper portions cook by heat conduction. Always put the food on microwave-safe glass or ceramic plates.

From the National Chicken Council and U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, here are two new chicken recipes prepared in the microwave, to have on hand when you need a tasty meal in a hurry.

Parchment Steamed Chicken Tenders with Vegetables and Vinaigrette pairs chicken tenderloins, the thin pieces of meat cut from the side of the breast, with the best of late summer vegetables. Start by making a flavorful mustard vinaigrette by combining in a food processor Dijon mustard, olive oil, capers, lemon juice and a variety of herbs. Marinate the chicken in half of this mixture, then place the chicken on squares of parchment paper. Add sliced vegetables like zucchini, tomatoes and fresh corn, and fold the parchment into a packet. Place the packet in the microwave on a microwave-safe plate, and cook five to six minutes on high heat, or until chicken is cooked through. Open steaming packet, add a little more of the vinaigrette dressing, and serve warm. This chicken dish is delicious accompanied by rice or potatoes and sliced cantaloupe.

For lunch or a casual supper, try Lemon Pepper Chicken Sandwiches, which use a pre-cooked chicken that only needs to be reheated in the microwave. Make sandwich spreads by combining softened goat cheese, honey and rosemary in one bowl, and black cherry or plum jam, balsamic vinegar and chopped onion in another. Use lemon-pepper flavored chicken strips or pieces of chicken cut from a lemon-pepper flavored rotisserie chicken for the meat of the sandwich. Assemble all on a favorite bread, add lettuce leaves and serve.

Parchment Steamed Chicken Tenders with
Vegetables and Vinaigrette

Serves 4

1 ½ pounds chicken tenders (about 12 – 14)

2 TBLS roughly chopped fresh basil
1 TBLS roughly chopped fresh tarragon
1 TBLS roughly chopped fresh oregano
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp capers
½ cup + 1 TBLS extra-virgin olive oil
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
3 TBLS + 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
1 large zucchini, sliced thin
½ cup fresh corn (1 ear uncooked corn or ½ cup thawed frozen corn)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

In bowl of food processor, combine all ingredients for vinaigrette. Process until liquid is emulsified. Remove half of vinaigrette and set aside.

In large bowl, place chicken tenders and half of vinaigrette. Toss well to coat. Marinate one-half-hour, or longer. Combine all vegetables in large bowl; top with salt and pepper and toss well.

Tear four pieces of parchment paper, about 15” x 15” each. Place one-fourth of the vegetable mixture on each piece of parchment. Top with 3 -4 chicken tenders. Pull opposites of parchment together around chicken and wrap as package. Turn entire packet over and place on large microwave-safe plate. Repeat with second packet.

Place plate with two packets in microwave oven and cook for 6 – 7 minutes on medium high heat (5 to 6 power level). Remove from oven and repeat with remaining two packets.

When all packets are cooked, unwrap each packet and remove chicken and vegetables to individual serving plates. Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette and serve.

Nutrition Information, Per Serving:
490 calories; 35 g fat; 5 g saturated fat; 10 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 3 g sugars

Lemon Pepper Chicken Sandwiches

Serves 4

1 package (10 oz) lemon-pepper flavored chicken breast strips, or 2 cups lemon-
pepper rotisserie chicken, cut into strips

Honeyed Rosemary Goat Cheese:
1 package (8 oz) goat cheese, softened
3 tsps fresh rosemary, chopped
2 TBLS honey

2 TBLS finely chopped red onion
¼ cup black cherry preserves
1/8 tsp pepper
2 tsps balsamic vinegar

1 loaf ciabatta or other crusty bread
2 cups mache or other leafy green, like Boston Bibb lettuce

In small bowl, combine goat cheese, rosemary and honey. Mix well and reserve.

In separate small, microwave-safe bowl, combine cherry preserves and red onion. Microwave for 30 seconds to warm. Add pepper and balsamic vinegar. Reserve.

Cut bread into four inch slices and cut in half horizontally. Spread one-fourth of the goat cheese mixture onto one half of each sandwich. Spread one-fourth of relish onto each of the other sandwich halves.

Place chicken in microwave-safe bowl and heat in microwave for one minute to warm. Divide chicken among the four sandwiches, placing on top of goat cheese. Top chicken with goat cheese; top with relish half of bread. Cut each sandwich on the diagonal and serve.

Nutrition Information, Per Serving:
520 calories; 16 g fat; 9 g saturated fat; 61 g carbohydrates; 2 g fiber; 23 g sugars