June 17, 2013

Recipe: Super-Herb Chicken

Remember when I posted that recipe for compound butter not long ago? I mentioned that I tend to overbuy fresh herbs, thinking I’m going to go all culinary ninja in the kitchen and do all sorts of fantastic and impressive things with them. Once in a while that actually happens, but more often than not, the herbs sit around for a while waiting for me find something great to do with them, and before I finally do, they wilt, get soggy, and otherwise turn unusable. Well, shame on me — and not only because that’s a total waste of money, but even more so because those little green bunches pack a powerful nutritional wallop. Most of them carry more than their share of folate, vitamin K1, vitamin C, carotenes, and iron. They’re also good for digestion—that sprig of parsley that you’ve always thought was just the chef’s way of making your plate look pretty? It’s actually a great palate cleanser and digestive aid.

Look at these. This recipe cannot possibly be bad!

Anyway, I posted the recipe for the butter first because I had saturated fat on the brain, but I had originally bought the herbs for the recipe I’m sharing today. I hesitate to even call it a “recipe,” since it involves little more than spreading herbs on a chicken breast and sticking it in the oven. But there are plenty of people in my life who think of cooking as this mystical, mysterious thing that they can’t possibly mess around with without detailed directions, so here goes.

I used a whole, intact chicken breast, complete with bones and skin (so sort of a double-breast, if you can picture it.) Yes, contrary to what you’d be led to believe by the nice, neat packages at the supermarket, chickens do not emerge from their eggs as nothing but dense, meaty boobies. They are living, breathing animals, and as such, these tasty creatures have skin, bones, heads, and feet. I’ll leave the heads & feet discussion for another time, but as for the skin & bones, any chef who knows her stuff will tell you that cooking just about any kind of meat or poultry on the bone will give you more flavor. And when it comes to chicken, you might as well leave the skin on, too. (Why? Lots of good nutrients in there, like all 3 types of fat [saturated, mono-, and polyunsaturated], selenium, and most important, collagen. More on that some other time.)

·  1 whole, intact chicken breast (with bones & skin) -- about 2 pounds (You can also make this with legs & thighs or a whole chicken; just adjust the quantities of herbs to suit the amount of meat.)
·  3-4 Tbsp each - coarsely chopped fresh parsley and dill
·  2-3 medium sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
·  3-4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
·  1-2 tsp salt (preferably unrefined)
·  Black pepper to taste -- about 1 tsp
·  3 Tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350.

Place the herbs, garlic, oil, salt, and pepper in a food processor and blend until it makes a kind of paste:
Anything this green has to be good for you!

Take a taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Lift the skin from the chicken, separating it from the meat but do not remove it. Spread a generous amount of the herb paste all over the breast and pull the skin back into place over it, covering the herbs. You can spread more of the herbs on top of the skin, but this will make the skin of the finished product less crispy, and if you ask me, crispiness is the whole point of eating yummy chicken skin. (Take my word for it here...I did put herbs on top of the skin. I won't make that mistake next time.)
Before cooking.

Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the thickest part reaches a safe internal temperature. (It’s up to you what that temperature is. I enjoy my steaks rare, but I don’t mess around when it comes to undercooked poultry.)

It really doesn’t get much easier than this, folks! A dear friend in college once explained to me that his cooking skills were limited to, “Boil water, insert pasta.” I would say this recipe isn’t much more involved than that: “Preheat oven, insert chicken.” This is weeknight real food at its best. (Especially if you make the herbs ahead of time. You can probably keep the blended herbs in the fridge for at least a day or two if you make it, say, on a Sunday when you have some extra time and then don’t bake the chicken until Monday or Tuesday.)

The finished product. It was way tastier than it looks! (I’m working on my photography
skills. Bear with me while they remain pathetic. [And by “working on my photography skills,”
I mean I’m trying to locate the owner’s manual to my camera so things stop being blurry,
poorly lit, and just plain laughable.] Good thing I cook better than I shutterbug!)

Serve alongside roasted or grilled vegetables – peppers, zucchini, and/or eggplant would be great now that we’re coming into season for all that. If you use bone-in chicken (and especially if you use a whole bird), be sure to reserve the bones for making homemade stock!

*You can alter the herbs to suit your tastes. Don’t like parsley? Try basil, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic instead. Y-U-M!  (That would be phenomenal served alongside roasted asparagus with a little shaved parmesan cheese.) Want a Greek flavor? Use oregano, basil, garlic, and pitted kalamata olives…and maybe toss a little bit of feta in the food processor with it, too! What an awesome meal for a summer dinner outdoors!

Tip:  If you’re on a budget (and who isn’t these days), buying a whole chicken is often the most economical way to go. The price per pound will be less than you’d pay for those fancy-schmancy boneless skinless breasts. Leg quarters (thigh & attached drumstick) are also usually lower in price than just breasts.

P.S. I got the parsley, dill, and garlic from the farmer's market, but the rosemary was my own! I've killed many things with my seemingly black thumb, but my rosemary survived all winter and is looking pretty good! (Well, good for me, that is. A neighbor, who clearly has a better in with the gardening gods than I do, has what can only be described as a rosemary plantation in his yard. Still, a few sprigs in a pot are better than nothing!)


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