Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chicken and Rice Salad?

I saw a recipe over on Cooking.com for a Chicken and Rice Salad, but after reading it, the ingredient list made it more of a main course -- and everyone liked it, especially keeping the lemon vinaigrette on the side.

  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts (Toasted for 5-8 minutes in a dry frying pan -- make sure you keep them moving, they can go from toasting to burnt in a hurry.)
  • Two lemons
  • 2 lbs chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
  • 6 green onions (sliced into about 1/2 inch pieces on the bias)
  • 1 cup of peas (I like using frozen peas and then just blanching them to defrost rather than cook to soft)
  • 1 preparation of Basmati Rice, yes, that recipe again. What can i say, I love it!
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Regular Olive Oil (to brown the chicken)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • First up, get the rice cooking according to the Basmati Rice recipe. It should be ready once the chicken is done and everything else is cut and ready to mix.
  • Heat a tablespoon of regular olive oil in a saute pan (one with a lid).
  • Salt and pepper the chicken breasts. You can do this with breast tenders or dark meat, but watch the cooking time. The breasts stay nice and juicy, the tenders tend to over cook quickly if you aren't careful.
  • Brown the breasts on two sides, about 3 minutes per side.
  • Add the stock once the breasts are browned and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • While the chicken in simmering, zest the lemon.
  • Blanch the peas. Blanch for 5 minutes in boiling, salted water until they are defrosted. If they are fresh, blanch for only about 2 minutes -- tops. I am not a fan of mushy peas unless I am pureeing them.
  • Juice two lemons
  • Slice the scallions
  • Turn the breasts and simmer for another 7 minutes. I look for an internal temp of 165F. Once there I kill the heat and let it rest in the cooking liquid for 5-10 minutes.
  • While the chicken is resting, whisk 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil into the lemon juice to make a vinaigrette. Once you have the right consistency, add the zest. Reserve for serving.
  • Remove the chicken from the cooking liquid and slice into 1/4 inch slices across the grain of the chicken.
  • Put the rice in a large bowl, add the chicken, scallions, peas and pine nuts. Mix well. Serve with a side salad.
The vinaigrette can be used on the salad or the chicken and rice mix, or both. What I found was that some people liked it really light, others preferred more lemon. Using it more like a sauce gave them the option. It really came together quickly, not a bad work night meal.

You might have noticed that I mention toasting the pine nuts in the ingredient list, but never actually toast them while prepping and cooking the dish. That wasn't an oversight. When toasting nuts, I always do them alone and before I do anything else. When you are juggling three pans (rice, chicken, and the peas), slicing the scallions, zesting and juicing the lemons I have found that it's too easy to take your eyes off the nuts for even 30 seconds too long. That's how quickly they can burn, especially in a dry pan and over medium or high heat. So I always get that out of the way.

I did have one serving leftover, so I had it for dinner tonight. I wanted to taste it as a salad, the way the original recipe suggested, and it was good. My only issue was that the chicken was sliced a bit on the large side for a salad, so I did wind up heating it up for dinner. I might try it again for a summer-y salad and halve the amount of chicken as well as cut into small cubes.

One surprising success. My granddaughter has decided that she is my sous chef and even though she made a face after tasting the lemon vinaigrette, she did try it on the dish and enjoyed it! She is nearly the pickiest eater in the house. My wife liked the dish, but avoiding the lemon completely.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pork Tenderloins (2)

I've had some success with braising pork tenderloins, but I wanted to roast them and I went looking for a way to roast them and still keep them moist. This was a knock-off on a recipe I saw Rachael Ray do a couple of years back but I never tried. I think she did hers with a pork loin roast, but I was looking for something for tenderloins, so I borrowed the approach of high heat and short cooking time. It roasted the outside well and the cook time was so short the inside didn't dry out. I tried this method, which worked very well.

  • 2 pork tenderloins
  • 1 tbs Fennel seeds
  • 1 tbs rubbed Sage
  • 1/2 tbs kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • Grind the fennel seeds until a coarse powder
  • Add the sage, salt, and white pepper and grind until well mixed
  • Trim silver skin from the tenderloins
  • Pre-heat oven to 500F and position a rack in the bottom of the oven
  • Dry the tenderloins and rub with the spice mixture.
  • Sit in a shallow roasting pan and place in the oven
  • Cook for 10 minutes, turn over and rotate the pan and cook for another 8-10 minutes
  • Aim for 150F-155F, then remove from the oven, place the tenderloins on a cutting board and cover with foil for about 10 minutes. The temp should rise to about 160F-165F.
  • Slice in 3/8 inch slices and serve.
I did up some sauteed onions with a couple of cloves of chopped garlic tossed in for the last 30 seconds of cooking. I used a combination of butter and olive oil and browned the onions nicely. I served this on top of the pork and it helped keep the pork slices, more like medallions nice and hot and the buttery sauce from the onions went well with the pork.

The meat was nice and moist, and I did have an afterthought, but I didn't do it (this time). I thought afterward that the brown bits in the bottom of the roaster would make a good pan sauce. Add some stock, water, or white wine and deglaze the pan over a stove top burner. Reduce the liquid down and hit it with a pat of unsalted butter right at the end or maybe add the sauteed onions -- then season to taste and serve over the pork.

It went over quite well, even my graddaughter liked it -- and she is a picky eater. It worked well. I think oiling the surface of the meat and even letting it marinate with the dry rub on it might add to the taste. Well all that is for the next time.

Update: I was re-reading this post and realized that the idea of oiling the tenderloin is a bad idea. Oil + 500F = smoke! Since my objective is moisture, I think I will brine the tenderloins the next time and keep the surface dry. If anyone else has a good idea for roasting tenderloins and keeping them moist and tender, please pass it on. I was able to cut it with a fork, so this method was good, but I am always looking for more.