I’ve dubbed last week the “week of chicken” because I made two recipes featuring chicken as the primary protein (and they were both really tasty). This is a fairly (very) unusual occurrence for me, which is why it’s noteworthy. While I recognize that chicken is a healthy, low-fat source of protein, and I consider myself a health-focused omnivore, I’m simply not much of a “chicken person.” I can happily go weeks with no chicken in my diet – eating a mix of vegetarian meals, fish, and red meat. Although my disinclination toward chicken isn’t strong enough to be accurately termed an “aversion,” I do consciously make other alternative choices most of the time. When asked why, I can think of any number of reasons (too many bites of unidentifiable gristle in my McDonald’s “chicken” nuggets growing up, perhaps?), but the most significant is that I don’t cook chicken particularly well. I’m not being overly modest, folks, trust me. Chicken cooked by my hand is frequently overdone and tough, having lost what little flavor and juiciness it naturally contained as a result of my fear of under-doing it. My husband can attest to the unfortunate accuracy of this statement (although, good man that he is, he eats every bite and insists it “tastes good!”).
But! As of last week, I have found not one, but TWO chicken recipes that I can cook to a successful and delicious end result. Incredibly, these two recipes come from the same cookbook – Maine Home Cooking by Sandra Oliver – and are on pages 86 and 87 side-by-side.
First up is Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Balsamic Sauce. Rather than use a roasting pan (I only have a large one meant for holiday turkey and ham), I used my cast iron skillet. The original recipe serves 4.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, diced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons teriyaki or soy sauce (I used soy sauce)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken, tomatoes, onion, garlic, oil, vinegar, soy sauce, salt, and pepper in a roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the chicken is done (will vary depending on thickness).
Remove the chicken from the pan and cover it to keep warm. Add chopped fresh tarragon to juices in the pan and bring them to a boil on a surface burner. Remove from heat. To serve, put the chicken on a platter and spoon the sauce over it.
I added a side of rice to this dish to soak up the extra sauce, which was far too tasty to go to waste!
Up second: Parmesan Chicken, page 87. This recipe also serves 4.
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- olive oil or milk sufficient to coat the chicken (I used olive oil)
- 3/4 cup, more or less, breadcrumbs
- 3/4 cup, more or less, parmesan cheese
- 4 to 8 teaspoons coarsely shredded parmesan cheese for topping
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking pan lightly with olive oil. Coat the chicken with the olive oil (or milk). Roll in the breadcrumbs, seasonings, and grated parmesan cheese. Place them in the baking dish and sprinkle with paprika. Cover with aluminum foil, bake for 40 minutes, remove foil, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of coarsely shredded parmesan cheese to each piece of chicken to melt on top, and continue baking until the cheese is melted and chicken is golden, 5-10 minutes.
I served this recipe with sauteed asparagus. It enabled me to pretend I was being healthy… despite the cheese and breadcrumbs all over the chicken.
As stated previously, both of these recipes were truly outstanding. They will become regulars in our house – particularly because I can distinguish the difference between Nick’s “Really, it tastes good!” and the unprompted, “this is really good.”
I hope you try them and enjoy them, too!