Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine

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Weekly Recipes: The Week of Chicken

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.

You’ll need:

  • 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
Ready to prep!

Ready to prep!

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.

It doesn't look that pretty... but it tasted pretty great!

It doesn’t look that pretty… but it tasted pretty great!

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.

You’ll need:

  •  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
  • Paprika

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.

Looks good enough to eat!

Looks good enough to eat!

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!

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Weekly Recipe: Mediterranean Chicken Salad

Brace yourselves for an onslaught of salad recipes!  There is something about these early days of summer that makes me crave a crisp, refreshing salad (and it has nothing to do with the beginning of bathing suit season).  Frankly, I should be eating more salad and other leafy greens year round, but my own early-summer cravings, in addition to my husband’s request that we eat a bit lighter (hmm, do you think I make too much pasta?), led me to peruse my Maine cookbooks in search of some delicious, exciting salad recipes.  They didn’t disappoint.

If you’re thinking, ‘a Mediterranean Chicken Salad recipe from Maine? Yeah right,’ you do have a point.  I pulled this recipe from my Maine Home Cooking cookbook, under the Modern Maine Cooking section.  In an introductory paragraph, Sandra Oliver acknowledges that many of the recipes in that section are a reflection of outside influences, both international and national.  Maine home cooks, like cooks elsewhere, want to experiment at home with the recipes they’re able to try at restaurants.  The following recipe serves 3 to 4 people.

You’ll need:

  • a whole chicken (cooked), breasts and a thigh
  • 1 big fistful of green beans
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • a dozen black olives, pitted and chopped
  • handful of cherry tomatoes (optional)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • dried oregano
  • finely minced parsley
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • washed and torn lettuce or baby greens

Because Nick and I certainly don’t need to consume an entire chicken between us (and I’m not a big fan of salad leftovers – in my opinion, the greens just don’t keep well), I poached a couple of chicken breasts in a broth with onion, several peppercorns, and some white wine.  After it was cooked, I shredded it for use in the salad.  I also think a rotisserie chicken would be a delicious and speedy answer for cooks who would rather not undertake cooking the chicken themselves.

The fixings...

The fixings…

Pull the meat from the bones, cut into bite-size pieces, and put them into a bowl.  Snap the beans and blanch them in hot water or cook until tender – your choice (I simmered mine until they were slightly tender, but retained a little bit of crunch).  Add them to the chicken.  Sprinkle capers on to taste, add the olives, slice the tomatoes in half (if you wish), and add them.  In a small jar, shake the olive oil and lemon juice together and dribble over the salad to taste.  Sprinkle on some dry oregano, parsley, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Let rest at room temperature.  Serve the salad on the lettuce or greens.

Pretty and delicious!

Pretty and delicious!

This salad was every bit as good as I imagined it would be when reading the recipe.  Personally, I love the caper and lemon flavors, and with the addition of chicken, it was a light but filling meal that really hit the spot.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

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Weekly Recipe: Gruyere Chicken (and a side dish!)

On Sunday evening, we invited a family over for dinner – we’ve become close with them over the last several years, as my husband has been a mentor to their son (also named Nick) since he coached him in soccer as a freshman in high school. Now, ‘little Nick,’ as I call him – although he’s probably over 6′ feet tall – is half way through his freshman year of college studying architecture at Washington University in St. Louis.  The entire family is wonderful – Nick and his younger sister, Annika, are both friendly, considerate, intelligent, polite, bilingual (the benefit of having a German father) – exactly the type of children most parents hope to have (not to say Nick hasn’t had his missteps – but frankly, I’d rather have a child who does test the limits a bit). Their parents, Jane and Klaus-Dieter, are also lovely, and they have hosted us at their home many times.  I can attest to what a fabulous cook Jane is.

I decided to make the Gruyere Chicken Dish from – you guessed it – my favorite cookbook, Recipes from the Maine Kitchen.  I promise (promise, promise) that my next ‘Weekly Recipe’ will come from one of my other Maine cookbooks – I just truly love this one that much!  This recipe was perfect for the occasion because it is easy to cook in a large amount – the original recipe is for 12!  And it is delicious.  After all, how could something with both gruyere and parmesan cheese go wrong?  I also took the cookbook’s recommendation and made parsleyed orzo as a side dish, in addition to a green salad.  I’ll share that recipe as well.

This recipe is on page 117.  The quantities below are for 12 servings:

6 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts (12 halves)

Flour and butter

8+ tablespoons unsalted butter, divided in half

4 large onions, chopped

2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese

2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika

1 cup dried breadcrumbs

1 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

(I would back off a little on the wine and chicken stock – it’s a little liquidy for me – I’d recommend 3/4 cup of wine, 1 cup chicken stock)

Flour the chicken breasts and melt butter in a large skillet.  Brown the chicken breasts and set aside.  In the same skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of butter and saute the onions until golden.

Flouring the chicken

Flouring the chicken

Mix together the Parmesan cheese, Gruyere cheese, paprika, and breadcrumbs.

Butter a large casserole dish, large enough for the chicken to be placed in one layer (you may need two dishes).  Preheat the oven to 375.  Layer half of the onions into the bottom of the casserole, and place the browned chicken on top.  Cover with remaining onions, and sprinkle the cheese mixture on top.  Dot with 4 tablespoons of butter.  Mix the wine and chicken stock together and drizzle over the dish.  Bake uncovered for one hour, and let rest in the oven at 200 degrees for an additional 15-20 minutes.

The parsleyed orzo recipe is on page 79.  I’d never made it before, but I have to say, it was excellent.  It smelled delicious and browned up beautifully.  My mistake was not adding quite enough salt and pepper during the mixing process.

1 lb. orzo

6 garlic cloves, whole (peeled)

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, divided by 3/4 and 1/4

1 1/4 cups parsley, chopped, divided by 1 cup and 1/4 cup

4 tablespoons breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter

Boil orzo with the garlic for 10 minutes and drain in colander.  Rinse with cold water.  Remove garlic and mash with fork.  Whisk garlic with cream, add orzo, chicken stock, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.



Pour into a buttered, 2 quart baking dish.  Mix breadcrumbs with remaining Parmesan cheese and parsley, sprinkle over orzo and dot with butter.  Bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes in the oven at 325 (this baking time may be a bit long – next time, in my oven, I’ll go with about an hour and 15 minutes).

Our dinner party was a success, and everyone gave the Gruyere Chicken Dish rave reviews.  My hubby and I are about to enjoy the leftovers, so it’s time to relax!