Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel

Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel

What I love about cooking is its split personality. Cooking requires technical precision, but also a certain amount of flexibility. It seems like an odd arrangement, but both precise technique and the ability to be spontaneous and adapt, happily co-exist when the heat is on. Technique, experience and intuition dance together and enlighten the cook toward a delicious masterpiece.

Inspiration and real-time situations influence a cook’s technical strengths and creativity. How many creative works of art and scientific truths have evolved out of “mistakes”? And, where would the world be without the creative spirit to “fix” them? I do my best to plan and be prepared whenever I start to cook a meal. However, I can’t tell you how many times I started cooking something and realized I was missing one or more of the required ingredients, the chicken went bad overnight, or had the wrong size pan. Damn, now what? A quick survey of the situation and my pantry, something unintended develops and who knows could be a new family favorite.

Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel

Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel

I rely on recipes I call my foundations. These recipes can easily adapt to any of life’s unexpected adventures, or my creative whims. One foundation recipe is Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel. I fall in love with roasted fennel every time I eat it, and this recipe is no exception. The subtle sweetness of the fennel compliments the richness of the caramelized shallots and roasted chicken. I will also seek out any excuse to use fresh tarragon. Still, the bones of the recipe allow me to develop many reincarnations at whim or by necessity.

Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel

Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel is not complicated to make, or have a lot of speciality ingredients. A total bonus is, it does not require my full attention while it is cooking. Yet, there are a couple of technical factors that will influence the recipe’s outcome. The obvious one is knowing when the chicken is properly cooked. Undercooked chicken will make you sick and overcooked chicken is chewy and dry. The not so obvious influence is the baking pan.

Tips for Success making Oven Baked Chicken

In this instance size, does matter. The size and type of pan will determine how long the chicken will cook, and how it will cook. The higher the sides the more pan juices will develop. Too large of a pan and the juices will dry up.  A pan that is too small will not allow for enough air circulation to achieve crispy skin and have the chicken cook properly.

Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel recipe

I baked eight pieces of chicken with all the vegetables in a roasting pan that was 16″ x 11” x 1 1/2″ (41cm x 27.5 cm x 4 cm) in size. The finished meal was perfectly baked chicken with crispy skin, caramelized shallots and plenty of pan juices. Yet, being flexible is my mantra so use whatever baking pans you have. The size of the pan is more important, than the type of pan. Hopefully you have a baking dish with sides. If you only have small pans, divide the recipe between two pans. The outcome might be slightly altered, but more importantly you can still make this delicious baked chicken dinner without making a trip to the store.

Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel Recipe

Second, be observant and listen to the chicken with your senses. The chicken will tell you when it is done. Pierce the chicken at its thickest part with a fork, and take note about how much resistance you feel. The fork will slide through a perfectly cooked piece of chicken with little resistance. You should see clear liquid flowing out of the holes made by the fork. If you see cloudy or bloody juices spilling out of the chicken, the meat needs more time to cook.

Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel

Additionally, you can cut open the meat and look inside. It is better to cut across one piece of chicken then serve undercooked chicken to your friends and family. Chicken meat that is properly cooked, is not pink or appears raw. It should be juicy as well. The meat is overcooked if it looks dry and there are no flowing juices. The internal temperature for just cooked chicken is between 165˚F and 170˚F.

Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel Recipe

One Pan One Meal Chicken Diner

Flexible Tips for Oven Baked Chicken

I like to follow the recipe exactly as instructed the first time I cook it. I learn about how to prepare a new dish and about the author. Learning new techniques is fun, but so is being creative and adapting to my set of circumstances. So, after the first trial run, I am comfortable adapting a recipe to fit my mood, or to what is in my pantry.

Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel is a balanced chicken dinner accented with tarragon, vermouth, garlic and lemon. If necessary you can adjust the ingredients, including the amount of time to marinate the chicken. Don’t like vermouth, no problem switch it with a dry white wine. The fresh herbs are not available at the store, fear not and use dried herbs. Can’t find shallots, regular onions sliced into thin wedges will suffice.  No time to marinate the chicken, no worries it will still taste fine if you mix everything together right before you cook it. The depth of flavor may not be as intense, but it will be satisfying and delicious.

 

Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Chicken Recipe

Cooking a meal should not be stressful. I always say use what you’ve got and enjoy the process. Technique is your friend that sets the foundation but also allows you to be creative and adapt to any of life’s mistakes and adventures.

Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

6 - 8 servings

Serving Size: 1 piece of chicken

Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel

The combination of fresh tarragon, shallots, fennel and vermouth add subtle and sweet flavor to the baked chicken. If you have time, marinate the chicken and vegetables for one to four hours. Not to worry if time does not allow for marinating the chicken. The baked chicken will still be delicious.

Use a Pyrex like baking dish, roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet to bake the chicken. The pan should be large enough for all the chicken pieces and vegetables to fit in without being too crowded or too big.

Ingredients

  • 8 Skin on bone in Chicken Thighs or combo of breasts and chicken*
  • 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic, divided
  • Zest of half a lemon plus 1 whole lemon cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh tarragon
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth, divided
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 fennel bulb and fronds
  • 8 small shallots

Instructions

  1. Trim the chicken thighs of extra skin and if using chicken breasts cut each breast in half. Arrange the chicken on a tray. Sprinkle the chicken on all sides with Kosher salt and let rest on the counter while you make the marinade.
  2. Peel the garlic, remove the green germ, and mince half of the garlic cloves. Place the minced garlic in the mixing bowl. Strip the thyme and tarragon leaves from their stems and finely chop. Add the herbs to the bowl. Add the lemon zest, mustard, honey, olive oil, ground pepper and 1/4 cup vermouth to the bowl and whisk together until incorporated.
  3. Cut the fennel bulb in half, remove the core and thinly slice the bulb, no more than a 1/4 inch. Reserve the fennel fronds and set aside.
  4. Peel each shallot then cut each bulb in half. Set aside with the fennel.
  5. Add the chicken to the marinade then use your clean hands and mix the chicken until each piece is thoroughly coated with the marinade. Add the sliced fennel, remaining garlic cloves, and shallots then mix them all together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let marinate for 1 - 3 hours. Marinade the chicken in the refrigerator if longer than one hour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 425 F, 15 minutes before you want to bake the chicken.
  7. Spread the chicken, fennel and shallots over a large roasting pan that is just large enough to accommodate all the chicken without crowding the pan. You can slip the fennel under the chicken.
  8. Place the lemon wedges around the pieces of chicken, fennel fronds and the remaining 1/4 cup of vermouth to the roasting pan.
  9. Bake the chicken and vegetables for 20 minutes. Baste the chicken with pan juices and bake for 20 more minutes. Check to see if the chicken is done. The chicken is done when piercing the chicken with a fork, there is little resistance and the juices are clear. The internal temperature should be between 165F and 170F.
  10. When done, remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Serve the chicken with the fennel, shallots and lemon, drizzled with remaining pan juices.

Notes

If you prefer, you can make this dish with boneless and skinless chicken thighs. Reduce the oven temperature to 400F. If the chicken did not brown as much as you like put the chicken and vegetables under the broiler for a couple of minutes. I do not recommend making this with boneless chicken breasts because they will cook to quickly and the vegetables will not be done. Boneless chicken breasts get mushy if they are marinated for more than an hour.

The roasting lemon wedges with chicken adds great lemon flavor. You can eat the lemon slice rind and all. Use only lemons with a thin rind. Too much lemon pith does not taste very good.

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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Supreme White Chicken Chili

The chili debate might be one of the most passionate food debates out there, especially if you are from Texas. The main debate is about what ingredients make up true chili. This debate does not include chili recipes that have originated from other countries, or about where and when chili came to be in the USA, but whether beans belong as an ingredient in true American chili. If you are from Texas, Texas chili is all that you need to know and Chili Con Carne does not contain beans.

Supreme White Chicken Chili Recipe

As I understand it, American chili was a meal born out of necessity and survival, and made popular with the cattle drive from Texas to California. Each cook had to make a small amount of meat stretch to feed hungry cowboys with whatever ingredients they could find along the trail, such as chili peppers, wild onions, and garlic. I learned that cattle drive cooks would plant onions, garlic and peppers in the mesquite bushes by the trail so they could replenish their supply along the way. (International Chili Society) 

In the beginning of the 20th century, chili’s popularity spread across the nation and was no longer a regional food in the western United States. Chili joints were everywhere in the nation and provided cheap food for the poor. During the depression people believed because chili was inexpensive and so widely available,  “… and the crackers were free,” chili saved more lives from starvation then the actions of the Red Cross. (Whats Cooking America, History and Legends of Chili)

Supreme White Chicken Chili Recipe

Supreme White Chicken Chili Recipe

American chili has an interesting history and probably a tall tale or two associated with its name. What is consistent is chili came from humble origins designed out of a need for survival. It started as a simple stew using any available meat, dried chili peppers and wild vegetables and has grown into a stew with multiple ingredients focused on developing deep, rich and spicy flavor.  This humble stew, with or without beans, has a devout following from all walks of like, who are ready to defend chili’s honor in Showdowns, Throw-downs, Cook-offs, and State Fairs across the landscape of this nation. Not bad for food that started out as an inexpensive means to feed the poor and the incarcerated.

Continue reading “Supreme White Chicken Chili”

© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

One Pan! One Meal! Let’s Eat Together and Feel all Right.

Bob Marley’s song, One Love, is swayin’ in my head.  “One Love! One Heart! Let’s get together and feel all right.”   Where it came from is anybody’s guess, but I am swayin’ and singing along with Bob Marley as I write. I hear his soothing and rhythmic voice clearly which is a lot nicer than the lawn mowers and cars that can drudge on in the background for the whole day. “One love! One Heart! Let’s get together and feel all right.” If I am to get a song stuck in my head, this mantra is a good one: a reminder to give thanks.

One Pan One Meal: Roasted Chicken dinner recipe

I am working and dancing around different music genres today, looking for inspiration everywhere. Earlier I had Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite waltzing through my mind while I was editing photographs of baby turnips.  It is so easy to take ordinary things for granted, but I have found since I started photographing ordinary things like turnips, I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary, and I see it within the shape, color and texture of the objects.

One Pan One Meal: Roasted chicken dinner recipe

While I was photographing turnips, I started to admire the grace, shape and color of young turnips, and they reminded of the dancing fairies in Disney’s movie Fantasia. Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite started playing in my head along with images of dancing turnip ballerinas.  Photographing baby turnips inspired fun visual imagines: my next task was to discover what delicious characteristics the humble turnip has to offer.

One Pan One Meal: Roasted chicken dinner recipe

One Pan One Meal: Roasted chicken dinner reicpe

There is nothing sexy about turnips. Even the name is off-putting and harsh. No one is going to lean in and whisper in a sultry voice, “Would you like to taste my turnips?” Who do you think could pull that off?  Before you find your way to the exit door, stop and consider giving the humble turnip a try for your next dinner idea.

One Pan One Meal: roasted chicken dinner recipe

One Pan One Meal: Roasted chicken dinner reicpe
Sheet Pan Dinner with Chicken, Carrots, Turnips and Tarragon

Young turnips bulbs have a smooth and pearly white flesh with fresh green leaves that have a peppery smell. If you can get turnips with their greens intact use them in your meal. Other than soup, turnips can be braised or roasted, and pair well with carrots and other root vegetables. I particularly like turnips braised in butter with leeks, carrots, and fresh tarragon.

One Pan, One Meal roasted chicken dinner recipe

Combining turnips with carrots and chicken makes a simple and delicious family meal, that everyone in your family will enjoy and want to come together for a weeknight dinner. The dinner preparation becomes easier when you roast all the ingredients together in one pan. Oven roasted carrots add body and extra sweetness to the baby turnips, and oomph to the chicken. This sheet pan dinner recipe will make a delicious meal and satisfy the demands of fussy eaters. There will be no disagreements at your family table when you offer everyone’s favorite pieces of chicken along with sweet roasted vegetables.

One Pan One Meal: Rosted chicken dinner reicpe

One Pan One Meal- roasted Chicken dinner recipe

 

Common does not mean plain and boring. Find inspiration in all things and gather together for a delicious family dinner. One pan! One meal! Let’s eat together and feel all right.

Enjoy!

Mediterranean Style Roast Chicken with Carrots, Turnips and Tarragon

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

4 servings

Mediterranean Style Roast Chicken with Carrots, Turnips and Tarragon

A Mediterranean style chicken dinner is easily accomplished using one sheet pan to oven roast chicken, carrots, turnips, and mushrooms. The chicken is lightly marinated with Herbs de Provence and can be marinating up to 24 hrs in advance. Fresh tarragon seasons the vegetables and compliments their natural sweetness. It is a simple and elegant dinner that will encourage the whole family to gather at the table and enjoy a family meal together. Serve with a simple green salad with a light vinaigrette.

Ingredients

    Chicken
  • 1 4-5 lb (2k) chicken, or already cut up (bone in, skin on) chicken pieces (See Note)
  • 1 Tb minced garlic approximately 2-3 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 tea Herbs de Provence
  • 1 tea Kosher salt
  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • Fresh ground pepper, (4-5 turns with the mill)
    Vegetables
  • 1 lb (about 450 g) baby turnips
  • 1 lb (about 450 g) small carrots
  • 8 oz (about 250 g) mushrooms
  • 1/2 tea Kosher salt
  • 4 sprigs fresh tarragon, divided
  • 1 Tb olive oil
    Pan Gravy
  • Juices from roasting chicken
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) dry white wine
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup (62 - 125 ml) chicken or vegetable broth (low sodium if not homemade)

Instructions

    For the Chicken
  1. If you have a whole chicken, cut the chicken up into 8 pieces .
  2. You can follow the instructions on the link or just use already cut up chicken. Once the chicken is cut up spread the pieces across the cutting board.
  3. Sprinkle the Kosher salt evenly over the chicken pieces on both sides of the chicken.
  4. In a large bowl, big enough to hold all the pieces of chicken, add the minced garlic, olive oil, and Herbs de Provence, and ground pepper. Stir to combine. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl with the herbs and mix the chicken with the herb mixture until the herbs are evenly coated each piece of chicken.
  5. Cover the bowl with the herbed chicken with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours up to 24 hours.
  6. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator 1 hour before you want to begin the cooking process. This will bring the chicken up to room temperature.
  7. Preheat oven to 375˚ F
    Vegetables
  1. If you have organic turnips and carrots, examine them for bruises and dirt and determine if they need to be peeled. Peel vegetables with a vegetable peeler if needed. Cut the turnips into wedges. Cut the carrots into sections similar in length with the turnips. Cut each carrot section in half lengthwise, then cut each half into wedges similar in size to the turnips.
  2. Clean then cut each mushroom into quarters.
  3. Place all the vegetables in to a medium size bowl and mix them together.
  4. Strip the leaves off each tarragon sprig. Reserve the stems and divide the tarragon leaves into two piles. Take one of the piles and bunch the tarragon leaves together into a tight pile then mince with a sharp chef knife.
  5. Add the minced tarragon, olive oil, Kosher salt and black pepper to the bowl with the vegetables. Mix together with your clean hands until the vegetables are evenly covered with the herbs and olive oil.
  6. Save the other pile of tarragon leaves to add when the vegetables are done. Do not mince them until just before you add them to the vegetables.
    Putting it all together.
  1. Put the chicken pieces on a large rimmed sheet pan, my pan is 12 1/2" x 17 1/2" (32 cm x 44 cm), then arrange the prepared vegetables around the chicken pieces. Add the tarragon stems with the vegetables.
  2. Put the chicken and vegetables into the pre-heated oven and bake for 40 minutes.
  3. If the vegetables are done before the chicken, remove the vegetables from the pan with a slotted spoon and put in a heat proof dish. Remove and discard the tarragon stems. The vegetables are done when they feel tender, but not mushy, when pierced with a fork. Mince the remaining fresh tarragon and add to the roasted vegetables.
  4. Cook the chicken until the juices from the chicken run clear after the chicken has been pierced with a fork. (Internal temperature of the chicken should be around 165 - 170 degrees F) When the chicken is done, take the pan with the chicken out of the oven, turn on the broiler and move the rack to the upper third portion of the oven. If you have not done so already remove the vegetables from the pan before you broil the chicken. Put the pan back in the oven to broil and crisp up the chicken skin, about 5 minutes.
    Pan juices
  1. When the chicken is done and skin crispy, put the baking sheet across two stove burners.
  2. Remove the chicken from the pan and place the chicken on serving plate. Add the roasted vegetables to the platter with the chicken and cover with foil to keep warm.
  3. Turn on the two stove burners to medium and pour 1/2 cup of dry white wine into the pan with the juices. Deglaze the pan by scraping with a wooden spoon, the brown, caramelized goodness off the sides and bottom of the pan. The liquid and the motion of the wooden spoon against the sides will get the golden color and flavor off the sides of the pan and into the juices. Bring the liquid to a gentle boil and slightly reduce. Add the chicken stock and continue you stir the juices until they come to a slight boil. Taste your pan juices and add, more stock, or wine, or seasoning to suit your taste. Be careful not to over salt the pan juices.
  4. Pour the pan juices over the roasted chicken and vegetables and serve. A simple leafy green salad is a great accompaniment.
  5. Enjoy!

Notes

If you have never cut up a whole chicken before and are not comfortable starting it, feel free to buy chicken already cut up. It is good to have a good sharp chef knife and kitchen scissors when you cut through bone. If you do not own them buy whatever chicken parts you and your family prefer. The cooking time in this recipe is based on chicken with the bone in and skin on the meat. Sometimes already cut up chicken breasts are particularly large. If you cut chicken breasts in half across the middle they might finish cooking before the thighs and drumsticks. The video by NY Times Cooking is very instructive about how to cut up a whole chicken. I have been cutting up chickens for years and I learned new information from it.

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Feeling ambitious? Make a delicious fruit gallette for dessert. You can substitute plums for nectarines, or any seasonal fruit.

 

 

© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Inspired Leftovers: Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Avocado Yogurt Dressing

I could get lost strolling through farmers markets and small local specialty grocery stores. Upon entering the market I enjoy strolling around, looking for new produce to mark the beginning of their season, and admiring the beauty of the bounty. Plants and their fruit are so beautiful and the markets know how to display their vibrant, mix-match colors creating a landscape like the scattered dots in a pointillist painting.  I go to the market with a shopping list and an idea of what I want, but I can be easily swayed by the texture, color and shape of the fruit and vegetables enticing me to take a closer look.

Farmers market inspiration for new meals and upgrading leftovers.
Pleasantville Farmers Market Inspiration

My inspirational browsing does not transfer to the supermarket. The stacks of pre-packaged fruits and vegetables greet me at the entrance., immediately making me defensive. No lingering allowed, keep moving, keep moving, keep moving. The costumer is encouraged to grab and go, not to examine and select. Ironically it can take me a longer time to shop at a supermarket, despite being designed for speed and efficiency, because I do more scrounging around to find a good piece of meat or produce. My focus will concentrate on what I absolutely need, while my inner thoughts say, “Damn, this is what I have to choose from?”   The supermarket may call the pre-packaged produce as “Grab and Go,” I call it wasteful and a ripoff. There is no need to encourage me to spend more money, I do a pretty good job at that already, and I do not want the extra packing material, or 3 lbs of green beans. All I want is fresh food at a reasonable price, that is ripe, flavorful, and I can pick and choose as I please without the extra waste.

Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. It is refreshing and an easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.
Pan Grilled Chicken
Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. It is refreshing and an easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.
Ingredients for avocado and yogurt dressing

I will be honest, I procrastinate going to the grocery store. It is a lot easier to procrastinate now that there are only two of us living under one roof. There are times when 5:30 rolls around after a day of work and I realize that there is nothing planned or prepared for dinner. On these days, leftovers and a well stocked pantry come to the rescue. I do plan for leftovers and count on them two days a week. As my dependence on leftover grows, I am more insistent about keeping sticky fingers from grazing or helping themselves to seconds.

Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. It is refreshing and an easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.

When I was a kid leftovers was a sentence to eating the dregs scraped off the bottom on the pan.  When mom announced leftovers of dinner, she was met with groans, rolled eyes, and exasperated reactions. I vaguely remember my own children giving me the same reaction as well, but it was possibly more directed to  the amount of times we had chicken for dinner. “Chicken! Again! Can’t we have something different for a change? Why must we always have chicken? Ugh. ”

Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. It is refreshing and an easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.
Ingredients for Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad

Leftovers do not have to be the dregs, as long as there are some fresh vegetables available, last nights dinner can become new again. My inspiration for this leftover meal came about because I had more avocados than I knew what to do with, some homemade yogurt that I am in love with, and enough leftover grilled chicken to stretch into a salad for two. The finishing touches are added once the foundation is set. The avocado and yogurt dressing was inspired from a recipe of Mark Bittman’s of which I added a tomatillo and poblano pepper, (the leftovers from another meal). Some food items are just meant to be together and avocado, tomatillo and poblano chili pepper are just those foods asking to be married.

Avocado and yogurt dressing spruce up leftover grilled chicken to create a refreshing grilled chicken and cucumber salad.
Avocado and Yogurt Dressing

Look in your fridge and pantry, hidden inside are some odd and end gems of produce and proteins ready to freshen up last nights dinner. These easy dinners can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. No tantrums with this fresh take on leftovers. You never know, an inspired leftover meal could be your next family favorite.

What is your favorite way to use up leftovers?

Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. It is refreshing and an easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.
Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado and yogurt dressing.

What to do with your leftover avocado?

Avocado toast on whole grain bread with a poached or fried egg.

My standby lunch of open-face sandwich with avocado, salsa and cheese, melted under the broiler.

Inspired Leftover Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Avocado Yogurt Dressing

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

3-4

Serving Size: 1 cup

Inspired Leftover Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Avocado Yogurt Dressing

Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. Any type of prepared chicken will work with this recipe, just remove skin and bones if needed. Grilled chicken and cucumber salad is a refreshing and easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.

The avocado yogurt dressing was inspired by a recipe from How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. I cut the ingredients in half because I was using it as a salad dressing and not a dip. I threw in a tomatillo and some poblano pepper to add a little more flavor and texture. If you do not have either of these two ingredients, replace them with a couple of tablespoons of tomatillo salsa, (salsa verde).

Prepare and serve the salad immediately, as anything made with avocado will discolor when exposed to air. I have eaten leftover salad for lunch the next day, but beyond that the salad would look and taste funky.

Ingredients

    Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad
  • 2 grilled boneless and skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 2 scallions
  • 4-5 springs of cilanto, chopped
  • Avocado Yogurt dressing
  • 2 large handfuls of cleaned fresh spinach
  • Fresh blueberries or strawberries (optional)
    Avodaco and Yogurt Dressing
  • 1/2 Haas avocado
  • 2 -3 Tbl plain yogurt
  • Juice from 1 lemon, zest from half a lemon
  • Scant 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 small tomatillo, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 of a poblano pepper -seeds and stem removed and chopped
  • 1/2 of a shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Kosher salt to taste

Instructions

    Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad
  1. Chop the grilled chicken breasts in to bite size pieces about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch. Place the chicken in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  2. Cut the cucumber piece in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut each of the 4 seedless cucumber sections in half lengthwise to create 8, long cucumber pieces. Cut the cucumber pieces into 1/2 inch chunks and add to the mixing bowl with the chicken.
  3. Trim the root off the scallion then slice the white and light green part into thin slivers. discard the dark green parts with the root or set aside for another use. Add scallions to mixing bowl.
  4. Trim the cilantro leaves from the long stems and gather the leaves into a tight pile, holding the pile together with your non-working hand. Cut across the pile to mince the cilantro. Add cilantro to mixing bowl.
  5. Mix all the ingredients together until evenly combined and set aside.
    Avocado and Yogurt Dressing
  1. Place the minced shallot in a small bowl and add the juice of half a lemon to the bowl. Let the shallots macerate in the lemon juice for a few minutes.
  2. Peel the garlic clove and remove the green germ from the center. Mince the garlic, then add to the lemon juice and shallots.
  3. Using a spoon, scoop the avocado meat sway from the peal then add the avocado to a food processor. Add 2 heaping tablespoons of yogurt to the avocado along with the peeled and chopped tomatillo, and chopped poblano pepper.
  4. Add a pinch of Kosher salt, about 1/4 teaspoon, and lemon zest to the avocado mixture then turn on the food processor and puree the ingredients until combined.
  5. Add the orange juice and shallot, garlic and lemon juice mixture to the avocado. Turn on the processor and blend until the dressing is smooth. Taste and correct the seasoning to suit your preference. Add the remaining lemon juice, a little salt and remaining yogurt if you think it is needed.
  6. Blend in the food processor until desired consistency.
    Putting in all together
  1. Pour half the avocado and yogurt dressing in the bowl with the grilled chicken and cucumbers. Stir until well combined. Taste the salad and add more dressing as you desire. I have used all of the dressing on one occasion and three-quarters of the dressing on another. It all depends on how much you add into the salad. (If you have any leftover dressing, use it as a dip with chips or vegetables, that same night, as a light and easy appetizer before dinner).
  2. Place a large handful of fresh and clean spinach on each plate. Arrange about 1 cup of the grilled chicken and cucumber salad on top of the fresh spinach. Drizzle the spinach and chicken with your best quality extra virgin olive oil and a few fresh berries.
  3. Serve immediately.

Notes

The dressing is a small amount and would be best prepared in a small food processor.

I had a lot of Fire and Ice radishes available so I added them to my salad. This salad is very easy to adapt to what produce you have available and needs to be used up. The berries are a nice addition, adding a touch of sweetness to cut some of the tang from the lemon and yogurt, but not necessary.

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Lemon and Herb Roast Chicken: A Warm Blanket on a Cold Evening

Comfort food comes in many forms for me, and Roast Chicken is one of them. It is a comfort because of the time, smells and memories that are present while the chicken is roasting and the warm, caramelized flavors that linger while eating.  A reassuring and healing meal, one I often prepare for friends in need.

Roast chicken needs to be planned ahead, there is no rushing around here. Work and errands are done and activities are completed.  Life slows down and in my case it means everyone is home. When my kids were younger I often prepared roast chicken when the weather was bad, and we were comfortably housebound. Once the chicken was roasting in the oven, we could relax together. The smell of the herbs and roasting chicken fills the house and  is like being swaddled in a warm blanket on a cold blowy, winter evening.

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The very first main course entrée I made, completely on my own, was roast chicken. I was 16 years old. My dad, two brothers and I had to fend for ourselves while mom was away. Naturally, I volunteered to cook dinner, and without blinking, I decided on roast chicken. It is amazing how ignorance is bliss. You don’t know what you don’t know, and it never occurred to me that I could not do it.

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