Spring Onion Risotto with Roast Chicken

This dish is perfect for a special spring meal… the risotto is creamy and warm, with a subtle flavor from the shallots and spring onions.  And the “spring chicken” adds the perfect touch to make this a meal instead of just a side.  This made a wonderful Easter dinner in this non-ham-eating household, but would be just as good on any mid-spring night.  If you’re not living in DC, where summer has arrived in all its blazing glory, you might just be able to warm yourself up with this on one of the last cool nights of the season.  Please do, and then tell me how it goes.  I’m dying to live vicariously as I dump cold water over my head.  Farewell, spring!

Spring Onion Risotto with Roast Chicken

1 roasted or rotisserie chicken
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, sliced (not minced)
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine or dry sherry
3-4 cups chicken broth
4 spring onions (scallions), sliced
kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream

  • In a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter and olive oil together.  Add the shallots, season with kosher salt, and cook until just beginning to caramelize.
  • Add the arborio rice and toss to coat with the buttery, shalloty goodness.  Toast rice for approximately 1 minute, then add wine and cook down, stirring frequently, until wine is absorbed.
  • Meanwhile, warm the chicken broth in a small pot.  After wine has been absorbed, add a ladle or two of chicken broth to the rice and allow it to absorb, stirring frequently.  Continue adding broth a ladle or two at a time, stirring often, until you run out of broth and/or the rice is tender and creamy.
  • On the last addition of broth, toss in the scallions and allow them to cook briefly with the rice.  Finish off by stirring in the creme fraiche or sour cream.
  • Arrange a bed of risotto in serving bowls and place chicken over the risotto.  (You can either roast your own chicken while making the risotto – you’ll have to give the chicken a head start – or just use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and keep it warm while the risotto cooks.  When you are nearing the end of the risotto cooking process, you can take a break from stirring to carve the chicken.)

Source: Covered In Flour

Lemon Chicken Soup

Ahhhh, leftovers.  Who here loves leftovers?  I’ll say that I do, but when I think of leftovers, I’m usually thinking of Thanksgiving leftovers.  Or those fantastic days when we had risotto the night before and there’s just enough left for my lunch the next day.  But what about those odds and ends that knock around the fridge?  Or vegetables that are starting to look a leetle long in the tooth?  Or – Heaven help me – that last quarter-box of spaghetti that seems doomed to sit in the pantry together?  Considered separately, these things are all unpleasant challenges that I’ll never overcome, food that is probably destined to ultimately go to waste.

Well, I’ve already established that I hate to throw food away.  But what’s to be done about leftovers that look decidedly unappetizing?  Answer: throw them into a soup.  After interacting with new flavors, almost-spent dishes take on a different – better – character.  This soup, which I first saw featured on an episode of Giada at Home, is a sparkling take on leftovers that actually elevates humble chicken soup to “treat” status.  The fresh lemon juice brightens the flavors of leftover chicken breasts and slightly-limp carrots and turns this soup into a dish where, honestly, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Lemon Chicken Soup

1 yellow onion, peeled and minced
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
2 carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds
1 quart chicken stock
2 cups water
2 leftover chicken breasts, large-diced
1 handful spaghetti or other long pasta, broken into thirds (at least)
juice of 2 lemons

  • Heat extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and season with salt and pepper.  Saute until translucent.  Add carrots and saute until carrots are beginning to soften and take on golden color.
  • Add stock and water and simmer 10 minutes.
  • Add diced chicken and spaghetti.  Bring to a boil for 8-10 minutes, until the spaghetti is cooked.  Add lemon juice.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until ready to serve.

You can experiment with different add-ins; this soup would be a great foil for anything you may have aging (slightly) in your fridge.  I frequently have half a pack of spinach left over by just before the expiration date, and I’m definitely planning to throw that in next time!

Source: Adapted from Giada at Home.

Simple Coq au Vin

Coq au vin is a fantastic dish to make for company.  For one thing, it’s easy and you don’t need to pay all that much attention to it – leaving you more time with your guests.  For another thing, it sounds fancy because it’s French.  Coq au vin is a traditional French dish of chicken braised in red wine (or Riesling, for a fun Alsatian variation).  It is a wonderful, warming, rustic and filling dinner – one of my favorite things to eat in the fall and winter.  Because of the intense flavor of the sauce and the braised chicken, it is also a good meal to prepare for someone who is cutting back on their salt intake.  I recently served coq au vin to several of my family members, including one person who is on a low-sodium diet.  Most dishes are bland and boring without salt, so I turned to coq au vin as a dish that packs enough flavor to make salt almost superfluous – and it worked!  The salt-free coq au vin was so flavorful that the whole family ate the dish without salt and didn’t miss a thing.  Cooking salt-free can be a challenge, but if you keep a recipe for coq au vin in your back pocket, you’ll never be short on flavor.

Coq au Vin

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 chicken, cut into 6-8 pieces
kosher salt (optional) and pepper
2 pints cremini or baby bella mushrooms
3 carrots, cut thinly into rounds
20 pearl onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1 750-ml bottle red wine (Burgundy or American Pinot Noir)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
3 tablespoons flour

  • In a large French oven over medium-high heat, warm olive oil until shimmering.  Season chicken pieces with salt (if using) and pepper, then brown both sides in the oil.  Remove chicken to a paper towel-lined dish.
  • Add mushrooms, carrots, onions and garlic to pot and saute until golden and beginning to soften.  Add half the bottle of wine and cook over high heat for 8-10 minutes.
  • Return the chicken to the pot.  Add the remaining wine, broth and herbs and allow mixture to come to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook for 45 minutes.
  • Remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs.  Transfer chicken and vegetables to a serving bowl, using a slotted spoon.  Add 3 tablespoons of flour.  Return mixture to a boil and whisk frequently until sauce thickens slightly.  Pour sauce over chicken and vegetables and serve.

Source: Adapted from Epicurious.com.

Yield: Serves 6.

Roasted Chicken Breasts with Fig Sauce

I’ve often seen the recipe for pork loin with fig sauce in Everyday Italian and thought to myself, “hmmm, that fig sauce looks tasty.  Too bad I don’t eat pork.”  As a result, I’ve never made this fig sauce before… until recently, when it occurred to me that chicken and pork are very similar.  Both can be a bit bland unless you dress them up with other flavors, and both marry well with the same flavors – although I think that chicken, if anything, can be even more versatile than pork.  I realized that this fig sauce would go just as well with chicken as it would with pork.  Don’t ask me why it took me several years to discover that there was nothing stopping me from making Giada’s fig sauce.  I’m obviously not the brightest bulb in the shed.  Fortunately, hubby likes me anyway.

As Giada herself points out, this is an incredibly versatile sauce.  Sure, it’s great with chicken – or pork, for that matter – but it’s also sweet enough to serve for dessert.  Giada suggests having it over ice cream.  I also think it would be perfect as a sauce for a simple vanilla bean pound cake.  I can even see incorporating it into a galette with fresh figs.  But in my opinion, the best thing about this sauce is that it’s made with dried mission figs, so fig-lovers like me don’t have to wait until the very short fig season to enjoy it.  Mangia!

Roasted Chicken Breasts with Fig Sauce


For the fig sauce…
1 cup port or other sweet red wine*
2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth**
8 dried black Mission figs, chopped coarse
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
pinch salt
pinch pepper

For the chicken…
2 medium chicken breasts
kosher salt and black pepper to season
extra-virgin olive oil

  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  While the oven is preheating, prepare the chicken breasts – simply season them generously on each side with salt and pepper, place on a foil-lined baking sheet, and drizzle with the olive oil.  Roast at 425 for approximately 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer shows an internal temperature of 165 degrees.  Remove from oven and allow to rest.  (They will continue to cook while resting.)
  • Meanwhile, make the fig sauce: combine the port, chicken broth, chopped figs, rosemary, cinnamon and honey in a saucepan and boil over medium-high heat until the sauce reduces by half, about 15-20 minutes.  Remove the cinnamon stick and rosemary sprig.  Transfer fig mixture to a food processor or blender and puree to desired consistency.  Stir in butter, salt and pepper.
  • Serve the chicken breasts with fig sauce on the side, or simply pour it right over!  Mmmmm…

Yield: serves 2

Source: adapted from Everyday Italian, by Giada de Laurentiis

*The original recipe calls for port.  I did have port on hand, but I also had an open bottle of Schnebly Redlands passion fruit wine from Florida, so that’s what I used.  Port and figs are a classic combination, so I’m sure that’s what I’ll normally use, but feel free to experiment if you have a different dessert wine on hand – especially if you are planning to use this sauce in a dessert anyway.

**Just because the idea of chicken broth in a dessert is pretty strange, if I were making this as a dessert sauce instead of to serve with roasted meat, I’d probably substitute water.  Do as you see fit.

Chinese Cashew Chicken


I love Chinese food.  Part of what I love about it, I can’t deny, is the convenience – there are some days when I’m working late and I know that I am going to get home at the end of the dinner hour, maybe 8:30 or so, still hungry but much too tired to start cooking.  On those kind of nights, having Chinese takeout waiting for me is one of the ways that my hubby shows me he loves me.  Still, it’s not the healthiest option there is, especially when you add spring rolls to the equation.  I always feel a little bit guilty…

I do love the flavors of Chinese food, both the high-end restaurant food and our little takeout place, but I always wonder what’s in it that makes it taste so good.  Making a Chinese-style entree at home has been on my list for awhile; I’ve been hoping to trim the fat a little and find out more about those flavors that I enjoy.  This Cashew Chicken is perfect for that.  It is quickly sauteed, instead of breaded and deep fried, so it’s lighter than a takeout entree by far.  And I modified the original recipe to include wilted bok choy for some green – so much the better!  Next time you are in the mood for Chinese food, don’t reach for the phone.  Reach for the cashews instead, and whip up this lighter treat.

Chinese Cashew Chicken

1 1/2 pounds (or thereabouts) skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cubed
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
kosher salt
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup unsalted cashews, toasted briefly
1 head bok choy, in ribbons
1 recipe cooked white rice, for serving

  • In a medium bowl, combine cubed chicken with sherry, ginger, 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, and salt to season.  Marinate the mixture in the refrigerator 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine chicken broth, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar and 2 teaspoons cornstarch.  Set aside.
  • When the chicken is finished marinating, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil until shimmering in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the chicken and saute until golden brown and completely cooked (in batches if necessary so as not to crowd the pan) and transfer to a plate.
  • In the same skillet, add another tablespoon of oil and wilt the bok choy.  When the bok choy is completely wilted, add the cashews and grated garlic; cook about 30 seconds while moving the garlic around constantly with your spoon.  Return the chicken to the skillet and pour the sauce over.  Toss everything together about 30 seconds, until the sauce thickens.
  • Serve over cooked white rice.


Source: Adapted from Everyday Food, October 2009

Maple Roasted Chicken


Apologies for the lack of updates recently!  It’s been extremely hectic around here for the last week or so, and I haven’t done all that much cooking.  How about I make it up to you with some chicken?  (Isn’t chicken the best way to make up?  I think so.  Wouldn’t you agree?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?)  For the longest time, I shied away from making roast chicken.  It seemed to be very complicated – it’s not – and I didn’t think that hubby and I could finish a whole one – we can’t, but I was forgetting about the magic of leftovers.  This is a particularly autumnal way to eat roast chicken, with a sweet and smoky maple glaze ,and it’s especially good with some caramelized roasted squash and sweet potatoes on the side.

For this recipe, I decided to try a new technique, which I read about in good old Cook’s Illustrated.  Basically, the toughest (pardon the pun) thing about achieving perfect roast chicken is that the breast often cooks to the consistency of an old shoe before the legs and thighs have actually cooked through.  To remedy this, the folks over at America’s Test Kitchen suggested the ingenious method of starting the chicken roasting breast-side-down, to give the dark meat a chance at the high heat, then turning the chicken over to finish cooking breast-side-up for that crispy skin effect.  I’d never tried this before and my roast chickens generally come out fine, but I wanted something outstanding this time, since my hungry sister-in-law, the lovely Emma, was going to be eating this chicken after a long, rainy drive from the Deep(ish) South.  Well, I’ve got to hand the ATK team some credit – this method definitely worked.  The chicken breasts were by far the moistest (is that a word?) I have made, and the dark meat was perfectly done as well.  ATK?  More like A+TK!  Sorry, I had to do that.

Here, have some chicken.  It’ll help, I promise.  Chicken cures all bad jokes.


Maple Roasted Chicken

1 small to medium sized roaster chicken
olive oil, salt and pepper
maple syrup

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Remove the organs from inside the chicken.  (Side note: Anyone seen the Thanksgiving episode of the first season of “Dharma and Greg”?  “Awww, look, his mom packed him a lunch!”  Honk if you find that line hilarious too.)
  • Rinse the chicken well and pat dry.  Season the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper.  Place upside down on a foil-lined baking sheet, which you have prepared by spraying it with cooking spray ahead of time.  (Don’t skip this step or the chicken will be VERY difficult to dislodge from the pan in 30 minutes.  As the Pioneer Woman would say, don’t be like me.)  Season the bottom of the chicken with salt and drizzle with a little olive oil.
  • Roast breast-side-down for 30 minutes, then remove pan from the oven and, using two pairs of kitchen tongs or two large forks and some brute force, flip the chicken over to breast-side-up.  Drizzle with a little olive oil, season generously with salt and pour maple syrup over the top.  Don’t skimp – get it into all the nooks and crannies, using a pastry brush if you need to.  The key to this chicken is a really caramelized maple flavor, so now is not the time to be stingy.  Finish the chicken off with some freshly ground black pepper.  If desired, now is a good time to insert a digital meat thermometer into the area between the leg and the breast – this is the coolest part of the chicken, so when it’s done you will know the rest is done.
  • Return the chicken to the oven and roast another 45 minutes.  About 20 minutes in, give the chicken a quick basting with some more maple syrup, then continue to roast.  Keep an eye on your meat thermometer, of course, but 45 minutes should just about do it.  If you don’t have a digital meat thermometer, after 45 minutes insert a standard meat thermometer and check the temperature.  When the thermometer reaches about 165 degrees, take the chicken out of the oven and tent with foil.  It will continue to cook.  (Alternatively, to tell when the chicken is done, pierce the thigh with a small knife.  When the juices run clear, the chicken is done.)
  • Allow the chicken to rest for at least 10 minutes, longer if desired.  This will give the juices a chance to redistribute so they stay in the meat and don’t run out all over your cutting board.  Gross!  After the chicken has rested, carve and serve!


Source: Covered In Flour

Yield: Serves 6-8 with sides.

Wine Notes: In honor of my birthday (yes, I’m still in my twenties, thank you for asking) we corked a bottle of Hillsborough “Opal” from Hillsborough, VA.  “Opal” is a blend of Petit Manseng and Chardonnay (my beloved Chardonnay, so misunderstood – just like me!) and is a lovely medium-bodied white.  It’s a perfect wine for fall, not only because Opal happens to be October’s birthstone, but because its creamy mouthfeel and delicate flavor create a perfect complement to fall’s hearty vegetable pastas and roasted or baised meats.  Happy Birthday to me!

Baked Chicken and Tomatoes


This is a wonderfully simple, flavorful dish, and a perfect way to showcase summer tomatoes.  Baked chicken is easy, but can sometimes dry out in the oven; not in this dish.  The chicken bakes under a smattering of cherry tomato halves, which give up their juice to keep the chicken most and tender.  When it’s done, simply scoop the chicken pieces out of the roasting pan, top with the wilted, spent tomatoes and serve it alongside a green salad.  An end-of-summer tray bake at its finest…

Baked Chicken and Tomatoes

1 package skinless, boneless chicken thighs, or skinless, bone-in breast halves
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup flour
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a small bowl, mix together flour, salt and pepper.  Lightly dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture and set in 8-by-8 inch baking pan.  Nestle half of the cherry tomato halves around chicken pieces, and scatter the remaining half over the top.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes, until chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.  (If you are using chicken breasts, be sure to watch the temperature closely.  The bone will help to keep them moist, as will the tomatoes, but it’s still very important that you are vigilant and don’t leave the chicken in the oven too long.  Chicken breasts can go from being moist and delicious to being tougher than an old shoe in the blink of an eye.)


Yield: Serves 4.

Source: Covered In Flour.

Tomatillo Chicken with Black Beans


The addition of black beans to a recipe for tomatillo chicken was complete serendipity.  True to form, I planned to serve the tomatillo chicken over brown rice and then forgot to actually make the brown rice.  (I think this is my subconscious self reminding me that I think brown rice is a huge, ever-lovin’ hassle.)  The tomatillo chicken, in and of itself, was not going to be enough for dinner – especially not with my hubby in the house – so in an effort to quickly fill out the dish I popped open a can of black beans and tossed them in.  They added a wonderful creamy texture and, happily, more protein without much fat.  (Not that the dish was hurting for protein…)  I’d still recommend serving this over brown rice if you can remember it – I can’t – and if you did, this dish could stretch to a main course for 4 instead of just 2.

Tomatillo Chicken with Black Beans

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken thigh pieces
1/2 white onion or 1 whole large shallot, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
8 tomatillos (approx), husks removed
kosher salt
ancho chili powder
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

  • In a medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm a glug of vegetable oil until shimmering.  Season the chicken thigh pieces and lay them in the oil to brown, turning over once.  When the chicken thigh pieces are browned, remove them to a plate.
  • Meanwhile, whir the tomatillos in a food processor until pureed.  Reserve for later.
  • Add the onion and poblano pepper to the oil, season with kosher salt and cook until softened and slightly caramelized.  Pour the tomatillo sauce into the pot and stir around to coat the peppers and onions.
  • Return the chicken to the pot, nestling each piece into the tomatillo sauce and turning to coat.  Cover the pot and simmer on medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.  (How long you cook this will depend on how thick your chicken pieces are.  If you use bone-in thighs or breasts, adjust the cooking time accordingly.)
  • Drain and rinse the black beans.  Add them to the pot and stir everything together.  Continue to simmer until the beans are warmed through.  Season with more ancho chili powder if necessary and serve, alone or over brown rice.


Source: Adapted from Everyday Food, September 2009

Note: As you can probably tell from the references to poblano pepper and ancho chili powder, I like warmth but not a four-alarm fire on my dinner plate.  Feel free to play with the heat-adding elements in this dish, substituting a couple of jalepenos for the poblano, for example, if you want something spicier.  My palate is simply not made to tolerate really hard-core chili action, but if yours is, by all means, go nuts.

Balsamic Roasted Chicken


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Bless Giada.  She always comes through.  This weekend the hubs and I had some family in town and I was asked to cook dinner.  I’m always happy to oblige!  This balsamic roasted chicken was perfect for the type of dinner I had in mind – something casual, yet delicious, which I could throw together in the morning to marinate while I spent the day out and about in DC.  It came together in just a few minutes of morning prep and spent a low-maintenance 45 minutes in the oven, and for that minimal amount of effort I got to serve moist, deeply flavorful chicken legs to our guest, who gave the meal an “A+” – not too bad at all!


Balsamic Roasted Chicken

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup country grain or Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 drumsticks
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

  • In your baking dish, whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper.  Whisk in the oil in a slow drizzle to create an emulsion.  (It won’t last, but just make the offering to the kitchen gods, okay?)  Add the chicken pieces and turn them over a few times to coat with the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, for at least 2 hours and up to a day.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Roast the chicken uncovered for 45 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and pour the leftover marinade into a small saucepan.  Spoon off the oil from the top, then boil until the liquid reduces by half and thickens – about 8 minutes.
  • Sauce the chicken, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Source: Adapted from Everyday Italian, by Giada de Laurentiis

Wine Pairing: Try it with an herbal, refreshing Pinot Grigio, or lighten up with Prosecco.

Chick ‘n Chick Curry


Curry is one of my favorite slap-together dinners.  It’s about the easiest thing you can think of – bang your protein or vegetables in a pot, brown them a little (if necessary – sometimes you don’t even need to do that!), then toss in some crushed tomatoes and some spices and you’re there.  On top of the health benefits of curry, it’s just so gosh darned tasty and easy – this dish is as good as it gets on a weeknight!  What I call “Chick ‘n Chick Curry” is one of my favorites – Chick #1 is chicken, and Chick #2 is chickpeas – lots of yummy protein, and when you hit it with some tamarind and a lovely mix of Indian spices, it’s heady and warm and sweet and delicious.  Enjoy!


Chick ‘n Chick Curry

1 package skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons natural tamarind sauce
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

  • In a medium cast-iron pot or French oven, heat some canola or safflower oil over medium heat.  Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper and drop into the oil.  Brown on two sides.
  • Add chickpeas, tamarind sauce, and spices.  Stir to combine.  Stir in crushed tomatoes and make sure everything incorporates.
  • Put lid on the French oven, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 25 minutes.
  • Serve over basmati rice.  If you have some fresh cilantro, it would be wonderful to dice and add as a garnish.

Wine pairing: Indian foods go very well with Riesling wines.  I prefer a dry Riesling, such as a Kabinett from Germany or a dry Finger Lakes bottling.  If you like a sweet Riesling, which would also be nice, try a German Spatlese or Auslese.  There are also some nice off-dry Rieslings produced in the Finger Lakes.

Source: Inspired by Williams-Sonoma Tamarind Chicken Curry with Vegetables