Grilled Chicken with Chimichurri Sauce

I love supermarkets. They are my inspiration, at least for regular food shopping. I just don’t think I’ll ever be a digital food shopper who logs in the order, or lets the fridge do so, and sends a driver-less car to pick them up. Tonight’s inspiration was chimichurri.

It sat gracefully poised in a beautiful jar on a shelf in the middle of the condiment aisle, gleaming with its bright green color. I paused and wondered, why would anyone buy this in a packaged, processed state when you just need to mix up fresh parsley and cilantro with some oil? The metaphorical dinner bell clanged and I had dinner plans: grilled chicken with chimichurri sauce.Chimichurri sauce in serving dish

Ingredients:

  • Chicken breasts
  • 1 cup Meyer lemon juice
  • Avocado oil
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Salt
  • Parsley
  • Cilanto
  • More avocado oil
  • Kosher salt
  • One vine tomato
  • Two cloves of garlic

Trim chicken and place in large plastic, zippered storage bag with lemon juice, about a quarter-cup of avocado oil and a liberal amount of seasoning. I actually spilled Cajun seasoning into the marinade bag and that worked out fine. Tightly close bag seal and place in fridge. Marinade at least a half-hour.

For the chimichurri sauce, place the following in a food processor or hand-crank salsa maker:

Making chimichurri sauce in a food processor.Rip off a handful or two of parsley and cilantro (each)

  • Drizzle in a lot of oil
  • Shake on some salt
  • Add tomato quarters
  • Thinly slice garlic and place in the mixing bowl

Let it spin! If you live in Texas, you might just have a hand-crank salsa maker like mine. I got mine at either a home & garden or a hunting show at the Reliant Center in Houston. I always get the coolest gadgets at these events.

Place your chimichurri in a bowl or keep in the processing bowl and put in fridge while the chicken cooks. Light your outdoor grill; use a propane gas grill to maintain an even temperature. Grill chicken for approximately 20 minutes to a half-hour at about 350 degrees. Because of the oil, it will take a bit for the meat to brown, but rest assured it is cooking on the inside. My boyfriend also had to take pains not to accidentally cook a lizard that normally lives in the grill but was temporarily evicted during the dinner preparation. Once done, bring to table on platter and serve sauce in separate dish with serving spoon.Grilled chicken on platter

You can serve this with a variety of sides. We had leftover risotto and I freshly made sautéed vegetables: mushrooms with chopped red pepper and asparagus (all cooked together in a covered non-stick pot).

The moral of the story: do not buy anything in a jar you can easily make yourself.

Cheers!

The Sage Leopard

 

Grilled chicken, Chef Mike and a European Grill

After venison steaks on Sunday and venison sausage on Monday, grilled chicken was up tonight. We tend to have a protein rotation of venison, chicken and salmon, the latter two I like to cook on a raclette grill. Before I regale you with the wonders of raclette grilling, I want to introduce you to Chef Mike. Chef Mike makes really outstanding food in homes, restaurants and just about anywhere you can find a plug. Chef Mike, a.k.a., the microwave, is perfect for baked potatoes. For tonight’s dinner, there were only two cooking appliances: Chef Mike and the raclette grill.

Baked potatoes by Chef Mike
Baked potatoes by Chef Mike

On the menu: baked potatoes (courtesy of Chef Mike) with tzatziki sauce (courtesy of a herb mix), and grilled asparagus, squash, chicken and cheese. The cheese was melted in raclette pans, which are nonstick and easily slide under the griddle for light broiling. The beauty of the raclette grill is that the nonstick griddle top conveys the right amount of heat to cook the food without burning it. So, I was able to walk out into the backyard a couple of times to chat with my boyfriend. Raclette grills harken back to a European sensibility of gathering people around a table with wine and cheese, meats and bread, and veggies. Everyone places what they want to eat on the grill and the raclette cheese (a type of Swiss) is melted to go with the all the other ingredients.

raclette grill
Queso blanco melted in the raclette pan

We’ve adopted the raclette as an easy alternative to firing up the oven and getting a bunch of pots and pans dirty. Instead, I turn on the electric grill atop the kitchen counter, spritz on some olive oil spray and get grilling. Veggie slices, asparagus spears and meat. For meat, you want to use thinly sliced or pounded out cutlets. Fish cooks just fine. Shrimp cooks perfectly. I like that I can place food on the nonstick grill and walk away to get something or do something. When I cook with pots and pans, I feel I am more committed to hovering over the stove, lest something burns. Even on a low simmer, I have burned food, such a rice. That’s probably why I love that electric, nonstick rice cooker. Seriously, I absolutely love cooking and enjoy using various methods and gadgets. When I first heard of the raclette grill, I immediately thought of Korean barbeque. Funny thing is I have yet to try making Korean BBQ on the raclette. For that, we use our Lodge Hibachi grill outside.

Chicken grilling on the raclette
Chicken grilling on the raclette

The raclette is great for simple, everyday grilling inside. It also provides the best way ever to melt cheese. It melts evenly in the raclette pan and slides out onto your plate. Tonight, I used a queso blanco with green chiles. The cheese paired perfectly with the asparagus. After dinner, I rinsed and wiped the grill top with a soapy sponge. Rinsed again and placed it in the dish rack. Chef Mike gave me a knowing nod and we were done.

The Sage Leopard

 

Seasoned Freeze-Ahead Chicken

Ever notice those individually wrapped, overpriced chicken breasts that are already trimmed and come in a three-pack? Ever notice how expensive they are compared to the big tray of chicken breast with rib meat? When the big package of chicken breast goes on sale for $1.99/lb., then I buy at least one tray. Think about it: chicken freezes beautifully.

Prepping chicken with flour and seasoning gives it a crispy, flavorful seal
Prepping chicken with flour and seasoning gives it a crispy, flavorful seal

You can trim and season the meat before freezing. Next time you see those big packages of chicken, get one or two, and buy some large freezer ziplock bags. When you get home, break out a large plastic cutting board. Leave the meat in the fridge as you plan the next steps for preparation. I like to season the chicken pieces before they freeze. I think tossing the chicken in flour and spices seals the meat really well to protect it from freezer burn. Plus, once defrosted, it is ready to cook — you can put it right on an electric grill or into the oven or skillet. Once out on the cutting board, I like to prepare the chicken breasts in a variety of shapes: mostly intact, fajita strips and cutlets. For the cutlets, I place wax paper over the chicken breast and pound them out with the flat side of a meat mallet. You can separate the chicken into batches for meals. For instance, you can place the cutlets in a freezer bag with a combination of flour and Italian breadcrumbs. The fajita strips can go in a bag with flour and fajita seasoning (or just the seasoning). Another bag could contain flour and paprika. This time, I seasoned the meat with garden dill seasoning, flour and paprika. And, into the freezer it went. All ready to go. A few nights later, I lacked the time and inclination to cook. I remembered the frozen chicken and as soon as I got home, I put the freezer bag in a bowl of warm water in the sink. For the sides, I pulled out a couple of zucchini, a red pepper and a bunch of asparagus.

grilled veggies complemented by cilantro
grilled veggies complemented by cilantro

Plus, I cooked up brown rice on the stovetop (Minute Rice is really easy and there are no additives like the material in the microwave bags).

Grilling veggies on a raclette grill
Grilling veggies on a raclette grill

Meanwhile, as the chicken defrosted, I cut up my veggies and turned on our raclette grill. I misted the grill top with olive oil spray and got cooking. The floured seasoning on the chicken browns well and adds a comforting flavor. It also seals in moistness. Before long, we enjoyed a healthy dinner of grilled chicken, veggies and rice.

seasoned chicken and grilled veggies with rice
seasoned chicken and grilled veggies with rice

And, I barely lifted a finger because I already took care of all that chicken preparation with the previously frozen batches. Next time you see chicken on sale, think of all the possible future meals that you can take care of in one fell swoop.

Cheers,

The Sage Leopard

No grease enchiladas, finally

It’s all about the equipment. Years back, I wanted to spend less than I knew I should on a new road bike before embarking on the training for a big long-distance charity ride. I ended up spending twice the supposed budget. I told a friend I did not feel bad about this outlay, that I had justified and rationalized it in my mind. Perhaps she could tell I was still trying to convince myself. She assured me, it’s all about the equipment. I remembered a bike salesman comparing two bikes with a wide price range between them and noting if I cloned myself, the me on the more expensive bike would zoom past the other. I’ve lived in Texas nearly a decade, so making Tex-Mex at home has become as routine as riding a bicycle. So has the mess. Not tonight. It’s all about the equipment.

pulled chicken getting toasty with peppers and onions on the raclette
pulled chicken getting toasty with peppers and onions on the raclette

I turned on our raclette grill and placed pieces of leftover rotisserie chicken on the grill. Next, I sliced peppers and onions. After everything got toasty and caramelized, I pushed the veggies over to the chicken and began bringing the tortillas to life. Frankly, they need a grill. Forget trying to heat them in a microwave — they’ll end up like soggy cardboard. Frying pans burn them. This was perfect. Meanwhile, I placed cheese with parsley in the little raclette pans to melt and somewhat cook the cheese.

cheese and parsley combining in the raclette pan
cheese and parsley combining in the raclette pan

With the tortillas properly cooked, I placed them on the dinner plates, nestled the chicken and veggies in them, and then poured on the cheese and some beans I had heated in a little pot. I added dollops of sour cream and called it dinner. This did not take long. And it was beautiful.

the simple enchiladas arrive at the table
the simple enchiladas arrive at the table