Monthly Archives: June 2012

Pollo a la Plancha

On a picky-eater scale of 1 to 10, my youngest son, Greg, is a 25. The entire family continues to stare in wonderment as Greg parks himself at the dining room table with yet another turkey sandwich on white bread; meanwhile, there’s a bounty of tasty food covering the table. I do realize there’s usually one in every family, but this knowledge doesn’t assuage the irritation I feel when trying to feed said picky-eater a balanced meal. And my irritation only mounts when Greg asks helpful questions like, “are we having normal food for dinner tonight?” You see, for Greg, normal food must fall into the color palate of either beige, off white, or white. Do you see what I’m up against here?

Boneless and skinless chicken breasts were on the menu for dinner last night (as you can see, this protein matches Greg’s strict color requirements). In order to give the poultry a flavor boost, I flattened the breasts (after I removed the ready-made chicken tender that comes attached) and marinated them in a mixture of lemon and lime juice, freshly ground ginger, chili pepper, cilantro, shallot, and canola oil. Since the chicken breasts were flattened, it was easier for the marinade to penetrate through to the center and provide a lot of zip.

The next step to coaxing a ton of flavor out of a bland protein like boneless-skinless chicken breasts is cooking the breasts on a la plancha. If you don’t have a la plancha, I suggest you run out and buy one today! I use my la plancha on the gas and charcoal grill all the time. Once it’s searingly hot, I pull the meat out of the marinade and plop it down onto the la plancha and the outside of the meat caramelizes (also known as mallard reaction) supplying your protein with a nice roasted flavor. Also, none of the juices drip away like they would of you cooked the protein directly on the grate. Instead, the meat cooks in its own juices and still caramelizes.

La plancha after chicken was removed.

I served our chicken over buttery jasmine rice (with chopped green onions) and blanched haricot verts sautéd with a little butter and slivered almonds. As a finishing touch, I sprinkled some fresh lime zest and Espelette pepper (a ground chili pepper from the commune of Espelette in France) over the top of each dish to brighten the flavors. The chicken’s so juicy and zippy that you don’t need a calorie-laden sauce. I should add that Greg wouldn’t eat the green things on top.

A nice chablis or a low oak chardonnay is a great pairing with this dish.

Here are the steps for the chicken:

  • 4 flattened chicken breasts
  • 1 T grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. chili pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 lemon (juiced)
  • 2 small limes (juiced)
  • 1 large shallot minced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Flatten your chicken breasts.

Grate your ginger.

Chop your cilantro and add it to the bowl. Then add your other ingredients and mix well. Place your chicken in a gallon sized storage bag and pour the marinade over them. Make sure all of your chicken is in contact with the marinade and let it sit for 20-25 minutes flipping the bag occasionally.

While your chicken is marinating, heat your la plancha on the grill until it’s searing hot. Place your chicken breasts (smooth side down) on the la plancha and season the side facing up with salt and pepper. Once the breasts release from the pan, take a peek at the caramelization. If they look nice and brown, flip and season again. Let them cook until they reach 160 degrees. You can use a meat thermometer if you want to be sure. Remove them from the heat and let the meat rest. While the meat is resting it will climb another five degrees. Resting your meat also allows the juices to absorb back into the meat rather than leaking all over your plate when you make your first cut.

Eat Well.

April

“Business is never so healthy as when, like a chicken, it must do a certain amount of scratching around for what it gets.” ~ Henry Ford

Great Friends

There are a few things in life that I consider truly soul satisfying: seeing my children excel at what they love, family dinners, traveling with my husband, and entertaining friends. Yesterday, I was blessed with the latter and had two of my favorite people over for a quiet lunch to catch up on the day-to-day.

When I was a child, my mom worked a lot (as did a lot of moms in my neighborhood) and I was what you’d call a “latch-key” kid.  I wore a key suspended on a string and tied around my neck by the age of 11. We lived over a mile from the closest elementary school (shout out to Huntington School in Brockton, MA!) and I literally lived the cliche: I walked over a mile to school in the rain and snow, however, I wasn’t shoeless.

I grew up in a tough city/neighborhood and welcomed an escape. That escape came in the form of the TV series “The Waltons.” As soon as I arrived home from school and let myself in, I’d make a snack, turn on “The Waltons,” and lose myself in the show. There were no dope deals going on in apartment buildings nearby, and no bullies who were waiting for the opportunity to happen upon an unlocked and unattended bike. The Waltons were a family who sat down, TOGETHER, every evening to break bread and share their day. This was when I began to realize how important food is in a family. I decided that when I had my family, food would become a vital part of our life. Feeding people has always brought me joy and contentment.

I served two appetizers for lunch yesterday. The first was blanched asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, sprinkled with Maldon sea salt and a little drizzle of EVOO. I served the asparagus spears alongside some ripe mango chunks that were sprinkled with a little cayenne pepper. The contrast of the mango and cayenne is truly delicious. For a garnish, I added some micro arugula.

The second appetizer was just as simple. I sliced an heirloom tomato and a large ball of buffalo mozzarella and alternated the slices on a platter. I sprinkled some Maldon sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, prepared bulgar that I had in the fridge, EVOO, and then I drizzled some quality balsamic vinegar over the top. I finished the whole thing off with a basil chiffonade.

For lunch, I served a vegetable soup with a panini. The soup was made from things that I culled from the fridge and pantry. Here are the ingredients for the soup:

  • 3-12 oz cartons of chicken broth
  • 1 can of spicy black beans
  • 1 onion, small dice
  • 1 bell pepper, small dice or small slivers
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • Cilantro (to taste)
  • 1 cup plain marinara (found it in the fridge)
  • 1 parmesan rind
  •  3 finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp. Smoked Spanish paprika
  • Salt & pepper

I threw this all together in a soup pot and let it cook at a slow simmer for about 3 hours.

Each panini contained

  • Two slices of La Brea three cheese semolina bread
  • One slice of roasted yellow bell pepper
  • One slice of heirloom tomato
  • Two slices of speck (a juniper-flavored cured ham)
  • One slice of provolone cheese
  • Homemade aioli
  • Micro Arugula

We enjoyed a 2011 Vie Vite Rose from Cotes de Provence, France with our appetizers and our meal.  It was the perfect accompaniement.

For dessert I served rainier cherries on ice and two scoops of homemade vanilla ice cream topped with a luscious balsamic vinegar. The vinegar was very high quality and it pours out of the bottle much like hot-fudge sauce would. It’s to die for!!

It was a great lunch shared with two great friends. What more can you ask for?

“A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same.”-Elbert Hubbard

Eat well!

April