Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spring chicken

Oh, thoughts of spring spilled out onto our dinner plates a few nights ago!

Bright green and golden yellow shone brightly at we sat down to enjoy what could have been a boring chicken dinner. Boneless, skinless breasts of chicken are not my favourite piece of meat. I find them rather tasteless and often dry.

But they are convenient, which is why chicken breast recipes are popular with the readers of Canadian Family Magazine. In fact, they are far more popular than any other recipes we post. So I am currently working on developing chicken recipes. Here is one variation that riffs on an Argentinean style of beef served with their signature “green” sauce.

Just a few notes about ingredients you may not be familiar with:

Smoked Sweet Paprika adds a smoky, sweet essence and some fantastic colour to the chicken. If you are in Toronto, Pasquale Bros. has a few varieties in stock or go to Anna Olsen’s website and buy online. This is a must stock spice; paprika with real flavour. Buy and try.

Ancho chile powder is made from dried poblano chiles. I like it because it is not too hot but packs a nuanced balance like a great red wine. I think, combined with the smoke paprika, they are a perfect duo.

The bright yellow beets were roasted unpeeled until tender with their green tops trimmed leaving a one-inch end (to keep the sweet juices trapped inside) for about one hour. When they are cool enough to hold, just push off the skin with your hands. If it is not coming off easily, they are not cooked. I sliced then tossed in some olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Yum.

1 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (6 oz each or larger breasts cut in half)
1 tsp olive oil

1 Combine sugar, spices, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub mix into chicken and let rest while you prepare sauce.
2 Pre-heat cast iron pan or barbeque to high. Lightly rub olive oil on chicken.
3 Start with chicken “good side” down and cook for 5 minutes. Turn over and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until cooked through.
4 Remove chicken from pan when done and tent with foil to rest. When serving, drizzle with chimichurri sauce.

Chimichurri sauce
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 medium shallot, peeled
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup parsley leaves, packed
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, packed
1/4 cup mint leaves, packed

1 Combine oil, vinegar, juice, garlic, salt and pepper in blender; blend until almost smooth.
2 Divide the herbs into thirds; blend one third until incorporated. Add remaining herbs in 2 more additions, pureeing until almost smooth after each addition. Thin out if needed with additional oil if needed. Cover and chill. Makes four servings.

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