Chicken breasts are a staple in our household. The boneless, skinless ones are convenient and easy to cook, but tend to dry out when overcooked.
While I mostly broil the chicken I make for dinner, there are times when I need cooked chicken for dishes, such as pulled pork or a Mexican casserole.
Last week, I came across some excellent advice about preparing chicken on SpecialFork.com.
This recipe calls for "steeping" chicken. It is similar to what our grandmothers used to do when they boiled chicken meat. Steeping is different, though, and cookbook author Linda Lau Anusasananan says it ensures a moist texture, every time.
She said the Chinese method she uses is easy and practically foolproof: Boil water, add chicken pieces, return to boil, cover pan and turn off the heat. The chicken cooks in the residual heat, and it remains moist even if it steeps a bit longer than called for.
Here are the directions.
1. In a covered 5- to 6-quart pan over high heat, bring about 3 quarts water to a boil.
2. Add salt, if desired.
3. Add boned and skinned chicken breast halves, cut in half lengthwise.
4. Stir to separate pieces, return to a boil.
5. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand, covered, until the chicken is no longer pink in center of thickest part (cut to test), 16 to 18 minutes. If still pink, return to the pan, cover and steep a few minutes longer.
6. Lift out the chicken. Immerse in ice or cold water briefly to cool down quickly, then drain and let rest about 5 minutes.
-- From the website SpecialFork.com, by Linda Lau Anusasananan, author of "The Hakka Cookbook, Chinese Soul Food from Around the World," (University of California Press, 2012)
Here are two hearty winter dishes. Both are from Grace Whitten, food writer at the Daily Gazette in Sterling, Ill.
Hearty chicken stew
4 small onions, quartered
6 cloves garlic, peeled
4 celery stalks, sliced thin
8 whole carrots, scrubbed and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 pounds chicken, bone in, such as thighs and breasts, skin removed
1 teaspoon ground thyme or a handful of fresh
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, washed and quartered
2 handfuls green beans, trimmed
Hot sauce to taste, optional
In a large pot, combine onions, garlic, celery, carrots, and chicken. Season with thyme, salt, and pepper. Add cold water to cover. Bring to boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Skim and discard any froth that comes to the top.
Simmer until the meat of the chicken falls off the bone with almost no pressure from a fork, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove the chicken pieces to a plate. Use two forks to separate the meat from the bone. Add the meat back to pot.
Add the carrots, simmer 10 minutes, then add potatoes and cook until fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Add green beans, cook until crisp-tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, add hot sauce. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Servings: 6-8.
1 pound ground beef or Italian sausage
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 (14-ounce) cans of beef broth
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can of diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cups uncooked spiral pasta
8 ounces ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
In a medium nonstick skillet, over medium-high heat, cook meat and garlic powder until meat no longer is pink. Drain grease off meat.
Add broth, Italian seasoning and tomatoes; bring to a boil and stir in pasta. Cook over medium heat 10 minutes, or until pasta is tender.
In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, salt and pepper.
To serve, place a dollop of the cheesy topping in each soup bowl, sprinkle some of the mozzarella on top and ladle the hot soup over the cheese. Servings: 4.
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