Chicken dinner is not exactly what it used to be.
Today, we buy deconstructed birds: packages of just wings, drumsticks, thighs or breasts.
My grandmother never bought anything but a whole chicken. She walked down the block, up an alley and into the back door of the butcher shop. That’s where the fowl met their demise and Grandma came home with a bird.
I often volunteered to help cook, but never to make that visit. Visions of flying headless chickens danced in my overactive imagination. I didn’t want to spoil my appetite for Grandma’s roasted dinner.
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But, no matter if you buy part of a bird or a whole one, new methods of cooking them and ramped-up flavors keep us coming back to this very all-purpose bird.
The National Chicken Council estimates that this year we’ll each eat about 90 pounds of chicken. It’s a number that has steadily risen annually since 1965, when USDA numbers started being kept. Then, Americans ate about 37 pounds per capita.
Chicken dinner recipes include roasting a whole bird, a heart-healthy Chicken Cordon Bleu and a horseradish-based spicy sauced chicken.
Never made a whole bird? Try this recipe from the food blog at www.kittencalskitchen.com. It uses an easy method of cooking the chicken, which will shrink the skin, make it crispy, seal in all the juices and be on your table in about an hour.
Kittencal’s Best Blasted Rapid-Roast Whole Chicken
1 whole chicken ( about 3 to 3 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons melted margarine or 2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice ( can use more lemon juice if desired)
1 1/2 tablespoons seasoning salt ( or use as much as desired)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 whole lemon, or 2 small ones, poked all over with a fork
Rinse the chicken inside and out well under cold water, then pat dry using a paper towel.
In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice with oil and melted butter until blended, then rub all over the chicken.
Using clean hands rub the inside and outside of the chicken with seasoned salt, garlic powder, black pepper and cayenne. You can season the chicken under the skin also if desired.
Put lemon inside the cavity. Using cotton string, tie the legs together tightly.
At this point, you may cover and refrigerate for up to 6 hours (not more than that or the acid in the lemon juice will start to “cook” the chicken).
When ready to roast, preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place the chicken in a baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Or, put the chicken on a small greased roasting rack and add a little water to the pan to prevent smoking.
Roast 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400 degrees and continue roasting 40 to 60 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches about 175 to 180 degrees.
Remove from oven, cover with foil and let sit 15 minutes before slicing. Do not slice before that time or the juices will flow out.
Pasta with Chicken, Spinach, Tomatoes and Feta
4 ounces dried whole grain or whole wheat penne pasta
Nonstick cooking spray
1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (See Editor’s note.)
3 tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon canola oil or olive oil
1 pound grape tomatoes, halved (3 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced
10 ounces fresh baby spinach
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese (3 ounces)
3 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts, toasted
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
Grill chicken outside or broil indoors in the oven. Cook until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees), turning once halfway through cooking. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces.
For dressing, in a small bowl whisk together 3 tablespoons oil, vinegar, orange peel, orange juice, honey, mustard, salt and pepper; set aside.
In a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in pasta and chicken; remove from heat.
Gradually add spinach and dressing to chicken mixture, tossing gently until spinach is slightly wilted. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with cheese and nuts.
Makes 6 servings, 2 cups each with 352 calories, 17 grams fat, 73 mg cholesterol, 563 mg sodium, 24 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 7 grams sugar, 27 grams protein.
Editor’s note: Need to speed this up? Buy a rotisserie chicken at the supermarket and debone it for this dish, with enough left over for another meal.
Spring fever salsa soup
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 jar (16 ounces) salsa
4 cups low-sodium or homemade chicken broth
2 cups cooked, cubed chicken
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained, rinsed
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
2. Add salsa; cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes.
3. Add chicken broth; heat to a boil.
4. Lower heat to medium-low; add rest of ingredients. Cook until corn thaws and all ingredients are heated through, 5-7 minutes.
5. Serve with chopped cilantro, Mexican blend cheese, fresh avocado and crumbled tortilla chips. Makes 4 servings,
CHICKEN CORDON BLEU
Vegetable oil cooking spray
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4 ounces each)
4 slices (1/2-ounce each) lean, reduced-sodium ham
4 (1/2-ounce) slices reduced-fat Swiss cheese
1/3 cup bread crumbs
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk*
2 tablespoons melted trans-fat-free margarine
1 teaspoon fresh snipped parsley, optional
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat the bottom of a glass baking dish with the nonstick spray; set aside.
Flatten chicken breasts between plastic wrap to about a 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet, a small, heavy frying pan or a closed fist. Or slice the chicken breast in half horizontally almost all the way through.
Open the chicken breast up and press out to flatten. Lay one thin slice of ham and a 1/2-ounce of cheese on the flattened breast. Roll up carefully, beginning at the narrow end and secure with wooden picks. Repeat the process with the remaining chicken breasts.
In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and black pepper.
Place the buttermilk in a separate bowl.
Dip the chicken rolls in the buttermilk and then the bread crumb mixture.
Place chicken pieces in the prepared baking dish. Brush each roll with the melted margarine. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown. Garnish with parsley, if desired.
Serves: 4, each with 284 calories, 11 grams fat, 8 grams carbohydrates, 37 grams protein, 342 mg sodium, 90 mg cholesterol. Food exchanges: 4 lean meat, 1/2 starch.
“Heart Smart,” tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Detroit Free Press Test Kitchen
Baked, breaded chicken is usually so boring. Not to mention predictable.
Not this dish. Guaranteed to wow the pants off your family, this one-pot recipe has kick, thanks to a zesty mustard sauce flavored with horseradish and hot sauce.
Steer away from seasoned bread crumbs. Japanese panko work well here, too.
DEVILED CHICKEN THIGHS
12 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs/drumsticks
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
Salt and coarse ground pepper
2/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups dried bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Set out a large nonstick rimmed baking sheet or line a regular rimmed baking sheet with either a silicone liner or parchment paper.
Rinse chicken and then pat very dry.
Combine garlic powder with salt and pepper in a small bowl. Using your fingertips, generously season both sides of each piece with the garlic powder mixture and place seasoned chicken in a large bowl.
Blend mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce and cayenne in a medium mixing bowl. Pour over chicken and toss to coat well.
Combine bread crumbs with parsley and smoked paprika in a large shallow bowl.
Working with one piece of chicken at a time, roll in bread crumb mixture, taking care to coat completely. As coated, place in single layer on prepared baking sheet.
Bake chicken for about 35 minutes or until juices run clear and exterior is golden and crisp. Turn once during cooking, if desired. Serve immediately. Serves 6.
“Charlie Palmer’s American Fare” by Charlie Palmer/tested by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Chicken and Lemon-Broccoli Alfredo
4 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Salt and pepper
8 ounces mushrooms, halved
1 tablespoon olive or cooking oil
3 cups fresh broccoli florets
1 (10-ounce) container refrigerated light Alfredo pasta sauce
Season chicken with salt and pepper. In large skillet, brown chicken and mushrooms 4 minutes in hot oil, turning chicken halfway through.
Meanwhile, shred 2 teaspoons lemon peel; set aside. Slice lemon.
Add broccoli and lemon slices to skillet. Cover; cook 8 minutes or until chicken is done: 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
Place chicken and vegetables on plates. Add Alfredo sauce to skillet; heat through. Serve with chicken. Add lemon peel and pepper.
Makes 4 servings, each with 295 calories, 12 grams fat, 91 mg cholesterol, 705 mg sodium, 16 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar, 35 grams protein.