Chicken & Avocado Salad

When everything is so cold and dark, sometimes you crave something fresh and green. When I saw the recipe for Chicken Salad with Avocado Dressing over at Noble Pig, I knew I had to try it out as a cure for my winter blahs.

The original version is for chicken salad sandwiches, but I thought it’d make a great dinner salad.

1 pound left-over chicken breast meat, sliced into strips
1 avocado
3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon ranch dressing mix (Penzeys Buttermilk Ranch in this case)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 scallion (white and green parts)
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 teaspoon dried cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
2 heads romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor or blender, combine the avacado, mayo, dressing mix, buttermilk, scallion, parsely, garlic, mint, cilantro, and lemon juice and pulse to combine. Add 1/4 cup of the water and pulse again, adding more water if needed until the mixture is smooth and pourable. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Arrange lettuce on a plate. Top with peppers, chicken, avocado dressing, and some grated Parmesan.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆ This was so good that I plan on always making extra chicken so we have it around for this dish. The dressing had a tangy, buttery, fresh taste that went great with the smoky chicken and peppers.

Next time I would do this as a chop salad – finely chop together the lettuce, peppers, chicken, and maybe add some bacon and cucumber too. Then toss it with just a bit of the dressing and serve with more dressing on the side. I’d probably also switch out lime juice for the lemon to give it just a bit more zip bang.

The Nutrition: Makes 4, 275-calorie servings. The veggies are free so it’s only 7 Weight Watcher’s points if you leave off the cheese.

ONE YEAR AGO – DANGEROUSLY Cold Oatmeal

TWO YEARS AGO – Making More Bacon

 

Roast Chicken with Winter Veggies

This is a heartier version of the Chicken & Veggies dish that I make a lot in the summer. I started trying these monster roasting chickens from Perdue about a month ago, and am sold on them as a great way to make a lot of meals with very little effort. These 7 – 9 pound birds make a big dinner for the 2 of us, a couple of lunches for me, and still leaves me with 2 pounds of white meat for salads or soups.

The Bird
1 7-9 pound roasting chicken (grill once, eat twice)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried lavender
1 teaspoon dried tarragon or parsley
4 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon (about 4 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the herb rub (kind of a gremolata if you want to get fancy) by putting the garlic and salt in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the thyme, rosemary, lavender, tarragon, lemon juice, oil, salt, and pepper and give them a whirl until they are well-combined. Add more oil as needed to make a thin paste.

Clean and rinse the chicken, then pat dry. You can roast the bird whole, but I like to spatchcock (butterfly) the chicken for this dish so that it cooks more evenly and covers the veggies better.

To spatchcock the bird, set it in front of you, breast side down. Cut up through the backbone with either a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp chef’s knife. Spread the bird open like a book and locate the keel bone that sits between the breasts. Nick it with a knife to get it to open up, but don’t cut all the way through. Flip the bird over and press down on the center of the bird until it lies flat.

Rub both sides of the bird with the herb rub, working it under the skin a bit. Set the bird skin side up on a pan (I use a large jellyroll pan) and put it in the fridge, uncovered, for at least an hour. This not only lets the rub do its thing, but also helps dry out the skin a bit so it stays crispy.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook at medium-high (350°F) heat. While the grill is getting up to temp, put the veggies together.

The Veggies
1 medium rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 fresh ground back pepper

Toss the veggies together in a flame-proof roasting pan (I use the bottom of a tagine, but an old 9×13 pan cake pan is good too). Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

The Cook
Set the pan full of veggies on the grill. Place the grill grate on top of the pan and lay the chicken, skin side down, on the grate above the veggies. This way all the chickeny goodness will drip into the veggies as they cook and the steam from the veggies will help keep the chicken moist.

Close the lid and cook the chicken and veggies for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken and check to see if the veggies are done. If not, give them a stir and return the chicken, skin side up this time.

After another 30 minutes, start checking to see if everything is done. The chicken is done when the juices run clear and the the temperature has reached 160°F in the breast and 180°F in the thigh. Pull the veggies early if they finish before the chicken. This was an 8-pound bird, so it took it another hour on the grill to finish after I removed the veggies.

Remove the bird from the grill and let rest for 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the veggies from the pan to a serving bowl. Quarter the bird for serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Another great roast chicken – juicy and tender with some great flavor from the smoke and the rub. Letting the skin dry out a bit kept it crisp nice and crisp. The cauliflower was just about to fall apart and the carrots and rutabaga were wonderfully sweet and tender.

The Nutrition: Use a slotted spoon to drain the olive oil and chickeny goodness off the veggies and you’ve got 4 big servings of free veggies with about 2 points worth of oil per serving. The chicken is 1 Weight Watcher’s Point per ounce of skinless white meat and 2 points per ounce for skinless dark meat. We actually found this to recipe to be a little light on fat overall because the chicken was so lean.

ONE YEAR AGO – SIBERIAN RIBS

TWO YEARS AGO – WHAT’S THAT SMELL?

 

One Fire – Many Meals

No recipes this time, just some thoughts on making the most of what’s left of our fleeting daylight and fall grilling weather.

I got inspired to rethink how I plan meals on the Big Green Egg after reading the Kingsford U: Grill Once Eat Twice post over at Nibble Me This. Chris makes the point that it takes the same amount of time and fuel to to cook two chickens as it does to cook one chicken, and you end up with more tasty grilled chicken for future meals.

Even though I’m usually just cooking for the two of us, I put this idea into practice by typically doubling or tripling most recipes on the grill. The extras end up in my lunch, or as dinner later in the week, or they get frozen off  for those nights when nobody wants to cook.

Now I’ve started working on a variation of this that I call one fire – many meals. The idea is that once you’ve gone to the effort to get the grill set up, you might as well try and pass as much food over that flame as you can.

For instance – the other night I made steak for dinner. While I was getting the BGE fired up, my dear wife said that there were also a couple of packages of chicken tenders in the fridge that she would like cooked up for salads and snacks. She had planned on baking them, but they would be ever so much better grilled, wouldn’t they?

Fire = good so, of course, they would taste better. My only question was how to go about cooking the steaks hot and fast and then modifying the heat so that the tenders would get a little char on them, but not get overcooked and dried out.

I pondered this while I prepped the steak with some fresh-ground sea salt and black pepper. I had the tenders laid out in a 9×13 pan and was hitting them with a little Dizzy Pig Swamp Venom when an idea clicked – I could leave the heat alone after the steak was done and resting and then cook the tenders quickly over the roaring flame and move then off to a baste á la  Adam Perry Lang, cut the heat, and let them finish there.

Not bad, but wouldn’t the heat move too fast through a metal pan and just scorch the tenders?  Probably. Hmmm, how about a Dutch oven? Yeah that’d work. Or, even better, use the tagine. Genius!

I poured a couple of glugs of olive oil into the base of the tagine and then added about 4 cloves of crushed garlic and about a teaspoon each lemon zest, thyme, and sage.

With the BGE running at about 650°F, I put the steak on for 2 minutes a side and then moved it off to a warm plate, covered it with another plate, and let it rest while I cooked the chicken.

The tenders went on in batches. With the heat this high, by the time I finished putting the last row of tenders on the grate the first row was ready to be flipped. Once they had some nice grill marks on each side (but where still pretty raw on the inside) I moved them off the heat to the tagine, making sure to toss them a bit in the oil.

When all the tenders were in the tagine, I swirled another glug of olive oil over the top, put the lid on, and moved the tagine to the grill.  I closed the lid on the BGE, shut the bottom vent down to reduce the heat, and went inside for a lovely steak dinner.

When I checked on them 30 minutes later, the tenders were done and basting in their own juices. I moved everything inside, removed the lid, and let them cool before packaging.

Cooking this way does take a bit more time and fuel, but not much more effort. You’re essentially letting your downtime and residual heat work for you. For this cook I spent maybe an extra ten minutes packaging off the tenders, but we ended up with a steak dinner, a dinner of tenders and veggies the next night, chicken salad lunches for a couple of days, and about a dozen tenders frozen off for chicken stew the next week.

Not bad for a little extra work.

Spatchcocked Gremolata Chicken

Sounds fancy, but this is just another take on the Chicken & Veggies dish that I make a lot in the summer. Gremolata is an Italian marinade made from garlic, lemon, olive oil, and whatever herbs your dear wife snips off for you. Once the bird is spatchcocked (easier done than said) and seasoned and the veggies are prepped, this is a pretty no-muss, no-fuss recipe.

The Birds
2 3-5 pound roasting chickens (grill once, eat twice)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons fresh marjoram or parsley
4 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon (about 4 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the gremolata by putting the garlic and salt in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the remaining ingredients, except the chicken, and give them a whirl until they are well-combined. Add more oil as needed to make a thin paste.

Clean and rinse the chickens, then pat them dry. To spatchcock the bird, set it in front of you, breast side down. Cut up through the backbone with either a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp chef’s knife.

Now spread the bird open like a book and locate the keel bone that sits between the breasts. Nick it with a knife to get it to open up, but don’t cut all the way through. Flip the bird over and press down on the center of the bird until it lies pretty flat.

Rub both sides of the birds with the gremolata,working it under the skin a bit. Set the birds skin side up on a pan (I use a large jellyroll pan) and put them in the fridge, uncovered, for at least an hour. This not only lets the gremolata do its flavorful thing, but also helps dry out the skin a bit so it stays crispy.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook at medium-high (400°F) heat. while the grill is getting up to temp, put the veggies together.

The Veggies
1 pound fingerling potatoes
2 bell peppers, roughly chopped
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh ground back pepper to taste

Scrub the potatoes and toss the veggies together in a 9×13 pan (I use an old cake pan, but disposable foil drip pans are good too). Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

The Cook
Set the pan full of veggies on the grill. Place the grill grate on top of the pan and lay the chickens, skin side up, on the grate above the veggies. This way all the chickeny goodness will drip into the veggies as they cook and the steam from the veggies will help keep the chicken moist.

Close the lid and cook the chicken and veggies for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, start checking to see if everything is done. The chicken is done when the juices run clear and the the temperature has reached 160°F in the breast and 180°F in the thigh. Pull the veggies early if they finish before the chicken. These were some larger birds and they went 90 minutes before being done.

Remove the birds from the grill and let rest for 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the veggies from the pan to a serving bowl. Quarter the birds for serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
This dish is always a winner – crispy, herby, juicy chicken and really flavorful veggies.  I love that everything goes on the grill together and we get a great meal in under 2 hours. I always try to make enough of this dish that we get plenty of leftovers. with two birds we get dinner for two, a couple of hind quarters for my lunch,  and enough breast meat for enchiladas and chicken salad.

The only thing this dish could have used was another 20 minutes on the grill. The chicken was done, but because it stays so moist this way, I would have liked the dark meat a little more tender.