Cajun Fried Wings

We love chicken wings, so when I saw Des from Life’s Ambrosia’s post on her Aunt’s famous wings (with a kick, of course), I starred it in my Google Reader and put it on my ever-growing list of recipes to try. Well, we finally tried them and they were amazing.

It’s basically a crime (well, at least to all you chicken wing lovers out there) to have sauceless wings, but I’m here to tell you that these wings don’t need any sauce. That’s right, I said it. We made sauceless wings and we loved them. When it comes to flavor, these wings get a huge boost from a two hour marinade in cajun seasoning, honey and olive oil .

Cajun Fried Chicken Wings

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Here’s what you’ll need:
Serves: 4
– 1 1/2 lbs chicken wings, tips trimmed
– 3 tbsp cajun seasoning
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 1 tsp honey
– 1 tbsp corn starch
– 1 cup flour
– 2 tsp salt
– oil for frying (anything that holds hear well will do, but something on the healthier side is our favorite)

Instructions:
Prepare your chicken wings by trimming the tips and separating the drumette from the…other part of the wing thing that I don’t know the name of. (You don’t have to do this, but it makes them more like restaurant style wings.) Rinse the chicken and pat dry with a paper towel.

In a large Ziploc bag, combine the cajun seasoning, olive oil and honey. Throw the chicken in the bag, seal and mix everything around so the wings are nice and coated with the mixture. Refrigerate for two hours.

After the chicken has been marinading, combine the corn starch, flour and salt in another Ziploc bag. Transfer the chicken from the marinading bag to the flour bag and toss around to coat all the wings with a nice layer of flour. Remove the wings from the bag and let them sit out on a plate for about 15 minutes before frying (this is a good time to start heating your oil).

Heat about two inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan (or you can use a deep fryer) over medium-high heat. Bring the oil to 350 degrees and start frying the chicken, in batches to hold a constant temperature, until golden brown and cooked through, five to seven minutes. Transfer the fried chicken to a plate lined with paper towels to cool and drain off the excess oil.

I can’t lie when I say that these are probably the best homemade chicken wings I’ve ever had. Sauceless or not, these were the bomb. They were crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside, and packed with a ton of flavor from the cajun marinade. I’m a dipper, so we decided to make a little cajun aioli to dip in, which was awesome (thanks to Billy) and complimented the wings perfectly.

I think this is a pretty versatile recipe, so I’m excited to try these again with different flavor bases. Thanks, Des, for an awesome wing recipe! Make sure to check out Des over at Life’s Ambrosia for this and other awesome recipes!

Mugrabidi

It’s been a while since I posed about Arabic food (actually, it’s been a while since we made Arabic food), so I thought I’d share something before we get rolling on all the Christmas goodies (yay!). Mugrabidi is a sort of soupy dish with tiny pasta, garbanzo beans and chicken. This is a perfect dish for a cold winter night — I promise it will hit the spot and warm you up instantly!

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 8 cups water
– 4 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
– 1 onion, chopped
– 1 can garbanzo beans, drained
– 1/2 to 1 pound acini de pepe pasta (amount depends on what kind of pasta to bean/chicken/liquid ratio you want)
– salt and pepper to taste

This is a really simple recipe, but the end result is nothing but! First, add the cut chicken pieces to a pot of boiling water. Let the chicken begin to cook and when the water returns to a rolling boil, add the garbanzo beans. Meanwhile, saute the onion until it begins to turn brown then add it to the boiling water. Continue to boil for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is almost cooked through. Finally, add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 15 more minutes. At this point the chicken and pasta should be done. Season with salt and pepper and you’re ready to serve! (There will be quite a bit of liquid left, the consistency of the dish is supposed to be soupy.)

Of all the Arabic dishes I’ve had, I would say this is the least Arabic tasting…if that makes sense. It doesn’t have any of the flavorings and spices found in most Arabic dishes. Nevertheless, this is a great dish and it’s one of my favorites. I love the soupy consistency and the flavor the beans give to the liquid. I think the best way to eat mugrabidi is to get a little of everything in each bite — you really get a great flavor and texture combination that way.

Sticky Lemon Chicken

Whether you care to admit it or not, Gordon Ramsay is bad ass. Hell’s Kitchen may make him seem like a total ass (sans bad), but deep down all he really cares about is food. He’s passionate about food and it’s evident in his recipes — as Billy and I have learned testing some of the recipes from his book Fast Food.

We’re always looking for new ways to cook chicken since it can sometimes get boring, and this recipe is definitely a keeper. Unlike a lot of sauces and glazes, Ramsay’s lemon sauce really penetrates the meat and flavors all of the chicken, not just the skin.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 chicken cut into 8 pieces (we used only wings)
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 1 head of garlic, sliced in half horizontally
– 2 to 3 tbsp soy sauce
– 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
– 1 lemon, cut into slices, plus the juice of a half a lemon
– a “good splash” of water (about 1/3 cup)
– 1 bunch fresh thyme, minced
– 2 tbsp honey
– salt and pepper
– fresh parsley, chopped

In a large, high-sided pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. With a paper towel, pat the chicken dry, season with salt and pepper and place in the pan, skin side down. Brown the chicken on both sides — two to three minutes per side.

Once the chicken has browned, add the soy sauce and vinegar. Place the head of garlic, cut side down, in the pan, top everything with the lemon slices and drizzle the lemon juice over the top.

Carefully and slowly begin adding the water to the pan. You don’t want to cover the chicken in water, but you want enough to create a thick sauce and help the chicken to cook through. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer, turning the chicken pieces every few minutes, until the water is mostly evaporated or the chicken is cooked through, about six to seven minutes.

Add the thyme to the pan and drizzle the honey over each piece of chicken. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve!

I don’t think I’ve ever had such flavorful chicken. What was different about this recipe was that the flavors really penetrated the meat of the chicken. (I always hate biting into juicy chicken and the flavor is only on the skin…don’t you?) The lemon wasn’t overpowering and it paired perfectly with the thyme. The chicken was so juicy and delicious, it tasted as if it had been marinading and cooking all day. This was also a good alternative to making some kind of lemon rub or sauce and cooking chicken in the oven or on the grill.

This recipe can be found in Ramsay’s book Fast Food (which we love). I wasn’t able to find his exact recipe online, but I did find Brandon Eats version — along with a video of Ramsay at work.

Chicken Tikka Masala

One of the things I’ve loved most since becoming a part of the blogging community is meeting other foodies and getting great ideas from all you wonderful cooks out there. Carrie over at Our Life in Food posted a few weeks ago about an Indian dish her and her husband tried. Her picture literally made my mouth water and I put it on our menu the very next week. Chicken Tikka Masala will most definitely be a frequent rotation in our weekly menu from now on…thanks Carrie!

Before trying this, I don’t think I had ever had “real” Indian food. I pretty much knew what kind of spices go into Indian dishes, and this tasted pretty much exactly like what I would imagine an Indian curry dish tasting like — only minus curry powder. It was thick and creamy and made for a perfect sauce to serve over rice.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
– 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (this is for garnish only, we left it out)
Marinade
– 6 oz. yogurt
– 2 tsp ground cumin
– 2 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
– 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
– salt and pepper
Sauce
– Olive Oil
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
– 2 tsp ground cumin
– 2 tsp paprika
– salt and pepper
– 1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
– 3/4 cup heavy cream

Keep in mind that the chicken should marinade for about an hour, so keep that in mind when you’re thinking about preparing this dish.

In a bowl large enough to hold the chicken, combine the yogurt, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, ginger and salt and pepper. Add the chicken and mix well, making sure to coat each piece of chicken with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan or high sided skillet and saute, over medium-high heat, the garlic and jalapeno for about one minute. Add the cumin, paprika and salt and cook for another 30 seconds to a minute. Next, add the tomato sauce and cream. Stir well to combine, bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Simmer the mixture for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the marinade, heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat and cook the chicken until browned on the outside and cooked through on the inside, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken to the simmering sauce and stir to coat. Serve over rice.

This was amazingly delicious. Although, it was pretty dang spicy (yes, even for two New Mexican’s), but so, so good. It was creamy, spicy and extremely flavorful. It was perfect over rice and paired really well with cauliflower. All the different spices and flavors came out in every bite, but didn’t overpower the flavor of the tomato-based sauce. This will for sure be something we make often…and will hopefully inspire us to try other Indian dishes.

For the original recipe, visit Carrie’s blog (and while you’re there, make sure to check out her other recipes!).

Baked Stuffed Chicken Breast

I must have really been feeling sick when I decided to take tips from Rachel Ray (no offense to you Rachel lovers out there, but I just can’t stand the lady), but I followed through with it anyway. During the week I spent stuck to the couch, I saw a lot of Rachel Ray on Food TV and I have to admit…sometimes her food looks good.

In one of the 9 million episodes they air throughout the day, she made what she called “chicken cordon bleu” (but it so wasn’t) in which she stuffed a chicken breast with a blue cheese, spinach and arugula mixture, wrapped it in bacon and baked in the oven. I usually am not a fan of food wrapped in bacon, but I couldn’t get the idea of a cheese, spinach and arugula stuffing out of my head. So, I asked Billy his opinion and we decided to do a spin-off of Rachel’s chicken.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 2 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
– about 1/2 cup goat cheese (or any crumbly-type cheese you prefer)
– 1/2 cup each spinach and arugula, chopped
– salt and pepper
– Panko (or regular) bread crumbs

Prepare the stuffing by combining the cheese, spinach and arugula. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a paring knife, cut a slit into the fat portion of the breast. Then, using your fingers, make the slit bigger without busting through the sides or bottom of the meat. Start stuffing the chicken, about one teaspoon at a time, until you get the desired amount of the cheese mixture in each breast. Finally, cover the outside of the chicken breast with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until cooked through.

This wasn’t the best chicken we’ve ever made, but it wasn’t bad for something we just threw together from an idea we had (thanks, Rachel). The stuffing mixture was interesting. The arugula really overpowered the spinach, and even the goat cheese — I think this would have been the case even in the original recipe. Aside from that, the filling was pretty good and paired well with the chicken. I love the texture of goat cheese, and it really held up through the cooking process. The crunchyness from the panko bread crumbs was a great addition to the dish as well. I’m not sure that we’d make it again, but it might be worth it to try a few other combinations.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic-Herb Dressing

Do you ever grill chicken and think that it’s just missing some flavor? When it comes to grilling meats, sometimes it seems like there’s only a few flavor options. The first person that comes to mind when trying to solve a grilling dilemma is Bobby Flay. But that’s not where we turned for this delicious grilled chicken recipe. From now on, I think it’s going to be difficult to have grilled chicken without Tyler Florence’s garlic-herb dressing.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 or 2 heads garlic, cut in half horizontally
– salt and pepper
– 1/2 cup olive oil, plus 2 tbsp
– 2 whole thyme springs, plus the leaves from 6 sprigs
– the juice of 2 lemons
– 1 small bunch fresh parsley
– 1 whole chicken (or any combination of chicken pieces you prefer), cut into 10 pieces

Before you can do anything with this recipe, you have to roast the garlic. This is going to take at least 30 minutes, so make sure you account for the extra time it takes to get everything prepared. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. To roast the garlic, place the halved head(s) face-up on a large piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and add two whole thyme sprigs to the top. Fold up the aluminum foil to make a little packet and throw in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the cloves are golden brown and soft.

Once the garlic is done, squeeze all the cloves out of the skin into a food processor. Also add the olive oil, lemon juice, thyme, and parsley and puree until you get a smooth, thick vinaigrette-type dressing. Now you’re ready to grill! About halfway through the cooking (after about 20 minutes) start basting the chicken with the dressing. The outside of the chicken will caramelize a little and get a result in a great crusty, crispy skin.

This was seriously the best grilled chicken I have ever had in my life. Once we took it off the grill, we added a little more of the dressing for an added flavor boost. I’m not sure that it needed it, but it sure made it tasty! The flavors of the garlic, lemon and herbs really came through in every bite of chicken…not just the skin (although the skin was the best part). The skin was nice a crispy, but not burnt, and the meat was nice and tender and juicy. I said it last time we made a Tyler Florence recipe and I’ll say it again — it’s called Tyler’s Ultimate for a reason! The deliciousness of this chicken is unexplainable. Period.

You can find the recipe in Tyler’s latest book, Tyler’s Ultimate, or on the Food Network Web site. And I highly recommend you find the recipe and try it out. You won’t be disappointed!

Chicken with Saffron Cream Sauce

Saffron is an expensive spice, but it’s worth the price because it lasts forever (and it’s flavor, of course). Giada De Laurentiis’ chicken scallopine with saffron cream sauce is, in my opinion, a perfect way to showcase the great flavor of saffron without overpowering the whole dish. We’ve made this dish many times, and I think it gets better every single time.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 lb chicken cutlets (we usually use two boneless, skinless breasts and pound them out so they’re nice and thin)
– olive oil
– salt and pepper
– 2 shallots, chopped
– 1 clove garlic, minced (we almost always use more than a clove, but that’s just personal preference)
– 1/2 cup white wine
– 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
– 1/4 tsp (a generous pinch) saffron threads
– 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

This is jokingly called “10 minute chicken” in our house because each step takes about 10 minutes, but apparently Billy doesn’t know how to read ahead and realize that there’s more than one step that takes 10 minutes and decides to tell me to start the side dishes 20 minutes too early. Anyway, that’s beside the point.

The first thing you’re going to do is cook the chicken. Heat the olive oil (enough to keep the chicken from sticking) in a skillet over high heat. While the pan is heating, season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. Once the pan is hot drop the chicken as quickly as you can, using a spatter guard to keep the oil from getting everywhere (including all over you). Cook the chicken until golden brown on each side and cooked completely through — 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pan and cover with foil to keep warm.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the shallots and garlic to the pan (you might need to add a bit more oil) and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the wine to the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape any brown bits of the bottom of the pan. Bring the wine to a simmer and cook until it’s almost evaporated completely, about (you guessed it) 10 minutes. Next, add the chicken broth and saffron threads. Bring to a simmer again and let reduce for (another) 10 minutes — it will reduce by at least half. Add the cream, season with salt a pepper and let simmer for a minute or two in order for the flavors to combine. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with parsley and you’re done!

We usually serve the chicken over rice because the rice soaks up the extra sauce and makes it extra delicious. Cooking the chicken over high heat gives it a little bit of a crust but helps lock all the moisture in. The sauce soaks into the chicken (and the rice) and all the wonderful flavors of the shallots, garlic and saffron permeate throughout the dish. Yum.

This recipe can be found in Giada’s latest book, Giada’s Kitchen, or on the Food Network Web site.

Mexican Chicken Creation

We’ve been looking for new recipes lately, and this was pretty much us just throwing stuff together and hoping it turned out okay. The idea actually came from a dish that Billy used to get at some Mexican restaurant in Colorado Springs…and it actually turned out pretty damn good! It’s basically some bone-in chicken breasts with a sauce made from tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and chipotle peppers.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– Bone-In Chicken Breasts (one per person)
– 1 onion, diced
– 2 bell peppers, cut into strips
– 1 can stewed tomatoes
– 1 or 2 chipotle peppers, finely chopped, plus adobo sauce
– 1 serrano pepper, finely chopped

Using a high-sided skillet, the first thing you want to do is brown the chicken breasts to get a crispy skin and to lock the juices in. Throw them in a hot pan with a little oil for a few minutes on each side, you’ll know when to turn them when they’re no longer sticking to the pan. Once browned on both sides, remove from the pan and set aside.

Next, saute the onions in the same pan (adding more oil if necessary) until translucent. Next, add the bell peppers and let them cook down, but not all the way through. Finally, add the tomatoes, serrano pepper, chipotle peppers and adobo sauce. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Add the chicken back to the pan, lower the heat and cover the pan to let everything simmer for at least 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

For making something up with nothing to go off of…this turned out pretty awesome! (All thanks to Billy, of course.) The entire dish had a bite to it, thanks to the serrano and chipotle peppers with adobo sauce, but was evened out by the acidity of the tomatoes. The smoked flavor of the adobo sauce gave the dish the familiar smokiness of classic Mexican dishes. The onions and bell peppers gave the dish a little crunch, while the tomato sauce was perfect for sopping up with some rice. This dish is definitely a do-over!

Chicken Stir Fry

We don’t frequently make Chinese food at home, but when we do it always turns out pretty darn good (and probably a whole hell of a lot healthier). The few things that we have tried haven’t been very difficult either. The perfect example is stir fry…all you need is a bunch of veggies, some meet (which isn’t even necessary, really) and some noodles or rice. We use store-bought stir fry sauce to flavor it because we haven’t yet found a way to get the flavors correct without the sauce.

Here’s what we like to put in our Chinese stir fry: (I’m not putting any exact measures because you can put as much or as little of everything as you like…it’s all about preference when it comes to dishes like this.)
– chicken, steak or shrimp
– onions
– bell peppers
– snap peas
– baby corn (we use the canned kind because it’s a lot easier to find)
– watercress
– stir fry noodles (we usually find these in the produce section…weird, I know)
– rice

We usually cook the meat first then take it out of the wok (or pan) to cook all the veggies. Cook the meat in a very hot pan until it’s just about cooked all the way through (you don’t want it completely cooked so that when its added back at the end it doesn’t get over done) then remove and set aside. Keeping the pan very hot, add the onions and cook until the start to turn translucent. This won’t take very long since the pan is still hot from cooking the chicken. Next, add the bell peppers and let them cook down a little bit. Once the onions and peppers have cooked to the consistency you like, add the rest of the veggies to the pan (if you have mushrooms or anything else that needs to cook down, add those before adding the veggies that just need to be heated and not cooked). Once all the veggies are cooked through, add as much of the stir fry sauce as you like. Mix everything together and add the meat back into the pan, adding more sauce if necessary. Once the meat is heated and finishes cooking, you’re done!

We like to mix in some noodles, but you can simply just serve the stir fry mixture over rice and/or noodles. We love making this because it’s so easy, really tasty and a lot healthier (and cheaper!) than going out for Chinese food. Plus…you can make it any way you like, with any veggies and any meat that you prefer.

Rolled Tacos with Mexican Rice

Sunday morning we were going about our weekend morning tradition of relaxing, cooking breakfast and watching Food Network when Paula Dean came on. I’m not usually a fan of Paula Dean (sorry Southerners), but Sunday was an exception. Well, sort of. Paula had a “guest chef,” that I had never heard of, on her show for some odd reason and she couldn’t stop mimicking her Mexican accent. Anyway, I digress. The guest, Patricia Jinich, made rolled tacos, salsa verde and Mexican white rice. Her taco filling was cooked in a red sauce, something I had never had before, and her rice was cooked with onions, celery, chili and lime juice. It all looked so delicious that we made our own that night.

The filling for the tacos called for boiled chicken, tomatoes, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, onions, cream, and bread crumbs. Easy enough. While the chicken was boiling, we combined the tomatoes, cloves, peppercorns, and onion and pureed until smooth. Once the chicken was cooked through, we shredded it then combined it with the puree in a pan. The mixture simmered for about 10 minutes before we added the cream and breadcrumbs. Once the cream and breadcrumbs combined with the mixture, it was time to start rolling. Yum!

We heated the corn tortillas in a dry pan for about a minute until they were warm (this prevented them from cracking and falling apart when we rolled them together). We then put some of the chicken mixture (a few tablespoons) in the center of the tortilla, rolled it up, and fastened it with a toothpick. The tacos fried for about three to five minutes each (we did two at a time in our little fryer). And…that’s it! The tacos drained on a paper towel and were best while they were still hot.

The flavor of the sauce that the chicken cooks in is…different. Not bad different — really good different, actually. I’m not sure how to describe it really. It was tomato-y, but also had a lot of flavor from the cloves, bay leaves and peppercorns. It didn’t remind me at all of Mexican food at all, but it was so much better than any other taquitos I’ve ever tasted. We had three dipping “sauces” for them: regular red salsa, queso and guacamole. My personal favorite was the guac.

The rice cooked just like normal white rice except that we sauteed onions and the rice in the pan before adding liquid. Once the onions turned translucent and the rice turned bright white, we added the liquid, celery, chili, lime juice, and parsley. The rice simmered away and cooked to a lovely, fluffy, limy bowl of deliciousness.

Note: Sorry for my not so informative post. I feel odd writing about a recipe that’s not mine or at least a variation on something we learned from someone else. Nevertheless, the tacos was yummy and I hope you try them too!

Recipe Links: Click here for the rolled taco recipe and here for the Mexican rice recipe. (We didn’t do the fried plantains that the rice recipe calls for.)