Tag Archives: chicken

Belize 2012 – Day Eight: How to Do Nothing…Perfectly.

1 Apr

Aside from the beautiful scenery, the amazing aquatic adventures and the relaxed atmosphere, the thing that J and I remembered most about Caye Caulker was the pineapple grilled cheese sandwich we had for breakfast at Amor Y Cafe on our first morning there. It sounds a little weird, I’ll grant you that. Let me make the case for it, though: the cheese is mild and a little salty; the pineapple is juicy and sweet; and the bread is light as air, buttered and just toasted enough to get a nice crunch without being overly crisp. The cheese is gooey and when you bite into this gloriously simple sandwich, the cheese oozes out and mixes with the fresh juice from the pineapple slices. It was so good J spent the better part of the following year perfecting the Toronto-made version. (I was more than happy to be the guinea pig for these taste tests and even happier when he figured out the key to recreating it.)

So when we found ourselves back at the caye, we knew we had to head to Amor Y Cafe as soon as we could. They’re only open for breakfast and are busy from the time they open til they close at midday. The service is always friendly, if not always terribly expedient; but, you’re in Caye Caulker. Nothing moves too quickly there anyway. There is a fairly large breakfast selection and you can order any of the sandwiches to go, should you want a snack for later. We chose seats at one of the tables that’s right on the street – a great spot for people watching – and ordered our coffees.

The most important meal of the day.

We did, for just a moment, ponder ordering something aside from the pineapple grilled cheese, but quickly dismissed those thoughts. We put in our orders and soaked up the atmosphere. We recognized a few people from neighbouring businesses that we’d met last year, including the guy who gave us the most epic directions ever. (“I know where you need to go. See those two girls over there? Yeah, turn left at them and then walk til you see some trees…”) Not much later, our highly anticipated meal arrived. I must tell you: it was as good as we remembered. Maybe a tiny bit better.

Grilled cheese heaven.

Did I mention this thing is enormous? It’ll keep you going for a while.

Leisurely breakfast finished, we parked ourselves beach-side with some books and magazines. We were to meet J’s cousin and her friend some time in the early afternoon but had not been able to communicate exactly when. No matter: we sat in a lovely, shady spot between the two water taxi piers and spent a couple of hours doing…nothing. When the scenery looks like this, that’s a perfectly acceptable – and recommended – activity:

When they arrived in the early afternoon, we changed into our bathing suits and headed up to the Split. We spent the rest of the daylight hours watching the parasailers perform their stunts, swimming, drinking from our bucket o’ beers and generally enjoying ourselves immensely. When dinner discussions arose, we suggested heading back to Syd’s. Syd’s, however, was closed on Sundays (ah, travelling in a Catholic country. Gotta remember what day it is or you may find yourself outta luck) so we needed another option. That ended up being the Rainbow Grill, a restaurant with an enormous open-air dining room right over the water. Hard to beat that. I went for the curry chicken; J was feeling the chicken burrito. Both plates were gigantic but as we hadn’t eaten lunch (unless beer counts. And it could.) that was no problem. We polished those suckers off with no problem.

We parted ways after dinner, heading back to our respective hotels. We made plans to meet up around 10am for breakfast and said goodnight. Another fabulous day on a beautiful island with wonderful people.

Ginger-Lime-Honey Chicken

16 Feb

This was one of the first recipes I tried out back when I started cooking more on my own. It makes use of stuff you may well already have in the kitchen: lime, ginger, honey…and chicken. I use chicken thighs, but you can certainly use chicken breasts if you like.

Serves 2.

Ingredients

1 lime
2 tb honey
2 tb fresh ginger, grated
4 chicken thighs
1 tb butter
salt & pepper

Directions

1. Mix together the juice of the lime, ginger and honey in a small bowl.
2. Season the chicken with salt & pepper.
3. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter on medium-high. When it begins to bubble, add the chicken. (Make sure your pan isn’t too crowded.)  Cook 3 minutes/side.
4. Add the mixture to the pan with the chicken. Lower the heat and cover. Cook for 10-12 minutes, turning a couple of times.
5. Remove the chicken from the pan and allow it to rest 10 – 15 minutes. Make sure you scrape up all the caramelized bits from the pan – they’re delicious!

In Search of Smoky Perfection: BBQ in T.O.

6 Sep

Barbeque can be such a contentious matter.  Discussing your favourite spot for ribs or fried chicken among friends can lead to long debates about the merits of a dry rub over a wet, whether cornbread is ruined by the addition of jalapenos or which spot in the city smells the best upon entering. I am by no means a bbq snob: I like it all, so long as it’s cooked well. I do prefer sticky, messy wet ribs over the dry-rubbed product but I certainly don’t turn my nose up at them. I don’t believe that there is only one way to do barbeque and I’m on a mission to try it all at the best places Toronto has to offer.

The first bbq spot I tried out in our fair city was an old standby: Phil’s Original BBQ. This was my first taste of “real” barbeque and I was hooked. I recall the ribs, in particular, were excellent. It has been several years since I’ve been there – in fact, Restaurant Makeover hadn’t even come in yet. What say you, folks? Worth a repeat visit?

Next up was Memphis Smoke House. It’s a little further out of the core, at Yonge & Sheppard, but don’t let that stop you. In discussing this post with the husband the other day, we realized that this was the only joint that we found truly exciting. J had read an article in The Star about this place and how the owners had convinced the chef to relocate from Louisiana to Toronto to cook for them. We were blown away by the richness of the ribs, the delicious beans, the crumbly – but not dry – cornbread and the huge portions. It was clear that this was no ordinary bbq we were eating: this was being made by someone who’ done it for years and years and had just about perfected his craft.  Get a combo platter with Aunt Shirley’s BBQ sauce. We have been back several times and brought many others with us. The ribs, the pulled pork, the fries…everything gets a rave review.

Our next stop was the Cluck, Grunt & Low on Bayview. The less said about that the better. Suffice it to say that we were not surprised to see that it had closed within months of opening. The replacement, Highway 61, has fared much better. The food is pretty good, if not super-outstanding. It is, however, very comfortable and pretty good value for your buck.

Then popped up Stockyards.  I have recommended this place til I turned blue in the face. Their fried chicken is remarkably crispy on the outside, while juicy and tender (and molten-lava-hot) on the inside.  I’m not a huge fan of the carraway-laced coleslaw, though I do like the matchstick-thin cabbage. It’s really a personal taste thing. But let us not forget about the ribs! They are smoked to perfection and come with a tangy sauce that’s just ridiculously delicious. You can only get them three days a week, so go early. I can pretty much guarantee you will go often. It should be noted that there are – MAYBE – 20 seats and they are difficult to get. Either be prepared to wait for a spot or just get the take-out.

Finally on my bbq list? Hardys Hogtown Brasserie. My interest was piqued by a Toronto Life article a few months back that said the owner had built his own smoker out of giant drums. It was to open up just down the street from Stockyards, creating some healthy competition. Finally made it in last Friday, a few weeks after their soft opening. Two advantages Hardys has over Stockyards? It’s an actual restaurant and it’s licensed. The list craft beers on tap is a nice alternative to the standard Keith’s-n-Labatt at most places.

The coca-cola ribs were on special so my fellow diner and I ordered two 1/2 racks. My other companions ordered the regular ribs and the slider trio comprised of one pulled chicken, one pulled pork and one pulled brisket sandwich. We were then informed by our incredibly charming and gracious server that they were out of the regular ribs entirely and only had 2 1/4 racks left of the special. Ooooooookay. Shouldn’t the front of house know when a product runs out?

We changed our orders to the 2 1/4 racks of the special and a trio of sliders to split; J’s ribs were swapped out for a trio. Our onion ring apps arrived and they were dang good, if perhaps a little oily. Our mains arrived…sans the trio to split. Once again, our server had to explain that there was a mix up but that they would be happy to give us any other main on the house. She recommended the brisket sandwich, so we got that and the collard greens. All in all, once all the food had arrived, we had to admit that it was all excellent. The coca-cola ribs were sweet without being cloying; the brisket sandwich was piled high with tender, slathered brisket; the trio was perhaps a bit on the small side but delicious nonetheless. The sides of collard greens, potato salad and coleslaw were all completely devoured: always a good sign. Some work needs to be done on the communication between the kitchen and the front of house, but otherwise this was a great spot for friends to gather, have a couple drinks and nosh on some great barbeque. Is it better than Stockyards? Ask me again in a month when I go back for a comparison dinner.

Still to check out on my list? Barque, which has been getting insane rave reviews from all corners, and Lou Dawg’s. Where else do I need to go, my smokehouse-loving, rib-devouring friends?

Chicken, Mango & Brie Quesadillas

28 Jun

I came across this recipe while surfing the net and knew I had to try it out. I was already planning to do a roast chicken over the weekend, so I knew I’d have some leftovers that I could use. But even if you don’t have any chicken already cooked up, you could just buy a couple of chicken breasts and poach them for 20 minutes or so. Let ’em cool and pull them apart – easy peasy!

Serves 2 hungry people.

Ingredients

4 large tortillas
1/2 cooked chicken, shredded
1 mango, sliced
125g brie, cut into small pieces
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
3 tb picked jalapenos (or fresh – up to you), diced
1/4 c sour cream
zest & juice of 1 lime

 

 

Prepping!

Directions

Lime Dip

1. Heat a non-stick surface to medium-high. (I used my Griddler, but a non-stick pan, sprayed with oil, will work!)
2. Place one tortilla on the heated surface. On half of the tortilla, place 1/4 of the chicken, mango, brie,  jalapeno & cilantro.
3. Fold the tortilla in half over the ingredients. If using a Griddler, lower the top half and press. Leave for 4 minutes. If using  a pan, cook for 2 minutes per side. Repeat process for remaining three tortillas, keeping the cooked quesadillas in a warm oven.
4. Meanwhile, mix together the lime zest, juice & sour cream. Season with a little salt & pepper to taste.
5. When all the quesadillas are ready, cut the halves into quarters and serve with the dip!

 

Finito!

Crispy Chicken w/ Lime & Poblano Sour Cream

4 Apr

Many thanks to a girlfriend who sent this recipe along! (Check out her blog here!) The roasted chiles provide a smoky background in the smooth sour cream while the lime brightens it. This recipe could also be modified to make it healthier with low-fat sour cream and skinless chicken breasts instead of thighs. If you’re going to use breasts, I’d recommend roasting them as opposed to using the broiler!

Serves 4.

Ingredients

4 poblano/cubanelle peppers
1 lime
1/2 c sour cream
2 tb cilantro, chopped
2 ts Kosher salt
1 tb ground coriander
1 ts cumin
1/2 ts ground black pepper
8 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on, trimmed of fat
3 tb extra virgin olive oil

Directions

1. Position oven rack 5″-6″ below the broiler.  Line a baking sheet with foil and place chiles on top.  Broil 12-15 minutes, turning several times, until the skin of the chiles has charred.
2.  Remove the chiles, put them in a bowl and place a plate on top. Allow to rest of 5 minutes.
3. In a bowl, add the juice of half a lime, the cilantro and sour cream.
4.  Once the peppers have cooled, remove the skins, stem and seeds. Chop them into a 1/2″ dice and add them to the sour cream mixture. Season with salt to taste. (You could also add in a little hot sauce if you need more heat!)
5. In a small bowl, combine the salt, coriander, cumin and pepper. Coat the chicken with the olive oil and then with the seasoning.
6. Place the thighs skin-side down on a foil-lined sheet and broil for 7-10 minutes. Turn the chicken and broil another 7-10 or until a meat thermometer reads 180F. If the chicken looks like it might burn, lower the oven rack.
7. Plate the chicken with the sour cream sauce on the side. Garnish with a few cilantro sprigs and lime wedges from the other half of the lime et voila!

Roasted Poblanos w/ Chicken & Cheese

14 Mar

So many things about our trip to Belize made a lasting impression, not the least of which was the food.  I am seriously missing the flavours of Central America! I stumbled across a recipe for stuffed peppers a while back and, since I had some leftover roasted chicken in the fridge, it was clearly time to bust this one out!

Serves 2.

Ingredients

4 poblano/cubanelle peppers
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 ts dried oregano
1 ts cumin
1 ts cinnamon
1 ts salt
1 ts pepper
1 tb olive oil
2 c shredded chicken
1 1/2 c cooked rice
2 c cheddar, grated
1/4 cilantro, chopped
1 tb lime juice

Directions

1. Position oven rack 4 inches from broiler. Line sheet with foil.
2. Slit peppers from step to tip. Place on the sheet and broil, turning several times, until they are blackened.
3. Let the peppers cool then peel the skins, cut out the cores and return to the baking sheet.
4. Meanwhile, puree the tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cook 8-10 minutes on medium-high heat until all the liquid evaporates.
5.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the chicken, rice, 1 cup of the cheese, cilantro and lime juice. Season with salt to taste.
6. Divide filling among the four peppers. (This gets a little messy – don’t worry if some spills out.) Broil for 4 minutes.
7. Top the peppers with the remaining cup of cheese and then broil 2 more minutes.

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(Mostly)Chinese Chicken Salad

27 Sep

Always on the hunt for new and interesting ways to make salad more than just lettuce. This recipe is a Bobby Flay creation, but I’m renaming it. He calls it “Chinese” but the chipotle puree tells me otherwise. I also added some diced red pepper to the salad, as it was in the fridge and I figured it couldn’t be bad in there!

I poached four chicken thighs in water with peppercorns & a dried ancho chili that I happened to have in my cupboard. (I poached them because I wanted that shredded texture that works best with poached chicken, as opposed to grilling or baking.) They took about 25 minutes in barely-boiling liquid. I then removed the skin and bones, shredding the rest with two forks. Delish. Leftover chicken from a roast would also work really well.

Serves 2-4.

Ingredients

1/4 c rice wine vinegar
2 tb smooth peanut butter
1 tb ginger, grated
2 ts chipotle puree
1 tb soy sauce
1 tb honey
2 ts sesame oil
1/3 c canola oil
1/2 Napa cabbage (or whichever cabbage you prefer)
1/2 head Romaine (or…y’know…whatever you’ve got!)
2 carrots, shredded
1 handful snow peas
1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
2 c chicken, shredded
1/2 c peanuts & mint, julienned

Directions

1. If you have not cooked chicken yet, fill a medium-large pot with water or stock. Bring to a boil and add in your chicken. Cook 25-30 minutes at a low boil.
2. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, peanut butter, chipotle puree, soy, honey, sesame oil & canola oil. Whisk until smooth.
3. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, lettuce, carrots, snow peas, cilantro and green onion.
4. Toss the dressing into the salad and plate on large dishes. Add the chicken.
5. Top with peanuts & mint.

*If you poach the chicken, keep the broth that’s left. Skim the fat, let it cool and reuse for soups. If you’re not going to use it right away, toss the broth in the freezer. It’ll keep for quite a while.

Comfort Food

10 Sep

Everyone’s got ’em. You know, those foods that you crave when you’re having one of THOSE days. Maybe they take you back to childhood or maybe they’re a more recent discovery; but, either way, they’re the foods that can make you literally sigh with relief.

For me, the list is fairly short: roasted chicken, soft chocolate chip cookies, matzoh ball or orange-ginger-lime soup, samosas, aaaaaaaaaaand….red wine.  No, it’s not food, but it’s verrah, verrah comforting after a long day. What all of these food(-like) items have in common is their ability to remove stress and replace it with happy memories. Even the making of these dishes can be therapeutic! A really good stress relief? Pounding cutlets with a pan or rolling pin. That feels goooooooooood.

How about you? What are your particular favourite comfort foods?

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