Tuesday, May 3, 2011

And then, out of nowhere...

I had absolutely no idea what would happen for dinner.  I had taken some leftovers out of the freezer to thaw, but didn't feel very committed to having them for dinner.  I didn't really feel much like cooking an elaborate meal.  What I really wanted was for dinner to cook itself.  Influential as I am, however, I cannot charm dinner into materializing on the table.  Yet.

I had some bone-in chicken breasts, though, and thought about roasted chicken.  The more I thought about it, the more it appealed to me.  So I decided to use a cooking technique popular in the Midwest and on the Eastern Shore of Maryland: broasting.  Broasting is actually a patented process that creates a crispy exterior and a moist, flavor-infused interior.  It's most commonly associated with chicken.  I knew that without the Broaster (a patented pressure cooker/deep fryer), I wouldn't get truly broasted chicken.  But I was willing to settle for an approximation of the broasting process.  Now, just how to do it?

What I was after was pure delectability, not so much crispness.  I wanted a moist, tender chicken breast that had a fairly intensive amount of flavor and I wanted a side dish that would be a true foil for the flavor profile I was developing.  What happened was pure alchemy.  The chicken breasts were beautifully moist, tender and their parsley-anchovy pesto, enriched with olive oil and heightened by the acid of the sherry vinegar, was smoky and deep thanks to the smoked paprika.  The fried polenta was crusty outside, creamy inside and mingled beautifully with the pan juices from the chicken.  The poquillo peppers, a last minute inspiration, not only gave this dish a gorgeous shot of color, they echoed the smoky depth of the paprika.  I served the chicken and polenta with a salad of spring greens and herbs dressed with fresh lemon juice, Sicilian olive oil, ground pepper and flake salt. 

Not knowing what will happen for dinner can sometimes produce amazing results.  It really did feel as though dinner cooked itself.

Broasted Chicken Breast with Parsley and Anchovy Pesto 

I prepared this in my very small, very old toaster oven.  You could use a standard oven as well.

2 bone-in chicken breasts, skin removed
salt and pepper to taste
smoked paprika
2 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup parsley pesto
1/2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
2 Tbs. EVOO
2 anchovy fillets (or substitute 1 to 2 tsp. anchovy paste)

1.  Place chicken breasts on a foil-lined baking tray.
2.  Make a paste of a little salt, freshly ground black pepper, smoked paprika, EVOO and garlic.  Quantities are to your taste, but make sure you have enough EVOO to spread the paste evenly and easily over the chicken breasts.
3.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.
4.  Make a paste of parsley pesto, sherry vinegar, EVOO and anchovies. 
5.  Spread the paste evenly over the chicken breasts.
6.  Cover with foil and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes.  The chicken should be moist and very tender.  Spoon pan juices over chicken and fried polents and peppers (recipe below).  Serves 2.

Fried Polenta and Poquillo Peppers

1/4 cup EVOO
1 cup prepared or leftover polenta
salt and pepper to taste
2 roasted poquillo peppers, cut into thick strips

1.  In a small skillet, heat EVOO until shimmering.
2.  Form polenta in to two thick patties.
3.  Brown polenta well on both sides, using salt and pepper to taste.  Make sure you develop a nice crust on both sides, reducing heat if necessary.  Cover pan slightly to reduce splattering (this also helps to steam-heat the polenta).
4.  Add poquillo pepper strips to pan and heat through.
5.  Serve friend polenta and peppers with broasted chicken.  Serves 2.

What you might want to drink...

I had a bottle of Crios de Susana Balbo Rose of Malbec 2010 (Argentina) chilled and ready to go in the fridge.  Although I found the color of this wine a bit off-putting (it's a very bluish pink in the glass), in the mouth, it is very lovely.  First-of-the-season cherries on the nose.  Lots of strawberry, and very youthful.  Clean lines, nicely dry finish.  Well-balanced and less than $15 a bottle.

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