Satsuma Brined and Grilled Lemon Sage Chicken

I have a serious amount of satsuma juice from my Dad’s tree, so I used a quart of it for a brine for the thighs from a 10lb bag of leg quarters. Of course, you can easily substitute orange juice or, if doing pork, switch to apple juice if you aren’t lucky enough to have satsuma juice at the ready.

The satsuma adds a brightness to the brine without adding too much acid plus the lemon goes really well with sage and chicken.

Satsuma Brined and Grilled Chicken

Brine:
1 quart water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 quart satsuma or orange juice
1 quart ice

Lemon Sage Wet Rub:

2 lemons, 1 of them zested
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Bring the water, salt, brown sugar and peppercorns to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from the heat. Add in the satsuma (or orange) juice and ice cubes. Stir to melt the ice. Once the brine has cooled, add the meat and refrigerate. Brine for 12-24 hours.

Remove the chicken from the brine the morning before grilling and rinse it off. Place it uncovered in the fridge to dry the skin out a little.

About an hour before prepping the grill, pull out the chicken and let it sit on the counter. Set up the grill for indirect cooking with coals on two sides and some hickory chunks soaking.

To prepare the wet rub – combine the lemon zest and garlic cloves on a cutting board. Mince them together. Add the salt and chopped sage leaves and use the side of the knife to work the herbs into the garlic to make a paste. Place the paste in a bowl with the juice from one of the lemons and the pepper and olive oil. Whisk to combine. Rub over the chicken thighs.

Once the coals are ready, place the thighs skin side down on the center of the grate. After 10 minutes, flip them over and place thin slices from the remaining lemon on top. Continue to cook for 45 minutes to an hour or until done. Chicken thighs are at a safe temperature when they reach 165 degrees F. Because of the brining, you can let them go all the way to 170 degrees F without drying them out.

For serving, squeeze the lemon slice over the thigh for a bright hit of lemon.

 

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Taking Chicken Kiev South

What’s not to like about the herbed buttery taste of Chicken Kiev? Some may consider the dish old fashioned but I dream sometimes of those hidden pockets of melted, herbed butter that spurt as you cut into it.

It is all good to dream but I knew it could be better if I grilled it instead of coating it in breadcrumbs and baking it. And, of course, everything tastes better with bacon. Here is this southerner’s take on the classic dish.

I did make a few without the bacon and, with judicious handling (and double the toothpicks), the butter pocket stayed intact until they reached the table. Even where the butter had leaked out a bit, the herbs had been left behind, so the chicken still tasted awesome.

8 chicken thighs, skinned and deboned
2 sticks butter
6 tablespoons tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
16 slices of bacon

In a food processor, mix the butter, tarragon, garlic and lemon. Place on a plastic sheet and form into a roll. Place in the freezer for a couple hours to chill.

Take the chicken thighs lightly salt and pepper both sides. Slice the herbed butter and place 2 tablespoons of butter inside each thigh. Close it up to envelop the butter inside and place on top of two pieces of bacon laid crosswise. Use the bacon to seal the chicken closed and secure with baker’s twine or toothpicks. Refrigerate while you prepare the grill.

Set up your grill for indirect cooking. Lay down a drip pan to contain any blowouts. I used a hickory chunk for smoke. Place the thighs on the grill, open side up and cook for fifteen minutes. Melt any leftover herbed butter and baste the thighs before rotating the chicken thighs one quarter turn, making sure to keep the open end up. Continue cooking, basting and rotating until meat is done, about 45 minutes to an hour. Safe temperature for chicken is 165 degrees F.

Remove twine and toothpicks and serve with any leftover basting liquid.

Any bacon that didn’t crisp, save and crisp in the microwave. Freeze in a zip top bag and crumble over salad or baked potato for the best bacon bits ever.

Sticky Sesame Drumsticks From the Slow Cooker

I bought a 10 pound bag of leg quarters and butchered the contents – grilling the thighs and setting the drumsticks aside for dinner during the week. I decided to use the slow cooker so it would cook while I’m at work. When I came home, I just had a few more things to do (make rice, thicken sauce, etc) to get it on the table. Further, the slow cooker gave time for the connective tissue in the drumstick to melt away to make for falling off the bone, tender meat.

It took me a few times to get this recipe ready for posting – I originally left the skin on and it came out rubbery, even after I put it under the broiler. This version delivers tender, well flavored chicken that is reminiscent of take-away, sesame chicken.

Because I was using the chicken from a 10lb bag, I doubled the marinade (but not the sauce) to ensure plenty of flavor. If you’re using less than 10 drumsticks, just use the recipe as written below.

Don’t worry if you have leftovers – it makes really terrific chicken salad!

Sticky Sesame Drumsticks

4-6 drumsticks

Marinade:
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Cooking Sauce:
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon Sriracha chili sauce, optional

Whisk together the honey, soy sauce, garlic and oil. Remove the skin from the drumsticks and place them in a zip top bag and add the marinade. Massage the marinade into the meat and place in the refrigerator overnight.

Place the chicken drumsticks in the slow cooker and discard the marinade. Combine all the cooking sauce ingredients together and pour over the drumsticks. Set the slow cooker on low for 3 to 5 hours or until chicken is cooked to 165 degrees F. If you’re around, about midway through cooking, turn the chicken to coat with more sauce.

When the chicken is done, pour the sauce into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer until thickened. Baste chicken and serve the remaining sauce at the table.

I served this with white rice and a spinach salad with grated carrots.

Asian inspired Spinach Salad Dressing

3 tablespoons minced onions
3 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (use white vinegar if you don’t have rice wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon light soy sauce (if you don’t have light, omit the salt later in the recipe)
1 clove garlic, minced
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Whirl everything together in a blender at least four hours (and up to 5 days) before using for the flavors to meld together. Pour over baby spinach leaves and grated carrot and toss. Store any remaining in an airtight container.

Thanks to my guinea pigs, Michelle, Charlotte, Linda and Robert, for coming over and helping me refine this recipe and eat all the food!

Rosemary Sage Grilling Rub

While wandering through the Fall Plant Sale from the Herb Society of America, New Orleans Unit, I saw lots of rosemary and sage plants (and we even bought a non-edible sage – Salvia oxyphora). When out grocery shopping later and we found a great deal on chicken thighs, I already knew the flavor profile I wanted.

After letting the chicken sit for a while in a sweet tea brine, I prepared a rub with rosemary and sage. I set the grill up for indirect cooking and I started the thighs skin side down for the first 15 minutes to get some lovely marks on them before flipping them over to cook the rest of the way. It took about an hour total for them to reach 170 degrees F.

Sweet tea brine

3 black tea bags
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
10 chicken thighs

Steep the tea in 4 cups of hot water at least five minutes and until good and dark. Add the sugar and salt and stir until they’ve dissolved. Add in the lemon peel and 2 cups of ice. Stir to melt the ice and cool down the brine. Pour over chicken and put in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.

Drain the chicken and pat dry. Keep in the refrigerator until about an hour before grilling. Sprinkle both sides with the Rosemary Sage Grilling Rub and let sit on the counter until your fire is ready.

Rosemary Sage Grilling Rub

1/4 cup fresh, chopped rosemary leaves (measure after chopping)
1 tablespoon dried sage
2 teaspoons granulated garlic (optional)
2 tablespoons kosher salt

Using your fingers to mix all the ingredients to combine and then sprinkle on the chicken. Place any unused rub in an airtight container.

I served the chicken with chicken broth potatoes and a small spinach salad (Michelle insisted on something green!).

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

I like chicken Cordon Bleu but I don’t like all the steps that go to making it. That’s why this casserole is so good – no pounding chicken, no making filling, dredging, breading, frying. In fact, with the cheese sauce covering everything, this might actually be better than traditional. You can even make it easier by buying already cooked chicken. You’d need about 3 cups of cooked chicken.

This is a recipe that can be made ahead – make it and put it in the casserole dish and you can refrigerate it until ready to cook. Add in time to take in account that it is going from cold.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cup cooked ham, diced
2 cups Swiss cheese, grated
10-20 Ritz crackers, crumbled

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat oil in cast iron skillet. Cut chicken breasts into strips and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown all sides in the skillet, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat to a plate. Wipe out the pan.

Melt butter in the skillet. Sauté the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring constantly. Add the milk in several small batches – whisking well after each addition to make sure there are no lumps in the sauce. Bring sauce to a simmer. Add all but a half cup of cheese to the pan and stir to melt.

Cube chicken. Add it and the ham to the skillet and stir to combine. Spoon it into a casserole dish.

Add remaining cheese to crumbled crackers. Mix with your fingers and then sprinkle over the top of the casserole.

Bake uncovered for 30-45 minutes, depending on how deep your casserole dish is. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Pecan Cream Chicken and Mushrooms

We had more mushrooms and cream and this time we upped the flavor on chicken. Giving the pecans a whirl in the food processor to chop them fine made it so every bite tasted nutty.

Pecan Cream Chicken and Mushrooms

Pecan Cream:
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon olive oil, more as needed
Salt & pepper to taste

Sauce:
1 tablespoon sherry or another deglazing liquid (water, broth, wine)
1 teaspoon olive oil, as needed
1 small onion, finely chopped
½ pound mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped

Prepare pecan cream by grinding pecans in a food processor, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed. Add water and cream and salt to taste; process until combined, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Set aside.

Pound chicken to ¼ inch thickness to promote even cooking. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat olive oil a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken; sauté about 5 minutes per each side or until cooked through. Cook the chicken in 2 batches, adding more oil if needed for second batch. Set aside cooked chicken on a clean plate, keep warm.

Add sherry or other deglazing liquid to pan and stir up any browned bits. Add oil if necessary and sauté the onions for 5 minutes to soften. Add mushrooms and cook over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and starting to brown. Add fresh rosemary to the pan. Stir in pecan cream; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add chicken back to pan. Simmer for about 5 minutes until reduced slightly.

Place rice among serving plates. Add the chicken and then place a spoonful of the mushroom pecan sauce on top. Garnish with a pinch of chopped pecans if desired.

I served this with rice although pasta would work well, too.

Pickle Schnitzel

Pickle juice makes a wonderful brine for grilled chicken but I also love it with breaded cutlets, better known in my family as schnitzel. The soak in the pickle brine doesn’t make the chicken or pork taste like pickles, it adds a salty tang and leaves the meat super tender and juicy when pan fried. Just don’t soak it for too long (1 hour is sufficient) or it will get overly salty.

Chicken schnitzel

I mix my bread crumbs with an equal amount of cracker meal so that my schnitzel has a good crunch, especially when warmed up the next day for sandwiches. Who needs to go to a fast food restaurant anymore?

Pork schnitzel

I use boneless pork loin and the relatively short cooking time means that this low fat cut doesn’t get overcooked. I wait for the whole loin to go on sale and have the butcher cut it in 3/4 inch pieces for me.

2 large chicken breasts or boneless pork loin
1 cup pickle juice
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten with one teaspoon olive oil
1 cup breadcrumbs (or in combination with cracker meal)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Cover meat with plastic wrap and pound to about ¼ inch thickness. Place pounded meat in a zip top bag and pour pickle juice on top. Seal and toss in juice and refrigerate for 1 hour.

When the meat is ready, remove from pickle juice and dry well. Place the flour, egg beaten with a little olive oil and breadcrumbs/cracker meal each in separate shallow bowls. Season the flour with the salt and black pepper.

Coat each cutlet in flour and shake off excess. Then dip in the beaten egg before dredging in the breadcrumbs/cracker meal. Place on a wire rack in the refrigerator while the oil heats.

Bring about ½ inch oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat to 375 degrees F. Fry in oil about 3-5 minutes per side or until golden brown.

Blot on a paper towel and serve hot with lemon wedges.