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Chicken Carnitas (healthy + super easy!)

January 18, 2015 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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Braising anything is delicious, but when you braise something and THEN pan-fry it? HEAVEN. And that’s exactly what carnitas are.

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After being slow-cooked in a mixture of onions, citrus, and herbs and spices for 8 hours, this chicken is incredibly flavorful by itself…but when you add guacamole, salsa, raw and roasted vegetables, and other accompaniments, you have a plate filled with pure deliciousness. There’s a reason why Chipotle is so popular!

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The plate is messy, but every bite is filled with crunchies, squishies, and overall exquisite taste. This is one of those meals that once you start eating you won’t be able to stop yourself. 😉

The best part is that this dish is a breeze to put together and, while it takes a while to cook, it only requires about 5 minutes of prep-time. The magic here is in the slow cooker which, if you add enough salt and seasonings, makes food that is both super tender and flavorful.

I mean it–don’t skimp on especially the sodium chloride here (*cough* chemistry nerd alert *cough*). When I first started using my slow cooker, everything tasted incredibly bland until I bumped up the salt content…then, all of a sudden, the other flavors burst out like blooming flowers of yumminess. I promise it’s not going to be like sucking on sunflower seeds…it’s going to be a freaking amazing date with cumin, garlic, oregano, thyme, and lemon.

Another secret here is to use juniper berries. They’re an obscure ingredient, so I made it optional, but I’ve found that even adding a few makes a big difference, adding a subtle note of savory richness to the fairly mellow chicken thighs. I got mine at Penzeys, but you should be able to find them at any well-stocked grocery store.

I hesitated on posting this recipe for a while because it’s so flipping straight-forward. But after much persuasion from my mom (and a little spare time to photograph due to a shortened exam schedule), I decided to put this puppy up.

So, basically, you put the chicken in the crock pot and add all of the flavoring components…

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…let everybody hang out for 8 hours…

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…take the chicken out of its luxurious bath…

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…and fry away in olive or coconut oil until crispy heaven is achieved!

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Inspired by this recipe

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Chicken Carnitas

Ingredients

Prep Time 5 min
Cooking Time 8 hr 30 min
Total Time 8 hr 30 min
Yield 6-8 servings

3 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

A good crack of black pepper

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of dried oregano

2 teaspoons of thyme

1 1/2 tablespoons of cumin

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons of garlic powder

1 medium onion, sliced thinly

The juice of 1 large lemon

6 juniper berries (optional but recommended)

3-4 tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil

Romaine lettuce, guacamole, salsa, and roasted vegetables, for serving

Directions

In a slow cooker, combine the chicken with all of the remaining ingredients with the exception of the cooking oil and the accompaniments. Cover tightly with the lid and let cook on low for 8 hours.

Remove the chicken from the accumulated liquid (you can let this sit in the fridge overnight and use it for stock) and pat it dry with paper towels.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil or coconut oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 1/4 of the chicken pieces, breaking them up slightly with a pair of tongs. Let cook until golden brown on the bottom side, about 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and cook for another few minutes.

Remove to a plate, cover with foil, and repeat with the remaining chicken, adding more 1 tablespoon of oil for each batch to keep the chicken crispy.

Serve on a big plate with raw and roasted vegetables, guacamole, salsa, and a squeeze of lime juice. Slow-cooked black beans would also be delicious here. 🙂


Please don’t forget the toppings. Just don’t. Eating this dish without some avocado involved is a crime against humanity.

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Which do you prefer: guacamole or salsa? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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Chicken Carnitas

January 16, 2015 Print this page

Braising anything is delicious, but when you braise something and THEN pan-fry it? HEAVEN. This dish is so easy to make and tastes phenomenal every time, so get some ripe avocados for guac and get cooking!

Adapted from this recipe

Ingredients

Prep Time 5 min
Cooking Time 8 hr 30 min
Total Time 8 hr 30 min
Yield 6-8 servings

3 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

A good crack of black pepper

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of dried oregano

2 teaspoons of thyme

1 1/2 tablespoons of cumin

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons of garlic powder

1 medium onion, sliced thinly

The juice of 1 large lemon

6 juniper berries (optional but recommended)

3-4 tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil

Romaine lettuce, guacamole, salsa, and roasted vegetables, for serving

Directions

In a slow cooker, combine the chicken with all of the remaining ingredients with the exception of the cooking oil and the accompaniments. Cover tightly with the lid and let cook on low for 8 hours.

Remove the chicken from the accumulated liquid (you can let this sit in the fridge overnight and use it for stock) and pat it dry with paper towels.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil or coconut oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 1/4 of the chicken pieces, breaking them up slightly with a pair of tongs. Let cook until golden brown on the bottom side, about 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and cook for another few minutes.

Remove to a plate, cover with foil, and repeat with the remaining chicken, adding more 1 tablespoon of oil for each batch to keep the chicken crispy.

Serve on a big plate with raw and roasted vegetables, guacamole, salsa, and a squeeze of lime juice. Slow-cooked black beans would also be delicious here. 🙂


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Fesenjan (Persian Chicken and Pomegranate Stew)

July 30, 2014 Print this page

This may be one of the best chicken dishes I have ever made. Maybe I’m just a sucker for pomegranate and Persian spices, but seriously…YUM. I recommend serving with Persian Rice.

Ingredients

Prep Time 15 min
Cooking Time 2 hr
Total Time 2 hr 15 min
Yield 6-8 servings

2 cups of raw walnuts

2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, breasts, or a combination

1 tablespoon of ghee (or coconut oil)

Salt, to taste

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 large onion, diced into small pieces

2 cups of chicken stock

2 tablespoons of unrefined cane sugar (or coconut sugar)

1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of turmeric

1/2 teaspoon of cumin

A pinch of nutmeg

A pinch of cloves

Directions

Toast the raw walnuts in a skillet over medium heat until just on the verge of charring, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Transfer to a food processor and process until finely ground. Set aside for later.

Next, chop up the boneless, skinless chicken into bite-sized chunks.

Meanwhile, heat up the ghee in a large, deep pot over medium heat. When hot, add 1/4 of the chicken pieces and sprinkle generously with salt. Once slightly brown on that side (about 4 minutes), flip over and cook on the other side until it slightly browns (about 3 minutes). Remove the chicken pieces from the pot and place on a plate lined with paper towels, and repeat with the remaining chicken until you have none left.

Add the olive oil to the ghee/chicken fat and, when hot, pour in the diced onion. Saute until translucent and beginning to turn golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Return the cooked chicken pieces to the pan and pour in the chicken stock. Increase the heat slightly, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Once the 30 minutes have elapsed, add in the unrefined cane sugar, pomegranate molasses, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, nutmeg, cloves, and the walnuts you ground up earlier.

Re-cover and continue cooking on low heat until the chicken is tender, about 1 hour. Stir every 20 minutes or so to prevent the walnut pieces from sticking to the bottom.

Serve hot with some Persian Rice and either steamed or roasted carrots.


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Fesenjan (Persian Chicken, Pomegranate, and Walnut Stew)

July 26, 2014 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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This may be one of the best chicken dishes I have ever made. Maybe I’m just a sucker for pomegranate and Persian spices, but seriously…YUM.

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I fell in love with Fesenjan at Persepolis, a Persian restaurant in New York City that has AMAZING food despite its humble appearance. My best friend Natalie and I both absolutely adored this dish.

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To be honest, I was expecting something more when it arrived at the table. This was pomegranate chicken…why wasn’t it red? And I knew there were walnuts in there, but they seemed to be hiding beneath the surface of the broth.

When I took a bite, everything changed. This chicken rocked. It was sweet, but not cloyingly so, and the meat melted in my mouth as it faded into the background of cumin, cinnamon, and other spices. I was hooked, and I needed to try and make it at home. I simply couldn’t last very long without having this dish again.

I made it once for my parents and once for my good friend Chloe, and since everyone loved it both times, I decided to publish the recipe. I’m very logical, you see.

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(The edible flowers were a gift from Chloe. 🙂 )

If you are ready to have an incredibly flavorful, tender chicken dinner on your table this upcoming week, come along on a trip with me to an idealized version of Iran comprised only of food. AKA let’s get cooking, I’m already hungry thinking about this thing.

Recipe adapted from here.

First, toast 2 cups of raw walnuts in a skillet over medium heat until just on the verge of charring, about 5 to 6 minutes.

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Transfer to a food processor and process until finely ground. Set aside for later.

Next, chop up 2 lb of boneless, skinless chicken into bite-sized chunks. You can use thighs, breasts, or a combination of the two; we prefer dark meat at my house, so I used all thighs.

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I also suggest you shoo away your cat, or else you will not have any dinner at all. That would be sad.

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Meanwhile, heat up 1 tablespoon of ghee (or coconut oil, if you prefer) in a large, deep pot over medium heat. When hot, add 1/4 of the chicken pieces and sprinkle generously with salt. Once slightly brown on that side (about 4 minutes), flip over and cook on the other side until it slightly browns (about 3 minutes). Remove the chicken pieces from the pot and place on a plate lined with paper towels, and repeat with the remaining chicken until you have none left.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the ghee/chicken fat and, when hot, pour in 1 large onion, diced into small pieces. Saute until translucent and beginning to turn golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes.

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Return the cooked chicken pieces to the pan and pour in 2 cups of chicken stock. Increase the heat slightly, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Once the 30 minutes have elapsed, add in 2 tablespoons of unrefined cane sugar (or coconut sugar, if you prefer), 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, a pinch of nutmeg, a pinch of cloves, and the walnuts you ground up earlier.

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Re-cover and continue cooking on low heat until the chicken is tender, about 1 hour. Stir every 20 minutes or so to prevent the walnut pieces from sticking to the bottom.

Meanwhile, make this delicious orange-raisin rice to go on the bottom. Yum.

In a large skillet, heat up 1 tablespoon of ghee over medium heat. Once hot, add 1 cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom and a pinch of ground cloves. Once fragrant, about 3 minutes later, pour in 1 cup of long-grain basmati rice. Toast in the ghee and spices until slightly golden, about 5 minutes.

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To the toasted rice, add 1 3/4 cups of water or chicken stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, add the zest of 1 orange (about 2 tablespoons), and cook until all of the water or stock is absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. When all of the liquid is gone, stir in 3 tablespoons of raisins, turn off the heat, and let sit for 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork or spoon.

To serve, put a scoop of rice on each plate and top with some chicken and sauce. May I suggest some roasted or steamed carrots to go on the side?

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Persian food is amazing. I hope you agree.

Have you had Persian food before? If so, what is your favorite dish? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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Crispy Apricot-Glazed Chicken

May 24, 2014 Print this page

Have you ever had the experience of biting into a piece of chicken, only to discover that the skin is rubbery, flabby, and frankly inedible? I have. And it’s not pleasant. I can also promise you that it WON’T happen with this chicken.

Ingredients

Prep Time 5 min
Cooking Time 20 min
Total Time 25 min
Yield 6 servings

1 whole chicken, cut into eight pieces (or bone-in thighs, drumsticks, or breasts)

Salt, plus a pinch more

1/4 cup of all-fruit apricot jam

1 teaspoon of maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon of paprika

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and throw a heavy cast iron skillet in there while the oven heats up. 

Take the chicken and bring it to room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. Season all of the pieces well with salt, then take out the cast iron skillet and put it on the stove top over medium-high heat.

Place the pieces skin-side down and sear for 14 minutes. Don’t move the pieces at all: just let them do their thing.

Meanwhile, warm the apricot jam in a small saucepan until significantly more liquid-y or in the microwave for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and stir in the maple syrup, paprika, and a pinch of salt.

At about the 12 minute mark, brush half of the apricot mixture on the side of the chicken pieces facing up.

When the 14 minutes are up, flip the chicken over (so skin side up) and transfer to the preheated oven. Cook for five minutes, then brush the chicken skin with the remaining apricot mixture and cook until golden-brown and firm to the touch, about five minutes longer. (A thermometer inserted in one of the breast pieces should read at least 160, while the thigh/leg pieces should be at least 175.)

Remove from the skillet and eat immediately with your favorite side dishes.


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