Thursday, May 27, 2010

Improvising in the kitchen with mixed results

Hello everyone. Thank you once again for making a stop by our blog; and thank you for sharing in our cooking adventures. In about a week, we've already had 250 unique page views. (250 different people looking at this blog on a different day). That averages roughly 25 to 30 unique readers per day. This number has been steadily growing since launch. It's very cool to know your work is being enjoyed by so many people. 

Tonight was my turn to take over cooking and I chose to go with my personal (cooking) hero - Jamie Oliver. Tonight's recipe was Crunchy Garlic Chicken and looked to be fairly easy to make...that is until I had to start improvising due to a lack of kitchen equipment. That's when things got interesting. 

The Recipe: Crunchy Garlic Chicken 

2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts 
1 Clove of Garlic 
2 Tablespoons of Butter 
6 Unsalted Crackers 
1 Lemon 
1 Egg
All Purpose Flour 

Begin by zesting your lemon. Now, right off the bat I had to improvise. Not only did I have to cheat and look up what it meant to zest a lemon, I did not have the necessary tool to do so. For those that do not know, zesting a lemon is the process in which you shave off the outside layer of the lemon (the yellow skin) without reaching the white skin underneath. This process is relatively simple if you have a fruit zester...we did not. I ended up using a steak knife and carefully peeling the edges of the skin, until I had 95% of the lemon's skin off. 

Next, add your crackers, 2 tablespoons of butter, the parsley, the lemon zest, the clove of garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper into a food processor and mix until the substance is fine and powdery. Once again, I had to improvise. (Not off to a good start here are we?) We don't have a food processor ('s on the list, but they are expensive little guys). Instead, I used an emersion blender and mixing container to (attempt) to grind everything up into little pieces. Let's just say, there's a reason that the recipe says 'food processor'...and not 'emersion blender'. The blender did break things down a little bit, but it also mixed and blended (go figure) everything together. What I ended up with was not exactly a fine powder, but a thick puree. To remedy this, I crunched up six more crackers and mixed those into the puree with my hands. I did finally end up with a powdery mixture, but it was not nearly as fine as I was hoping for. Pour the finished mixture on to a plate and set aside. 
The ingredients, ready to be mixed

Post mixing. (After adding additional crackers)

Next, add a pinch of all purpose flour to a second plate. Roughly 2 tablespoons worth should be enough. Now you will want to crack your egg into a small bowl and beat it with a fork until it is completely mixed.  Set this aside as well. 

Using a square of plastic wrap (we improvised and used two ziplock baggies) cover the top of the chicken and proceed to beat the pulp out of the little bugger until he's much flatter. The thinner you can make the chicken here, the better your end result will be. Thinner means faster cooking time as well as a more even cook across the surface.
Hit it with a left hook, then follow with a quick right jab

Once both pieces of chicken are squished down a pants size or two, roll them into the plate of flour. You'll want to cover the chicken completely in the flour. Next, give the chicken a quick dunk into the egg (be sure to cover both sides) and finally, press the it onto the plate of crackers you processed earlier. Be sure to press very hard here, the goal is to get all of the crackers really worked into the chicken. The harder you press, the better they stick and the less issues you will have later. 
One 1/2 breaded piece of chicken

Now, you have two options in regards to cooking the chicken. You can choose to bake the chicken - in which case you will place it on a baking sheet and into a 475 degree oven for 15 minutes. Or, you can fry the chicken in a medium sized frying pan. We chose to fry the chicken. 

To do this, pour a decent helping of olive oil (listen for the bottle to make two 'lug' sounds, that should be about right) into a hot frying pan and cook each side for 4 to 5 minutes or until golden brown. Once finished cooking, use the (now skinless) lemon to squeeze some juice over the chicken to add some great natural flavoring. All that's left is to enjoy. 
Frying up the chicken

*** Learning experience of the night. We really NEED a food processor. Unfortunately, the entire recipe went a little off track for me due to the lack of this kitchen gadget. Since I couldn't process the crackers into a fine enough powder, it didn't stick to the chicken as well as it should have. Since it fell off the chicken, it scorched in the frying pan (burnt crackers...eww) and since the breading was uneven on the chicken, I didn't get a consistent cook overall. This caused some quick improvising (I sliced the chicken into strips and cooked those strips on their side to even out the cooking) and ended with a decent dish anyway.***

The Results: 

The finished dish

In the end, I still did come out with a decent dish. It wasn't nearly as good as I had hoped - it wasn't bad by any means, but it wasn't 'blow me away fantastic' as my previous tries with Jamie Oliver's dishes have been. The flavor was really good, although a bit more lemon and less garlic than the title of the dish would suggest. I think it'd be more properly named as 'Crunchy Lemon Chicken' as the delicious lemon flavor really dominates the dish. (Which is great, as I truly do love lemons). I think I'll make a second try at this one once we have a food processor, and see if I yield any better results cooking wise. I may play around with the breading as well. Change out the crackers for panko bread crumbs and add tarragon instead of parsley. (The more I type this, the more I want to try the recipe I'm making up...) All in all, this still is a very satisfying dish that is relatively easy and quick (30 minutes start to finish) to make. Here's hoping you give it a try. 

That's all we have for recipes this week. Tomorrow is a scheduled off night for both of us. We'll be back on Saturday with a book review. We're going to highlight a book that has become like a kitchen bible for us. We hope to see you then. Once again, thank you for reading and until next time... 



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