Why is my chicken breast so dry? and what can I do about it?

Weather you bake, fry, broil or grill chances are your chicken breast will be dry because it is so lean. The average size chicken breast roasted without the skin and boneless has approx. 4 grams of fat and about 30 grams of protein this is why it can easily dry out once cooked. There is not enough fat in the white meat to keep them moist.

To follow are five suggestions for tender juicy chicken breast.

For 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1. Brine your chicken breasts: brining is the number one most impressive way to get the best chicken breast. Add one tablespoon each salt and sugar mixed in cold water and submerge chicken breasts in it for about 30 minutes. After 30 min. Drain water and pat down chicken with paper towel and let it sit in a strainer for about ten minutes, now brush chicken with olive oil, your favourite seasoning and grill on BBQ or broil in oven.

2. Marinade: put 4 chicken breasts in a large zipper seal bag. Meanwhile in a mini food processor add 2 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, juice of half of a lemon, juice of a whole orange, pinch cayenne pepper, 2 cloves and 3 tablespoons curry powder; spin a few times and pour entire contents in zip bag with the chicken and seal, refrigerate for 1 hour or up-to 4 hours. When ready to cook drain out excess marinade and allow chicken to come to room temperature before cooking.

3. Braise; put chicken breasts in oven safe corningwear and add two cups low salt chicken stock, add vegetables of choice such as potatoes, carrots, onions, zucchini etc, add cracked pepper, couple sprigs rosemary, 3 cloves of garlic smashed. Cover and bake at 400* for about 20 minutes.

4. Baste; brush chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper or seasoning of your choice now put on a hot grill or under a hot broiler. In the meantime combine 3 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar , pinch salt, two tablespoons of olive oil and pinch dried oregano. As soon as chicken has cooked on one side, turn over now brush chicken with balsamic vinegar and oil mixture, once second side has cooked turn over chicken again and brush with more balsamic mixture turn off oven and let chicken sit for about 5-10 minutes and keep brushing with mixture. Take chicken out of oven when done and tent it with a piece of foil for another ten minutes.

5. BBQ trick: indirect heat method; brush chicken with your favourite BBQ sauce, chipotle sauce, Harissa sauce, sriracha sauce or any marinade of choice, heat your grill on high for about ten minutes, brush grates with oil and put chicken on grill, after about 4 minutes turn over chicken breasts which should have cooked with nice grill marks on that one side, after another 3 minutes on the other side, turn off the grill on that side of BBQ but leave the opposite burner on high, cover grill and let them cook for about another 10-15 more minutes, chicken breasts should be far away from the high heat side of BBQ… The grill marks on each side should have sealed in the juices.. Again as above it doesn’t hurt to tent the chicken breasts on a plate once ready.

Please comment and let me know how things worked out for you.

Note: Remember when brining chicken will not be salty if you allow then to drain properly and pat them dry with paper towel.

20140804-003117-1877119.jpg

20140804-003120-1880591.jpg

20140804-003118-1878779.jpg

My version of Sicilian pizza

I went to wine tasting years ago and I tried a slice of Sicilian pizza and I loved it. Sicilian pizza dough is thick and chewey, simple toppings of cheese, a vegetable and herbs, maybe slices of sausage or pepperoni. At the wine tasting I asked the guy about the pizza and then I did some research and then I started to make my own pizza with various toppings and this was the combination I liked most. I also brought this version to my workplace potluck.

For the dough

1 1/2 cups of warm water
4 cups all−purpose flour
1 tablespoon of salt
2 teaspoons ground flax seeds
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon brown sugar

For toppings

300 ml passata (strained tomatoes)
2 ripe tomatoes sliced
1 large red bell pepper sliced
2 cloves of garlic slivered
1 sprig fresh rosemary
10 leaves fresh basil torn
400 gr mozzarella cheese grated
50 gr Pecorino Romano cheese grated
1 teaspoon fennel seeds crushed
Pinch sea salt
Pinch of ground black pepper
Olive oil
100 gr deli pepperoni sliced (optional)

Put the warm water in a bowl with the brown sugar and dissolve, add the yeast, allow it to sit for about ten minutes in order for the yeast to foam.
In another large bowl combine the flour, salt and flax seeds and mix. Make a well in the flour add olive oil and stir in the foamed yeast water, mix well and turn dough on a floured surface and begin kneading for about 7-10 minutes until a soft dough forms. Put dough in another oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel, let it rise for at least one hour.

Punch down dough and allow to sit covered again while you prepare the toppings. In a small pot warm a bit of olive oil and sauté the garlic add the passata, rosemary, fennel seeds and simmer on low heat for about ten minutes, remove from heat and allow sauce to cool down before spreading on dough. Preheats oven at 450*. Stretch dough out to fit a 12 x 20″ cookie sheet using a rolling pin, oil cookie sheet and dust with corn meal. Lay out dough on cookie sheet and using your fingers, try to develop a thicker edge. Spoon sauce all over pizza dough, add basil and cheese, top off with the peppers, tomato slices and pepperoni. Put pizza in oven and use convection if available. Cook pizza for about 18-25 minutes. Ovens vary so check under crust after 15 minutes for doness. I hope you try this one out and again please comment below.

Pinot noir was great with this pizza

20140523-002350.jpg

20140523-002415.jpg

Oven Roasted Leg of Lamb with veggies

This dish is dedicated to my Dad. My uncle and Dad liked to drive out to a farm in southern Ontario and select their own lamb of which the farmer would catch and then slaughter. Sometimes the kids went on the trip too except my sister never went, she doesn’t eat red meat and especially couldn’t stand the thought of a little lamb being killed. At least us kids knew where are food came from. I personally prefer local lamb even though it’s more expensive, if all you can find is New Zealand lamb then that would do just fine.

Ingredients

1 leg of lamb bone in
bunches Swiss chard
4 large carrots cut into 2″ long
3 lb. potatoes cut in half or quartered
5 sprigs rosemary
Juice of one lemon
1 cup dry red wine or could use water
3/4 cup olive
12 cloves garlic minced
1 tbsp dried oregano
1.5 tbsp kosher salt
Ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

Get out a large roasting pan large enough to hold the lamb leg, pour in the two cups of wine if using, otherwise water. In a small bowl prepare the merinade; chop up and combine the rosemary with 1 tbsp salt, oregano, olive oil, garlic, and ground black pepper, mix and brush entire leg of lamb on all sides including the bone.

Place leg in roasting pan, cover and roast in preheated 450* oven for 30 minutes. Now prepare potatoes and carrots, after washing them, mix them together with a bit of olive oil and remaining salt and set aside. Wash the swish chard, trim thick stem and set aside also.

After 30 minutes of lamb cooking at 450, turn heat down to 350 and add potatoes and carrots surrounding lamb. Baste the lamb lemon juice and again in 30 minutes with juices from bottom of toasting pan and cover and continue to cook for another 45 minutes. When time is up, take the top off the roasting pan, turn on convection if it’s an option and let roast another 10-15 minutes, after that add the Swiss chard, turn oven off, cover again and leave in oven another 15 minutes. I know that the lamb will be over cooked but we Greeks do not usually eat meat medium rare, and I promise it will melt in your mouth.

When all done, slice off meat, prepare serving plates with veggies on the side, serve with more lemon, oregano, pita bread and red wine for drinking.

Note: if feeding a large group, prepare more potatoes, carrots and Swiss card and also have Greek salad, Kalamata olives, roasted red peppers etc around the table.

Thank you for checking out my blog.

Please enjoy, and comment below, letting me know the results or just any questions you may have.

20140315-203252.jpg

20140315-203332.jpg

Salmon Bruschetta

This was a recipe I’ve been thinking about for a while, then I decided to try it out with my best buddy Ian. You will be amazed at how tender and juicy the salmon will be. Don’t cut corners on the garlic, this is what it’s all about.

4 portions salmon fillet about 3oz each
4 cloves garlic minced
2-3 large tomatoes diced
Olive oil
2 sprigs fresh basil chopped
Pinch dried oregano
One lemon
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
One bunch asparagus

Heat oven on high broil and make sure rack is about six inches from the broil element. Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper on both sides. In a bowl add three quarters of the garlic with the tomatoes, some basil, oregano, salt, pepper and about a 1/4 cup of olive oil and mix altogether bruschetta. Cut the tough stem end off the asparagus and add two tbsp olive oil and remaining garlic. Preheat an oven safe casserole pan large enough to hold the salmon and asparagus together in the oven for about 5 minutes. Spoon bruschetta mix on top of each piece of salmon and carefully put the fish in the heated casserole pan skin side down,
add in the asparagus and cook in broil for about 8 minutes. If salmon is a thick cut may need a few more minutes cooking time. When salmon is ready plate each fillet with asparagus side and squeezes of lemon on fish and asparagus.

Serve with crusty bread or pita and drink with Pinot Noir or any dry white wine will work well.

Enjoy and please comment.

Thank you

20140228-002236.jpg

20140228-002248.jpg

Turlou Turlou (mixed up vegetables)

This is a summer dish, but because of the winter we’re having so far I think I need a taste of summer. Turlou turlou means “all mixed up” in Greek. This resembles a vegetable casserole, similar to Briami or French Ratatouille, or even a Sicilian Caponata. Moms version is done in a pot on the stovetop instead of the oven. Even though my father was a hunter and liked his wild game this happened to be one of my dads favourite meals. I use cilantro here but flat leaf parsley is more common. You can omit the beans if you cannot find them, also I use a chilli for some heat and squash but again it’s not that traditional. Classic Mediterranean Diet food, (olive oil, veggies, tomato, herbs). This is a very healthy meal as a meal in itself or a side or appetizer for fish, chicken, rice, pasta or even a salad of mixed bitter greens. Allow the eggplant to be the star here… should be the most important vegetable in Turlou Turlou. Okra, sweet potato, cauliflower and a few other veggies would all work but I’ve personally never tried them. Have fun a please comment. Thank you.

Ingredients

2 zucchini
1 large eggplant
2 tomatoes
1 small butternut squash
2 red or orange bell peppers or combo
2 large carrots
2 small potatoes
1/2 cup large frozen Lima beans
1 onion chopped
12 cloves garlic minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
Pinch of sugar
Olive oil
Handful chopped cilantro leaves
3-4 fresh basil leaves torn
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 birds eye chilli smashed (optional)

Instructions

Wash all the veggies (tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, carrot, peppers, squash, potatoes) and chop into 1″ cubes but DO NOT peel the skin off any vegetables. Set aside cubed veggies in a large bowl tossed with a couple big pinches of sea salt and a couple glugs of olive oil. Using your hands mix everything together until well coated in oil. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat, add the a coating of oil and begin to fry the onions and half of the garlic. Toss in half the veggies and begin to gently stir with a wooden spoon for about 3 minutes until all the veggies have had a chance to touch the bottom of pot and are well coated in the hot oil-onions-garlic. Add in the remaining veggies and keep stirring gently for a few more minutes, now add the remaining garlic, sugar, tomato paste, oregano and chilli pepper if using. Lower the heat to simmer, cover the pot and allow to steam for about 15-20 minutes. Uncover pot and mix the veggies, add the herbs and using a fork pierce a bean, potato or squash to make sure that they have softened to your liking. Turn off the heat and if mixture is too dry mix in a little water, taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste. If you want it to be oily, add more raw extra virgin olive oil or to preferred individual serving plates and garnish with more herbs.

You will not be disappointed with the sweetness of this wonderful food. Serve hot or cold or even at room temperature, cut up a bunch of crusty bread and let people at a party help themselves to some turlou turlou. Other serving suggestions that will compliment include cheese plates, crackers, smoked fish. Alternatively you can take leftovers and purée in a processor and there you have it: “veggie dip”

20140115-012009.jpg

20140115-012302.jpg

20140115-012314.jpg

Grilled Halloumi with sweet n spicy sesame seeds

Happy new year fellow foodies

This may seem odd to some of you, but cheese, sesame and honey really go well together. Halloumi is a cheese from Cyprus and should be available at Middle Eastern stores, Farmboy, Superstore and Sobeys. This kind of cheese doesn’t melt to a liquid like mozzarella, but you can grill, fry or bake this cheese without it losing much of its shape.

Ingredients:

One package Halloumi cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Instructions:

Mix sesame seeds with cayenne pepper and lightly toast in a dry pan over medium heat, tossing for a few minutes and set aside–careful not to burn the seeds. Slice halluomi cheese into 4 equal pieces and brush each side with olive oil. Prepare BBQ or grill pan for high heat and lay slices of cheese on grill and cook 3 minutes per side until cheese starts to melt and have nice golden char marks on each side. Remove cheese to a plate, drizzle with honey and sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds so they will stick to the honey coated cheese. You can serve this as an appetizer, dessert or even a side dish. Accompany this with toasted bread, wilted greens or sauteed cabbage. (future post)

I find this will pair well with a dry white wine, rosé or even some sweet wines should go well also.

20140107-223059.jpg

20140107-223119.jpg

Venison Kokinisto with Home Fries

Kokinisto is the word for red sauce, not necessarily a tomato pasta sauce but tomato based aromatic gravy. My best memory of this sauce was when my mom worked at a Greek restaurant in downtown Windsor where the sauce was put on top of potatoes or fries in place of gravy or ketchup. Deer hunting season has just finished in some parts of eastern Ontario and I was given some good cuts from my dads old hunting buddies. You could substitute any red meat (lamb, veal, beef) in this dish even pork will work.

Ingredients:

2 lb. venison cut into 1″ stewing pieces
1 large can stewing or crushed tomatoes
4 cloves
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch turmeric
Pinch sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 rib celery
1 large carrot
1 onion
10 cloves garlic
Couple sprigs fresh parsley chopped
1 cup dry white wine
Pinch sea salt
Pinch ground black pepper

For the Potatoes

8-10 potatoes cut into French fries
Good pinch of sea salt
Ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
3 tbsp olive oil

Take the celery, carrot, onion, garlic and spin in a food processor until finely chopped and blended together and set aside. Season the meat with salt and pepper and a bit of olive oil. Sear on an grill top for about 2-3 min per side, or in a wok over high heat but don’t overcrowd, work in batches as you will not get good grill marks if meat is crowded. Set aside meat as it gets seared on each side. Prepare a Dutch oven or corning-ware on medium high heat with a bit of olive oil, toss in the chopped up veggies from the processor. Cook for a few minutes just until you see the onion, celery, carrot and garlic begin to caramelize, add the stewed tomatoes, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, sugar, salt, pepper and the seared meat. Deglaze the grill top or wok with the white wine or just add the wine to the stew and water if necessary in order to cover the meat completely with liquid. Cover Dutch oven and simmer for at least one hour. If sauce gets too thick add more water, it should not end up too thick it really need to have a gravy like consistency.

Prepare potatoes

Preheat oven to 400*
In a bowl toss cut potatoes with the salt, pepper, olive oil and turmeric, make sure they are all well coated toss them all in one layer on a cookie sheet and cook in oven for about 25 minutes until golden crispy.

When meat is ready, taste the sauce and adjust seasoning if needed. When potatoes are ready serve as a side dish and spoon kokinisto (red sauce) from meat on top of fries. Serve with crusty bread and salad. You could use a crock pot to make the meat, this could be a main or and appetizer for a party etc.

I would serve this dish with either a white or red wine. Riesling or Pinot noir or most red wines will go well.

Enjoy and happy new year

20131229-001501.jpg

20131229-001515.jpg

20131229-001534.jpg