Saturday, March 26, 2011

Broiled Chicken, Chicken Soups, Borscht

My friend Jen gave me the recipe for broiled chicken after I ate about a dozen of her chicken legs at one sitting. And I had thought baked chicken was the pinnacle of chicken! Now I know what a difference in flavor broiling makes.

Chicken soup has been a staple at my house for quite some time. Almost anything can go into it. But I never really experimented with cabbage or beets in my chicken soup until my Russian friend Ilya introduced me to our local Russian grocery store. Oh. My. God. I never expected to love Russian food. The best part of this store: they have a hot food bar, and usually all of the ingredients for the foods are listed. And the lists of usually look like this: chicken, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, onion. Or beets, walnuts, mayonaise, salt, pepper, garlic. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive, but everything is magnificently flavorful.

Their soups inspired me to make my own version of borscht, loaded with purple cabbage and beets. Holy delicious!

Broiled Chicken (quick meal)

Cooking chicken under the broiler gives it a barbecue flavor that you can’t get by baking or boiling. This is a particularly fast way to cook smaller chicken pieces, such as drumsticks or wings.

Chicken pieces
Oil (preferably olive oil)
Salt and pepper
(optional) other herbs or spices, such as paprika, sage, curry spices, Mexican spices. . . You name it!
(optional) barbecue sauce
(optional) Italian salad dressing

Arrange the chicken pieces on an edged cookie sheet, or in a casserole dish. Drizzle the chicken with oil (or barbecue sauce, or Italian dressing), then sprinkle on salt, pepper, and optional spices. Set the chicken in the oven so that it is about two inches below the broiler. Then, set the broiler on high.

You will need to stay close while broiling your chicken, because it is easy to burn food under the broiler. Use your nose to tell when the chicken is cooking, and when it starts to get a little burned. (A little burning helps to give it that nice barbecue flavor.)

When the chicken starts to get a little burned, slide out the oven wrack and flip the chicken pieces over.
You can tell when the chicken is done by cutting into it. Cooked chicken is no longer pink in the middle, and the juices will run clear. To be safe, you can check the temperature with a meat thermometer. 165 degrees or higher is “done”.

Smaller pieces of chicken may only take 20 minutes to cook. If you are cooking pieces of various sizes, you may need to take the smaller pieces out of the oven as they finish cooking, to prevent them from getting over-cooked.

Chicken Soup (quick meal)

There are many, many ways to make chicken soup. The ingredients you can use are almost endless, and you can toss in all sorts of odds and ends, including leftover pasta, leftover rice, leftover vegetables, and leftover meats. You can make a pot of soup small enough for just yourself, or big enough for a large crowd. Here are some possible variants that you can try:

Quick Chicken Soup (quick meal)

Cooked chicken
Chicken broth or stock
Leftover cooked rice or pasta
Leftover vegetables (or frozen vegetables, or fresh, chopped vegetables)
Salt and pepper to taste
(optional) herbs and spices
(optional) milk or cream

Heat the chicken broth or stock to a boil. Add the vegetables first, if they are fresh or frozen, and, simmer until they are cooked to your liking. Add everything but the milk or cream and return to a simmer. Add the optional milk or cream, and heat just until steaming. Season to taste. Serve, and enjoy!

Classic Chicken Soup (quick meal)

Raw chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces, or cooked chicken
Chicken stock or broth
Uncooked pasta or rice
Carrots, chopped
Celery, chopped
Onion, chopped
Garlic, minced (or garlic powder)
Salt and pepper to taste
(optional) herbs such as bay leaf, thyme, parsley, sage, rosemary

In the bottom of the soup pot, first sauté the onion and the chicken in a bit of oil (if using raw chicken). If using minced fresh garlic, throw it in just as the chicken is almost done cooking. Then add everything else. Bring to a gentle boil, and cook until the pasta or rice are done.

Borscht (quick meal)

Borscht is a traditional vegetable soup from Eastern and Central Europe. There are many variants. This is not a traditional borscht, but like many versions of borscht, it contains beets, which turn the soup a wonderful pink or purple color. Purple cabbage will make this soup even more vibrantly colored, and gives it a sweet flavor.

This soup is also fantastic with ham in place of chicken. A vegetarian version can be made with vegetable broth and no meat.

(optional) cooked chicken, or ham, or cooked sausage
Chicken, pork, or vegetable stock or broth
Shredded cabbage
Potato, cut small
chopped beets
salt and pepper to taste
Chopped or dried onion
Garlic, minced (or garlic powder)
(optional) dill
(optional) herbs such as bay leaf, thyme, parsley, sage, rosemary
(optional) heavy cream or sour cream

Put all of the ingredients except for the cream in a soup pot, and simmer until the cabbage and potato are soft. Remove from heat and stir in the cream, or add sour cream as a garnish.

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