Monday, January 31, 2011

Chicken Baked in Parchment Paper

So, for my first official recipe here on the blog, I'm starting with something simple but delicious ... and potentially useful on a very frequent basis, depending on how often you cook chicken.

I'm always looking for new ways to cook typical things. One recent night, I needed to pre-cook a chicken breast before putting it into a recipe. I didn't want to just throw it in the oven, so I went to Google in hopes of finding some inspiration.

I came across this recipe, and my new go-to cooking method for chicken was born ... with a necessity-based modification that turned out to be unexpectedly fantastic:

Yep. Thinly sliced clementines for the win!

Note: I have yet to try making the chicken with lemon as the recipe prescribes. Limes or oranges certainly would work, too. Oh, and I haven't used any herbs yet, either, as I've been making this chicken largely for use in various recipes. And besides, this chicken tastes really good all by itself!

It's easy if you follow the directions. Just make sure you slice the fruit fairly thinly (less than 1/4 inch if possible) and keep it in a single layer when you put it on the chicken.

The other important things are:

- 1 sheet of parchment paper per chicken breast!

- When you make the pouches, leave a little room inside for steam. Don't wrap too tightly.

- However, you do want to close the pouches well to keep the moisture in. See those nice creases? They let the magic happen inside the pouch.

While the recipe includes directions for both 425°F and 350°F, I suggest cooking at 425°F. The high, quick heat seals the juices in the chicken nicely. And, by the way, the recipe's "15-20 minutes" cooking time is for smaller chicken breasts. The ones I make -- which tend to be around 3/4 of a pound each -- take more like 30-33 minutes to cook. Just make sure the internal temperature hits 165°F-170°F. My Taylor Digital Cooking Thermometer is my trusted tool for checking that.

After whatever amount of time it ultimately ends up taking, your chicken will look something like this:

The interesting part is that the fruit does not impart a strong flavor to the chicken; it really just helps keep it moist and helps bring out its natural flavors. Tasty, fork-tender chicken is a work of culinary art that had long eluded me, but I'm swearing by the parchment-and-citrus method now.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

It's time.

I've long thought about starting a blog devoted to cooking, baking, eating and drinking. And lately, as I've been cooking up a storm and sharing photos and recipes on Twitter and Facebook, I've received a lot of encouragement from friends who thought such a blog would be a good idea.

So, here it is ... straight from my small, awkward and unattractive kitchen (ahh ... the things you cannot control when you're a renter) in mid-Michigan.

What you can expect from me: Recipes that normal, busy people can make (I'm not a gourmet chef, and I work full-time!), plus reflections on restaurants, food and beverage products and experiences, and more. And along the way, you'll also get to hear from some of my friends who share my love for tasty foods and beverages.

And speaking of friends ... special thanks to Josh Merchant, who made a suggestion that ultimately led to the name of this blog.