Thursday, February 28, 2013

Chicken Leg Quarters

When I stopped by Aldi tonight on my way home, I thought I should check out their meat section. This was only my third time there, and on my previous visits I stuck to dry goods and yogurt cups because you just can't beat 39 cents for an individual cup of yogurt, so I had to snatch them up. 

I was not disappointed by Aldi's frozen meat prices. I usually buy the 2.2 lb bag of frozen chicken thighs from Trader Joe's for $6.49 (it's $6.99 for 2.2 lbs of white meat) because it is both inexpensive and not plumped up with salt water, resulting in less shrinkage when cooking. But at Aldi, I found a 2.5 lb bag of thighs for $6.29, I believe it was, and a 5 lb bag of frozen chicken leg quarters for $4.29. Sold! And I brought them home for dinner.
First I pulled out a glass baking dish and sprayed it with nonstick cooking spray just in case things turned icky later. Only two leg quarters fit, so only enough meat for dinner and perhaps a lunch tomorrow or maybe Saturday, when I will have access to a microwave between jobs. 

For seasoning, I grated on some garlic salt from Trader Joe's that is actually comprised of salt, garlic, fried onion, and parsley, if memory serves right, then some garlic powder because it seemed to stick better than the salt and more parsley flakes. (Because om nom nom garlic, om nom nom nom parsley.)

I had to look up on the internet how long and at how high to cook the chicken as this is something that I am still learning. I came up with 45 minutes at 400F, which turned out to be a wee optimistic. After 45 minutes, the meat was still pink inside and the juice even looked a little bloody, so back in it went for another 25 minutes.
Which is when the smoke alarm started going. I don't know if the people who lived in our apartment before us were vegetarian or what, but every time I cook meat, be it chicken in the oven or bacon on the stove, the stupid alarm goes off. I know that our new upstairs neighbors have the same problem because I hear that go off all the time, too. (Or maybe they're just terrible cooks. I don't know.) 

The extra time did the trick, and when next I pulled the chicken from the oven, it was a nice golden brown and the skin was crispy and deliciously aromatic. Garlic and chicken are a wonderful combination! And the meat inside was super juicy. 

Since I had eaten carrots and hummus while waiting for the chicken to cook, I didn't bother with a vegetable side dish. The chicken was just fine on its own. 

And I look forward to cooking many more in the future.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Turkey Masala Burger

As I said I would last week in "Frozen Turkey Burger Patties," I have been experimenting with different spice combinations on the turkey patties that I bought from Trader Joe's. This week, I went with an Indian theme. I have a lot of the appropriate spices in my cupboard from when I devoted an entire month to learning to cook various Indian dishes. I'd already discovered that a great homemade masala mix on sauteed chicken is garlic powder (or salt), turmeric, curry powder, ground ginger, and cinnamon, so I thought I'd give it a go on these turkey burgers. 

So while the new patty was sizzling as it thawed in my small frying pan, I shook a generous helping of garlic powder over one side of the patty, then pinches of ground cumin, turmeric, and curry powder. I decided against the ginger and cinnamon this time, though in retrospect, they might have enhanced the flavor. When the burger was thoroughly unfrozen and the bottom side had begun to cook, I flipped it and did the same set of spices on the other side, then covered the pan and let it cook, flipping it every now and again to make sure it cooked properly and thoroughly.
As a condiment, I decided to spread on some dill pickle relish because the aroma sort of reminded me of chicken shawarma and one of my favorite ingredients in shawarma is pickle. The result, my turkey masala with dill relish burger, was surprisingly blander than I had thought it would be. Maybe three pinches of curry et al next time? It certainly wasn't bad, and I had fun experimenting with the spices, I just think that when I do it again, I need to be less cautious in using them. I've discovered many tasty dishes by throwing spices around in my kitchen, and not all of them turn out perfect the first time. 

Though that chicken was pretty great. I highly recommend that one.

**Wondering what that strange-looking comic is that my lunch is sitting next to? It's The Town of Tymes: Teddy Attack by this crazy guy I know named Erik Reichenbach. You might know him from Survivor, but I don't watch that show, so I had to meet him in person to find out who he was. Best of luck in California, Erik, and keep drawing! :D

Friday, February 15, 2013

Frozen Turkey Burger Patties

The trick to turkey burgers is in the seasoning. Ground turkey on its own is pretty bland. (I find turkey in general to be on the bland side, worse than chicken, which, incidentally, should never be ground up into a burger - yuck!) I know some people who make turkey patties from scratch add diced bell peppers, garlic, and/or bits of onion, dried or otherwise. All tasty additions, yes (minus the bell pepper in my case), but the seasoning is the absolute must.
On a trip to Trader Joe's a few weeks ago, I picked a package of four frozen turkey patties. I thought this would be a nice and easy, cheap way to get protein into my diet. Turns out I was right since I can only eat one burger at a time, and let me tell you, it's an amazingly positive change from cheap Meijer hot dogs. Since I've been very sick this past week, easy has been the key factor in all of my food preparation. For three days I was eating little more than microwaveable pizza rolls and ice cream.

Since I wasn't making these burger patties from scratch, and I didn't want to ruin their conveniently pre-made round shape, I relied on the spices to flavor up this bird. First, I ground on a light sprinkling of Himalayan pink salt, but not too much because, though I didn't check, I assume all frozen food from Trader Joe's has an already too high sodium content. (Seriously, look at their nutrition info. I think you'll be surprised.) Next came the garlic powder. Mm-mmm... Garlic... Then some dried and ground oregano leaves followed by my favorite, dried parsley flakes. The pan was sprayed with nonstick cooking oil, the burner was set to medium, and we were good to go.

While that was going, I also heated up some leftover potato and kale soup in the microwave. I added garlic salt and cheese curds because it's a particularly flavorless soup albeit on the healthy side. I am still pretty darn sick, and I need my vitamins and antioxidants, which is why this meal also included a glass of orange juice for its vitamin C.

As I have a preponderance of cheese in my fridge, I decided to make this turkey burger into a cheeseburger, laying slices of an autumn harvest cheddar over the top to melt as the meat finished cooking through. This was a delightfully juicy burger and took some time to peer through the juice leaking out to make sure it was no longer raw inside. Really, I was quite impressed for this being a frozen patty from a grocery store. I think it had more moisture than if I had bought the refrigerated kind one aisle over. 

There are still three patties left in my freezer. I will have to further experiment with spices and make a different burger next time. I did have my eye on the cumin and curry, but I figured that being sick was not the time to really experiment with new flavors. Maybe next week. If it turns out halfway decent, I'll report my findings here. Hope everyone else is doing better than I am! Toodles!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Chicken and Beets Cooked in Oyster Sauce and Soy Sauce

I decided to buy some chicken from the store a couple of weeks ago to force myself to cook real food again, maybe enough to assemble leftover lunches which are perfect for my cramped free-time. It took a while, but I did eventually finish up enough obligations to find time to cook chicken. And it was delicious.

The first thing to do was figure out what to put on the chicken. I have a decent assortment of spices in my cabinet, but I feel like I've used them all before, and recorded them here on my blog. (Click here for my chicken recipes.

As I was rooting around in my fridge to see what that had to offer, I came across a bottle of oyster sauce. I don't remember what I bought it for, or the last time I used it. It's a key ingredient in my recipe for homemade fried rice, and I really have no idea the last time I made that! It was still good, though, right? It smelled okay, so I figured it would be fine. Generally paired with oyster sauce is soy sauce. I had a bit of trouble locating it, but I eventually got it and set the two bottles next to each other on the counter while I turned my attention back to the two chicken thighs that were slowly defrosting in a frying pan on the stove.

The pan of chicken was comprised of a thin layer of canola oil first, then the thighs, then a sprinkling of freshly ground Himalayan pink rock salt. Nothing terribly fancy, I just wanted to get the flavors brewing. Honestly, it probably didn't need the rock salt since I ended up putting soy sauce on it, but I didn't know what was going on it when I first put the chicken in the pan. I often start chicken recipes by grinding some salt over-top.

I set my egg timer for ten minutes at first, then continued to poke and prod the chicken until was perfectly thawed and well on its way to being cooked. This is when I poured in the oyster sauce and soy sauce. Oyster sauce has the consistency of barbecue sauce. Add a little less than you would barbecue sauce if you don't want a lot of sauce left over. It's great to put over rice, though! I didn't make rice this time because I didn't think I had any. (Turns out I did. Eh bien.) Soy sauce should be used much more sparingly since it has such a strong salty flavor. I never use low sodium because it doesn't mix the same in sauces, often separating out in dipping sauces, ruining them, such as for gyoza.

I kept a close eye on it from this point until it was done because liquid evaporates quickly and the sauce will thicken and burn on the bottom of the pan if left unattended for too long. When the chicken was cooked, I removed it from the pan. There was still a bit of sauce left over, though quite liquid since I didn't really allow it to thicken as I wasn't using it to ladle over rice. Instead, I grabbed a can of sliced beets from the cupboard and scooped those into the pan to be cooked in the oyster sauce and soy sauce combination.

I've said many times in this blog that beets are a superfood in addition to being tasty (and for dying things red). Beets are naturally sweet, and the salt from the soy sauce went very well with this. All this meal needed to be complete was some fruit, which I did not have, so I settled for the chicken, which was juicy, tender, and full of flavor, a side of beets, and some raw baby carrots in veggie dip left over from the Superbowl. I feel like I haven't been getting enough vegetables in my diet, not to mention protein, so this worked for me.

Best of all, I had enough to pack for my dinner at work that night! And it was just as delicious and satisfying the second time around.