Thai-Style Curried Chicken Fried Rice

My spouse orders only one dish from any Thai restaurant: Curried Chicken Fried Rice. Wherever we go the dishes vary, but his favorite is served with scrambled egg, onions, chunks of chicken, wedges of tomato as garnish on the side, and a tangy sauce we can’t fully identify. Then he pours peanut sauce all over it.

I was with him on the dish until the peanut sauce.

Aside from the peanut sauce inappropriately slathered all over, it’s a tasty dish. So, when I found a listing for it on the Cook’s Illustrated website, needless to say our peanut sauce-obsessed web admin was a little excited. To tell you the truth, so was I.

Thai-Style Curried Chicken Fried Rice

So far, this is the closest I have come to what my spouse calls the “definitive” Curry Thai Fried Rice. To be perfectly honest, this really was better than 90% of what we’ve bought from restaurants. Typically, I consider Thai Fried Rice dishes more of an afterthought, bland and boring, probably meant to dump an entree on top of, not to eat solo.

This was different. Flavorful and fun, I loved the crunchy vegetables and the little kick of heat. It was also much less complicated than I had expected. The Cook’s Illustrated recipe calls for a LOT of rice, and I halved it because it seemed to me that the sauce would get a little lost in all of that. To give it its full due as a main entree, I also doubled the vegetables.

Thai-Style Curried Chicken Fried Rice
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Serves 4

1/2 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1-inch chunks
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 large onion, sliced thin
1/2 tablespoon curry powder
2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
3 Thai green chiles or 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and minced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 cups cooked white rice
5 medium scallions, sliced thin (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves or Italian parsley
Lime wedges for serving

The original recipe calls for cold, clumped rice, but that really didn’t appeal to me. The rice was the first thing I put on the stove and its added warmth to the dish was really comforting — I hate cold Thai Fried Rice, I think that’s what gives me the feeling that it’s an afterthought when I’m eating it.

Dissolve sugar in fish and soy sauces in small bowl; set aside. Season chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt; set aside.

Heat 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon oil and swirl to coat pan bottom. Add egg and cook without stirring, until they just begin to set, about 20 seconds.

Frying Egg in Peanut Oil

Scramble and break into small pieces with wooden spoon; continue to cook, stirring constantly, until egg is cooked through but not browned, about 1 minute longer. Transfer egg to small bowl and set aside.

Return skillet to burner, increase heat to high and heat skillet until hot, about 1 minute; add 1 teaspoon oil and swirl to coat pan bottom. Add 1/2 teaspoon curry and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Frying Curry Powder

Add chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl with eggs and set aside.

Frying Chicken & Curry

Return skillet to high heat and heat until hot, about 1 minute; add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and swirl to coat pan bottom. Add 1/2 tablespoon curry, cook for 20 seconds.

Frying More Curry

Add onion and and cook, stirring constantly, until onion is softened, about 3 minutes.

Frying Onion & Curry

Stir in garlic and chiles; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add rice and fish sauce mixture; cook, stirring constantly and breaking up rice clumps until mixture is heated through, about 3 minutes.

Adding Onion, Garlic, Jalapeno

Add eggs and chicken, scallions, and cilantro; cook, stirring constantly until heated through, about 1 minute. Serve immediately with lime wedges.

Thai-Style Curried Chicken Fried Rice2

I really enjoyed this. This was light and fun, and I won’t have to go out for it anymore, though I probably will need to find a new source of peanut sauce.

Weeknight Cooking: B+ (it makes quite a mess – 1 pot, 3 bowls, lots of utensils…)
Take Out Dish: A

Weeknight Cooking: Chicken and Bulgur Salad with Corn

I loved this.

A few times now I’ve passed by this dish and, though it tempted me, I was a little skeptical of the bulgur. I had no idea what it was. Wheat, I thought, sounded a little strange for a salad base. This weekend, I got over it.

Chicken and Bulgur Salad with Corn

Happily, the bulgur wasn’t that expensive. I got about a half cup for around $0.50 from the organic section at my grocery store. They had it stored in the bulk aisle so I didn’t have to buy a big package — another plus.

Bulgur, as I found out from a quick internet search, is a type of wheat, more specifically a cereal grain made from several types of wheat. I wasn’t surprised about the cereal thing because when you add hot water to soak the bulgur, it smells sweet, just like a cereal would.

Chicken and Bulgur Salad with Corn
Courtesy of Food & Wine

2/3 cup bulgur
2/3 cup boiling water
4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups fresh (cut from about 6 ears) or frozen corn kernels
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 small red onion, chopped
1 1/3 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 4)
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
4 tablespoons lime juice (from about 2 limes)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

So straight out, the first thing to do is get some boiling water on the bulgur and cover it. The wheat will soak up the water, just like rice. The ratio should be equal water to wheat. When it’s soft, it will smell sweet.

Before:
Soaking Bulgur

After:
Soaked Bulgur

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil over moderate heat. Add the corn and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the onion and continue cooking for 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a large glass or stainless-steel bowl and let cool.

Corn & Onion

Rather than use corn on the cob, I used frozen. Frozen vegetables still contain all of the essential nutrients and taste good. I use a mixture of baby yellow and white corn from Bird’s Eye that’s particularly sweet, something that went really well with the lime and jalapeño.

Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the frying pan and heat over moderate heat. Season the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the black pepper. Cook the breasts until browned and just done, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and let it rest for 5 minutes. Cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices.

I didn’t get shots of the chicken while it was frying in the pan. One of my chicken breasts ended up being too thick, so after slicing I put the thickest parts of the chicken back in the pan for a few seconds on each side. That’s why, in the first photo, the chicken looks a little brown.

Add the bulgur, tomato, jalapeño, cilantro, 3 tablespoons of the lime juice, the cayenne, and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt to the bowl with the corn and onion. Toss.

I didn’t get a lot of photos of this, either, and that’s because after I assembled the salad, the AwK admin was monopolizing the bowl (i.e. he wouldn’t stop eating it and I couldn’t get a clear shot). But whatever — that’s a testament to the salad’s tastiness!

In a small glass or stainless-steel bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice, 2 tablespoons oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mound the salad onto plates. Top with the chicken and drizzle the chicken with the lime oil.

I didn’t make oil and drizzle anything. We liked the chicken simply seasoned with the salt, pepper and the olive oil it cooked in, so we left it plain.

Chicken with Bulgur and Corn Salad

I really, really enjoyed this dish and I’m particularly happy that I tried a new ingredient and liked it. The dish is fast, tasty, and I’m happy that I found a new side dish — I’m looking forward to taking this to our next BBQ that involves some vegetarian friends. Mrs. Citizen Chef would probably also love this, because allegedly she likes putting corn into everything.

Overall cooking… it’s not a 4-star dish, but I’d be proud to serve this to guests given the right setting: Outdoors, warm evening, simple dessert to follow, swatting away mosquitoes…

Do I know how to throw a good time or what?

Weeknight Cooking: A
Overall Dish: A-

Weeknight Cooking: Chicken Breasts with Apricot-Onion Pan Sauce

I’m not really sure what made me gravitate toward this because it’s so unlike anything I typically cook. Possibly it was the fact that I made a huge pan of Baked Ziti earlier this week, so we’ve been eating it for leftovers and lunches the last three days, and I really needed something different.

That’s probably it.

F&W Chicken with Apricot-Onion Pan Sauce

Whatever the case, I rushed out to the grocery store and picked up a bag of dried apricots… All this, knowing full well my spouse hates apricots.

Hey, there’s extra Ziti in the fridge…

Surprisingly, this turned out well — and the fact that the spouse ate everything on his plate, apricot sauce included, was especially satisfying. This is another one of those dishes where the different components don’t stand up on their own, but together they make a great dish. You can imagine how worried I was when I tasted the sauce by itself and thought it was rather bland. Together, however, this was a neat little dish.

Chicken Breasts with Apricot-Onion Pan Sauce
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine

3 1/2 ounces dried apricots
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (9 ounces each)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

The original recipe selects skin-on boneless chicken breasts, and I opted for skinless. Because there’s less fat going into the sauce, I added 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch to the pan when adding the chicken stock.

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a bowl, cover the apricots with hot water and let stand until soft, about 15 minutes; drain.

Dried Apricots

Meanwhile, dry the chicken with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. In a stainless steel skillet, heat the oil. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook over moderately high heat until golden brown, 5 minutes. Flip and cook about 3 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and roast for about 14 – 20 minutes.

My chicken breasts were pretty thick, so I used a thermometer and ended up roasting them for around 20 minutes.

Chicken1

Add the onion, garlic, thyme and bay leaf to the skillet. Season with salt and cook over moderate heat until the onion is tender.

Onion, Garlic, Thyme & Bay Leaf

Add the wine and boil until reduced by half, scraping up the browned bits in the skillet.

In a bowl, whisk the cornstarch and chicken broth until smooth. Add the stock mixture, apricots and apricot preserves and bring to a boil. Cook over high heat until the sauce thickens.

Apricots & Broth

Off the heat, swirl in the butter until melted. Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Mmm... butter.

Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Transfer the chicken to plates, spoon the sauce on top and serve.

Chicken Breasts with Apricot-Onion Pan Sauce

Now, the verdict: This was a pleasant dish. It wasn’t rockin’, but it was nice and refreshing. Despite my misconception about the sauce being sweet and syrupy, it wasn’t. The sauce was actually quite mild and all of the flavors came through and balanced each other out; it wasn’t a spotlight on apricots. Alone, the sauce was quite odd, like it was missing something — which it definitely was: With the seasoned chicken breasts, it was actually quite nice. Like I said, my spouse even ate the whole thing, and I nearly fell off my chair when he reached for additional sauce. This isn’t something I would make again, but I’m not sorry for cooking it up. If you’re in the mood for something light with just a hint of sweetness and pepper, this would be a fun one to try.

High marks for the weeknight cooking segment because it’s fast and light and, aside from the dried apricots, I had all of the ingredients in my pantry to make it. The regular cooking rating, on the other hand, isn’t so great, because if I ordered this at a nice restaurant I wouldn’t be happy. The flavors were just too casual.

I served this alongside a baby spinach and arugula salad with sourdough croutons… and, of course, my husband’s jumbo jar of McCormick Salad Toppins.

Hey, I had to make some concession for serving up apricots. You know how it goes.

Weeknight Cooking: B+
Overall Cooking: C+

Weeknight Cooking: Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Cucumber Salad

I’ve noticed something interesting about my latest favorite meals that have been added to my “Go-To” list of meals: They were all created by the same person.

Marcia Kiesel of Food and Wine Magazine, I don’t know who you are, but I love your food.

Since she’s given us three great dishes so far, I decided to wander through her list of recipes and articles listed alphabetically on F&W in the hopes of finding more. As it turned out, I did find quite a few that I want to try out over the next couple of weeks. But, for a start, I went with something simple.

Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Cucumber Salad
Before you ask, yes, that is my totally fancy plating technique.

Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Cucumber Salad
Courtesy Food & Wine Magazine, June 2003

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 medium cucumbers (1 1/4 pounds) peeled, seeded, quartered
lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 cup roasted cashews, halved lengthwise or coarsely chopped (4 1/2 ounces)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each)

I don’t have a lot of prep pictures for this because it was so simple and so quick. As soon as you see the directions, you’ll understand why.

To start, I made the cucumber salad. The recipe calls for cumin seeds, but I only had cumin powder. I cut the cumin in half and toasted it for a couple of minutes in a frying pan — I used low heat and kept it in there until it was fragrant. If you’re working with seeds, toast them for a minute, then remove them from the heat and allow to cool. Coarsely chop (or give them a quick whirl around a clean, electric coffee grinder).

Meanwhile, I prepared the rest of the cucumber salad. In a bowl, mix together the cucumbers, cashews, scallions, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of the olive oil and the parsley. When the cumin is cool, add that and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill.

Cucumber Salad

What you’re seeing in the photo above is the recipe halved, because I serve two. After our web admin took a bite of the salad, he said I should have tripled the recipe. We had a race to finish the salad — him, because he liked it so much, and me because I knew if I didn’t eat it fast enough, he was going to do the honors for me.

I liked the smoky cumin in this. Mixed with the hint of lemon and a flavored olive oil, this was really light and delicious. The crispy crunch of the cucumber and the soft, mild cashew taste was really delicious together. The flavors were not overt — everything complimented the mildness of the cucumber. On the back end of the taste, there was just a hint of pep with the lemon and cumin, brought out even more by the pinches of salt and pepper. This was a really nice, light side, and quite refreshing. I would serve this as a side at a BBQ on a hot day.

After popping the cucumber salad in the refrigerator, I wiped the frying pan down with a damp paper towel, and started the chicken.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderately low and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Turn and cook the chicken until browned on the other side and just cooked through, about 6 minutes longer.

I found that with this method, my chicken stayed incredibly moist. My breasts were a little too thick and I had turned the burner down a little too much, so after the cooking time elapsed, I cut these horizontally, and cooked them for another minute and a half in the frying pan. The downside to this is that some of the juices ran out and into the frying pan. The upside is that no one had problems with salmonella after dinner. Despite having to cut it, I didn’t think that it lost all of its flavor. My chicken was still incredibly juicy. Because there isn’t a lot being added to the chicken, the deal breaker is going to be the seasoning and making sure you can keep this juicy. Be sure you season this well enough, or it’s going to fall flat.

Thickly slice each chicken breast crosswise, mound the cucumber salad on top and serve.

This was a great dish. As a weeknight meal, it was healthy, amazingly fast to prepare, relatively inexpensive, and tasty. This gets full marks for weeknight cooking.

As an overall dish, compared to other great dishes… it was just nice. It was simple and tasty. I would serve this to guests with some good wine if we were eating outside on a warm, summer night, but it isn’t something I’d order at a restaurant — not that there’s anything wrong with that. My personal quest is to find weeknight dishes, so my selections naturally fall down a little bit on the overall scale.

Weeknight Cooking: A
Overall Dish: B+

Weeknight Cooking: Chicken Pot Pies with Phyllo

Citizen Chef is still out on vacation and will be until next week, but he took a quick break between the restaurants and wine tastings so we could catch up. When I told him I was making a serious attempt at cooking up Ellie Krieger’s James Beard nominated book, The Food You Crave, I backed up my actions by saying we had wanted to start cooking healthier food. His approbation was given in the utmost sophistication when he said, “And she’s hot, too!”

So last night I cooked up another Ellie creation: Chicken Pot Pies with Phyllo Crust.

Chicken Pot Pie - Ellie Krieger

My mom never made chicken pot pies when I was a kid, but when I moved out and into my own apartment, I discovered the microwavable versions. They made me so happy. They were also really fattening, so after a while I had to stop eating them. Chunks of chicken and vegetables with a salty, savory broth are hard to pass up, and when I saw Ellie Krieger’s healthier version that is topped with phyllo dough instead of a biscuit, I had to try them.

Chicken Pot Pies with Phyllo Crust
Courtesy of Ellie Krieger
Serves 4

Cooking spray
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 leeks, bottom 4 inches only, washed well and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium potatoes cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Once again, you know I was only serving two, so I cut this in half. I also only used one chicken breast.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 4 individual-sized baking dishes with cooking spray.

Season the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few turns of pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, turning once. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Bawk! Bawk!

Add 2 more teaspoons of the oil, the leeks, and the celery to the pan and cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the potatoes, green beans, garlic, and remaining salt and pepper and cook for 2 more minutes.

Sauteeing Greens - Pot Pies

Add the milk to the pan. Stir the flour into the chicken broth until dissolved and add to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in the reserved chicken, peas, parsley, and thyme.

Simmering Broth - Pot Pies

Stir in the reserved chicken, peas, parsley, and thyme. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dishes.

Two Servings - Pot Pies

Put the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil into a small bowl. Unroll the phyllo dough and cut it into quarters. Place a quarter sheet on top of each baking dish and brush with olive oil. Repeat with remaining 3 baking dishes. Tuck the edges of the phyllo into the dish rim. Top each pie with Parmesan.

My phyllo wasn’t big enough to cover the whole bowl so I criss-crossed them when I went through the layering process.

Oil & Phyllo - Pot Pies

Place on a baking sheet and bake until the filling is bubbling, about 30 minutes.

Finished Chicken Pot Pie

I broke this open so you can see what’s inside — the fluffy, crispy phyllo makes a great crust over the pot pies, which look beautiful inside. Be careful when seasoning this, right before you plate them into the bowls. Eating the top half tasted a little bland, and I didn’t really enjoy this until I got to the bottom, where the salted sauce had collected. It was healthy and good, and I loved the presentation, but I’ll probably only make this again if I get a total craving for pot pies.

Weeknight Cooking: B
Overall Dish: B

Weeknight Cooking: Thai Chicken, Zucchini and Tomato Curry

Since I’m in a heated battle with my love handles, I’m returning to stir fry in a major way. Or maybe I just love the simplicity and ease of the one-pot-meal and I love rice. Whatever. There are vegetables in it and it’s good for you.

In the latest Food & Wine Magazine, they’ve published a few stir fry meals. I wasn’t too sure about this one because it calls for a store bought red curry paste, and for some reason I just feel like I’m cheating if I’m not making the paste. I suppose I could, since the Keo’s book I talked about has a recipe for a red curry paste, but I was in a hurry. I already owned red curry paste for the Peanut Chicken, so I may as well give it another reason to exist in my fridge.

Originally, I had intended to take more pictures for this, but I had problems with my rice. I didn’t want to face the Judges’ table explaining why my dish went down for undercooked rice, so I remade it. By the time that was done, I was starving and had completely forgotten to take a finished picture, so here’s the one from the Food & Wine website.

F&W Thai Chicken, Zucchini & Tomato Curry

This one cooks up fast. Not as fast as yesterday’s Vietnamese Stir-Fry with Lemongrass, but almost.

Thai Chicken, Zucchini & Tomato Curry
Courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced crosswise 1/3 inch thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 zucchini (1 pound), cut into 2-by-1/2-inch sticks
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons water
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Rice, for serving

I cut the ingredients in half since I was only serving two, and had just enough for the both of us.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat until just white throughout, 2 minutes.

For the chicken, I only used 1 breast. I cut it horizontally, then made short strips. I also didn’t take pictures of this, because I figure that by now, everyone knows what chicken looks like when you put it into the frying pan. Because I typically put my stir-fry into a bowl, I don’t like to wrestle with a knife while I eat, so I made sure the chicken was in bite sized pieces.

Plate the chicken and add the remaining oil to the skillet. Add the onion and stir-fry over medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes. The directions say moderately high heat, but I always do everything on medium. If I crank anything up over medium, I burn everything because my back is turned while I’m trying to cut up the rest of the vegetables.

Add the zucchini and cherry tomatoes and stir-fry for 2 minutes.

Thai Chicken - Steaming Veggies

I’m a sucker for zucchini. Did I tell you that?

Anyway, when the 2 minutes are up (sometimes I use a timer if my attention goes elsewhere, otherwise I burn things) stir in the curry paste, coconut milk, water, lime zest and lime juice and bring to a simmer.

The lime is important and gives the sauce some much needed acid and zip. I’m not a big fan of lime so I was a little skeptical, but after I did it and tasted the sauce, I understood fully why it was in there. Don’t omit the lime.

Thai Chicken - Added Sauce

Add the chicken and stir for 20 seconds, to coat with the sauce. Stir in the cilantro. Transfer to bowls and serve with (properly cooked) rice.

F&W Thai Chicken, Zucchini & Tomato Curry

Overall, the dish was delicious, healthy and pretty damn fast. This one is, without a doubt, going into my weeknight repertoire. One thing to note for those who don’t do well with spice — the amount of red curry paste the dish calls for, depending on what brand you use — leaves a bit of heat in this. I wasn’t sure if I was happy about it on first bite, but I warmed up to it and, on the subsequent mouthfuls that followed, was fine with it. Absolutely delicious and tasted like something I would get if I had ordered it from a Thai restaurant. Aroi maak, maak! (Very delicious!)

Weeknight Cooking: A
Overall Dish: A

Weeknight Cooking: Grilled Chicken with Cherry Cola BBQ Sauce REDUX

When this month’s Magazine of the Month, the July 2008 edition of Bon Appetit, hit the shelves, CC and I both looked inside and zeroed in on the same page: Mixed Grill with Cherry Cola BBQ Sauce.

Now there are many, many ways in which CC and I differ in our cooking techniques. The biggest one to note in this case is CC actually likes to spend hours of elaborate cooking while I like to simplify.

Case in point, I have turned the Mixed Grill with Cherry Cola BBQ Sauce recipe into a Weeknight Cooking segment! Behold: the REDUX!

And now for the confessional portion of this post. I have a guilty pleasure in the kitchen. It’s probably not something I should admit to, but I just can’t help myself. When I want a meal out quickly, and it involves grilling meat, there is one man that I turn to, one who never fails, one who is a lean, mean, grilling machine.

george-foreman-and-grill.jpg

Oh, George. You rock my world.

I love my Foreman grill. In fact, I’m thinking about starting a whole George Foreman category for this site – that’s how much I love it.

For my birthday last year, I bought myself one of the new “G5 Next Grilleration” grills with 5 removable plates. I love it. The plates can be popped right off and tossed into the dishwasher. If you use a George Foreman, something with removable plates is the deal.

next-grilleration-5-removable-plates.bmp

The only thing I’m not sold on is the whole “5 plates” that it came with. Truth be told, I only use the two grilling plates so I think I would have been just as happy with a cheaper model. To anyone who wants to pick up an affordable George, there’s a Next Grilleration 4-Burger Grill with Removable Plates available on amazon.com for only $40 plus tax and shipping. (The link goes to the grill on the amazon.com page if you’re interested.) If you want your George to be a little more classy in the “Platinum” look, you’re going to have to shell out $75. In my opinion, do your wallet a favor and settle for white – this way you can pay more for good food.

I wish I had taken more pictures of this and I’m not sure why I didn’t. Sorry. Since I was only cooking for two, I pulled out two boneless skinless chicken breasts and thawed them. While they were thawing, I put together the BBQ sauce. This is what takes the longest, because it will need time to simmer in the pot and thicken.

Cherry Cola BBQ Sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 12-ounce bottles (ketchup-style) chili sauce
1 12- to 13-ounce jar cherry preserves or jam
1 cup cherry cola (regular, not diet)
1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon (or more) hot pepper sauce

The directions from epicurious.com – it’s pretty straightforward:

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until golden, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Stir in chili sauce, preserves, cherry cola, brown sugar, and vinegar; bring to simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until reduced to 4 cups, stirring often to prevent scorching, about 50 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and more hot pepper sauce, if desired. Transfer to bowl and cool completely. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Basically sauté the onions and garlic, then toss in the rest of the ingredients except for the hot pepper sauce, then stir it up and simmer until it is a nice saucy thickness – about an hour.

I forgot the hot pepper sauce, but it was still good. This sauce is pretty forgiving in terms of eyeballing ingredients and adding more or less of the ingredients you like. I eyeballed the jam, adding a little more than it called for. Go ahead and play around with it. Also, because I was making sauce for only two chicken breasts, I cut the sauce in half. That needs to simmer for about an hour, and it will get a nice thick texture.

I debated doing the rub and in the end I went with it. I’m so glad I did – the rub is the spice and salt needed to contrast with the sweet sauce. It’s really easy, too.

In a small tupperware container, I mixed together the following spices for the rub:

Spice rub:
2 tablespoons smoked paprika or hot smoked Spanish paprika
2 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
2 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In hindsight, this was a lot of rub for only two chicken breasts. Next time I will cut the spices in half.

After my chicken thawed, I patted it dry with some paper towels, then I set it down on a plastic cutting board. To spread the spice rub on, I just took a little bit of it in my fingers, sprinkled it on the chicken, and then rubbed it around. The spice rub coated the chicken nicely and stuck on there just fine. So if you’re a first time spice rubber (okay, that came out a little weirder than I intended) never fear – the spices will stick, even though you’ve patted your chicken dry.

I then threw the chicken breasts on my George, which was set for medium. The lid was closed so I could get the spicy flavors of the rub into the chicken first. After about 5 minutes, I opened the lid and started basting with the sauce. The lid stayed open after that, and both sides got basted so it did get slightly messy – but that’s what the drip pan and dishwasher safe plates are for! As long as you aren’t glopping it on it won’t be a huge disaster – so don’t go crazy!

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So there it is on the George, cooking away. Periodically we would flip them over and baste with a little more sauce, but after the sauce starts going on, the chicken only takes another 10 – 15 minutes more to cook.

I was really, really pleased with the outcome. The mess the whole dish makes is minimal and, with clean up, there’s not a lot of effort going on here. To make it feel even more like an outdoor event, we took our meals to the patio and ate them with a side of sweet corn and leftover cherry soda. Now that I’m looking at the picture, I think cornbread would have rocked with it. Hrm. Next time…

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It’s (pseudo) BBQ, ya’ll!