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It All Starts With Chicken.

As the weather clears here in upstate New York, we look to leave behind our “sheltered from the elements” kitchens and get back outside to grilling.  Do not misunderstand me, we grill all year, rain or snow, hot or cold but it is certainly more pleasant when the weather is kinder.

That got me thinking- what can we do for dinner to build off  of one of life’s simplest of ingredients: chicken. Whether you are a breast or a thigh man/woman, these quick little options are sure to help when you need to make dinner on the fly or change direction from inside to outside or visa versa.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast

You need: chicken breasts, goat cheese, spinach or asparagus, a little olive oil and your seasoning of choice.

To do:

  • Preheat oven to 35o degrees and lightly grease a baking dish. This can also be done on the grill on medium heat using a foil ‘tray’.
  • Take 3-4 chicken breasts depending on the number of people you are serving.
  • Butterfly the breasts and sprinkle with salt & pepper. (If they’re too thick, use a tenderizer and pound them into cutlets. (You can always start with cutlets too)
  • Slice  your favorite goat cheese, your call.  I use orange ginger or herb goat cheese.
  • For the veggies, you can either add raw or cook the spinach/asparagus.
  • Now build it. Lay the chicken out and ‘stuff’ with the cheese and veggie. Roll them up, you can close with a toothpick.  Lay seam side down in the baking dish.  Drizzle with olive oil and if you’d like a sprinkle of breadcrumbs.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, check it depending on the thickness of the chicken.
  • Serve with a tossed green salad or couscous.

Grilled Chicken Thighs in Foil

You need: chicken thighs (fat trimmed), scallions, a clove or two of garlic chopped, kalamata olives, red pepper flakes, a little olive oil and salt & pepper.

Options:  crusty Italian bread or peeled and thickly sliced sweet potato

To do:

  • Turn the grill on medium.  Prepare a packet of aluminum foil so you can place the ingredients inside and crimp and close to seal.
  • Open up the foil and lightly spray with cooking spray or olive oil. Lay down the scallions, then place the thighs on top of them. Sprinkle with the olives, red pepper flakes and drizzle with either butter or olive oil.  Salt & pepper to taste.
  • Fold up and close the foil packet and place it on the grill. I’d say 15 minutes maybe depending on the temperature and whether you are using gas or charcoal.
  • If you choose the sweet potato route, place the peeled, sliced potato in a Ziploc bag. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and seasoning, your choice.  Shake it and carefully place the slices on the grill.  Turn them every few minutes until they are soft and grill marked.  Remove and hold waiting for the chicken.  These can be served at room temperature.
  • If you go the crusty bread route, easy, butter lightly and grill.
  • Plate the cooked chicken combination with your side and add a salad.  Done.

Chicken with pasta (even easier)

You need: chicken thighs (fat trimmed) or breasts cut into bite size pieces.  A base of sauce could be tomato sauce,  mascarpone, or butter and wine.   Pasta- any kind, any type, it’s all good. Then see what you have in the fridge.

To do:

  • Cook the pasta, AL DENTE.  No arguments.
  • In a deep-ish pan or pot, cook the chicken in a tiny bit of olive oil or butter and toss with salt & pepper.  Cook thoroughly.
  • Add your sauce of choice.  If you use mascarpone, save a 1/2 cup of the pasta water to add to the cheese.
  • Tosh and add whatever else you have. I keep handy the following add-on’s:  sun dried tomatoes in oil; olives of all types, capers, onions, shallots, pine nuts, walnuts, pepperoncini, you get the drift.
  • Done.  Serve with crusty bread and a lovely glass of wine.

There you have it.  I am not always good at giving all the details to cook because I just do it as I go but feel free to ask and I will help, pastaonthefloor@yahoo.com .

Buon appetito!

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