Monday, January 11, 2010

The old standby

Do you have a dinner or two that just seem to be on the menu every week?  Or more often...  Something that's easy and pretty quick to put together?  This one is mine.  Everyone loves it and it was how I finally learned to cook a moist chicken breast.  It's all about technique, I have found.  And a good seasoning mix, although any favorite seasoning will work fine.  I used to use a homemade blackened seasoning, but I changed it to be a little less spicy for the girls.  (I was having to cut all that lovely flavored crust off the chicken for my eldest.)  I make double or triple batches and keep it in old spice shakers with wide holes.

Original Blackened Seasoning mix

1 T steak seasoning (I use McCormick Montreal Steak)
1 t chili powder
1 t paprika
½ t cayenne pepper

Mix well, store in an airtight jar.

Paprika Seasoning mix

1 T steak seasoning (I still use McCormick Montreal Steak)
1½ T paprika
1 t chili powder
pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix well, store in an airtight jar.

How to get moist, juicy chicken or pork chops:

Any old seasoning will do, lemon pepper and garlic powder, your favorite rub or try one of mine.  Liberally season your meat, and let it sit for at least 10 minutes.  It won't kill you.  If you're leery of room temp, and I understand that coming from a food science and microbiology major, then stick it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.  You'll be able to tell if you don't let it marinade for a while.  It won't be as moist.  And for some reason, paprika in particular really makes for a moist chicken breast.  Start prepping your side in the meantime.  Heat up some olive oil in a pan with a tight fitting lid.  I love garlic olive oil.  Medium heat.  Once that's nice and hot, stick the chicken or chops in and sear one side for five minutesNo lid, and you don't have to touch it at all for five minutes.  Now flip them, stick on the lid and turn the heat down to medium low or low.  I cook mine on the lower side of medium low.  Cook for another 10 minutes or until done.  Let it sit for a minute before serving.  That's not usually a problem for me!  This way of cooking is very forgiving if you forgot to start the salad or what have you...  If you finish on low, you can leave the lid on and the meat will stay moist and juicy for quite a few extra minutes.  Or you can turn it off too.  The holdover heat will keep it warm fine with the lid on.  Of course the thickness of the breast or chop makes a difference.  Those nice little ¾" pork chops finish in about 12 minutes total, but the obnoxiously large chicken breasts that will feed a family of four with two of them will take 15 plus and may require a second flip.  Finishing on low also helps the juiciness.  That little rest time gives the juices time to get back into the meat rather than just running all out on the first cut and leaving you with a dry breast.  Same reason you give a turkey 20-30 minutes of rest time before carving.  Plus it gives you time to set the table or dress the salad.  ;)  Now to figure out something for the rest of the week...

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