Salsa Pollognese

Episode 2 in grinding my own meat! This bolognese-style red sauce with ground chicken was quite simple to make, delicious, filling, and very healthy. I recommend it.

Chicken Bolognese

1 onion, finely minced
dash of olive oil
1 lb chicken breast, ground
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 t thyme, dried
2 t basil, dried
1 14 oz can tomatoes
2 large tomatoes, chopped
dash of sugar
1/2 t salt, or to taste
fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup white wine (I actually used red because it was all I had, but I’ve heard you shouldn’t use red)
1/2 c chicken stock, optional
1/2 cup milk
parmesean cheese

Heat oil, cook onion on medium heat until translucent. Add chicken and cook until done. Add carrot, bell pepper, garlic, both tomatoes, herbs and sugar. Let simmer on low-medium heat uncovered for about 20 minutes. Add salt, pepper, chicken stock, and taste. Adjust seasoning to liking. At the last minute add milk and heat through. Traditionally served over pasta with parmesan cheese.


Grind Your Own Meat! Then Make These Baked Chicken Meatballs.

This NYTimes article got me thinking a while back, and since I have stopped buying ground meat. Honestly it wasn’t that frequent, and usually ground chicken. Visits to a favorite burger joint of ours, Pecos Bill’s, has declined dramatically I’m sad to say.  Apparently one burger may contain parts of 12 different cows from 5 different countries increasing the risk of e. coli and salmonella, bacteria which have shattered this woman’s life. Since then all our hamburgers have been from black beans or chickpeas. There has been no meatloaf, and certainly no meatballs. I love meatballs. and hamburgers, and meatloaf. But I don’t have a grinder. I thought to myself…why can’t I just use my food processor? I searched for people who had done something similar, but couldn’t find any responses…just people encouraging against it because it will be a gloppy mess. Well…isn’t ground meat a gloppy mess?So I tried it.

First I started with one chicken breast which I cut up with kitchen shears into small pieces. Then, with the sharp side of the place, pulsed it in the processor until it looked good. It formed a ball. My processor is small so I did one breast at a time. Then from there I followed this recipe for meatballs, more or less. At the end I tossed them with 1/3 cup of BBQ sauce. This is a healthy and relatively simple reicpe. Including the grinding and baking, it took about 30 minutes.

Please, if you have an explanation to why the meat has to be a particular “round” grind, let me know.

Baked Chicken Meatballs
adapted from: smitten kitchen

3 breast worth of chicken chopped into chunks, aprox. 1.25lbs, (or already ground meat if you prefer)
1 large onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg beaten
1 large chunk of bread, soaked in milk, excess squeezed out
1-2 t dried basil
2/3 t salt
1 T tomato paste
1/3 cup BBQ sauce for tossing (or any other desired).

1) Preheat oven to 400ºF.

2) Pulse chicken in food processor.

3) In a pan, cook the onion and garlic on medium heat until translucent.

4) With a fork mix it all together: chicken, egg, milky bread, tomato paste, onion and garlic, basil, and salt. Form into golfball size and place on a nonstick or lightly greased baking sheet.

5) Bake for 15-22 minutes until cooked through.

6) Toss with 1/3 cup of BBQ sauce if desired.

Chicharrón de Pollo

Chicharrón is, by definition, the skin of a young pig, deep-fried. Gross, I know. But it was actually the tipping point in me returning to meat. My first few months in Guatemala I tried to remain. But after offending some, and baffling others, and eating nothing but rice and potatoes in my homestay, I started to give. A bite of chicken here, of beef there. But I still considered myself a vegetarian…until I went to Zacapa.

“Just try a bite,” they said. So, I did. It was like bacon but a million times more amazing. Thick cut slabs. Crunchy yet chewy. Saturated with flavor (and fat). Salty. Delicious. After tasting, I let out a little groan of joy and said “I guess I can’t consider myself a vegetarian anymore.”

Now what you see above is not traditional chicharrón. I don’t even like it, but Hec loves this crap. When we get Pollo Campero (Guatemalan KFC) I give him the skin. Whenever I get a piece of chicken with skin, he gets the skin. I don’t like the texture and I don’t like the flavor. We make a prefect combination.

So when I was making my latest roasted chicken, I decided to remove the skin entirely, save the thighs and wings. Knowing this would break Hec’s heart, I decided to crisp it up in the frying pan with a generous glug of oil. That way I didn’t have to eat chicken with the skin, and he could enjoy it in its most exhaled form: fried.

I share this with you not so much as a recipe or technique, but more of a cultural nuance. Guatemalan’s love their chicharrón. I do enjoy a piece of the real thing every once in a while as well.

Whole Roasted Rosemary Garlic Chicken…My First!

I don’t know why this was always such an intimidating idea, but roasting a whole chicken always seemed a bit of a challenge. Too much time, too much preparation, too much experience and knowledge. I never really felt like getting my hands that involved in my food.

But we’ve been into these roasted chickens from Pricesmart lately. They are juicy and succulent and a pretty good price (3 lb chicken for 6 bucks? is that good?). But more and more I’ve felt a little defeated by this delicious chicken. So I decided that over the holidays I would take on the challenge of roasting my own bird. Finally today I had the time. I went and bought a scant-3-pounder from the market, and searched all my favorite websites for advice. I had no idea how to cook a bird. I dont have a thermometer, and when they all said “until the juices run clear” I was really really confused. What juices? What is the exact definition of clear? But I went for it.

I made a brine by grinding fresh rosemary, an entire head of garlic, and a generous amount of salt and olive oil. After washing the chicken inside and out — which I found to be a depressing procedure, considering how alive the non-dismembered meat appeared — I smeared the brine inside and out, even under the skin. (Its even sad to talk about). I stuffed it with quartered limes, onions, and a large bundle of rosemary, thyme, and an unplealed head of garlic. I drizzled everything with oil, preheated the oven to 375,  lined the toaster oven pan with foil, arranged some sliced potatoes onions, and limes around the endges, drizzled more olive oil, and place my cherished bird on top. I didn’t have “kitchen twine” (whatever that is) so I used dental floss. It worked perfectly, by the way. I put her in the oven and set the timer for 60 minutes.

When the alarm sounded, following some peoples advice, I poked a breast with a knife to see if the “juices ran clear”. To my surprise, they did! It was almsot like a fountain, and at the moment I wished I had had a thermometer instead so the succulent juices would have stayed within the meat.

I cranked the temperature up to 450 for another 10 minute just to brown the outside a little more (Hec really likes toasty chicken skin). I removed her from the oven, covered it with foil as my dear father always does with the thanksgiving bird, and let it sit for about 20 minutes. Then we cut her up and boy oh boy was this the juciest tenderest most delicious chicken I can remember eating in my life. I’m bragging here obviously, but it was delicious.

And so here is the dilemma. I really really enjoyed this meal. But it was heartbreaking to prepare. I just couldn’t imagine doing it again. It was too alive, too friendly. I think the chicken we ate this afternoon was a very happy bird, was named Clementina, and would have made a lovely pet.

But didn’t she turn out really pretty? And she really was succulent. Mom, aren’t you proud?!