If Yan Could Cook. . .

Archive for the ‘Chicken’ Category

Only Vaguely Greek: Chicken Souvlaki with Lemon-Pepper Yogurt Sauce, Spicy Shrimp Pitas with Tzatziki

leave a comment »

My favourite fast food dish – what you can usually get in mall food courts, at restobars and pubs, at odd diners open in the middle of the night – is a souvlaki platter. You usually get a stick of meat, some rice, some salad (sometimes Greek), and fries. There is some sense that you’re getting more or better food than your friends with their burger, pizza, or poutine, or at least that you’re going to be less sick at the end of it. My only qualm would be that you never seem to get enough meat and salad. The logical solution:


This meal is based on this recipe from Epicurious for the chicken. Cubes of chicken breast were marinated for about two hours in garlic, about two tablespoons of lemon juice, dried thyme, dried rosemary, salt and pepper. The recipe calls for freshly squeezed lemons and fresh herbs and overnight marinating, but who am I, the pope?


These were strung onto skewers and oven-broiled for fifteen minutes.


For the yogurt sauce, I used half of a 750 g container of plain yogurt, a splash of red wine vinegar, a splash of lemon juice, heaps of garlic and black pepper, and some dried mint, omitting the sour cream altogether. My only real innovation on the given recipe is using the sauce as a base for a salad dressing. I removed about a 1/4 cup and whisked it slowly with added olive oil. This was tossed with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, and small cubed red onion.


Once plated, the salad was topped with Kalamata olives, a sprinkle of dry oregano, and crumbled feta.


Because I buy them frozen and love them both, I always seem to have corn and shrimp lying around. On winter nights, during exam seasons, and throughout my own year-round laziness, I used to end up cooking them together often, the same way I used to eat a lot of diced vegetables in soy sauce over rice. While perhaps not obvious bedfellows, I’ve found corn and shrimp are great with basil, oregano, garlic, and dried red chili flakes. Better yet, in a pita!


This is not exactly tzatziki, but the right idea is there. I minced a whole garlic head. With the other half of the 750 g plain yogurt container, I mixed in half of the minced garlic, half of a finely chopped English cucumber, and lemon juice to taste.


To cook the shrimp, put the remainder of the garlic, plus dried basil, oregano, and red chili flakes in a couple tablespoons of oil and let it cook for a minute to aromatize the oil. Add the shucked shrimp first, then the frozen corn (it may seem weird, but you can cook them in a dry frying pan), and salt.


The pita is assembled with shredded (cut into strips…) iceberg, leftover from the salad that accompanied the souvlaki, the shrimp, and the tzatziki-like entity.


The mutual ingredients make these two meals ideal to have in the same week. Also, if you wander into the kitchen late at night and there’s pita and tzatziki lying around, it might be gone in the morning.


Written by skimfu

April 23, 2009 at 1:46 am

Posted in Chicken, Shrimp

Lemon-Basil Fettucine with Chicken, Spinach, & Pine Nuts

with 2 comments

It seems my last life is ending, though I go through its motions: a zombie in lectures, producing papers and assignments when commanded, studying in coffeeshops. My new life overlaps: rejection letters from magazines, friends laying claim to my furniture, untouched grant applications on my desk. An acquaintance – a friend of a friend – is getting married to a man she has only been dating for half a year. I used to say, whenever the topic came up, how does anyone ever get married? How can you ever know? How can you ever know what you want for the rest of your life?

Now, after talking more deeply with other people, I think marriage is like swimming in open water, like city biking, like sex, like fighting, like rock climbing, like making new friends, being around people who are new. One day you wake up and it no longer frightens you. It’s something you’ve been doing for years, and you can no longer remember why it was frightening in the first place.

Looking at these pictures of meals, I can see around them, past the frame, to this grown-up apartment that is owned and not rented, where we are playing house for my last months in Montreal. I am still faking knowing how to cook. I have been doing that since the beginning. In my jobs, the chef comes in and asks if I can slice a lump of cured salmon into paper-thin slices for appetizer plates with a boning knife, if I can invent a salad dressing, if I can stuff flowers with cheese, if I can julienne peppers, if I can make vegetable stock from a bucket of garbage, if I can make soup or grill meat or make perfect eggs and I always say yes and it is always a lie. Somehow I am not fired; somehow I pull through. Someday it will be earnest, and JP and I will sit down to one of these meals I have fudged and made up and it will not feel like a happy accident. Someday I will not feel like a child who has woken up in an adult body expected to know things, expected to produce things, expected to be something and love someone and own lots of things together. For there is beauty in that, more beauty than assimilation: in the love and the things. For the things inside the frame, for the food and the wine and the light.


This was an experiment which tasted great but struck me as not optimally done. With the water for the fettucine boiling, I cooked a roux of butter, flour, minced garlic and shallots, and then quickly stirred in white wine and a lot (six tablespoons-ish) of lemon juice. I cooked the sliced chicken in a separate pan, with just olive oil, salt, and pepper. After the pasta was cooked, I didn’t drain it completely, letting the spinach cook briefly in the hot pasta water and then draining the reserve. All of the parts – the thin white sauce, the chicken, the spinach and pasta mixture – were tossed together in the pot with a heaping cup of chopped fresh basil, and then served with additional salt and pine nuts.


Primarily I wondered if making the sauce was necessary at all, and if it would have been better to have just tossed basil, lemon juice, cooked chicken, spinach, shallots, garlic, and pine nuts together – if the taste would have been sharper and cleaner. A theory to test soon.

Written by skimfu

March 22, 2009 at 8:10 pm

Posted in Chicken, Pasta

Chicken and Celery Stir-fry

leave a comment »


The above photo is not in my kitchen. Life moves quickly: from now on, very likely, I will be cooking in a different kitchen, one with stainless steel countertops and red walls, one I share with someone else.

In a few months I start grad school in a city with a perpetually wet chill and almost no daylight. Many mornings there I would catch myself waiting for the sun to rise at eleven a.m., realizing that it wasn’t going to, and the day was going to pass completely in a dark, gray haze. I lived there in a second, deeper haze of allergies; it’s hard to see past the itch on the inside my skull. It’s a place full of bad memories and good memories rewritten as links in a chain of regret. For whatever reason, whenever I visit, I never go to see the only good thing there: the ocean. I think its symbolism has begun to overwhelm me, its rhythm following me for years – not merely a link in the chain, but the medium in which it resides. All my mistakes and miseries suspended in seawater.

My father makes this dish, minus the red chili. As I cooked I thought of myself as a child or a young teenager or that static age one returns to in their parents’ house, sitting alone at our old kitchen table or their new IKEA bar, picking the celery and chicken out of their pooling juices with chopsticks. My parents eating on the couch, watching the news in the dark, the grim, stern local news anchor’s voice in the background, the eerie blue television shadows on the wall. Going back feels like failure, like I never left.


It’s still tasty though. Several bunches of green onions are cut such that the whites are chopped fine and the greens are left in big strips (more like a vegetable than a flavouring). Chicken thighs are chopped quite small and stir-fried with plenty of minced garlic and the green onion bottoms, adding a couple tablespoons of soy sauce in the process. This is cooked until the chicken has started to crumble a little bit on the outside, resulting in a chicken bits-soy sauce-oily liquid that tosses easily with big hunks of celery and the greens of the green onions. A handful of dried red chilies, crushed, also go in the mix. The celery in this dish is best left pretty crisp, not cooked long. Served over rice for a 20-minute weeknight dinner for two, hold the weary nostalgia.

Written by skimfu

March 10, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Posted in Asian, Chicken

More Weekday Lunches: Chicken Curry Wrap, Ranch Chicken Salad Wrap

with one comment

Two nights ago I couldn’t sleep, so I didn’t. Some combination of jet lag, school anxiety, and green tea resulted in my joining the crowds of the midnight strange in a 24-hour grocery store, determined not to let this semester – like last – pass in a haze of takeout Chinese and fast-food souvlaki plates.

I suspect I don’t like wraps so much as I like the ease of carrying and eating them, without utensils. The photos were taken around 2:30 in the morning, and somehow I think it shows – the plates and silver mixing bowls look ominous, gleaming preternaturally in the witching hour light. The food looks like it was pulled out of the shadows or dug out of a grave, unwillingly, by the camera flash – zombie food. I’m sure I could fix it in an editor, but I prefer them this way: cooked, as they were, by zombie me.

Originally I was planning to make the salad wrap with Thai sweet chili sauce, not realizing that the bottle in my fridge had gone bad. With that in mind, I cut two chicken breasts into strips, and fried them in a stainless steel pan in a minimal amount of oil and then soy sauce. Other than that, everything is raw. I cut a cucumber into sticks (in half lengthwise, each half into five strips, all strips chopped into pieces about three inches long) and a tomato into cubes, omitting (read: snacking on) the juiciest pieces. I washed a bunch of romaine and chopped up some green onions. Once I smelled the sweet chili sauce (whoa!), the chicken and the cucumber & tomato were tossed separately with store-bought ranch dressing instead, the only other thing that seemed appropriate in my fridge.


The wrap was layered with a large romaine leaf (broken in half and overlapped, if too large for the tortilla) at the bottom to absorb moisture, and then chicken, cucumber, tomatoes, and finally a handful of green onions. This particular one was large enough to be pushing at the edges of structural integrity.

For the chicken curry, I threw into the food processor four cloves of garlic, one large green chili cut into pieces (I removed the seeds from half of it, because I prefer not to burn my face off during lunch), and about a one inch (in both dimensions) hunk of peeled fresh ginger. For a basic curry, this base aromatized the oil with ground cumin, coriander, and tumeric. Another two chicken breasts chopped into strips, a medium yellow onion cut into large cubes (squares? Onion layers are pretty flat), and a few handfuls of cubed carrots completed the curry. I also added one small potato, cut into very fine little pieces that would more or less disintegrate, because I like curry to have an indistinct sense of mushiness. Water and milk in the mixture helped cook the vegetables.

I poured out the curry into a pot of steamed white rice (one cup before cooking) and mixed them together.


I didn’t add anything else to the wraps besides the curry, amazed at how much you could stuff inside because it’s so malleable, with no sharp edges. With a leftover piece of tortilla, though, I did eat a miniature curry wrap with some romaine in it, and it was so much better I regretted not putting romaine in all of them.


All in all this made ten large, overstuffed wraps, five of each. Looking at them proudly lined up in the fridge in aluminum, this seemed like a huge amount of food. So far I’ve given away two to someone who is preparing for an unpleasant point in his PhD (may God save those foolish souls who go to graduate school) and eaten two. Last night, eating at Patati Patata with Jacob, I sensed the angry indignation of the zombie wraps back home in my fridge. “We are real!” they cried, “We have substance and nutrients! You don’t even want poutine!”

Written by skimfu

January 7, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Posted in Chicken

Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich

with one comment

Today, biking through the Ville Mont-Royal, the back alleyways of suburbia meets industrial wasteland, I was struck by a feeling I often have, that I can only call placesickness. Like homesickness, it’s a longing to be somewhere else, but not a specific place. A longing for the concept of home, of a place where you can lie your head near the sleeping head of someone else, a place of better times, a place where you are loved. A place that exists geographically nowhere. A place – sometimes you’re sure – that exists somewhere in your past.

I started keeping my bike in my apartment, and it feels like I tried to domesticate one of the large, territorial cats – a tiger or a puma. My bike constantly needs more landmass to run free in than I can provide. We hit the northern edge of the island on an afternoon ride, shocked at how small the bounds of the city are.

When you search for “teriyaki” on Google or Epicurious, you get lots of recipes that feature bottled teriyaki sauce. Some of them are recipes that include nothing else: marinate chicken in teriyaki marinade. Baste chicken in teriyaki baste. Grill. How is this a recipe?

I find myself increasingly turning to Wikipedia. That is what I’m more interested in, anyway: generally what goes into a dish, what flavours are associated with it, disambiguation on its name, how its eaten in its native country, popular variations. On teriyaki, Wikipedia said: soy sauce, sugar or honey, and sake or mirin. Much better!

Because it was what I had, I used soy sauce, honey, rice wine vinegar (it’s surprisingly difficult to find mirin in my dominantly Asian neighbourhood), sesame oil, and orange juice (ginger would have been nice, alas). A solid few tablespoons of soy sauce, a big dollop of the honey, and tiny splashes of everything else, heated on low in sauce pan.

I used a whole, smallish chicken breast. Even while I was doing it, I knew it was a bad idea – every time I have made a chicken sandwich at a restaurant, I have butterflied the breasts or pounded them flat with a tenderizing hammer. As it was, it was way, way too thick for a sandwich. I let it marinate in the sauce mixture for as long as it took the oven to preheat, at 400 degrees F.

I put the marinated chicken breast in the oven for fifteen minutes, in a foil-covered tray. The sauce runs off the chicken, caramelizes, and burns pretty quickly, so it helps to keep basting it with its own juices plus any leftover sauce. I had it on a crusty ciabatta bun with daikon shoots (somewhere between spicy and that sandy feeling raw spinach leaves in your mouth) and tomato slices.

Written by skimfu

September 11, 2008 at 5:28 pm

Posted in Asian, Chicken

Cajun Chicken & Greek Salad

leave a comment »

Cajun Chicken Greek Salad

A buy-stuff-at-the-grocery-store-and-put-it-together-on-one-plate kind of recipe.

cherry tomatoes
red onion
dried oregano
olive oil
olives, red/green peppers (if desired)
cajun spice mix
chicken breasts

Chop cucumbers into chunks, cut the red onion into fine squares (and peppers, if using peppers). Toss with cherry tomatoes and olive oil. Generously crumble feta over top, followed by oregano (and olives).

Cover both sides of chicken in cajun spice. Pan fry chicken in minimal oil on both sides, blackening the spices and cooking through. Serve together – we had it with corn on the cob.

Written by skimfu

October 12, 2007 at 11:47 am

Posted in Chicken, Salad

Bring Your Own Bowl Night

leave a comment »

Cooking for other people beats cooking for myself by at least a fifty-to-one ratio. Of course, cooking for eleven people in a studio apartment, with a kitchen that’s six feet long and two-and-a-half feet wide, is always an interesting challenge. Next time I’ll make more food, so it won’t disappear two minutes after the word “go”.

Sweet Chili Chicken
Sweet Chili Chicken

I was told that this was the hit of the evening. It’s adapted from a combination of my favourite Cactus Club appetizer, and my Dad’s porkchops.

boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Thai sweet chili sauce

Note: Be sure that the word “sweet” is on the label. “Thai chili sauce” is essentially Tabasco.

Cube chicken. Separate eggs, scramble yolks with a fork (put whites away). Dip each cube of chicken in egg, then lightly coat in flour. Use as little flour as possible, while still coating completely; too much batter will just fall off in the pan. Pan fry in batches. Toss in a bowl with sweet chili sauce. Plate with chopped fresh scallions.

Yang Chow Fried Rice
Yang Chow Fried Rice

A classic Chinese dish.

minced garlic
soy sauce
scallions, chopped medium-fine
Chinese barbeque pork or cooked ham
frozen peas
cooked rice (cold or lukewarm)

Shell/devein shrimp, chop into chunks, scramble eggs with fork. Heat a small amount of oil in wok, add garlic, scallions, and shrimp until shrimp are almost cooked. Add everything else, peas and eggs last, mixing until eggs are scrambled randomly throughout and rice has slightly crisped.

Moroccan Shrimp
Moroccan Shrimp

Recipe from Andrew Zimmern’s site. These are fantastic. The first time I made them, as soon as we were finished eating, I got up and made more.

Failure of the evening: poor man’s Caprese salad. I put out a plate of boccaccini cheese, sliced tomatoes, torn fresh basil, and half-rings of raw red onion. The boccaccini should have been salt-and-peppered on both sides, and the whole thing needed a stronger flavor to bring it together – balsamic vinegar, maybe. Or individual platings that include baby spinach. Also, eating hunks of raw red onion is not as popular as I imagined.

N.B. All the dishes I made at the first dinner party (beef skewers, jalapeno cheddar bacon shrimp, spinach and artichoke dip), as well as the French toast from the breakfast party, will be up as soon as I remake them for myself and the boy and take some pictures. Thanks for coming, and bringing chairs and bowls and doughnuts!

Written by skimfu

October 9, 2007 at 11:22 pm

Posted in Asian, Chicken, Pork, Shrimp