Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ranch Chicken w/Creamy Cheesy Quinoa

Ranch Chicken w/Creamy Cheesy Quinoa... Last night was one of those dinners where I had no idea what I was making until it was all finished. It wasn't complicated, and I just used ingredients I had on hand, but it was in no way what I had planned as "what I would make for dinner on Tuesday night". It started with this chicken. I've perhaps stated before that I'm not really a chicken lover, I like dark meat chicken roasted and juicy. I like fried chicken. I like chicken when its been pounded and lightly dredged in flour in a lemony sauce. The idea here is that I do eat chicken, and I certainly appreciate that it's a healthful option in the protein department, but often I just find it so stinkin bland. So at the grocery store on Sunday we asked the butcher (whilst ordering some way more interesting Italian sausages for later this week) what he recommended in the chicken department. He said, "I'll get you two breasts with the skin and bone and I'll butterfly them". Fine.

He did just that and I tossed and turned over what the heck to do with these strange pieces of meat that were kind of too big for my grill pan. I considered marinating them in BBQ sauce - nah. I considered chopping them up myself - nah. Then it hit me. I had a random packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning that happened to come with something else I bought recently (which for the life of me I cannot remember). So I started thinking that the ranch seasoning could make a nice and flavorful enhancement to the chicken. Once I decided on that I figured the best thing to do would be stuff the chickens, roll them, and bake them. I considered stuffing them with cheese, too heavy. I considered stuffing them with veggies, but nothing in my fridge worked. Then I used the Phone a Friend Option and got a great suggestion from my mom... lemon slices! Easy and healthful but will definitely add some nice acidic flavor and aroma. Done.

How To:

The Chicken:
I laid both butterflied breasts in a large Pyrex baking dish and liberally sprinkled the inside and outside (with the skin on) with the ranch seasoning and a drizzle of olive oil. I added three thin lemon slices to the inside of each breast and then rolled/folded them up. I made sure the skin side was up and I popped them in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. The last 10-15 minutes I cranked the heat up closer to 400 degrees to make sure the skin got nice and crispy. They turned out Dahlish! Very juice for breast meat and the Ranch was great seasoning. The lemon added a nice flavor and all in all I was very pleased with them - thanks to Jose at Mariano's I will definitely be purchasing butterflied chicken breasts with skin and bone more often!

The Kale:
Sauteed with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and a little lemon juice. Perfection.

The Quinoa:
This was my most last minute piece of the meal. I needed a starch. I realized I had about 1/2 a cup of quinoa in the pantry and so I cooked it with two bay leaves and a slice of lemon. At that point I had no idea I'd make it into something more decadent when it was all fluffed up, so the lemon and bay leaves were in there to add some flavor to one of the most flavorless things to ever exist - yea I'm talkin to you quinoa.

Once the grains were fully cooked, about 10 minutes simmering after coming to a full boil, I removed the bay leaves and lemon. I knew this was not going to satisfy. So I grabbed a little hunk of butter, a splash of milk, and a handful of already shredded cheddar/colby mix that was in the fridge. I added those three things over medium heat and gave it a nice stir. A pinch of salt later and I pretty much had home made mac n cheese, minus the mac and plus the quinoa. I won't say this was healthful per se, but it was a lot better knowing my cheese and milk and butter were entangled with protein rich grains than empty white flour carbs.

The meal was Dahlish and easy and fun because it was created on the fly! I hope some of these pieces of my meal help inspire you to use some random packet of seasoning in the pantry or to recreate a favorite comfort food with just one ingredient that is slightly more healthful than the original. Enjoy!

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