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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Spice rubbed Chicken

+ garlic green beans:

For the home cook there are few sights more dreadful than a poorly stocked spice cabinet. So, in preparation for the beginning of another amazing school year, let's talk about spices. I think I've mentioned before that living at home has had some perks; take our extensively stocked pantry for example. I don't know how many times at college I scraped together the funds for a staple spice, like say cloves, only to discover a dust covered jar hidden in the darkest recess of our cabinet. Although dried spices are easy to find they aren't always cheap. But don't worry, with a little research (a quick glance around your kitchen) and a few dollars extra each week you won't have to write home to enjoy the rapture of a dependable pantry. Each week during the month of August SPUDS will be featuring a new spice with a recipe that makes good use of your newest kitchen addition: the spice rack.

Because dried spices keep so well they are the perfect tool for a kitchen that doesn't see dinner action every night. Unlike fresh herbs dried varieties take almost no preparation or care. Just be sure to keep the spices in a cool, dry, dark place. The flavor of dried spices is often more concentrated than fresh spices so you will use less, saving money. But where to start? Step one: buy the basic of basics:
  • salt
  • pepper mill
Freshly cracked pepper adds layers of flavor to any dish with almost no amount of work. Pepper mills come in a variety of sizes, shapes and materials. Most mills will set you back $15-20 for an inexpensive version. Just make sure you can easily use the "re-load" chamber. If you are looking for a less expensive version, house-hold spice companies offer small disposable grinders at or below $10. Check your local grocery.

Almost any spice can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. Even that freshly cracked pepper you just invested in could be used to season lemon and garlic shrimp or eaten on a sinfully good mango sorbet. Today's spice is the basis of the simplest spice rub in town. Cumin, which comes from the cumin seed, is a very popular, multipurpose spice. The flavor is warm, but not spicy, and has a pungent but friendly aroma. It pairs especially well with chicken, which is where we will be using it, but is also a splendid addition to chili, pork or in and a variety of sauces. Try this easy rub on chicken or even pork. What could be simpler?

Note: This recipe is a great time to serve rice or couscous since you will have an open container of broth.

Grocery List:
Fresh green beans

Ingredients (serves 2):
chicken - recipe from Cooking Light:
1 large chicken breast, or two small
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
fresh cracked pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
fresh cilantro, optional

garlic green beans:
1 1/2 cups or 1/2 pound fresh green beans
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons vegetable broth or chicken stock
fresh cracked pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 handful (about 2 tablespoons) toasted walnuts

1. Wash and trim the green beans. Cut the beans in half and set aside.
2. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Toast the walnuts until they are fragrant and golden. Then, remove the nuts from the pan and chop roughly. Set aside to cool.
3. Meanwhile, peel and chop your garlic cloves and set aside. In a small bowl mix the cumin, salt and pepper.
4. Using the same pan you toasted the walnuts in turn the heat to medium. Rinse the chicken and pat dry (this will allow the rub to adhere better to the meat). Remove any skin or fat and cut the large breast in half width wise and then into 2 inch slices.
5. Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in the frying pan. If the oil starts to smoke lift the pan off the heat for a minute. Dust the chicken with the spice rub, using your fingers to work the spice into the meat. Add the chicken to the preheated pan.
6. Cook the chicken, without disturbing, for 4 minutes and then turn. Let the chicken cook another 4-5 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink and the juices run clear. When the chicken is finished remove it from the pan and set aside.
7. Lower the heat to medium. Add the green beans and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the chicken or vegetable broth, scraping the pan. This is called "de-glazing" and will result in all the yummy caramelized bits mixing up with your beans. Cook the beans for another 2 minutes or until the beans are tender but still crisp. Add the garlic and toss with the beans for another minute or two until the garlic is crispy and golden. (If you like your beans softer zap them in the microwave for a few minutes before sending them to the frying pan).
8. To serve: top the green beans with the chopped, toasted walnuts. Serve the chicken warm with some fresh cilantro and rice or couscous.

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