OK, so the holidays are over. For me and my family, it was most definitely an eating marathon. I’m sure it was for you as well. Don’t know about you, but this time of year always puts me in a sort of quandary. I’m looking for ways to lighten my meals, and possibly take off some of the holiday pounds I accumulated along the way. But it’s kind of cold out there! That puts me in the mood for some good old-fashioned comfort food as well. Not always light, but definitely warming to my body and soul. The answer? Moderation. And that’s when I turn to chicken.
Eating chicken is not a chore for me. I really like the way it tastes. So that makes it easier for me to enjoy this less caloric option – when choosing white meat breasts, anyway. And I find that substituting white chicken meat in hearty winter recipes that call for beef, pork or veal really does work for me. I can hardly tell the difference. But I get ahead of myself.
When really sticking to the regimen, my quintessential diet meal inevitably involves grilled chicken breasts. I find all sorts of ways to make it interesting and delicious. Marinating, of course, is always key. And the possibilities are endless. Italian and Cajun are my preferred flavorings. Just a quick grilling or sautéing and I’m ready to place these juicy morsels over creatively constructed salads, stuffed into waist friendly wraps or diced into light pasta dishes. Scrumptious.
That being said, there really is nothing like a good old fashioned roast chicken. The aroma alone makes my mouth water, and warms even the chilliest and gloomiest days of winter for me. Everyone has their preference when it comes to roasting a chicken. Butter and herbs rubbed under the skin is definitely an option. When I’m keeping it light, I just stuff the cavity with some fresh herbs and a whole, peeled onion. As long as the skin is crispy, it’s always a winner in my home. (OK, the skin is a bit more fattening, but I’m only human after all!)
So, what about substituting chicken for beef and other meats in those hefty recipes? Chili is a good place to start. Truly, it works perfectly. Just be sure to use the white meat if you’re really being strict. I also like a good chicken stew and much as its beef cousin. I leave out the dumplings when the scale is tipping in the wrong direction for me that week. Still, it’s a satisfying meal. Chicken meatballs will often be featured in my tomato sauce as well. When using ground white meat, be sure to add some breadcrumb and egg whites to the mixture. This will keep the meatballs moist and delicious.
Now, I did mention moderation, didn’t I? After all, man and woman cannot live on carrot sticks alone. Especially when comfort foods are on the mind. So I’ll often treat myself to more elaborate preparations of chicken during the colder months. I look at it this way: there may be butter or oil in the recipe, but I’m still using chicken. Got to be lighter than pork sausage, right? Phyllis’ recipe for Chicken Francese is a good example of this. I’ll even go as far as to serve it with pasta. Hey, I’ve been pretty fastidious all month. I can allow myself a few carbs for good behavior.
Oh, one could write tomes on chicken. I won’t do that. Just seems like a good option for post holiday fare. You might even take off a few pounds. And that will be a feather in your cap!
If you think of chicken as bland, try this quick and flavorful preparation. Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh parsley and lemon slices add an irresistible zest.
1 ½ lbs. chicken scaloppine
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 T Parmigiano Reggiano
2 T finely minced fresh parsley leaves
¼ cup olive oil, more as needed
½ cup dry white wine
1 ½ cups chicken stock
8 thin lemon slices, seeds removed
3 T butter
1. Place 2 pieces of scaloppine between sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a meat pounder to 1/4-inch thickness. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Repeat with remainder of scaloppine.
2. Place the flour in a shallow plate.
3. Beat the eggs along with 1 T water, the cheese and parsley in a wide bowl.
4. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
5. Dredge both sides of scaloppine in flour and then dip into egg mixture to coat completely, allowing the excess to drip off.
6. When the oil is hot, place two scaloppine at a time in skillet and fry until golden, about 2 minutes on each side. Add a little more oil if necessary. Remove to a large platter and cover to keep warm.
7. Pour oil from skillet. Return the skillet to high heat and add wine. Reduce by half. Add chicken stock and lemon slices and boil for 5 minutes. Remove lemon slices and continue boiling the sauce until reduced by half.
8. Off heat, swirl butter into skillet until the sauce is thickened. Add scaloppine, turning them until coated. Divide among 4 plates and garnish with lemon slices. Serve immediately.