October in the Kitchen – Pollo Spago

October in the Kitchen – Pollo Spago

This is a big weekend; it’s my birthday, and I am co-hosting Fiesta Friday #88! It’s my first time as a co-host and I’m looking forward to reading all the posts brought by fellow bloggers. I’m bringing Pollo Spago to the party and think it will be a big hit. Fiesta Friday is an ongoing blogging party hosted by Angie of The Novice Gardener. Everyone brings a virtual dish to share. My fellow co-host is Julie from the blog Hostess at Heart.

If you’re a blogger and you haven’t yet joined in the Fiesta Friday fun, please join in. It’s a good way to rub shoulders with a great group. We’d love to read about what’s going on in your kitchen. It’s easy, here are the guidelines – just make sure to link properly to your blog and mention Fiesta Friday somewhere in your post so we can find you. And, if you’re not a blogger, I know you’ll enjoy reading all the posts.

It is so easy to get into a cooking rut, don’t you agree? I find myself not only cooking the same recipes, but using the same techniques as well. Boring! Well, my birthday resolution for the year is to change that pattern. I intend to challenge myself to try new things and have more fun in the kitchen. Where am I going? The ultimate target is a “Turducken” for the holidays (coming up all too quickly!). What is that? Well, it’s a boned chicken inside a duck inside a turkey, with stuffing to fill in any gaps. It could be the holiday version of an all meat pizza. I’ve been reading about it for years but never met anyone who has had one. Have you? How was it? Wonderful, or disgusting?

All this is why I was attracted to the recipe for Pollo Spago in The River Café Cook Book–I am in favor of baby steps to start. And, I don’t to want end up in tears on Thanksgiving morning. Believe me, it has happened. This cookbook was the September/October selection for the online cookbook book club hosted by Leah at the The Cookbook Guru.IMG_3614

Do you know or have you been to the River Café? It is a restaurant on the banks of the Thames in London, opened in 1987. The authors, Rose Grey and Ruth Rogers, had spent many years in Italy and wanted to open a place with more genuine Italian food. They grew many of the ingredients in their own gardens, which was quite revolutionary at the time. Over the years they have published several cookbooks, this was the first. I found the cookbook simple, but not really. I know that sounds odd but they made a lot of assumptions, of both your available ingredients and knowledge of cooking techniques. This is not a cookbook I would recommend to a beginning cook, even though it appears simple at first.

On to Pollo Spago, the recipe was inspired and adapted from one served at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant Spago in Los Angeles. He was another chef on the forefront of the food revolution. Pollo Spago is a boned chicken stuffed under the skin with minced garlic and parsley.

Pollo Spago

Pollo Spago

Again, this recipe is very simple, but the techniques are not. I think stuffing a boned (skin on) chicken breast would have been just as delicious. One of my problems was that there were no pictures, I had to prop the cookbook on the table while I was de-boning the chicken, re-reading the directions (over and over) as I went along. It went surprisingly well. Pictures would have made it easier.

So, here it goes with my own pictures to help you through it if you decide to try it.

Pollo Spago

Instructions for boning the chicken from Pollo alla Griglia (Marinated Grilled Chicken), The River Café Cook Book

  • 1 small organic, free range cicken
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • About 1 cup of flat-leaf parsley, chopped (4 oz)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil

Directions for deboning the chicken (you can skip this part if you are using boneless chicken breasts with the skin):

  1. Place the chicken, breast side up, on a cutting board. I found it easier to have the tail side closest. With a very sharp boing knife, cut along the breast bone, from front to back down the center of the breast. Lay your knife flat against the bone and cut through the skin and meat down to the leg joint. You will have to cut the wishbone in half. This will separate one side of the breast from the carcass. Crack the leg bone where it attaches to the body so it lies flat against your board. With your knife, carefully cut around the leg and separate one half of the chicken from the carcass. You will have to cut the wing joint as well.IMG_3609
  2. Snip the tips of the wing; I used a pair of sharp kitchen scissors. Leave the short bone in the wing.IMG_3610
  3. Now comes the tricky part, boning out the legs. Flatten your half of a chicken, skin side down and cut as close to either side of the leg bones as possible, prying up the bone from the meat as you go along. Try to keep the skin in one piece. This was a bit messy but once cooked, it was fine. Trim away any big pieces of fat or gristle.IMG_3611
  4. Repeat with the other side. I found a sharp boning knife and kitchen scissors essential.IMG_3612

That’s the hard part, yeah!

  1. Place the garlic cloves in a small saucepan of cold water and bring them to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes, then drain and place in a small food processor (or chop by hand). Add the parsley to the processor (or chop by hand and mix), and process to mix and chop everything together.
  2. Wipe the chicken with paper towels and loosen the skin from the meat making two pockets, one at the breast end and one at the lets.
  3. Use about half the parsley mixture to stuff into the pockets, season well with salt and pepper.IMG_3629
  4. Grill the chicken halves for about 20 minutes on medium high heat until they are crisp, golden and cooked through. I turned them about every 4 minutes.IMG_3631
  5. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet, add the remaining parsley and garlic mixture, cook gently. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with the chicken.

The recipe was good and I learned a lot. It will be much easier next time.

And next time, I would change it by mixing butter with the parsley and garlic that is to go under the skin. I think that it would have added more juiciness and kept the chicken moist.

June in the Kitchen – Pesto Chicken

June in the Kitchen – Pesto Chicken

Pesto Chicken

Pesto Chicken

Once summer begins my thoughts turn to easy, simple dishes that highlight outdoor cooking and the wonderful produce that is available this time of year. That doesn’t mean that a regular weeknight meal needs to be fancy or take time, grilled chicken and a sliced tomato salad sounds like heaven. But, what do you do midweek when you don’t want to fire up the grill and the troops need dinner NOW?

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Enter the Breville Panini Press and Grill. I know, you don’t want any more appliances. I understand, I’m trying to cut out unnecessary electric appliances that just sit in the top of my cabinets too. But this one is different. It has earned its keep in my house for quick snacks or dinners, we are now on our second the first having burned out after several years of regular use. It makes the best grilled sandwiches in the world. How would you like a Sunday brunch sandwich with ham and cheese and a fried egg? Yes, us too. And, it grills chicken breasts perfectly without drying them out. You can also use it for chopped meat patties, although I haven’t done that much. What makes it different from other grills is that the top adjusts to the thickness of the food being grilled, you don’t overcook the back corner because the top isn’t flat (that happens in a George Foreman). You can also control the temperature for the food being cooked.

It would make a wonderful wedding gift. It’s great for parties, simply lay out a variety of breads, meats, spreads, and cheeses and let your guests create their own custom paninis. Once cooked, cut them into small pieces and hand them around. Let everyone vote on their favorite combination.

Grilled Chicken with Pesto

Grilled Chicken with Pesto

Grilled Chicken with Pesto

  •  1 chicken breast half for each person, boned but skin on if possible (I used one whole breast with the skin)
  • 1/5 cup of home-made or commercial pesto sauce
  • Extra garlic, minced if you like garlic (unless pesto is freshly made)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  1. If you love garlic like our family, add an extra minced clove to the pesto. I have pesto in the freezer from last year and it has lost its heat although it is still good. Almost time to make more.
  2. Rub the chicken breast with the pesto, spreading some under the skin. Brush with a olive oil and salt lightly.
  3. Preheat your panini maker or stove top grill.
  4. Add the chicken breast, close the lid and cook until no longer pink in the middle.
  5. This will take about 5-10 minutes on the grill, depending on the thickness of the chicken. If frying in a stove top grill, use medium hight heat and turn after about 10 minutes. If browning too quickly, turn down the heat.
  6. Let the chicken cool for 5 minutes then slice thinly to serve.
Grilled Chicken with Pesto

Grilled Chicken with Pesto

The skin was brown and crisp and the meat still juicy.