For most of history, chicken was an expensive luxury food -- King Henry IV of France became popular with peasants when he promised to make the country prosperous enough to put "a chicken in every pot." Centuries later, presidential candidate Herbert Hoover promised Americans the same thing. Today, chicken is affordable enough to stretch a tight meat budget. Try these 10 recipes for a tasty meal any night of the week.
BAKED MUSTARD CHICKEN
Serve this dish fresh and hot, or cold as a next-day leftover. Place eight chicken thighs or six breasts in a baking or roasting pan. Melt a quarter-cup (half a stick) of butter or margarine in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons of yellow or spicy brown mustard, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar, and a teaspoon each of salt, paprika, and crushed black pepper. (For an extra-spicy kick, add a half-teaspoon of chili powder.) Pour the mix over the chicken and bake at 375 degrees for an hour. Baste with the pan juices at least twice during the baking. Let sit for 20 minutes before serving.
This popular Southern dish requires less heating fuel than oven-baked recipes -- an important consideration when there was no air conditioning and building a fire was the only way to cook. Heat 1 cup of vegetable shortening or frying oil in a large skillet on medium-high. In a large bag, combine 2 cups of white flour with a tablespoon each of salt and black pepper (for more kick, add a half-tablespoon of cayenne pepper or chili powder). Cut 2 to 3 pounds of chicken into pieces and add to the seasoned flour one piece at a time, shaking well until coated thoroughly. When the shortening or oil reaches 375 degrees according to a cooking thermometer, place the chicken into the skillet and brown on all sides. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking for 20 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is a deep golden-brown and the juices run clear.
This recipe delivers crisp fried chicken without the fat and calories. Refrigerate about 3 pounds of chicken and two cups of buttermilk in a sealed bag for at least an hour, or up to 24 hours. Discard the milk and sprinkle each piece of chicken (both sides) with a tablespoon each of paprika and black pepper, a teaspoon of salt, and a half-teaspoon each of cayenne pepper and chili powder. After seasoning, roll the chicken in cornmeal for breading (1 cup should be sufficient). Place the chicken in a baking pan, bone side down, and spritz lightly with cooking spray. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes at 425 degrees and let sit for 20 minutes before serving.
"Chicken parm" is an Italian favorite that can be served as is or in a delicious (and messy) hot sandwich. Heat 2 cups of tomato spaghetti sauce in a saucepan over low-medium heat and a quarter-cup of frying oil in a skillet. Crack two eggs into a bowl and beat slightly. Dip 1 pound of boneless, skinless, thin-sliced chicken fillets into the egg and immediately roll in bread crumbs (1 cup should be enough). Fry each breaded chicken piece in the oil until both sides are browned and the chicken is cooked through. Put each piece onto a plate or a toasted sub roll, sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese (about 2 cups), and top with the hot spaghetti sauce. Serve immediately.
To make these spicy favorites, start with a heavy pan deep enough to submerge the wings (roughly 1.5 inches). Coat the bottom with oil and heat on medium to 375 degrees (use a cooking thermometer). While the oil is heating, use a sharp knife or poultry scissors to cut the tips off about 2 pounds of chicken wings (these can be frozen to make stock). Cut each wing in half at the joint and make sure it's perfectly dry -- even a small amount of water will result in dangerous splatters. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to carefully place each wing in the oil for about 10 minutes, until golden brown. After frying, melt 3 tablespoons of butter or margarine in a fresh skillet over medium heat. Stir in 3 tablespoons of hot sauce and 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Add the fried wings and coat them well; the longer they stay in, the spicier they'll be. Serve immediately with dip made from equal parts blue cheese crumbles; mayonnaise; and buttermilk, vinegar milk, or plain yogurt (a half-cup each should suffice).
Making chicken stock at home is much cheaper than buying -- and a good way to use necks, wing tips, and other parts that would otherwise be discarded. Simply combine 1 pound of chicken parts, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 6 cups of water in a large stockpot. Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and leave for an hour. For more flavor, add chopped vegetables before boiling. Some possible combinations: one large onion, one peeled carrot, and two crushed cloves of garlic; a celery stalk, a peeled carrot, and an onion; or two garlic cloves, a tablespoon of peppercorns, and a bay leaf. Chop all vegetables and strain the stock before using. Chicken stock can be frozen and stored almost indefinitely. Let it cool to room temperature before putting it in the freezer.
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This Eastern European comfort food gets its name and distinctive flavor from hefty doses of paprika ("hot" paprika for spicy tastes or "sweet" paprika for savory). Combine 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 3 pounds) with an envelope of onion-soup mix and heat in a slow cooker for about six hours (or cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and stir-fry over medium-high heat until cooked through). Remove the chicken (which should have fallen apart in the slow cooker) and drain the juice into a saucepan. Add a cup of chicken stock, two-thirds cup of red wine, and a quarter-cup of paprika over medium-high heat. Whisk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and stir in a pinch of salt, a tablespoon each of onion powder and marjoram, 8 ounces of sour cream or plain yogurt, and 3 ounces of tomato paste. Blend until smooth, then combine with the chicken. Serve over egg noodles.
This tasty soup, which literally translates to "pepper water," was introduced to Europeans by English soldiers stationed in India. In a large saucepan, heat 4 cups of chicken broth and 2 cups of cooked chicken cut into cubes over medium to medium-high heat until simmering. Add a half-cup each of diced onion and diced carrot, a teaspoon each of salt and black pepper, two minced garlic cloves (or a quarter-teaspoon of garlic powder), a quarter-teaspoon of ground cloves, and 2 tablespoons of curry powder. Bring back to a simmer, then add a cup of cream or half-and-half and a peeled Granny Smith apple cut into small pieces. Simmer another five to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat and let stand for five minutes. If the soup is too spicy, add up to a tablespoon of sugar (remember the cooking rule "sweet beats heat"). If it's too mild, add more black pepper or curry powder.
'LEFTOVER' CHICKEN IN CREAM SAUCE
This easy recipe is an excellent way to transform leftovers into a tasty new dish. In a large mixing bowl, combine 4 cups of cooked chicken, cut into bite-size chunks; one can (usually 10.75 ounces) of condensed cream of chicken or cream of celery soup; 1 cup of sour cream; a half-cup of dry white wine; and a teaspoon each of salt and crushed black pepper. (For a spicier dish, try adding a half-teaspoon of chili powder.) Pour the mix into an ungreased baking dish and bake uncovered at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, until heated through. Serve plain, or top with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.
CHICKEN CORDON BLEU
This popular delicacy is surprisingly simple to make using large, easy-to-roll pieces of chicken. Start with four boneless, skinless chicken breast halves and trim off any excess fat. Use a rolling pin or meat mallet to flatten the pieces until they are no more than half an inch thick (a quarter-inch is better). Sprinkle on both sides with salt and pepper. Top with a slice of cooked ham -- cold cuts are easiest -- and a slice of cheese (the traditional recipe calls for Swiss, but mozzarella or mild cheddar works). Roll each breast into a cylinder and hold in place with a toothpick. Place the rolls in a greased baking dish, then sprinkle with plain or seasoned bread crumbs. Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees, then add another half-slice of cheese to the top of each roll. Bake a couple more minutes until the cheese melts, then take out the toothpicks and serve immediately.