Air Fryer Chicken Thighs and Sweet Potato

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I know instant pots are all the rage now. I have heard of people who own these in various sizes! Not me…at least not yet. I haven’t jumped on that bandwagon yet – and even if/when I do, I am quite confident I will not be owning more than one. So, for now, I do own an air fryer (have been for maybe a year now).

You may wonder what I have used it for. In all honesty, my husband has used it more often than I have – and definitely it is not to make anything meal worthy! He has only ever made frozen fries in them. They taste great, but I figured there should be other applications of the gadget than just for crisping up frozen food. So, I started experimenting, first with vegetables seasoned with salt and ever so slightly drizzled with oil. My favorite…eggplant slices and broccoli! Yum! Then, I got to thinking…and googling.

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Damn! You can even make desserts in an air fryer! Wow! Anyway, I wanted to attempt a main dish, and hence was born this chicken and sweet potato recipe.

Honestly, you can use any seasoning for the chicken thighs (or drumstick or cut up breast). I happened to stumble upon harissa seasoning at a local TJMaxx (love the store for the interesting finds) and decided to try it. Harissa seasoning has complex spice notes with good amount of heat, so use it according to your taste. I needed to add salt because the bottle I bought did not have any.

After about 30+ minutes in the air fryer, the chicken thighs were super crispy on the outside (thanks to the skin) and juicy and delicious inside. Sweet potato took on a nice flavor from the chicken as well. The best compliment was “Hon, I am sorry, I don’t think I can eat the bone!” So, if you own an airfryer, you have to try this recipe. If not, either buy one or try the recipe in a 450F oven.

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Air Fryer Chicken Thighs with Sweet Potato

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients:

4 chicken thighs, excess fat trimmed, but with skin

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon harissa seasoning

1 teaspoon salt, divided

2 medium sweet potato (or regular potato)

2 tablespoons oil, divided

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the air fryer to 375F.
  2. Score the skin side of the chicken thighs deeply with a sharp knife. Season with a blend of 1 tablespoon harissa and 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste). Make sure seasoning gets into the cut slashes. Drizzle both sides with a tablespoon of oil.
  3. Place chicken thighs, skin side down in the air fryer and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. While the chicken is cooking, peel and cut the sweet potato into large chunks, about 1″ wide. Toss with remaining salt, harissa and oil.
  5. Remove the chicken thighs from the fryer and set aside on a plate.
  6. Add the sweet potato to the air fryer and top with the chicken, this time with skin side up.
  7. Cook for another 25 minutes or more till the chicken and sweet potato are cooked through and the top of the chicken is browned and crispy.
  8. Transfer to serving plates and serve with other sides or vegetables for a wholesome, delicious dinner.

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Oven-Fried Chicken Thighs

I am not going to make yet another apology for being ridiculously tardy with my postings, so I will just jump to the recipe at hand!

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Do you like fried chicken? Me neither! It’s not that it’s not yummy or satisfying. It sure is! The reason I don’t like it is because it is so damn bad for you…like looking at it on your plate makes you want to grab your chest like you can somehow feel the arteries getting clogged! Real fried chicken is definitely full of fat and calories – store-bought/ commercially prepared chunks likely brim with thousands of calories and more than a few days worth of saturated fat. So, yes, I don’t like them. I never order these from restaurants, but on a rare occasion, I do fantasize about biting into one with no regrets!

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Hence, this attempt at making an oven-fried version, which will not make it to any healthy dish list, but at least satisfies one’s annual craving for fried chicken without a whole lot of guilt. I wanted to emphasize a few words in the previous sentence as this chicken is still an indulgence in my opinion. Although I carefully trimmed out most of the excess fat and good portion of the skin, there is still some of that bad stuff on the chicken. In addition, even though I skipped the deep frying, there is still some oil drizzled on the chicken before baking. So, all in all, please do indulge and enjoy this dish, but try with all your might to only make it on a rare occasion or two.

With that out of the way, this chicken is truly delicious. Marinating the meat in seasoned buttermilk (in my case, 1% milk soured with a bit of white vinegar) for 24 hours goes a long way in making sure the chicken tastes well seasoned and comes out juicy and delicious. Seasoning the flour mixture adds another layer of seasoning that makes the exterior of the chicken delectable as well. I debated going with just all-purpose flour, but then opted for a “house blend” of all-purpose, cornmeal, rice flour and cornstarch. In case you are wondering how I came up with this blend, honestly, 100% on a whim. I figured rice flour and cornstarch tend to make things crispy,cornmeal adds bit of a textural element and all-purpose flour, well, it’s “all-purpose”. I think this is a keeper! After all the waiting around with the marinating and long baking time, this recipe proved to be a winner. And the chicken tastes great even the next day!

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Oven-Fried Chicken Thighs

Ingredients:
8 chicken thighs, excess fat and skin trimmed carefully; deeply score the skin side
Marinade:
1 cup buttermilk (or sour milk made with a cup of milk and 1 tablespoon vinegar)
1 teaspoon salt
Cayenne powder to taste (I used about 3/4 teaspoon)
few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon each, onion powder and garlic powder
Flour mixture
1/4 cup each all-purpose flour, rice flour, cornmeal and cornflour
Cayenne powder to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon extra hot)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Generous sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons canola oil
cooking spray

Preparation:
1. Blend all marinade ingredients. Pour over chicken thighs arranged in a baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 425F.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the flours with ingredients through parsley leaves.
4. Remove chicken pieces from the marinade. Blot dry (I skipped this step because I was in a mad dash to the next step for no real good reason).
5. Toss the chicken pieces one at a time in the flour mixture until well coated. I even made sure some of the flour mixture got in between the slits on the skin side.
6. Arrange the coated chicken pieces on a baking tray lined with aluminum foil, skin side up.
7. Cover the chicken pieces with a good coating of cooking spray. Drizzle the oil evenly over all the chicken pieces.
8. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes till juices run clear and the chicken is cooked through.
9. Serve with sides of your choice (Tip: a good serving of vegetable should at least take some of the guilt off!) Enjoy!

Braided Chicken and Spinach Bread

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For all the sighs and groans I hear about working with yeast, I must say, they are not that difficult to work with – that is, provided you have unexpired yeast that you know to keep alive!

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You think that sounds a bit gory – like some man eating zombie or something! May be I feel that way because I forced myself to watch the much anticipated (not by me by any means) return of The Walking Dead last night! Eeewww…to stupid and….stupid if you ask me! After enjoying Will Smith’s “I am a Legend”, I am content with not watching any more zombie nonsense!

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Anyway, back to yeast! Yes, so if you have braved to make a simple pizza dough, you have passed the threshold into the vast untapped potential of bread making! If you are still contemplating your first encounter with these little eukaryotes, then, fear not…just grab yourself a refrigerated pizza or bread dough from the store! Yes, yes, there is always a place for Pillsbury’s in everyone’s kitchen!

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This recipe is pretty simple and straightforward. Make a savory filling of your choice (let your imagination run wild), roll out the dough, place the filling, score opposite ends of the dough (they will look like a millipede or something similar with a gazillion legs), braid, brush with egg wash and bake! Trust me…it’s a fun art project like endeavor. Once you bake these, you will want to make more! They keep well in the refrigerator for a few days and make a great lunch (make them into single-serving sizes) to pack – for kids, for your spouse, for YOU! If you make them small enough, they also make a great snack for a road trip – depending on your filling and your own taste buds, they taste fine at room temperature as well.

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So, I hope you won’t skim this recipe and take a pass! Give it a try and I am pretty sure this will become a keeper!

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Braided Chicken and Spinach Bread

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients
1 container refrigerated pizza or bread dough (like Pillsbury’s)
OR
1 recipe (equivalent of 1 loaf of bread or 1 12-16″ pizza) of your choice
3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken* (thighs or breast), seasoned with salt and pepper
1 8oz package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and excess liquid squeezed out
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated mozzarella or cheddar, optional

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Cook the chicken breast or thighs on each side till golden brown, lower heat to medium and continue cooking for another 5-7 minutes on each side till the chicken is cooked through and all juices run clear. You may need to adjust the cooking time depending on the thickness of the meat.
3. Remove cooked chicken to a platter and let rest. Once the chicken is cool, shred the meat or dice into tiny cubes.
4. Return the pan to heat and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Saute onion and garlic till fragrant (about 2-3 minutes). Add the ground cumin and paprika, stir to mix. Now, stir in the spinach.
5. Cook the spinach mixture till any remaining liquid evaporates. Add in the shredded chicken and heat through to blend in all the flavors.
6. Let the chicken-spinach mixture cool down to room temperature.
7. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and roll out into a 1/4 inch thick rectangle.
8. Place 1/4th of the filling along the center of the dough, lengthwise, leaving about 2-3 inches on each long side.
9. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/2 inch strips along each side of the filling like shown in the picture. Criss-cross the strips like braiding and tuck in the ends. Brush with the egg wash.
10. Place all the braids on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake for 18-20 minutes till the tops are golden brown and the dough is cooked through.

You can serve this immediately with a dipping sauce of your choice or refrigerate for later enjoyment!

* Instead of cooking the chicken, you can certainly substitute leftover grilled or poached chicken. Just skip steps 2 and 3!

Soy Glazed Chicken on a Stick

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Anything on a stick seems to elevate to the top when it comes to perfect finger foods that are enjoyed by all – although not all of them are good for you (was your first thought corndog??!). But this recipe is truly not that bad at all – especially if you use chicken breast although I used bones, skinless thighs!

I don’t know if this belongs to the true “chicken satay” category. I probably have most of the satay marinade ingredients in this, but this is more of a general Asian flavor than any one particular cuisine. Marinade consists of sweet soy sauce (it is like molasses – dark and thick), regular soy sauce, dark sesame oil, ginger, garlic, honey, rice wine vinegar and green onions.

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There is not much to this recipe. Hardest part is probably cleaning the chicken to remove all excess fat and slicing them into long strips. Other than that, you just let the chicken (on the stick) marinate for a while and cook! Don’t discard the marinade. Boil it up to make a delicious dipping sauce for your chicken on a stick!

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Soy Glazed Chicken on a Stick

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients
4 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 tablespoons sweet dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Cooking spray
12 short bamboo skewers
1 tablespoon peanut butter, optional (for sauce)

Preparation:
1. Begin by preparing the chicken. Trim off excess fat and slice into long strips, about 1″ wide. Thread the chicken pieces through the skewers. Set aside in a shallow dish while you prepare the meat. Alternatively, you can marinate the chicken and then thread through the skewers.
2. Prepare the marinade pan by mixing all the ingredients from dark soy sauce through crushed red pepper. Pour over the chicken, cover with plastic wrap and let marinate for about 15-20 minutes.
3. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Remove the skewers from the marinade and drain the marinade into a small sauce pan. Place the skewers in a single layer and cook for 5 minutes on each side. Test for doneness. Alternatively, you can grill the chicken as well.
4. Add about 1/4 cup of water to the marinade along with the peanut butter (if using). Bring to a slow simmer and continue cooking for about 3-5 minutes. If the sauce looks too thin, you can thicken it by adding a bit of cornstarch. Taste the sauce and adjust salt/sweetness per your taste.
5. Serve the chicken with the sauce and a side of rice or salad.

Oven-“Fried” Asian Orange Chicken

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It started with sweet and sour chicken – “it” as in my kids’ introduction to Chinese food! Few years have passed since then and now their all-time favorite dish to order at a Chinese restaurant is orange chicken – crispy fried morsels of bite size chicken pieces that are lightly coated in an orange and soy infused glaze. If you are lucky to have had the opportunity to bite into one of these perfectly prepared chicken pieces, you can easily see why this dish is so popular with kids and adults alike.

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Having said that, not all orange chicken dishes are created equal. Actually not even close! I have had many an encounter with tiny crumbs of chicken clinging to their dear reputation in mounds of soggy breading/batter. There have been instances of good balance between meat and batter, but the meat could have seen better days. And there have been instances when both meat and batter were just right, except for the overload of barely wet dried orange rinds with overly sweet concoction of what is supposed to be a delicious orange sauce.

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Hmph! So, having had one of those episodes recently, I figured why not make a version at home that will hopefully not only taste better, but better for you as well. Chicken breast, oven “fried” rather than deep fried, just a touch of brown sugar rather than corn syrup or other concoctions??!! Yep, you got it!

So, armed with all-white chicken meat, fresh oranges (for both the zest and the juice) and panko bread crumbs, I braved myself to trust my senses of taste and smell and recreate a dish that is enjoyed by my family, especially my kids.

20140506_191229  This dish surpassed all my expectations, especially when it came to the texture of the cooked chicken and the perfectly balanced sweet-sour-spicy nature of the sauce/glaze. Panko coating left the chicken pieces crispy and held out quite strong even with the glaze on top. I deep fried a small batch of chicken coated in egg and cornstarch but my kids preferred the oven “fried” version with panko because of its texture and taste! I couldn’t be happier! 🙂

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So, here is a disclaimer…I have not traveled to the Hunan province of China to really know what this dish is supposed to taste like. So, this is purely based on my experience enjoying crispy battered chicken coated in a citrusy/orange soy glaze. 🙂 Enjoy at your own will!

Chicken thighs in lemon garlic sauce

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Chicken is so versatile, yet there are times when I simply am not sure what I want to do with it. That’s how this recipe came about! I had a package of chicken thighs and had less than an hour to get dinner on the table. What do I do with it?

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After bit of pondering, I remembered I had fresh lemons, garlic and parsley on hand. I imagined that to be a rather straightforward “Chopped” basket and quickly thought of a way to incorporate them into a dish that had some sauce/gravy to it. It’s almost like I was working backwards. I had a freshly baked bread from earlier in the day and I wanted something to go with the bread… 🙂

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This dish with a wonderful citrus and garlic notes with just the right amount of a light sauce was amazing with a slice of a crusty bread. Since I had incorporated some green beans right into the chicken dish, it really was a wholesome meal. I would certainly like to prepare it again, but this time cook in the oven. If any of you try this in the oven (I would say 375F for about 45minutes or so – check for doneness), do drop a note below to say how it turned out.

Chicken Thighs in Lemon-Garlic Sauce

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients
4 medium chicken thighs, bone-in, skin removed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped onions or shallots
1 cup water or chicken broth
1/2 lb fresh green beans, end trimmed
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon butter or heavy cream, optional

Preparation
1. Cut chicken thighs into 2-3 pieces and season with salt and pepper.
2. Slice half the lemon into thin slices.
3. Heat olive oil over medium heat and lightly caramelize the lemon slices. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
4. To the pan, add the chicken pieces and brown them on both sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
5. Add a teaspoon of additional oil if needed and sauté the onions and garlic till onion turns translucent and starts to turn golden.
6. Add back the chicken pieces and a cup of water or chicken broth, making sure to scrape off all bits from the pan.
7. Cover and let cook for 30 – 35 minutes till the chicken is cooked through.
8. Add the trimmed green beans, lemon slices and juice from remaining half lemon. Adjust salt and pepper and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in parsley.
9. Serve immediately with crusty bread.

NOTE: If sauce is too thin, remove chicken and vegetables to a serving platter and continue to cook the sauce with a tablespoon of butter and/or cream for a few additional minutes till it thickens a bit.

Pad Thai Style Asian Noodles

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Pad Thai is probably the most common Thai dish enjoyed in North America! It is a dish that offers a perfect balance of flavors. One down side is that if you prefer spicy food, this probably won’t be your top choice at a Thai restaurant. I prefer Pad See Ew or other spicy options when we dine at Thai restaurants, but occasionally I do enjoy the delicate flavors of Pad Thai.

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This recipe is inspired by traditional Pad Thai. I say inspired because it uses different blend of sauces/seasoning and vegetables. Served with a side of crispy cucumbers, red onions and jalapeno in a sweet and sour dressing, this noodle will taste light and refreshing.

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Pad Thai Style Asian Noodles

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients 8 oz wide rice noodles
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups of shredded napa cabbage
1 large carrot, shredded
3 green onions, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 inch piece of ginger, minced
½ lb medium uncooked shrimp or boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite size pieces
1 tablespoon corn starch

Sauce for the noodles 3 tablespoons sweet dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 dime sized ball of tamarind pulp dissolved in ¼ cup warm water
1 clove of garlic, minced,
¼ inch piece of ginger, minced
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 green onion, minced

Garnish
1 lime quartered
¼ cup toasted peanuts, crushed

Preparation
1. Bring a pot of water to boil and cook noodles according to instructions. Drain and set aside.
2. Prepare the sauce for the noodles by combining all the ingredients and simmering under low heat for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. In a large skillet or wok, heat one tablespoon of oil under high heat. Stir fry shrimp (or chicken) coated in cornstarch till cooked through. Remove to a plate and set aside till later.
4. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the wok and add ginger and garlic, followed by all vegetables. Stir fry the vegetables for about 3-5 minutes.
5. Add the cooked shrimp or chicken and follow with the sauce. Mix well.
6. Add the cooked noodles and gently toss to combine.
7. Serve immediately with a wedge of lime, a generous sprinkling of peanuts and a crisp cucumber salad!

Cajun Style Rice with Chicken Sausage

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I am one of those people who loves to use up leftovers fast. If I don’t plan to use them in the next day or two, I promptly freeze them up for the following week or so. Both options come in handy when I am looking for a quick meal idea.

And that’s exactly how this recipe was born! I had cooked brown rice in the refrigerator and also some leftover coconut milk. I also had a package of lean apple chicken sausage. I used to prepare more dishes with sausages but have cut down to using occasional chicken or turkey sausages. They are very handy to use in pasta or rice dishes and I usually have a package on hand.

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This recipe utilizes the basic trinity – bell peppers, onions and celery along with kidney beans. It was a snap to put together and tasted so delicious that I will certainly make it again for a planned meal as well.

Cajun Style Rice with Chicken Sausage

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients
1 1/2 cups of cooked brown rice
1 can of kidney beans (or other bean of your choice)
1 pkg chicken sausage
1/2 cup chopped green peppers
1/2 cup chopped red peppers
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped red onions
1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup tomato sauce
3 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste
1/2 avocado, sliced thin

Preparation
1. Slice the sausages into bite size pieces.
2. Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté all the chopped vegetables, including garlic.
3. Add the sausages and sauté for few minutes.
4. Add tomato sauce and thyme and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
5. Mix in the beans and rice.
6. Season to taste with salt. Be careful as tomato sauce and the sausage already add good amount of salt.
7. When the rice and beans and heated through with rest of the ingredients, gently stir in the coconut mil.
8. Serve immediately wit sliced avocado.

 

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Breasts with Caramelized Plantains

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African continent, the Middle East, Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka (other South East nations) all incorporate similar spices in various combinations to produce dishes with distinct flavor and taste! Most commonly used spices include cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, coriander, cumin, paprika, cayenne and turmeric. If you are an enthusiast of these cuisines, you would have noticed that whereas one dish might have a more pronounced taste of cinnamon, another might have hints of the different spices peeking through.

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African cuisine, as in other continents, differs widely across the continent in their use of spices, herbs and other seasoning including use of hot peppers for amped up heat. Moroccan food utilizes a blend of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, paprika, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, peppercorn and turmeric (as in Ras el Hanout blend). It results in a well-seasoned meat or poultry dish that is not typically spicy (as in heat).

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This dish is the result of wanting to infuse strong, yet enjoyable flavors into an otherwise, bland cut of chicken. I have been kind of staying away from the typical Indian/Sri Lankan curry flavors to try other exciting flavor combinations, and African flavors seemed to resonate with me this time around. After a quick inventory of spices on hand, I settled for a Moroccan inspired dish.

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Moroccan Spiced Chicken Breasts with Caramelized Plantains

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients

For chicken:
4 small chicken breasts, about 1 ½ pounds total
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2” piece cinnamon
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon canola oil (or nonstick cooking spray)

For sautéed banana:
2 large ripe plantains*
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

Preparation

  1. Begin by roasting the dry spices. In a small pan, dry roast coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon stick and peppercorns till they are lightly toasted taking care not to burn them. This should take about 3 minutes under medium low heat.
  2. Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind the toasted spices to a fine powder consistency. Combine with paprika, salt and cayenne and blend well.
  3. Wash and dry chicken breasts and sprinkle the spice mixture liberally on both sides. Cover and keep aside while you prepare the banana.
  4. Peel the plantains and slice into ¼” slices or bigger.
  5. Melt butter in a large skillet and sauté plantain slices under medium low heat for about 3-5 minutes. Turn them over.
  6. Sprinkle the plantains with cinnamon, salt, turmeric and cayenne and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Plantains should now look caramelized.
  7. Transfer to a plate and keep covered while you prepare the chicken.
  8. Heat the oil in a large skillet or grill pan. Conversely, spray the pan with cooking spray.
  9. When hot, add the chicken breasts and cook covered for about 4-6 minutes on each side till the meat is cooked through. One way to test is to cut through the breast in the thickest part. Meat should look cooked through and juices should run clear. Another option is to use the meat thermometer.
  10. Serve the chicken with sautéed plantains and a vegetable of your choice (I served mine with carrots and shredded kale, cooked with a little bit of water till both vegetables turned tender).
  • NOTE about plantains – Plantains will turn yellow and may even have black spots all over when they turn really ripe and sweet. In less ripe form, they have starchy taste and flavor rather than sweet and fruity.