Saturday, March 17, 2012

What's for dinner: Chicken in salsa, spicy chick peas and asparagus in feta vinaigrette

Chicken in salsa is one of our favorite ways to cook chicken. Like many of my recipes it was born from an idea I got while perusing another recipe. I wanted to cook chicken one night and was stuck between two recipes. One recipe was for a baked chicken with lemon and olives. The other one had something to do with marinara sauce. I liked the idea and thought about merging the two recipes together. But I had no marinara sauce and didn't really have the patience or the desire to whip one up from scratch. What I did have, what was staring me in the eye from a shelf in the pantry was a jar of salsa. I looked at the recipes, I looked at the salsa. A new recipe was born!

Salsa Chicken
4 chicken breasts, trimmed, filleted and cut in half
1 large jar of mild or medium salsa
1/2 can of pitted olives, or 1/4 cup of pitted Kalamata olives
2-4 tbs good olive oil
garlic salt, sea salt and ground pepper to taste

This could not be an easier meal to cook on a week night or even at the end of a long weekend day. I have a thing with chicken. It simply must be browned. I cannot eat pale chicken. So while I bake this in the oven,
I do brown the chicken on the stove before hand. I am careful about the mess I create and the clean-up involved since it inevitably falls back on me to clean up the mess that I've created. I lightly sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic powder on each piece of chicken. The chicken then gets sauteed for a few minutes each side for a nice golden, brown color. From there it goes into a shallow, oven safe baking dish, that has already been filled with the salsa. I place each piece of chicken (1 breast cut into 4 pieces) in the salsa and place the dish in the oven at 375 for anywhere from 15 - 30 minutes. The chicken will not over-dry. The salsa  will keep the meat nice and moist. If you are worried, feel free to cover the top of the dish with aluminum foil or such.

Once the chicken has all been cooked and placed into the oven, place the chick peas, into the already hot pan. They will pick up some of the flavor and turn a pretty brown color. Season with cumin, garlic powder and sea salt to your liking. (Taste as you cook to see how you prefer to adjust the flavors.)

Spicy Chick Peas
2 cans of chick peas, drained and rinsed
cumin, garlic powder and sea salt to taste
1 -2 tbs good quality olive oil

When the chick peas are cooked, remove from heat and place into the serving dish you plan to use. You can always reheat in the microwave if necessary.

In the same pan, add the olive oil. (You can boil or steam the asparagus) fill halfway with water and add 1 tsp of salt. Bring to a boil. Place the asparagus in the pan and cook for 3 - 5 minutes. While the veggies are cooking you will prepare the Feta Vinaigrette. The asparagus should be tender enough to pierce through easily with a fork. When the asparagus is cooked, drain the hot water and plunge them into an ice bath for about 30 seconds. Removed the asparagus and drain to dry on a kitchen towel.

Asparagus with Feta Vinaigrette (from The Naptime Chef)
2 pounds fresh asparagus, peeled and trimmed
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt plus more as needed
2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
1/2 cup ( 2 oz) crumbled feta cheese

Chicken in Salsa

Spicy Chick Peas

Asparagus in Feta Vinaigrette

Bon Appetit!