Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Monday, September 8, 2008

It's all in the technique

A post by somebody I am linked to on my blog led me to a link on their blog and I found myself yesterday reading some guy who lives in the Bay Area talking about how he believes in technique as much as recipes.

I buy that to some extent (with baking as the notable exception I suppose). Especially with salads, say, I agree with the guy who said he typically just keeps adding ingredients bit by bit until it all looks right to his eye. I do the same which is why we tend to end up with oversized salads around here. Some nights what looks right simply has a whole lot going on.

Some of my favorite cookbooks are as much about technique as specific recipes. Julia Child's "The Way to Cook" comes to mind as an example. She did not just throw down recipes, she talked about why certain foods respond well to being prepared a certain way, and with those parameters in mind, she then lined out a series of variations on that theme that offers a host of different but delicious preparations utilizing similar techniques.

Last night, already being in a "technique over recipe" frame of mind, when I found I was short an ingredient needed for the meat loaf I'd originally planned, I punted, protein wise. I looked at what else I had to use and ended up adapting a recipe I saw on a PBS cooking show recently that featured different ways to cook chicken.

I decided to take the technique demonstrated, modify it as needed, and hopefully end up with delicious dinner. I had on hand a boneless, skinless chicken breast and tortilla chips and decided to use some of the rest of my daughter's Mayonnaise that she left with me after moving to Michigan to start law school. (mommy brag again? uh huh..)

I cut the breasts into scallopini-ettes, coated them with mayonnaise because I know that makes for some really moist baked chicken, and then slathered them in chip crumbs that I had processed and seasoned with freshly ground black pepper (they are already salted).I put those into two baking dishes that I'd sprayed with oil, and put them into a preheated 350 degree oven. I checked at 12 or so minutes and they look like they'll take about 30 minutes baking time.

We're going to have these with a large salad, a couple of slices of fresh local organic tomatoes, and that's it.

I don't know how to do a nutritional evaluation of this dish, honestly. But you tell me - am I totally kidding myself that this is a healthier way to prepare chicken than frying it with the skin on? That it is baked makes it healthier is my guess - and certainly also what I wish to be true. But do I overcome the advantage of baking over frying by adding mayonnaise and crushed corn chips (which are fried themselves)?

What do you think? Boneless skinless chicken coated in mayo, dredged in crushed tortilla chips and baked. Good ingredient and good intentions gone wrong, or a fine plan to use up what I have on hand deliciously?

Post Eatem: The chicken came out of the oven looking a little lighter than I wanted so I ran it up under the broiler for just a quick top toasting. I was so cautious with that (I've "french roasted" things by being inattentive before) perhaps the short trip under the broiler wasn't really effective. I know it could be, we'll leave it at that.Also - my husband and I both agreed that my hesitance to add any salt to the mayonnaise or tortilla chips since they were already salted resulted in a final product that yet needed a bit more salt and pepper. Next time I will salt and pepper the breasts before I put on the mayo and I will add more pepper to the crushed chip coating.

A word about the coating. I processed the chips until they were the size of large crumbs and I think that worked pretty well in terms of a crunchy coating that baked up in a way you could easily enjoy. I didn't want chicken that bit back, you know? The roasted corn flavor that develops in the chip crumbs is deliciously subtle. In future I will likely play around with adding a bit of sage or even some chile powder to the coating mix for variety. The technique overall is a winner in my book. This would work with fish or thin pork cutlets as well. Loads of possibilities. The mayonnaise keeps the meat moist while it cooks through. The coating develops an intriguing roasted corn flavor and gives you great texture. Unless I decide the combination is too fat laden or calorically excessive, I can see this finding a regular spot in our dinner rotation.

1 comment:

Flapjacks said...

nice. you read obsession with food. i don't know how i found that, but i did, and i like it. he talks a lot about this guy named tom. his best friend, and excellent chef. he died last january. his blog, butter pig, is unreal. i almost read a whole years worth without realizing it. he could cook, and from the way derrick? writes about him, he was a great person.

that chicken sounds good, i'd like to try it with pork too. you could mix fresh herbs or garlic in with the mayo, and it would adhere nicely...