Thursday, September 1, 2011

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

If you've been paying attention at all, you've probably realized that there are two things that we eat a lot of in my house:

1. Chicken
2. Rhubarb

(okay, I'll give you 3. Zucchini, but that's just because there's so darn much of it right now.)

We eat a lot of rhubarb for the same reason we eat a lot of zucchini.  I have a lot of it, and since it's in my garden it's basically free.  But I also really like it.  I feel like rhubarb is a very under appreciated vegetable.  (It would be a vegetable and not a fruit, because it doesn't have any seeds.  According to Wikipedia, Rhubarb is USUALLY considered a vegetable; however, in the United States, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit, it was to be counted as a fruit for the purpose of regulations and duties.  This reduced the amount paid in taxes on rhubarb.  So what we have learned from this is that taxes are higher on vegetables than on fruit.)  Rhubarb is, in most homes, at most, a pie filling.  Maybe occasionally a crumble or something of that nature.  But a dessert to be certain.  I have so far used it for ribs, risotto, and as a salad dressing.  It's good savory, because it has so much flavor.  If you cook it down without sugar, or with a little bit of honey or maple syrup, you can get a tart sauce that pairs amazingly with spice.  You don't even need a recipe; just throw a cup or two in a pan over low heat and let it cook down until soft and bubbly and there are no more solid chunks.

We eat a lot of chicken because it is probably my favorite meat.  From a foodie perspective, I'm guessing that's blasphemous.  Chicken is boring and pedestrian and whatever.

But it's not.  Chicken is, in my opinion, the most multi-functional meat there is.  Especially if you take into account how much smaller it is than your other major varieties of meat.  I mean, you may have way more cuts of beef than you have cuts of chicken, but on the other hand, a cow is like 100 times bigger than a chicken, so that would make sense!  And, yeah, to grill a chicken is pretty easy... you know... unless you do this... but there's so much more you can do with chicken as well.

So, my thought was to combine the two.  And that brings us to today's recipe.  This is a pretty simple recipe, with not a lot of steps and ingredients.  It's starting to feel like fall in Wisconsin in the evenings, and I'm starting to want to turn the oven on a little.  As much as I like the comforting taste of baked food, this summer has not been long enough and it's a little disappointing:

Baked Rhubarb Chicken

  • One chicken, cut into quarters (L)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch slices (L*)
  • 1 Serano chili, minced (L*)
  • 2 tbsp garlic scapes, minced (L)
  • 2 tbsp honey (L)
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Season chicken generously with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Heat olive oil over high heat in large pan, and brown chicken on both sides, working in batches to avoid crowding.  Meanwhile, in a large baking dish, combine rhubarb, chili, garlic, and honey.  Flatten mixture so it creates an even layer on the bottom of the dish, and as the chicken is browned, place it on top of the rhubarb in the dish.

I left one piece out here, so you could see the rhubarb.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.  The chicken should be golden and crispy on top, and the rhubarb should be soft, with no crunchy-ness.  It is okay if you can still see the shape of the individual pieces of rhubarb; it should more or less look like rhubarb pie filling.

I served this with boiled new potatoes, and actually scooped the juice of the rhubarb sauce over the chicken and potatoes, using it as a gravy.  I also made a tomato and cucumber salad, which is an easy summer side dish.  One of the nice things about fresh cucumbers in the summer is that the peel tastes delicious, and isn't tough.  Don't eat the peel on a grocery store cucumber, though, because it's actually wax.  In my opinion, the crispness and acidity of the salad is a really good balance for the chicken.  The chicken itself is pretty rich, and would make a good fall or winter meal, if you have the rhubarb at that point:

Tomato and Cucumber Salad:

  • 1 cucumber, peel intact, cut into quarters and then sliced - about 1 cup (L*)
  • 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes (L*)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp minced fresh dill (L*)
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic scapes (L)
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled (L)
  • splash balsamic vinegar 
Combine all ingredients, and mix gently.

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