Friday, May 20, 2011

Chicken Tender Melts

Like most people, I have fund memories of late nights/early mornings spent at the local Perkins restaurant. If you're one of the unlucky ones to live in a state without Perkins, you have my sympathies. When I was younger, it was either Saturday morning breakfast with grandma and grandpa, or Sunday morning family breakfast/lunch with friends from church. In high school, it was where we'd gather with groups of friends to hang out (especially when Dairyland wasn't open, either because it was closed for the season, or it was too late at night). In college, it was where we'd gather with groups of friends to hang out or study (often into the wee hours), or satisfy that odd craving for a slice of their amazing French Silk pie and a plate of onion rings (a combination I ordered way more times than I like to admit). 

When I was younger, one of the things they were known for is serving things (noteably, salads) in bread bowls roughly the size of the average human head . I was so intrigued by the concept of the breadbowl that I found myself ordering various breadbowl salads frequently, despite the fact that I didn't start liking salads until I was about 17. Much to my parents probable chagrin, I ended up eating the breadbowl and the rest of the salad accoutrement, but none of the lettuce.

Then, I discovered their chicken tender melt. Crisp chicken tenders, bacon, and melted pepperjack cheese inside grilled sour dough with a ranch dipping sauce. Delicious! Of course, like a large portion of my favorite chain restaurant items, it's since been taken off the menu. So I tried re-creating it at home. And it was a success.

Chicken Tender Melts
Inspired by Perkins Restaurant
Serves 2

6-8 chicken tenders (we made our own)
4-6 slices pepperjack cheese
4 slices sourdough bread
4 strips bacon

Cook the chicken tenders until cooked through. I think frying the chicken tenders would produce the best results (and more true to the original), but I think baking them or even using grilled chicken breast strips would  also be really good.

Cook off a few strips of bacon. Drain and set aside until you start making the sandwich.

Assemble the sandwich like you would a grilled cheese: butter the outsides of two slices of sourdough. Place on top of it 1-2 slices of pepperjack, then 3-4 chicken tenders, then 2 strips of bacon, then another 1-2 slices of pepperjack. Top with the remaining slice of buttered bread.

Grill over medium high heat until golden brown on both sides, probably about 4 minutes each.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Chicken in Whiskey Cream Sauce

It's not often that I blog about something on the same day I make it. Usually, I think about it for a few days (sometimes consult my husband for his opinion) and decide whether it's something I should share. This is not one of those dinners that requires that sort of pondering. However, truth be told, I probably wouldn't blog about this so quickly if it weren't for my wonderful husband deciding to do the dishes and clean the kitchen tonight (I kind of think he was trying to get out of being in the vicinity when I was watching Sister Wives, but whatever...). So, please believe me when I tell you that you have to make this recipe.

For the past few months, I haven't had a ton of time during the week to spend in the kitchen. I miss it terribly. As a result, I end up making a mess of the kitchen on the weekend. Today, I made bagels, pita bread, roasted most of a chicken, and made this little plate of deliciousness. I think I had one clean pan and about 2 inches of free counterspace when I got done in the kitchen.  Considering it's raining and a bit cold, I decided a nice chicken in a cream sauce with mashed potatoes would hit the spot. And it did. Boy, did it ever. Go make it now. You won't regret it. And truth be told, this is probably something a person with a normal schedule could make easily during the week. I just don't have the luxury of normalcy.

 Chicken in Whiskey Cream Sauce
Serves 2 (sauce probably serves 4)
Prep Time - 5 minutes
Cook Time - 35 minutes

4 pieces bone-in chicken (we used legs & thighs)
2 TBS olive oil
1 TBSP butter
salt & pepper (for seasoning chicken)
1/2 cup whiskey (I used Tullamore Dew - we only buy Irish)
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 small onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup half & half (I'm sure cream or 2% milk would be equally good)
2 TBSP flour
salt & pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil & butter over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Skin the chicken if you want (if you want to be healthy or something - the rendered fat provides great flavor to the onions you'll eventually be sweating). Season the chicken pieces with salt & pepper. Add to skillet and brown on all sides.

Transfer chicken to a roaster and finish in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until chicken is done.

While chicken is roasting, add the onions and garlic to the pan and stir. Add whiskey to the pan to deglaze. Scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add stock and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the garlic. Let simmer for about 5-10 minutes.

Add half & half and flour to the pan and whisk together. Let simmer for about 10 minutes, or until it starts to thicken. If it starts to get too thick, add more stock or cream (decide which you're going to use based on how indulgent you're feeling).

When the chicken is cooked through and the skin is nice and crispy, remove from the oven and spoon the sauce over the top to serve. Serve with mashed potatoes (I'm sure the sauce would be great over egg noodles, too, and I plan on trying that with the leftovers later this week). Have an after-dinner Bailey's on ice as a night-cap.