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What's for dinner? Chicken, prepared 3 unique ways inspired by 3 different cultures

Chicken and white bean chili with tortilla strips. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)
Chicken and white bean chili with tortilla strips. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

What’s for dinner? So often the answer is chicken. It’s relatively inexpensive, easy to cook and highly adaptable. Chicken can be baked, broiled, grilled, fried, steamed or stir-fried. Every culture has its own traditions, from Asian stir fries to Thai chicken noodle soups to East Asian curries to fried chicken from around the world to Italian chicken parmesan to a classic roast chicken.

Here are three new recipes. The first is inspired by the classic Filipino dish, chicken adobo. Chicken pieces are simmered in coconut milk, lots of garlic, chilis, soy sauce and vinegar. It’s a comforting, delicious dish that can be served over white rice and sprinkled with scallions.

The second recipe is a riff on a classic Italian dish, chicken Milanese. Chicken thighs are coated in seasoned egg and then dipped in coarse panko breadcrumbs. The coated chicken is lightly fried in olive oil until golden brown and then finished off in the oven. It’s traditionally served with a lemony salad on the side or sprinkled with arugula leaves and thin shavings of Parmesan cheese.

And finally, a take on an American classic, chili. Ground chicken and white beans are simmered in chicken broth with cinnamon, cumin and chili. The chili is served with all kinds of toppings: grated cheese, sour cream, chopped scallions, avocado, and fried tortilla strips (or taco chips).

All three dishes are ideal for this shift in the season and the weather.

So, what’s for dinner tonight?

Chicken adobo

Chicken adobo. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

This recipe was inspired by my friends Romy Dorotan and Amy Besa, owners of the wonderful Filipino restaurant Purple Yam in Brooklyn, New York. My version uses coconut milk and plenty of garlic along with soy sauce and vinegar. If you can find Chinese black vinegar, it adds a wonderful depth of flavor, but rice wine vinegar will also work. Serve with white rice and finely chopped scallions.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • One 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup Chinese black vinegar or rice wine vinegar*
  • 6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 to 2 chili pepper(s) left whole
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • Generous amount freshly ground black pepper


Serve with

  • 1 cup cooked basmati rice
  • ¼ cup finely chopped scallions


*Black vinegar is made from fermented rice and has a rich malty flavor.

Instructions

  1. Place the chicken pieces into a non-reactive bowl or large plastic bag and top with all the ingredients. Marinate for 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
  2. Pour the chicken and marinade into a large Dutch oven or soup pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and just cooked through.
  3. Preheat the broiler on high. Remove the chicken pieces and place on a broiler pan or baking sheet.
  4. Remove the bay leaves and chilis and simmer the marinade until slightly thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
  5. Broil the chicken, skin side up, for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until crispy brown and cooked through.
  6. Serve the chicken topped with the hot reduced marinade, sprinkled with the scallions. Serve with rice.

Chicken and white bean chili with tortilla strips

Chicken and white bean chili with tortilla strips plus garnishes. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

This chili is hearty but also feels lighter than many versions made with red meat. This version combines white beans, ground chicken, spices, fresh lime juice and chili peppers. It is served with fried tortilla strips (or tortilla chips) and a collection of colorful garnishes. The chili can be made up to 2 days before serving and can also be frozen for several months. Depending on the amount of chili flakes and chili you add, this can be mild or spicy.

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients

The chili:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Mexican oregano or oregano
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • Dash red chili flakes to taste
  • 1 small green chili, seeded and cored and finely chopped or 1 green canned chili, or several dashes hot pepper sauce
  • Two 15-ounce cans white beans, drained, rinsed, and drained
  • 3 to 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 pound ground chicken or boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into small cubes
  • 1 finely chopped scallion
  • Juice of 1 large lime


Garnishes

  • 4 corn tortillas (or about 2 cups tortilla chips)
  • About ¼ cup vegetable oil, if making your own tortilla strips
  • Sea salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded cheese, sharp cheddar or jack or your favorite blend
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • Hot pepper sauce
  • Chopped fresh cilantro


Instructions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, salt, pepper, a dash of chili flakes, and half the oregano, cinnamon, and cumin. Cook, stirring, for 10 minutes. Stir in the chili pepper and the beans. Add 3 cups of the chicken broth, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid reduces slightly.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, remove about half of the beans to a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash the beans until thick and paste-like. Add back to the chili pot; this should thicken the chili slightly and create a creamy consistency. Add the additional cup of chicken stock if the chili seems too thick or you like a thinner chili.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the remaining oregano, cinnamon, cumin, and a dash of chili flakes and cook for 10 seconds. Add the ground chicken and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until it just begins to brown. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and add to the bean pot along with the lime juice, and scallions, stirring to combine all the ingredients. Let simmer for about 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Fry the tortilla strips or open a bag of tortilla chips: in a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot. To test, add a tiny piece of tortilla to the hot oil; it should sizzle up without burning. Cook the tortilla strips in batches, being careful not to crowd the skillet, for about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Gently flip them over and cook for another 2 minutes; they should be golden brown and begin to slightly puff. Remove to a paper towel to drain and sprinkle with sea salt. Repeat with the remaining tortilla strips.
  5. Serve the chili topped with several strips of tortilla and bowls of the garnishes: sour cream, cheese, scallions, lime, hot pepper sauce and cilantro on the side.

Chicken Milanese

Chicken Milanese. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

There are many versions of this classic Italian dish. Here I use boneless chicken thighs that are dipped in seasoned eggs and then coated in coarse panko breadcrumbs. The chicken is sauteed in olive oil until golden brown on each side and then placed on a baking sheet and finished off in a hot oven. I like to serve the chicken with a salad or arugula on the side, lightly tossed with lemon juice and olive oil. You can also top the chicken with thin shavings of Parmesan cheese with a wedge of lemon.

Serves 2 to 4.

Ingredients

  • 2 large or 3 medium eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • About 1 to 1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 pound chicken thighs*
  • About 2 ½ tablespoons olive or vegetable oil


The garnishes

  • ½ cup thin shavings of Parmesan cheese, optional**
  • 2 cups arugula leaves or mixed greens or butter lettuce
  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • Freshly ground black pepper


*I don’t pound the chicken, but if you’d like a thinner, crispier piece of chicken, place the thighs between two sheets of wax paper and carefully pound them flat with a meat pounder or a rolling pin.

**Use a wide vegetable peeler and shave off thin slices from ½ pound chunk Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl whisk the eggs with plenty of salt and pepper. Place the panko on a large plate. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Dip one piece of chicken at a time in the seasoned eggs, making sure to coat on both sides. Using tongs, dip the chicken into the panko, coating well on both sides. You want a good solid crust of panko. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
  3. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 ½ tablespoons of the olive oil. Let it get hot. (You can test by placing a speck of panko into the hot oil; it should gently sizzle but not burn.) Add a few pieces of the dipped chicken to the hot skillet and cook for about 4 minutes; gently flip over (it should be a gorgeous golden brown color) and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes on the other side. Place on a baking sheet; repeat with the remaining oil and chicken.
  4. Place the chicken on the baking sheet in the middle of the preheated oven for 15 to 17 minutes; it should be cooked through with no signs of pinkness.
  5. Serve the chicken on a platter topped with the cheese slices, if using. Serve the arugula or lettuce alongside the chicken and drizzle the arugula leaves or lettuce with the olive oil and lemon juice and a grinding of pepper. Place the lemon wedges around the chicken.

Other favorite chicken recipes

  • Click here for recipes for chicken piccata, chicken salad and chicken parmesan
  • Click here for recipes for roast chicken, chicken curry and chicken salad
  • Click here for three fried chicken recipes
  • Click here for tips on cooking fried chicken

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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