Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My most favoritest chicken sammich ever.

Oh hell yeah...

You see that? That's what a chicken sandwich should look like. Or a burger, for that matter. Pretty much any kind of sandwich. In fact, that's what a real sandwich does look like- messy; falling over; sesame seeds falling off; toppings spilling out. Not all perfect and cookie-cutter like the pics in chain restaurant menus and on tv. But whatever, we all know this already. So, let's talk about this sammich, shall we? I'm not sure who came up with it. But it's what we tend to eat at work most days. In fact, I eat it- on average- 4 days a week for lunch, and have been for at least the past year, and I'm not the least bit tired of it. Not even close. It's dead simple, too. So simple, in fact, that it doesn't even sound all that exciting or praise-worthy, or even worthy of a blog post. It almost sounds like an average chicken sandwich, albeit one with a little kick to it.

But it's not.

Ignore it at your peril. It's your loss if you do.

(check out that homemade bun action!)

But if you're interested, read on...

So like I said, I've been eating it an average of 4 days a week for lunch for at least the past year and am not the slightest bit bored with it. It's just so damn good. (Worth firing up the grill in the wintertime for, that's for sure!) And fairly quick and easy to make. All the ingredients are pretty much available anywhere. Homemade-bun-action is not necessary (I don't bother at work, but I've made them at home a couple times- I plan on doing a post on them here at some point). Ingredients are as follows-

Chicken breast
Lettuce, Tomato, Onion (LTO, as we say at work)
Nacho-sliced pickled jalapeños
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
Hamburger bun (Duh, right? But I've used plain old white bread before- a 'decent' quality, of course- when I didn't have any buns, and I have plans to use hoagie buns next. Mostly because I need to use them before I have to toss them.)
American cheese

And that's it. Now, I know a lot of folks turn their nose up at the lowly American cheese. And I know that it's sort of 'ghetto' in the foodie world. But it really works on this sandwich. It really does. Don't believe me? Go on, then. Try it and see. You'll be surprised. (C'mon, one time won't hurt. You know you want to.) Oh, and full disclosure here, the cheese used on the sandwich in these particular photos was Muenster. Muenster is one of my favorites (you should totally try it on pizza instead of Mozzarella!) but in the case of this sandwich, I actually prefer the American, I must say. I just used Muenster because I had it, and didn't have any American. Muenster rocks the grilled cheese sandwich, but for this sandwich, trust me- use American. Ok, let's put it all together...

First things first, though. You should really marinate the chicken in some sort of marinade, or at least brine it to help keep it tender and juicy. As far as a marinade goes, I really like this one, even though it was originally meant for steak. I tried it once with steak and didn't think it lived up to its name, but then again, I'm not much of a red meat eater anymore. Most of the meat I eat nowadays is chicken, so I tried it on that and liked it very much. But if you don't want to bother with making that up, then a simple brine of sugar/salt water does wonders. I usually dissolve 4-6 T each of sugar and salt (kosher, of course) per gallon of water and allow the chicken to soak in that for about an hour. Now when it comes to cooking, the chicken is really best grilled. Grilled over an open flame, that is, be it gas or charcoal. But if you don't have a grill, or if it's wintertime where you live (as it is here) and you don't feel motivated to fire the thing up, I have cooked the chicken under the broiler in my oven, as well as on one of those indoor electric grills (though not the 'Foreman' type- a review is planned for the future). Both worked sufficiently well, though grilling over open flame is definitely preferred.

While the chicken is cooking, make up some delicious chipotle mayo (if you don't already have some. It keeps for quite awhile in the fridge, so can be made well in advance). Although there really is no specific 'recipe' for chipotle mayo- you basically just chop up the can of chipotles (or run through the food processor/blender) and mix with mayo until it tastes the way you want- the general ratio I use is one can of chipotles (~ 7 oz./200 grams) to 4 cups mayo. You can throw the whole mix in the food processor and mix it all that way, if you like, but I've found that mayo doesn't stand up to a blender very well. It tends to un-emulsify. Lately, I've just been using a knife to chop the peppers by hand, and mix them into the mayo with a wire whip.

Before I go any further, I just want to point out the obvious- not all brands of chipotle in adobo/jalapeño slices are created equal. Not by a long shot. At work, we use Casa Fiesta chipotles, and Pasado (or El Pasado, I can't remember which it is) jalapeños, both of which are excellent, but neither of which I've seen in stores around here. So these are my picks, based on what I've found around my area-

San Marcos jalapeños are excellent, as are La Costeña chipotles. However- and this to me is very weird- San Marcos chipotles are not so good (I'd use them if I couldn't find something else I liked) and La Costeña jalapeños are downright yucky. Totally mushy, no crunch at all. I took one bite and threw the can away. (I would not use them if I couldn't find something else I liked.) Other brands I've tried that suck are Mrs. Renfro's, and Bakers and Chefs (Sam's Club). No offense to either of those brands, I have no doubt they make other quality products, but their jalapeño slices are just plain yucky. If you're not sure, it's best to try different brands until you find something you like. Just buy the smallest size available, one or two brands at a time until you hit the jackpot. I like the San Marcos jalapeños so much that I went out and bought one of those #10 size cans of them (around 4 lbs./1.8 kg, I think).


Mmmmm.... homemade hamburger buns!

I'm trying out different recipes for homemade burger buns. This one was pretty good, but I've only tried it once or twice. I want to make it at least one more time, as well as try out some of the others I've found before posting a review about them.

There's really not much else to say here- melt the cheese on the chicken, spread a generous amount of chipotle mayo on the bun (preferably homemade) add the jalapeños, lettuce, tomato, and onion, and prepare for a flavor explosion.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Today at Sweeney's...

So I made this Curry Chicken Stew today at work as part of the special. It turned out to be quite popular- we sold a boatload of it. The specials just flew right out the door. One guy even asked for the recipe (which I don't have, since I kind of just threw it all together as I went)! So I wrote down the ingredients and basic routine for putting it all together, and because it was so popular I plan on doing a post about it here, hopefully sooner rather than later, but for now this post is for that dude who asked for the recipe, on the off-chance that he may have stopped by (since I added the web address to the list of ingredients).

I left off one very important part- when you take the chicken out of the oven, save the cooking liquid and add it to the pot. It adds a very nice, and essential, chicken flavor to the stew, as well as saves you the step of either making your own chicken stock, or using a store-bought one. Also, it keeps the sodium level down (because even low-sodium chicken stock isn't really all that low-sodium). It really does make a difference. I found this out because I made approximately 3 gallons of soup (not un-typical for me) and so when it came time to replenish the soup-well, the second half was a little low on liquid, so I had to add more of everything to kind of even it out; except the only thing I didn't have was more of the liquid that the chicken was cooked in. And when I compared it to the first half, the difference was quite noticeable (to me, anyway). So, you don't want to skip that step.

And to any vegetarians who may have happened by here and want to try this out when the actual more-detailed post goes up- obviously, it can easily be made vegetarian (and still be great!) - just substitute with your favorite store-bought veggie stock or (I recommend) make your own- preferably with only veggies that are in the stew, or complement the ones that are (onions, garlic, celery, roasted red peppers, yellow bell peppers).

And... maybe, possibly (but not likely, in all honesty) I'll have this soup recipe-thingy posted around next week sometime : )

Monday, February 8, 2010

Leftover D-lite, II (also vegetarian, even)

So I opened the bottom drawer in my fridge (actually, it's my brother's fridge, but it's 'my' drawer) and noticed that I had half of a sweet potato that I needed to use up. Also had a shallot in there. Was thinking that maybe I'd sauté them up together in some olive oil and a little salt and pepper and try that on for size. Once I got started, I decided to throw on a little ground coriander, since it was sitting on the counter from being used earlier in the day. Why not, right? Also out was my little jar of star anise (mostly pieces, at this point). Again, why not? Had some minced garlic in the freezer too, calling out to me. In it went. As it was cooking, I headed down to the basement to see what I had hiding. What I ended up bringing up was some cooking sherry and double strength vanilla extract. In they went (couple splashes of the sherry, 1/2 t of the vanilla). And y'know what? It was pretty darn good-

If I'd had some cloves, I probably would've added one of those, or two. Thought about adding some balsamic vinegar, but went with the sherry instead. Some onions would've been nice, but for some reason I held off. I considered slicing up a banana and tossing that in. Maybe a carrot? Some fresh squeezed lemon juice? Had some red bell peppers that I got cheap today (a buck each, approximately). Those didn't make it, though. I have other plans for those, which I'm going to write about here at some point (you'll want to read that post, I can assure you). Lots of stuff could have gone into this dish, and probably would've been very good too. The point is, why leave a perfectly good sweet potato sitting in the bottom drawer of your fridge, waiting until it goes bad and has to get tossed? Why just bake it like everyone else and eat it with butter and brown sugar (like everyone else)? Play with your food. Experiment. You don't need a recipe- this is how recipes get created! Specific amounts? Who cares? Just go with less than you think you need, and add more as you find you need it.

This is how I cook.

This is what I eat.

Not every single day, not all the time. But I've been really, really turned off lately by a lot of the store-bought processed junk I used to go with, and see everyone else eating all the time. I prefer fresh, simple, homemade stuff. Not exactly the guilty pleasure that eating a whole bag of pizza bites with Frank's Red Hot used to be, but hey, I'm losing weight and feeling better about myself, so it's all good.