By Beverly Barbour
Don't be afraid to play chicken
Just because chicken is one of the least expensive proteins we can offer guests doesn't mean that it can't be a special treat. It is all in how you dress the bird for its trip to the table. One of characteristics of chicken that make it worth crowing about is its versatility. You can do so many things with the whole bird or its parts that if boredom sets in it is the cook's fault.
Chicken en Papillote
Anything cooked in parchment paper (your can substitute aluminum foil if need be) somehow becomes very special. Is it possible that we all love a surprise?
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
Preheat oven to 400 F. Tear off four sheets, each 15-inches long, of parchment paper. Fold each sheet in half and cut out a large heart shape, using folded edge as center of heart. Soak sun-dried tomatoes to rehydrate following package directions. Drain and set aside. Unfold each parchment heart. Arrange one-fourth of sun-dried tomatoes on one-half of each heart near fold. Place one chicken breast half over tomatoes on each heart. Sprinkle chicken with basil, salt and pepper. Top with remaining vegetables and butter. Fold over other half of each heart to enclose ingredients. Starting at top of each heart, make small overlapping folds to seal edges together. Twist the last fold at bottom of heart several times to make a tight seal; place parchment packages on a large cookie sheet. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Place packages on dinner plates. Carefully cut an "X" in the top of each package to allow steam to escape. Makes 4 servings.
"I've never served it without someone asking for the recipe," says Mary Ingraham.
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
Coat skillet with cooking spray, add chicken and cook until browned, stirring frequently. Heat large Dutch oven and coat with cooking spray. Add onion to pan, sauté until tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in seasonings and sauté 1 minute. Stir in chiles, reduce heat to low and cook 10 minutes, partially covered. Add chicken, water, beans and broth; bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in hot sauce. Sprinkle each serving with cheese, cilantro and scallions. Makes 8 servings.
Barbecued Chicken Pizza
For a short cut, start with prebaked pizza crusts from the supermarket, frozen bread dough or bake your own.
1 pound boned, skinned chicken breasts
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place chicken pieces in a baking pan and coat with about 2 tablespoons barbecues sauce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until no longer pink at the center of thickest part, about 20 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle; then tear into bite-size chunks. In a small bowl mix with remaining barbecue sauce. Meanwhile, in a frying pan cook bacon until browned and crisp. To drain transfer bacon to paper towels spread over newspaper. Preheat oven to 400 F. Place pizza crusts on baking sheet and spread each with about 2 tablespoons cream cheese. Spoon chicken sauce evenly over both crusts; top with bacon, green chilies, cheese and hot chili flakes. Bake until cheese s browned and bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve in wedges. Makes 2 to 3 servings.
Almond Asiago Chicken Breasts
Oven baked chicken with coatings that are easy to assemble and quick to cook. The breasts are dipped in buttermilk then in crunchy almonds and Asiago cheese.
2 whole chicken breasts, boned and skinned
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease ovenproof frying pan or baking dish and set aside. Place almonds, cheese, onion and pepper in a blender. Grind mixture into a coarse meal and spread in shallow bowl. Pour buttermilk into another shallow bowl. Dip each breast piece in buttermilk, then coat each in nut mixture. Set slightly apart in prepared pan. Bake, uncovered, for 24 minutes. Makes 4 or more servings.