Thursday, December 16, 2004

Recipe: Chicken wrapped Chorizos

The first few times I tried this, I had no idea what to expect, so I didn’t take any pictures. Having decided that it’s a keeper, this time I had to go and do it with Chistorra instead of Chorizos, but hey, it’s all in the family . . .

The Chistorra is a “breakfast sausage” (as it says on the package) that is slightly milder (to my taste), and slightly softer than the Chorizos. But the flavor is clearly similar, and both have worked well in this dish – a kind of ‘pigs in poultry blankets’ idea. We served it with green beans and tomatoes (see posting) and paprika fried potatoes (see posting) and a balsamic veggie vinaigrette.

here's what you'll need . . .
1 bonless skinless chicken breast per serving
1 Chorizos (or relative) per serving
breadcrumbs, plain, lightly toasted
ground cumin
tarragon leaf, dried
coarse (Kosher) salt
fresh ground Tellicherry pepper
olive oil
butcher’s twine, poultry skewers, or toothpicks (sorry, duct tape will not work!)

Chicken Chorizos ingredients

The first step is to cook up your Chorizos, or in this case Chistorras. Get your pan hot, pour in a couple Tbsps. of olive oil, swirl til fragrance, and toss in the sausage. Turn Down The Heat. On my stove, ‘8 o’clock’ is about the right setting. You want to get the outside brown and crispy without turning the sausage into leather on the inside. I cook ‘em for about 10 minutes or so, just enough time to deal with the ‘hard part.’

The only ‘hard’ part of this dish is flattening out the chicken breasts. Well, actually, the hard part is getting an actual boneless, skinless chicken breast from your local supermarket (or at least, my local supermarket, where they generally get most of the skin off but that’s about it. But that’s another rant for another day . . .) So, back to breast beating.

I don’t have one of those neat little round, flat, hockey-puck-like pounders, but if you do, use it! Otherwise, try the flat side of your Chinese knife, the bottom of a heavy skillet, or just your bare hand. Do not use one of those pointy little hammer-like ‘tenderizer’ gizmos – you’ll just end up with chicken sludge.

Whatever the weapon of choice, flatten out your chicken breasts a bit. You’re not making paper here, but an even thickness is important so that the chicken will cook evenly. I usually try to get the thick end of the breast down to about the same thickness as the thin end – maybe about ¼” or so? And do work carefully so you can avoid tearing the chicken. I’d rather have my chicken roll not quite all the way around the sausage than have to wrap it three times around to cover the holes I tore while flattening it out!

Chicken breasts beaten flat

By now, the sausage should be done, so pull it out and leave it on a plate to cool down for a while. Save the oil in the pan – you’ll be using that to cook the chicken in a few minutes!

Chorizos, well, Chistorras, cooked

In a small bowl or big measuring cup, or, hey whatever you can find, add about 1 Tbsp. each of flour and of breadcrumbs per serving (chicken breast). Toss in some ground cumin, some hand crushed dried tarragon leaf and some coarse salt. I’d guess about 1/3 to ½ tsp. of cumin, about ½ to 1 tsp. of tarragon, and enough salt so you can see a sprinkle of white on top of the other stuff. Then give 6 or 8 good grinds of Tellicherry over the top.

Chicken chorizos breading

OK. Mix it up thoroughly and dump it out onto a plate or a piece of waxed paper.

Lay one now-cooled sausage, atop one chicken breast, well wait a minute. Let’s see, how to say this. Turn the chicken breasts ‘beauty side’ down. Beauty side? Well, that’s the side you’d have facing up on the plate, staring the diner in the face when you serve your creation – whatever it is. And, by the way, remember to always cook the beauty side first! Especially if you’re grilling or searing something, but even if you’re sautéing, beauty side first makes the best presentation.

So. Roll up a sausage in the middle of a chicken breast. Usually a slight angle works better than straight across or straight down the length. Use your string to tie your little package, or skewer the meeting edges of the chicken together.

Chicken chorizos rolled

Now, crank the heat back up on your stove burner, about 4 o’clock or so – but don’t put the pan on just yet.

Give each of your chicken wrapped chorizos and generous rub of olive oil and then roll them in your breading mixture. Get a good thick coating on them.

Now put the pan back on the burner. And go give your chickens another roll in the, uh, breading, and then right into the pan. If the timing was ‘right’ they should be sizzling nicely. Keep the heat up for maybe another 30 seconds, no more than 1 minute, and then turn it down – once again, about 8 o’clock on my stove.

Chicken chorizos in the pan

Leave ‘em alone. One of the hardest ‘lessons’ to learn in the kitchen – don’t mess with the food, give it time. After about 4 or 5 minutes, give the pan a gentle, sliding shake, just to make sure that the chicken has ‘released’ from the pan. Food will, you know. With practice, and patience, and yeah, the right temperatures, that slab of whatever sizzling and smoking and burning up on that hot pan will just suddenly, let go. If you’re there to give the pan a shake, it will stay released. Miss the shake and you’ll be needing Brillo (and a Pizza parlor nearby).

So. If the chicken released, give it another 2 or 3 minutes to develop a rich golden brown color and then roll it over. The second side will take another 10 - 15 minutes or so, and after a couple of minutes, turn the heat down a little more (half way to 9 o’clock). After a couple more, roll the chicken this way and that to get the ‘edges’ cooking also.

Chicken chorizos still in the pan

When they’re done, which means they’ve been on the second side at least 8 minutes to make sure the chicken is at least mostly cooked (I prefer the 'overcooked' of 12 - 15 minutes), and they’re a nice brownish color to your liking, turn ‘em out onto plates and serve up a wonderful meal!

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