Paleo Grilled Lemon Garlic Chicken — My FAVORITE Chicken Marinade

There is this middle-eastern restaurant near me that makes a fabulous chicken shwarma dish with whole grilled chicken breasts.  The chicken is always super juicy and has such a great flavor with a hint of lemon and garlic.  I halfheartedly tried to copy it once or twice, but didn’t have much success.  A few weeks ago I stumbled across a yogurt based lemon and garlic marinade that sounded promising.  I omitted the yogurt to make it paleo friendly, and changed some of the seasonings around to suit my tastes a bit more.  The result was something pretty fabulous (if I do say so myself).  It was actually pretty close to the restaurant chicken, but even better!

I let my chicken sit in the marinade for 24 hours.  You could possibly do less, but the salt in the marinade brines the chicken, making it super moist and helping draw the flavors into the chicken.   If you are going to try for a shorter time, I’d give it at least several hours.  If you have the time, do yourself a favor and let it sit all night.  There is nothing remotely subtle about the resulting flavors here.  The lemon takes center stage and the resulting flavor is bright and bold and the fresh ground black pepper gives it a little kick.  Perfect for summertime!   A teaspoon of salt sounds like a lot, but it doesn’t come out overly salty and the salt brines the chicken to perfection.

Ingredients:

1.5 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (feel free to use bone-in pieces or other parts as you desire)

Marinade:

1 Tbsp Lemon Zest (about 1 medium lemon)

1/2 Lemon, juiced

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

4-6 Cloves Garlic, Crushed

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Pepper

Sprig of Fresh Rosemary

Few Sprigs of Fresh Thyme

Directions:

Add dry marinade ingredients to a gallon size zip lock bag (or lidded Tupperware container) and then add the wet ones.  Squish them around to mix up a bit and add chicken.  Seal bag and squish bag (or shake container) to thoroughly cover chicken.   Chuck it in the refrigerator and forget about it for 24 hours — Unless you are the overly attentive type, then you can go shake, flip, or squish your chicken a couple of times while waiting.  I just let mine sit and it came out fine.

Pre-heat grill on high for about 10 minutes (or until hot).  Reduce heat to medium.  Using tongs, place chicken on grill (using a fork will poke holes in the meat and let some of the juices out, making drier chicken).  Let sit 5 minutes.  Flip chicken breasts with tongs and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Smaller thinner breasts should be done at this point.  The larger breasts stayed on the grill and cooked for an additional 3 minutes per side.  Check chicken with a meat thermometer or slice into the thickest part of the breast and see if its done.

I served it with steamed broccoli and sweet potato hash browns.  I’ll be posting the sweet potato recipe next.

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Paleo Stuffed Chicken Breast with Dates, Capers, Bacon & a Walnut Crust

Some days you just feel like a culinary genius.  Today was one of those days!   Nothing super fancy — just chicken, but have you ever tried to come up with a chicken recipe that you have never tried before.  Not the easiest thing to do. Chicken is so ubiquitous  that it’s pretty much all been done.  I’m not claiming that I’m the first person in the thousands of years that man has been eating chicken to try this combination of flavors, but I’ve never seen it, and as far as my taste buds are concerned, that’s all that matters.   What is my masterpiece, you ask.  It is a boneless skinless chicken breast stuffed with dates, capers, and bacon.  To top it off I added a chopped walnut crust.   In theory it sounded good, but I was a little nervous about how the flavors would blend in the finished product.  No worries, it was as good as I had hoped!  I like the combination of walnuts and dates, but you could also use pecans or maybe pistachios too.

This dish will be a little sweet, but is balanced by the salty capers and bacon.  I recommend simple sides with this like steamed broccoli or mashed cauliflower.

Before getting to the recipe, a quick word about dates…

One of my Christmas cookie specialties (and the family favorite) is a date and nut pinwheel cookie.  My grandma’s recipe called for finely chopped dates.  If you have never worked with dates I will warn you — dates are sticky.  Chopping them by hand the way grandma did was a nightmare.  I did it exactly once, and then I bought a food processor.   A food processor works much better, but you still have a sticky bowl and blade to scrape and clean.  My world changed when I found pre-chopped dates —- more of a date paste really —- at a middle eastern market.  If you can find these in a store or market near you, DEFINITELY go this route.  At my market, I get a pack for $1.99.  It contains a cup of paste —- enough for 4 to 6 chicken breasts.   I’m not even sure I can buy whole dates that cheaply.  Cheap and easy.  Win win.

For my non-paleo or dairy eating friends — I really like Manchego cheese with dates and think it would be fabulous sliced thin and added to the stuffing in these.  It is a harder cheese and doesn’t melt well, so avoid using big chunks.

Ingredients:

     1.)  4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

     2.)  1 cup +/- date paste or finely chopped dates (amount will vary depending on how big your breasts are.  Actually, the size of your breasts is irrelevant, it’s the chicken’s that count.)

     3.)  4 tsp capers (could probably go a little heavier if you’d like)

     4.)  6 to 8 strips of bacon

     5.)  salt and pepper to taste

      6.) 1 egg –  lightly beaten

     7.)  1-1/3 c walnuts – Coarsely chopped  (the measurement is before chopping the nuts)

Directions:

Pound the chicken breasts to a relatively uniform thickness.  Put each breast, one at a time, between a couple of sheets of waxed paper to keep chicken juices and pieces from flying everywhere.  Then whack the crap out of it using a meat hammer, rolling-pin, or other weapon of choice (I personally have a heavy ice cream scoop I prefer) until the breast thickness is relatively uniform.  Feel free to take this time to work out some stress.  If you reduce the chicken to pulp, you may want to look into Prozac.

Salt and pepper both sides of each breast.

Spread with a thin layer of the date paste or chopped dates.  There is nothing magic about the amount, just avoid big globs.  Spread with the back of a spoon and work with fingers as needed.   Top with a teaspoon or so of capers.  (I used a tsp but may go a bit heavier next time).

 

 Add bacon to pretty much cover the chicken.  I used about a strip and a half for each medium-sized breast.  For larger chicken breast you could probably easily use two strip.

 

I probably should have mentioned this before but, have a supply of toothpicks out on the counter so you don’t have to reach into the box with chicken-y hands.  I’ll just leave this comment here and see how many of you read the recipe through before you start cooking.

Start at one end and roll chicken breast keeping things tucked in.   Secure with toothpicks  to hold its shape.  I like to tuck the sides as well to keep all the good bits inside and cover with chicken.

Brush the outside of your chicken roll with egg and roll in the  nuts to cover (don’t forget the sides!).  If you have any nuts left over at the end, feel free to touch up spots you missed.

Bake uncovered at 325 degrees until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.  I let mine sit for about 15 minutes before serving.  Don’t forget to remove the toothpicks!

Moroccan Chicken with Cinnamon Spiked Dried Plums – Crock Pot & Stove Top Versions

Moroccan Chicken with Cinnamon Spiked Prunes

Here’s a modified version of a recipe that hasn’t graced my table for a couple of years.  I don’t know why; I really liked it.  The original recipe comes from “The Complete Whole Grains Cookbook”, however, by simply omitting the couscous, this is paleo.  This time around I decided to use a whole chicken rather than chicken breasts.  I was also curious to see how it would work in a crock pot, so I gave it a whirl.  I am happy with the results.

The cinnamon spiked dried plums really give this dish its flavor.   Dried Plums by any other name are just prunes, but dried plums sounds so much more appetizing! The cinnamon spiked fruit makes for a sweet and flavorful sauce — and if it helps keep you regular, extra bonus!   This recipe is for the crock pot variation I made tonight.  I’ll also include the stove-top directions below the crock pot recipe if you prefer to try that.

Ingredients:

1 cup pitted prunes

1 tsp cinnamon (I recommend fresh ground if you have a spice grinder)

1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds) – rinsed and patted dry

3 onions – halved and thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic – minced

2 Tbsp fresh ginger root – minced

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp salt

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp black pepper (fresh ground recomended)

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 tsp saffron threads disolved in 2 Tbsp boiling water

1 tsp honey

1/2 tsp allspice for rubbing on chicken (optional)

Toasted sliced almonds (optional)

Directions:

The cinnamon spiked prunes are made separately.  You can make them the night before or while reducing  the broth from the crock pot.

In a saucepan, combine the prunes and cinnamon and cover with cold water (Only add enough water to cover the prunes).   Bring to boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until prunes are soft and water has been absorbed, about 30 minutes.  Set prunes aside (can be made the night before and stored in the fridge). ( FYI:  When I made this, I increased amount of prunes to 1.5 cups, but found it to be too much.  Stick with the 1 cup recommended in the recipe)

Prunes & Cinnamon

Place onions in the bottom of the crock pot.  Add garlic, ginger, cumin, salt, papper, cayenne, lemon zest, lemon juice, and saffron liquid.

Ingredients in the crock pot & ready for the chicken.

Place chicken on top of onions and spices.  Rub the allspice (optional) on the top of the chicken to give it a little color and a little extra flavor.  Crock pot contents can be assembled in the pot the night before and stored in the fridge until morning.  No need to add any liquid.  The chicken will make plenty of broth.

Allspice rubbed on top of chicken adds color and a little extra flavor.

Cook in the crock pot on low for 8 hours.  Remove cooked chicken from crock pot.  It’ll probably fall apart.  Be sure to remove all of the bones and chicken. Cover plate of chicken with foil to keep warm.

For the sauce:  Transfer contents of the crockpot (broth and onions) into a skillet or saucepan.  Cook on medium-high heat to reduce the liquid by about one-third to one-half depending on how thick you like your sauce.  Add the reserved cinnamon prunes and heat through. Spoon sauce over the chicken, garnish with almonds (optional), and serve.

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Stove-top Version

If you prefer to use chicken breasts (either bone-in or boneless) you can use the following stove-top directions.  Cooking time will be much less for boneless skinless chicken.

In addition to the ingredients above, you will also need 1 Tbsp of cocnut or olive oil and 1-1/2 cups of reduced sodium chicken stock.  In place of the whole chicken, use 2 pounds of skin-on bone-in chicken breasts or about 1.25 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts.

Directions:

Prepare the prunes as for the crock pot version above.

In skillet, heat oil in pan over medium heat.  Add chicken, in batches if necessary, and cook, turning once, until browned.  Transfer to a plate.

Add onions to skillet and cook until they begin to brown.  Add garlic, ginger, cumin, salt, lemon zest, cayenne, and black pepper.  Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add lemon juice, chicken stock, and saffron liquid.  Bring to boil.  Return chicken to pan, skin side up.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through (25 to 40 minutes).  Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.

Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frquently, until mixture is reduced by 1/3.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add honey and stir well.  Add reserved prunes and cook until heated through.  Return chicken to pan, cover, and heat through.

Plate and garnish with almonds if desired.