After New Year’s Day’s lunch, I had more than half a bottle of that cheap $5 kind of white wine leftover, along with a bunch of boneless, skinless chicken tenders yet to be cooked, and I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone. That was all this was supposed to be, a recipe to use things up, to get rid of what was expiring, but, like some of my favorite friendships or best memories, little did I know what it would become.
Here is how it started: Pulling out my Dutch oven, I laid eight seasoned chicken tenders inside, covering them with a very basic sauce of white wine and vegetable oil; checked them after 45 minutes to stir things around; and, in just over an hour of total baking time, pulled the pan out, the intense and satisfying smell of what I would eventually dub boozy chicken radiating through the kitchen, rich and warm and, pun intended, intoxicating. I’m not a drinker so, as a rule, the scent of alcohol isn’t likely to weaken knees, but people, this was something else.
It was Julia Child who said a good roast chicken is the kind that tastes nice and “chickeny”—and if you’ve ever tasted a well-roasted, seasoned, juicy bird, the kind that’s been turned 45 degrees every 15 minutes for several hours to simulate a rotisserie and, when it emerges from the oven, that’s golden on the outside, with crispy skin giving way to tender, flavorful meat inside, you know exactly what she means. I’d have spent the rest of my life assuming all that labor was the only way to get good roast chicken, the kind of chicken that becomes a base for salads and sandwiches and pasta dishes and anything else that will showcase its Julia-esque chickeny flavor, and I’d have been wrong.
A few bites in, it was all I could do to keep myself from eating piece after tender piece with my fingers, licking the buttery seasonings and smacking my lips together and still, after I ate a few of the tenders plain, things got even better.
First, there was the salad:
I tend to find a schtick and play it over and over again, at least when it’s one I like, and so this salad was nothing more than the one we had for New Year’s lunch, just with the addition of shredded, roasted boozy chicken throughout. I threw a half a lemon in my plastic container Monday and squeezed fresh juices all over the spinach and toasted almonds before eating the salad at lunchtime, and while I looked out at the snow around me, the citrus tasted like summer and sunshine and a million miles from here.
(Side note: the below textured photo is from my Project 365 series, a photo a day every day this year; have you heard about that?)
A day or two later: lettuce wraps.
I whipped up a homemade peanut sauce, using organic peanut butter and hoping to mimic a fantastic Thai sauce I’d had at Cheesecake Factory over the holidays. Did you know making peanut sauce is almost as easy as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? It’s true. Throw ingredients in food processor; blend; heat over the stove; done.
In deciding what to put on the wraps, I used my blogging friend Kendra’s advice and just pulled out all the little leftovers and nubs hiding in the back of the fridge: zucchini, carrots, onions, chunks of lettuce. Combined with the peanut sauce and the shredded chicken, good heavens! I was reduced to happy sighs, closed eyes and a nodding head. Yes. Yes, this is exactly how dinner should taste.
So now here we are, a week later, and the chicken is all gone, but can I tell you something? It will be back soon. Very soon indeed. Because in this life where it seems people are always saying they’re disappointed or having their expectations unmet, when you find something that does just the opposite, well, that’s something you hold onto, whether it’s a person or a hobby or a kind of chicken dinner. And I will.
Adapted from AllRecipes.com
8 boneless, skinless chicken tenders
2 teaspoon garlic powder or minced garlic
some poultry seasoning
a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper
1 cup white wine
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season chicken tenders with garlic, poultry seasoning and salt/pepper, and lay them in the dutch oven or a 9 X 13 pan. In a small bowl, mix wine and oil, and pour this mixture all over the chicken. Cover pot or pan, and put in oven for 45 minutes.
Check on the chicken: turn over pieces, stir around the juices, spooning pan sauce over chicken. Return to oven for another 20 minutes, until juices run clear.
Roast Chicken Salad
The salad recipe is here. For this version, just add chopped roasted chicken throughout, along with a big chunk of lemon for squeezing.
Chicken Lettuce Wraps
*For tips on assembly, go be inspired by Kendra’s blog.
*For a killer Thai peanut sauce, see below.
Thai Peanut Sauce
Adapted from Cooks.com
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup minced yellow onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper (I chopped up some giardiniera I had on hand)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/3 cup peanut butter (I used all-natural organic)
1 cup of water
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and mix for about a minute. Pour mixture into sauce pan and cook down until it’s the consistency you want (about 10 minutes).