Thursday, May 5, 2011

Go, go, go....fast dinner: grilled bruschetta chicken

Crunch time for me and I'm still dragging with the cold.  Not good.  The sun is out today so I'm counting on that boost to get me moving, but I am still sitting here at my kitchen island in my jammies.  You know the kind of tired where even your fingers are tired?  That's where I am this week.  That is not where I need to be.  So much to do, something must get crossed off the list today.  The thing about big parties is that as much as you need the rest of your life to just be suspended for a week or two, that just doesn't happen.  Well, it could happen but then your family will not want you to throw any more parties.

So today I need to write you a little post, clean the bathrooms, make dinner (easy, it's Cinco de Mayo so fajitas are on the menu because everyone loves them and they are super fast especially if you have a jar of the sweet mesquite seasoning from Costco, all you need for spices, it rocks!), change the linens in the guest room (oops, the one bed that still has flannel sheets and as cold as it is this morning it will be too warm for flannel sheets tonight) and etc...  Then there is the little matter that it's Mother's Day this weekend which means that my lovely parents will visit from Ohio.  I have warned them that they are inserting themselves into a crazy weekend with Kelly moving home from Purdue (and just over two weeks before she leaves for her summer abroad with one backpack!!!!!!), Sara still playing lacrosse and studying for exams and me trying to keep all the balls in the air and not just drop from exhaustion.  Joy!  All I want for Mother's Day (besides the mystery gift Sara bought for me in Durham last week) is someone to help me clean the windows.  That's it, please help.  Not only do I despise cleaning windows, I am not really good at it.

What am I doing sitting here typing?  Must get moving.

Here is a quick dinner idea for you.  Really good if it's summer and you have basil on hand from your herb garden (now is the time to plant from seeds here in the Midwest).  If not, go to the store and pick up a nice bunch for this meal.  Marinated chicken breasts on the grill, tomatoes in a grill pan roasting next to them for a lovely topping, grilled cheese "toasties" on the little space you have left on your grill and green beans and mushrooms on the stove to round out the meal.

Okay, one quick story before the recipes.  Last Sunday Sara and I were leaving the sanctuary at church discussing the day ahead and our trip to Whole Foods up next.  I said a little prayer out loud, "Dear Jesus, please let the chicken be on sale" and we had a little giggle over that.  Of course we get to the meat counter and find the bulk skinless, boneless lovely farmed chicken breasts on sale for $3.99 a pound ($2.00 off the regular price per pound).  Thank you, Jesus.  We buy 8 packs of them (about 50 pounds of chicken).  So the checkout girl calls back and asks if I get the case discount (who knew there was such a thing? not a mom who usually is cooking for 2 or 3).  And sure enough, I get a case discount.  How sweet of her.  I go home and divide the chicken up into freezer packages and decide to go back and get all the chicken I will need for the graduation party.  This time I get the last 10 pounds they have for the sale and they just pour it into two 5-pound bags.  Sixty-pounds of chicken in one day.  All I have to say is, "Dear freezer, please stay cold".   That was a good day.


so melty and good you can't see the chicken

Grilled Bruschetta Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 C basil leaves, sliced thin
2 T olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
freshly ground pepper
juice of one lemon

Campari, roma or cherry tomatoes (at least 4 C)
1/2 C basil leaves, sliced thin
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

mozzarella cheese, fresh or shreds

Place chicken in a glass dish.  Toss with all marinade ingredients (basil through lemon juice).  Note:  if you are making this whole meal mince about 5-6 cloves of garlic since I use it liberally in the chicken, tomatoes and green beans.   If you have a jacquard or other tenderizer, use it to incorporate the marinade and the chicken.  Marinade for 15 minutes while you heat the grill.

If you are using campari or roma tomatoes, remove the stems and leaves.  Halve them if desired (they will split open in the grill so you don't have to unless they are large).  Pour oil in your grill baking pan (ideally this is a solid pan-mine is a metal dish with handles from Cost Plus World Market, but if it's a mesh pan or a pan with holes you will still be fine you will just lose some of the juice).  Place tomatoes in the pan along with the basil, salt and pepper.  Toss a bit.  Place pan on grill with the chicken.  You might stir them a bit, but you really don't have to do much and just let them roast at least 15-20 minutes.

Place the chicken on the medium hot grill and grill about 7 minutes per side (this will vary widely based on thickness of meat and temperature of grill).   Always try to flip your chicken just once.  Leave it on for at least 7 or 8 minutes before turning.  This way you get nice grill marks and juicy chicken.  Chicken is easy to test just by pressing your spatula of fork into it and seeing if it is firm, but you can cut into the middle a bit to see if it's done (you will lose some juice, so be pretty sure it's done) or use an instant read thermometer (160 degrees is your target, Sur La Table has nice ones for $10 at the checkout).

Place cooked chicken in the pan with the tomatoes and spoon the tomatoes on top.  Top with a slice of fresh mozzarella or some mozzarella shreds.  Turn off grill and just leave it there a minute or two to melt the cheese.

marinating

tomatoes ready to go in pan

chicken after the first turn

grilled tomatoes

grilled chicken topped with tomatoes and cheese, cheese "toasties" in the back

We like hot and cheesy things and grilled cheese "toasties" are a big favorite of my husband and myself. I always slice a good hearty whole grain baguette and make more than we will eat because they are great leftovers with salad or soup for lunch.  Brush both sides of bread lightly with olive oil.  Place on a baking sheet.  Top with slices or crumbles of goat cheese.  Place slices directly on grill over low heat.  Close grill and toast until cheese melts.  Yum.  If your family is not goat cheese friendly (work on it, it's a lot like cream cheese, wink, wink but better for you) use feta cheese (okay, that's a cheese from sheep that's even more pronounced in flavor) or mozzarella.
ready to get toasty

I had green beans and mushrooms to finish, so this little side dish came together nicely.  Boil a pot of water and blanch the green beans (cook for 2-3 minutes and rinse with cold water and drain) while you heat a little butter and olive oil (about 2 tsp of each) and cook the mushrooms over low heat until softened.  Add the cooked and drained beans and heat through.  Mince some garlic and raise the heat a bit to bring out the garlic flavor, stir into beans and mushrooms and cook for another minute.  Season with salt, pepper and a little fresh thyme if you have it.

blanched beans in the colander (see, they were really needing to be cooked and eaten)

mushrooms and garlic (threw my garlic in a little early, but watched it so it did not brown)

all together now

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