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September 16, 2013

Culinary Conversation: All chickened out? Try these options

NEW CASTLE — What I’m about to say may surprise you.

It came as a surprise to my brother, who after all these years, didn’t know this fact about me.

 I really don’t care for chicken that much.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ll eat it and it’s on the dinner menu several times a week at our house. But I would much rather have fish. Hubby doesn’t like that so much. And we try to eat red meat only occasionally.

 So it comes back to chicken.

I know I must be in the minority and you’re tsk-tsking right now. Or maybe clucking.

However, even my favorite goddess of the kitchen, Ina Garten, also admits that chicken tends to be bland; thus it needs a lot of flavor.

There are a few tried-and-true recipes for chicken that I really do like and they are included today along with some suggestions for side dishes and dessert.

If you’ve never had chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, try it. And don’t be alarmed by the amount of garlic. The result is mellow and delicious.

I would also like to know what goes into the absolutely fabulous lemon-cake-with-filling dessert I had at a certain New Castle restaurant. It was light, refreshing and I must have it again. But I’ll settle for the upside-down lemon meringue dessert that Kraft offered in its fall edition of Food & Family.

 Meanwhile, if you know of a an absolutely incredible chicken dish that will win me over, you’re on. Send it here. I’ll try it and let you know the verdict.

You may just make a chicken convert of me.

Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic

3 whole heads garlic, about 40 cloves

2 (3 1/2-pound) chickens, cut into eighths

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons Cognac, divided

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Separate the cloves of garlic and drop them into a pot of boiling water for a minute. Drain the garlic and peel; set aside.

Dry the chicken with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the butter and oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In batches, sauté the chicken in the fat, skin side down first, until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Turn with tongs or spatula. If the fat starts to burn, turn heat to medium. When a batch is done, transfer to a plate and continue to sauté all the chicken in batches. Remove the last of the chicken to the plate and add all of the garlic to the pot. Lower heat and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often, until evenly browned. Add 2 tablespoons of the Cognac and the wine; return to a boil and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pot with the juices and sprinkle with thyme leaves. Cover and simmer over the lowest heat for about 30 minutes until all the chicken is done.

Remove chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the sauce and flour and then whisk it back into the sauce in the pot. Raise the heat, add remaining tablespoon of Cognac and cream, and boil for 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour sauce and the garlic over the chicken and serve hot.

Sesame-Panko Chicken

Nonstick cooking spray

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