Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 2, 2011

Foodie with Family: Chicken wins prize

Local columnist

— There is some serious fun going on around our household right now. The whole crew has caught spring fever and we are using the newly minted great weather to blow out of our cocoons with style. We're playing baseball. We're taking hikes, riding bikes, picnicking and gardening. We're winning contests.

That's right. We're winning contests.

There was a contest hosted by best-selling cookbook author, blogger and new Food Network family member Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) that was sponsored by Bush's Grillin' Beans. The prize winners and one guest each received a trip to Ree's ranch in Oklahoma to prepare the recipe on camera, enjoy a country cook-out and spend the weekend at the ranch. Yours truly was one of four winners!

In the next couple of weeks, I'll be scooting on out to Oklahoma to enjoy some serious grub, sling some hash of my own, and meet one of the best-known bloggers on the Internet. I'm more than just all right with that.

The recipe that won this fun trip for me, Tandoori-Style Grilled Chicken, is perfect for our on-the-go, run-run-run approach right now. Tangy, just-spicy-enough and flavorful, it is a simple recipe that grills up faster than you can say "Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!" While it's great served alongside rice, steamed vegetables and beans, it's also wonderful served on naan with cucumber yogurt salsa, pickled onions and candied jalapenos. (See for those recipes.) Try the recipe yourself to see just why it won the prize!

Prize-Winning Tandoori-Style Grilled Chicken

3 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1 c. plain yogurt

1/3 c. white wine or cider vinegar

¼ c. canola or vegetable oil

3 T. ground cumin

2 T. curry powder

2 t. granulated garlic

2 t. kosher salt

1 t. ground cayenne pepper

1 t. ground ginger (or 1 T. grated gingerroot)

Add all of the ingredients except the chicken to a zip-top resealable bag (or whisk together in a flat baking dish.) Set aside. This is your marinade.

Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels and lay out flat on a cutting board. Holding a large, sharp knife parallel to the cutting board, cut the down the length of the chicken breast, dividing it into two evenly thick pieces. This is easiest if you press your other hand down flat on the chicken breast to hold it steady. Transfer the chicken breasts to the zip-top bag that contains the marinade. Seal the top and squish the bag around gently to coat all the chicken evenly.

Place the bag in a bowl to catch any leaks and stash in the refrigerator for at least two hours but preferably overnight prior to grilling.

When you're ready to cook the meat you have a couple options. The best option is to grill. You can use a grill pan or hot oven if you don't have a grill at your disposal.

For a gas grill, preheat the grill, with the cover down, to high. For a charcoal grill, build a bed of hot coals. Oil the grill racks very well as the chicken has a tendency to stick. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shake off excess and place on grill racks. Don't move the chicken around once it's on the grill. Give it a chance to develop a nice crust.

Cook, covered for four minutes, flip the chicken breasts and continue cooking, covered until the internal temperature of the chicken breasts reaches 160°. It'll have charred bits on it and look delicious.

Transfer to a platter and tent loosely with foil until ready to serve.

Our favorite go-to meal lately has been empañadas. While every single South and Central American country has their own traditional version of the recipe, the preferred version among the adults in our house has been the green olive, hard-boiled egg, onion, garlic and raisin-studded traditional Argentinian recipe.

These perfect hand-held meat pies are just the thing to stuff into picnic baskets, eat on the drive to Little League practice, or tuck into while sitting with a book in your hand and your back against a convenient tree trunk. Conveniently, they freeze and reheat beautifully.

The kids like theirs sans raisins and olives, but sometimes grown-ups just have to do what they have to do.

If you're feeling more charitable than I was the last time I prepared these, you can simmer the meat in the beef broth without the raisins and olives. When the broth is absorbed, stir the eggs into it as directed, then divide into two bowls. Fold the olives and raisins into one bowl and leave the other "pure" for the picky-pants eaters in your house.

But wait! There are more options. You can opt to bake or fry the meat pies as your taste or diet dictates. They are seriously delicious baked, but as I am an all-day sucker for anything deep fried, I fry them nine times out of 10. Either way, I do believe you'll be hooked, too.

Argentinian Meat Pies (Empañadas)

1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 t. canola, vegetable or peanut oil

1 lb. lean ground beef

¼ c. pimiento stuffed green olives, coarsely chopped

1 c. beef or chicken broth

½ c. raisins, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes then drained (optional)

2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and coarsely chopped

12-20 frozen empañada dough discs, thawed (or homemade, see recipe below)

Oil for frying (unless you choose to bake)

One large egg, beaten with a fork (unless you choose to fry)

In a large frying pan, heat the canola oil over medium heat until shimmery. Add the chopped onions and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the ground beef to the pan and break up with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring frequently, until the beef is browned and cooked through.

Stir in the olives, beef broth and raisins and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring often, until almost all of the beef broth is absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the chopped hard-boiled eggs and let the filling cool to a comfortable temperature.

Lay out one dough circle and spoon about 2 tablespoons of the filling mixture into the center. Fold the dough in half over the filling to form a half circle. Use the tines of a fork to crimp the dough all the way around the edge. If you desire a more decorative edge, you can then fold it up over the crimping and pinch it into place.

• To bake the empañadas:

Preheat the oven to 400°. Place prepared empañadas about 2 inches apart on a baking sheets that are greased or lined with parchment or silpats. Brush lightly with the beaten egg.

Bake for about 25 minutes, rotating pans about halfway through, or until the meat pies are golden brown and puffy. Remove the pans from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

• To fry the empañadas:

Heat about 1 inch of canola, peanut or vegetable oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat until the oil is 360°-375°. (If you do not have a frying thermometer, this is the stage where the oil is shimmery, looks like it has a current running through it and it bubbles quickly when food is dropped into it.)

Carefully drop only as many meat pies into the oil as can comfortably fit in without touching. Fry about 4-6 minutes, turning halfway through, until golden and crispy. Transfer to a plate or pan lined with paper towels to drain. Cool about 5-10 minutes before serving.

Homemade Empañada Dough

4½ c. unbleached all-purpose

3 t. salt

1 c. cold lard or shortening

2 large eggs

2/3 cup cold water

2 T. cider vinegar

Whisk together salt and flour in a large mixing bowl. Use your fingers to rub the lard (or shortening) into the flour until it looks like coarse crumbs interspersed with some pea-sized lumps.

In a separate bowl or mixing cup, beat together egg, water and vinegar. Pour over the flour mixture, stirring with fork until a shaggy dough forms.

Turn out onto a lightly floured counter and gently pull the dough together with your hands to form a mass. Knead gently with heel of your hand just until the dough comes together (once or twice.) Divide the dough in half and form each half into a rough rectangle. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour, but not longer than 6 hours, before using.

For a heartier helping of Foodie With Family, go to or Rebecca's new blog, Write to Rebecca at to share your adventures and favorite recipes.