Thursday, November 19, 2009

Almond-coated Pineapple Chicken with Orzo

Ever wonder why people think everything they've never tried before tastes like chicken? Well, it just might be that chicken is a very versatile meat that readily takes on the flavours of whatever it is cooked with, thus chicken can taste pretty much like anything. This recipe is a good example. Not only does the lemon and pineapple make the chicken very tender it also adds a delicate but delicious sweet/tart flavour. This is an easy and quick dish that you can make in about 20 minutes.

• 1½-2 cups chicken
• ¼ cup ground almonds
• 1½ cups pineapple pieces
• 1 lemon (zest and juice)
• 2 medium cloves garlic, chopped
• 2 stalks chives, chopped
• ¼ cup chicken or vegetable broth
• 1 tbsp oregano
• 2 tsp tarragon
• 2 tbsp mayonnaise
• 2 cups orzo or your favourite small pasta

• medium size stock pot
• large heavy non-stick fry pan
• citrus zester
• citrus reamer (see pic)

Be sure that you use mayonnaise and not salad dressing. I prefer a mayonnaise made using extra-virgin olive oil (fewer calories and less saturated fat).

If you are using fresh pineapple chop off about a half inch from the top and bottom. Then cut away the skin by sawing off 2 inch wide strips from top to bottom. Be sure to cut on the inside of the small dark 'eyes' near the outside of the pineapple. Use a small spoon or knife to scoop out any dark divets remaining. Cut the skinned pineapple into quarters from top to bottom, then cut away the core. Cut up pineapple into bite-sized pieces and reserve. If using canned then... open the can. If the can contains rings cut them into bite-sized pieces.

Start water boiling in the stock pot. Once it is boiling add the orzo or other small pasta of your choice and cook (as per package instructions) until al dente.

Dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces and coat them with the almond powder, salt and pepper. Put a large, heavy non-stick fry pan on medium-high heat.

Crush and chop the garlic. I find it easier to chop crushed garlic rather than to try chopping the whole clove (which tends to move around too much). Lay the clove on a cutting board and place a large knife flat side down (blade pointing away from you) onto the clove and press down with the heel of your hand until the clove collapses. Then chop. If you don't like crushing your garlic try slicing the clove into three thick pieces, then chop those. Chop up the chives as well, discarding the bottom quarter inch (with the roots). Add both to the fry pan with a little olive oil. Fry for about 2 minutes.

Strip the zest from the lemon. For those unfamiliar with this process simply take the citrus zesting tool (or a very, very fine grater) and drag it across the surface of the washed lemon. Try not to get any of the white pith but rather only the bright yellow 'skin' of the lemon. Strip as much zest as you can get from the lemon. Set aside.

Slice the lemon into two and use the citrus reamer to remove as much juice as possible. If the lemon has a lot of seeds use a strainer to remove them or pick them out by hand. Reserve the lemon juice.

Add the chicken to the frying garlic/chives and brown on all sides. Then add the zest and about half of the lemon juice. Reserve the remaining lemon juice which can be added at the end if you want a more lemony flavour or dribbled on your vegetable side dish.

Fry for one minute and then add the stock (or water if necessary), oregano, tarragon, pineapple and cook for another couple of minutes. Once the orzo is ready drain and add it to the fry pan. Continue to fry for a minute or two, reducing the liquid level.

Transfer the contents of the fry pan to a large glass or ceramic bowl (not metal or plastic) and stir in the 2 tbsp of mayonnaise mixing it throughout the ingredients. This should make the dish creamy.

Serve with your favourite vegetable. Asparagus or broccoli work well because both taste great with lemon juice.

Tip: How to get the most out of your pineapple.
First a word of caution. Fresh pineapple is much more acidic than canned pineapple. If you find that you get a rash when eating fresh pineapple you might want to switch to the canned alternative.

When buying your pineapple check to see if it is ripe. When ripe you should be able to pull out one of the central leaves fairly easily. If they won't pull out then the pineapple's not quite ripe.

Once you get your pineapple home put it in the fridge. Store it upside down for a while, this allows the sugars, which have settled in the bottom of the pineapple, to travel back into the top half making the whole pineapple sweeter. Sweet huh?

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