Herb & Garlic Rubbed Poussin with Pistachio Relish

Herbed Poussin with Pistachio Relish

One of my favorite work stories is the day I got a call from a guy who wanted to buy some possum meat. We get that type of call all the time — people looking for beaver, lion and squirrel — so this request was not too strange. I told him we did not sell possum, expecting that to be the end of it.

Instead he started to argue with me, saying that he was looking at our price list online and possum was on there as being a “stock item.” Baffled, I asked him for the item number. He gave it to me and I could barely contain my laughter as I said, “Sir, that’s not possum, it’s poussin — baby chickens.”

That happened years ago but it still makes me giggle.

For anyone else unfamiliar with poussin, they are basically a chicken a few weeks younger than a game hen. Once processed and packed, they weigh about 15-17 oz, making them ideal for a one-bird-per-person dinner.

I rarely ever buy them, but I had a recipe that I wanted to try out and it called for 2 each 3# chickens. Since I was only cooking for two people, I figured two poussin would work just fine.

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Chicken for procrastinators

I got off work early last Friday and it was a surprisingly warm day here in Portland. As soon as I got home, all I wanted was to sit outside in my backyard and enjoy the sun for as long as possible. After two hours of relaxing in my lounge chair, thumbing through magazines and drinking some wine, it hit me how hungry I was. I hadn’t even contemplated what I was going to make for dinner and by this time, my motivation level had dropped significantly.

A quick glance through my produce drawer brought to mind an old standby in our house — Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts with Cherry Tomatoes and Garlic. This is adapted from a recipe in The America’s Test Kitchen’s cookbook, and it’s even considered “light and healthy.” It’s also easy, versatile and — if I put my ass in gear — I could be eating it in less than thirty minutes.

Now the chicken and sauce alone would take much less than that, but I needed something more substantial. Luckily I keep a jar of farro on hand for times like these. I got a pot of water on the stove and quickly chopped up some veggies to roast (a mixture of brussels spouts, carrots, onion and cauliflower). While the farro cooked, I took a little time-out to have another glass of wine and spy on my neighbors. They are very strange and can put on a good show, so spying is a great time killer.

When everything was about ten minutes away from being done, I got to work on the chicken. The breasts are seasoned with salt and pepper and lightly dredged in flour. I minced two cloves of garlic, thinly sliced four green onions and halved a cup of cherry tomatoes. I kept another handful of tomatoes whole to add a little variation. A lemon and a hunk of parm rounded out my ingredient list.

Get your pan hot (I prefer non-stick) and drizzle in some olive oil. Throw the chicken breasts in. Now the recipe says to pound them but since the oven was already nice and hot from roasting the vegetables, I just figured I’d pop them in there to finish cooking. Once the breasts are just cooked through, take them out of the pan and put them on a plate.

In the same pan, throw in the minced garlic. Be careful because it will cook quickly and you don’t want to burn it. Just give it about thirty seconds or so, until it starts to sweat and smell delicious. Then in go the cherry tomatoes along with a small splash of water or chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper and let that cook for a couple of minutes, until the tomatoes just begin to break down. Then toss in scallions, a squeeze of lemon juice and you’re all set!

The recipe calls for blue cheese but I didn’t have any, so once everything was plated up, I hit the whole shebang with some grated Parmesan. Seriously, this dinner is unbelievably simple, but the flavors are so fresh that it never gets old to me. And paired with farro to help soak up some of the sauce, it’s really my idea of heaven.

Stay Away, Vampire! Chicken

Now I could have called this dish by its rightful name, vinegar-braised chicken, but when you see the amount of garlic I put in this sucker, I think my name makes just as much sense. I found this recipe by chef April Bloomfield in a fairly new issue of Food & Wine and when I gave my husband a choice of chicken dishes to have for dinner last week, he selected this one. And holy bajeezus, I am so happy I didn’t wait to make it because it was so good! Since then I have been telling everyone to try this chicken. And I figured what better way to push it than write a little blog post?

First off, let’s talk poultry. I grew up in a household that adores chicken. We ate a whole lot of roasted birds growing up, routinely eating the leftovers in my mom’s turkey tetrazzini or in her famous chicken casserole. It really is famously delicious — to the point where my drunk friends once raided my fridge to demolish the pan of leftover casserole I had stashed away. It truly is a good thing I was equally inebriated or that would have been a friendship-ender. I kid you not — I almost cut a bitch.

Anyways, poultry has a remained a large part of my diet. To my husband’s deep-seated sadness I make almost every dish that calls for ground beef with lean ground turkey, which I buy by the case and keep in our freezer. I could easily eat a turkey sandwich every day for lunch and follow it with chicken for dinner and probably make it weeks before ever getting bored. It’s in my blood.

My husband is the exact opposite. He blames the masses of inept diners who order chicken at the restaurant he cooks at for his hatred of this delicious bird. The main problem is that most of the people who order chicken (especially when faced with much more interesting choices) are picky eaters to begin with. They always want their chicken cooked to death and then complain about it being dry. It’s things like this that make my husband reach awesome levels of rage.

So I could already see the not-at-all concealed loathing when I asked him to choose between two chicken entrees. But, hey, if I’m cooking you don’t really get to complain. Or you can complain, and then eat a hot pocket for dinner. It’s all the same to me!

Wow, I have digressed.

Try this chicken! It is easy on the pocketbook and so painfully simple that there is no reason to resist it. Look at the beautiful pictures of it and salivate. And make life easy — just use whole chicken thighs — that’s the best part of the bird anyways. Also do as I did and throw in about four times as much garlic as called for. You’ll thank me for it later.

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