Sunday, October 21, 2012

Southwest Chicken with Cauliflower in cheese sauce.

Fern wanted pounded chicken again so off to the store I went to see what is on special that could be made into a tasty meal.  Bone-in skin-on chicken breasts are always reasonably priced so the decision was what to pair them with.  Cauliflower was on special for 99 cents per pound and we had loads of cheese in the fridge.  I like cheese sauce on Southwest spice because the milk tempers the spice and gives a nicer flavor than either component alone. I decided to complete the meal with green peas and mashed potatoes.

I started with the chicken.  I buy bone in, skin on chicken breasts and bone them myself.  I start at the high point of the breast bone and slide the knife tip down the breast bone to the rib cage. Then slide the blade along the breast bone and cartilage to the point of the breast.  Go back to the entry point and start to scrape the meat off the bones up to the wing joint. Then carefully scrape the meat off the rib cage till the whole breast is connected only to the wing joint and wishbone.  Depending on how it was butchered the wish bone can almost touch the breast bone or it could be cut somewhere.  First cut the meat off the ball joint then feel around the meat for the wishbone.  I find I have to cut along the length of the bone then I can get the knife under the bone to free it from the meat.  Try not to get too much of the white tendons attaching the meat to the ball joint on the meat.  It cooks up like white vulcanized rubber.

If you like maximizing food value then put the chicken bones in a stock pot and put the pot in a 350┬║ oven for 30 minutes.  Take out and cool.  Fill with water, add one carrot and a stick of celery in large pieces.  Cut an onion in half and put in the pot skin and all.  The skin gives color to the stock. Add a bay leaf and simmer for two hours. Strain and use for sauces, gravies and soups.  After it's been in the fridge the fat will float on the surface.  With a large spoon remove as much fat as possible.

Put one breast in a plastic bag (the clear ones in the produce section are ideal), skin (smooth) side down.  Pound the meat till it is about double in size. Remove and do the second breast.  Season the breasts with Southwest spice and spray with oil for the BBQ or do them in a 12 inch frying pan. These were fried. The skins I fried up for dog treats.

Southwest Spice Rub

2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
4 tsp kosher salt (1 tbsp + 1 tsp)
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp cayenne

I did the cauliflower and frozen peas together in the microwave.  Potatoes were already bubbling away on the stove.  The final component was the cheese sauce.  I was going to use extra old cheddar but when I opened the fridge I found the half brick of Velveeta left over from a recipe Fern tried.  The box said it melts easily so I thought, the Southwest spice should hide the processed cheese taste well enough so I'll use this up.  I put a tablespoon of flour in a sauce pot and put the chicken fat rendered from the skins in it.  I added more oil till I had a thick slurry.  I put this on the burner for a few minutes to cook off the flour taste. Then I took it off the heat and added a quarter cup of chicken stock and enough milk to thin the slurry.  Keep adding milk and whisking till there is about a cup of milk or the sauce is a bit thinner than you want. Bring it to a simmer and add the cheese cut up.  I used half a brick but a quarter brick would probably do. Keep stirring till the cheese is melted and the sauce has thickened.  If it gets too thick, thin it with milk. Taste the sauce and add salt if necessary. I added a few drops of white wine vinegar to give it a little tang.  Plate the potatoes, chicken and vegetables then smother with as much cheese sauce as desired (I like lots).

The whole meal was outstanding for flavor and the cheese sauce with the spice rub was a delicious combination, I thought.  My partner didn't like it as much because he has always had cauliflower with ham and cheese sauce. Cajun chicken didn't meet his expectations, something I've run into before. The problem is that even for the home cook, the customer is always right. If people don't like the food, it doesn't matter why, it has to be changed.

I would not buy Velveeta but if I had some I would make this sauce again. The rest of the cheese sauce will be our mac and cheese for lunch.

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