Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Garlic&Orange Baked Chicken, with Fresh Salad and Herb Pancakes

After a weekend of pure indulgence, I was heavily craving a salad for dinner last night. All I could picture as I walked home (after stopping in at the Downtown Crossing Holiday Market -what a great conglomeration of talented folks!) was a tasty chicken breast, a light salad, and some sort of quick starch that could be a bit lighter than the insanely good, but insanely rich roasted garlic and rosemary mashed potatoes I made last week.

I settled on marinating the chicken in a quick bath of herbs, garlic, orange juice and champagne vinegar, and then baking them. I decided to throw together a quick salad dressing from with a base of low fat sour cream that I had on hand from making french onion dip for a party over the weekend. And then I decided that the perfect compliment to the meal I was envisioning was pancakes. Several months ago I started playing with making savory pancakes, well I suppose more silver dollars, as a compliment to white meat dishes. I think that they are just so fun, easy, unexpected and SO versatile. A quick stop at the grocery store for chicken, fresh greens and fruit for my lunch for the week, and I was back home ready to make a delicious dinner.

I started by finely chopping about 8 cloves of garlic, I knew I wanted a lot of garlic with the chicken and Id use it in some other items as well-so I just chopped a bunch. Then I moved on to the herbs of choice- fresh oregano and fresh rosemary- both chopped finely. In a small bowl I then blended a sprinkle of salt, a little less than half the garlic, the herbs, and then about 3/4 of a cup of orange juice, and 1/4 cup of champagne vinegar. Once blended, I placed my chicken breasts in a ziplock bag, poured my marinade over the top, squeezed out the air and sealed the bag. They were then set aside to marinade for a good 20 minutes or so.

While I waited for the chicken to soak up all those lovely flavors, I cooked up four slices of bacon, and I made up my pancake batter (Bisquick-I took the easy road this time) and then finely diced a few very thin slices of red onion, and a few sprigs of rosemary to mimic, but alter the flavors in the chicken. I added both to my pancake mix and let the flavors mingle.

I decided that the chicken had soaked up enough flavor, and placed them in to a lightly greased baking dish, covered them with half of the remaining garlic, and then placed thin slices of orange over the top. I covered the dish with tinfoil, and placed into my preheated 425 degree oven.

Then I very simply chopped and sliced some veggies- red onion, green pepper, then very thinly sliced a couple of handfuls of red grapes. As I finished that, I moved on to making my quick salad dressing, about two tablespoons of the low fat sour cream, the remainder of the garlic, orange juice to thin it out, and then champagne vinegar to counter the sweetness. The flavors were really nice in this, slightly sweet from the orange juice, a bit of acid and then the background creaminess from the sour cream. A really nice dressing- and one that doesn't include Dijon mustard as most of my dressings do!

All I really had left to do in this incredibly easy meal as I waited for the chicken to bake was cook the pancakes. I used the same pan that I had cooked the bacon in with the leftover grease to see if I could impart a bit of the smoky flavor into the pancakes. I cooked up little silver dollars, and they looked and smelled so good as they cooked!

Finally, once the chicken had finished baking, and the salad tossed with its dressing, I plated dinner by laying down one pancake in one corner of my plate, spooning a few heaping spoonfuls of salad over it and then placed a second pancake on top. I sprinkled a few crumbles of the bacon I had cooked over the top, and then arranged a sliced chicken breast next to it. Finally I dripped just about two teaspoons of the left over dressing over the chicken to tie it all together.

The final result was really delicious, and completely satisfied my need for a fresh salad. The chicken had wonderful bright orange notes to it, and the addition of the salad dressing highlighted all of those. The salad was fresh and clean tasting, and coupled with the herby and fragrant pancakes-they created a wonderful combination of flavors and textures. The pancakes themselves were really tasty. Strong notes of onion and rosemary, with just a background of smokey bacon. Fantastic. Those little crumbs of bacon added just a bit of crunch, and I thought really rounded out the meal.
Overall this was a great weeknight, simple meal-one of those great recipes to store in your back pocket and pull out when you want to make a meal out of stuff you have on hand (for the most part) and quickly!

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