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The ultimate ‘tastes-like-chicken’ dish

Comments Off 23 February 2012

Todd Fisher Dishing it Out!
Posted: 02/21/2012 06:22:33 PM PST
Updated: 02/22/2012 08:59:57 AM PST

One thing is for certain: chicken in any preparation will always taste like chicken. It will forever be the guide by which people judge another protein.

Chicken is probably (playing it safe, as I did not Google it) the most widely consumed protein in all cultures. It is the first meat we are introduced to as babies. Have you ever heard someone take a bite of chicken and say “oh, that tastes like caribou”? No! Because chicken tastes like chicken!

Rattlesnake, “tastes like chicken”; alligator, “tastes like chicken”; Tofurkey burger, “tastes like chicken”— which I don’t really get. If you don’t wanna eat meat, why do you want your soy-based protein replacement to look and taste like meat?

All in all, chicken has proven itself a standard by which all others are compared. Next time you pick up a whole chicken at the grocery store, give it a little wink and a thank-you for staying true to itself.

I love a really good roasted chicken, stuffed with lemon, garlic and rosemary, salt and peppered, roasted on a bed of onions, till crisp on the outside but tender and juicy on the inside, oh so good!

Good food starts with good ingredients. Your choice of bird is of the utmost importance. I dig what the Pittman family of farmers are doing at Mary’s Free Range Chicken. Pasture raised in the beautiful sunny San Joaquin Valley, Mary’s Free Range Chickens grow naturally on a ranch with plenty of open space. These chickens are raised in a humane manner by allowing them to roam in a stress-free environment that is four times the size of the average commercial ranch. Because of cleaner living quarters, a healthier and happier chicken is produced with a better taste.
Sustainable farm practices and humane treatment of the birds are not just catch phrases that sell birds. It is a core value of this farm. And what I like is they were farming this way a long time before it was cool to be cool to chickens. And speaking of cool, these chicks get a cold stream of air that cools them individually, rather than the more commonly used method of placing the chickens in a communal bath of water. This air-chilled method prevents the absorption of water, greatly reducing the potential of bacterial cross-contamination — and produces a better-tasting chicken. With no water added, the air-chilled method keeps the “real” chicken flavor and juices.

No matter the side, whether you pilaf or mash, green bean or carrot, it is all about the “yard bird” itself. Stuffing the cavity with the aforementioned ingredients flavors the bird from the inside out, as well as creating delicious pan drippings that transmit distinctively the flavors of what it is you’re eating. Tastes like chicken!

Speaking of chicken, I would be in a heap of trouble with a few longtime readers if I didn’t divulge my recipe for the best Chinese chicken salad, an ancient Chinese secret recipe handed down from generation to generation and then given to me by my uncle on his death bed, who had a place just a few miles off the east side of the Great Wall.

OK, I’m not really of Chinese descent. But I do have an uncle and a bitchin’ Chinese chicken salad recipe for you to try.

Confucius says, “When making chicken salad, texture is of utmost importance!” Or maybe that was Bill Lee. Anyway, shredding is the key, shredded chicken, shredded cabbage, shredded lettuce. And crunch, crunch, crunch in that order.

Celebrity chef Todd Fisher is a Herald columnist, chef de cuisine at Stick’s at the Inn at Spanish Bay and a brand consultant. E-mail him at cheftoddsdish@gmail.com.

CT’s Chinese Chicken Salad

2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
¼ cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)
¼ cup rice vinegar
2 T. honey
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 T. Sesame Oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 roasted chicken (about 2½ lbs.), skin and bones removed, meat shredded (about 4 cups)
¼ medium red cabbage (8 oz.), cored and thinly shredded
¼ medium white cabbage (8 oz.), cored and thinly shredded
1 red bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
½ cup Mandarin orange segments
8 oz. sugar snap peas (blanched)
1 large head Romaine lettuce, shredded
½ cup cashews
½ cup fried won ton strips
½ cup broken ramen noodles

Steps: Season with a healthy shake of salt and pepper and stuff the cavity with herbs and other aromatics before roasting in a 375 F. oven. Once cooked, remove skin and bones and shred chicken. Set aside to cool.

For the dressing: In a blender, combine cilantro, lime juice, vinegar, honey and oils; season with salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine chicken and the remaining ingredients, toss with ½ cup dressing. Divide among four bowls, drizzle with more of the remaining dressing, and enjoy this crispidy, crunchidy, fun-to-eat flavor explosion!

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