jalapeno-fried chicken bento

21 04 2010

a while back i placed a fresh direct order, and the amount of jalapenos that was delivered was waaaay more than what i thought i was ordering!  what’s a girl to do with extra jalapenos that have been lingering in the fridge for almost too long?  how about jalapeno-fried chicken fingers, and a hearty salad topped with jalapeno-citrus dressing!  that’s what i made for dinner (recipes below), and tomorrow’s lunch includes two good-sized chicken pieces.

the rest of the bento has brown rice topped with peas and two cute bears made from two hard boiled egg slices (nori and sesame seed facial details), a beautiful vine-ripe tomato, some steamed broccoli, three butterflies cut from fish sausage, some pea pods and clementine wedges, and some cucumber and takuwan slices.

— ♥ —

jalapeno-fried chicken fingers

  • 1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 package panko (japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika to taste
  • 1 medium-to-large sized jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  1. get yourself a nice, big, and clean workstation, where you can set up three bowls.  put the flour in the first bowl, and mix in your salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika (if you haven’t made spiced dredging flour before, start with about 1/8 teaspoon of each and add more as you like).
  2. in the second bowl, crack and beat the two eggs.  add a few teaspoons of milk or water if needed to thin the egg mixture down.
  3. in the third bowl, toss your diced jalapeno with your panko.  now you have your breading station, and you should line up the three bowls so that the panko/jalapeno mixture is closest to your frying pan.
  4. cut your chicken into approximately uniformly-sized pieces — i like mine longer and thinner (like “fingers”), but you could easily do squatter “nugget” style pieces.
  5. in a large frying pan, heat the oil until you can drop a piece of diced jalapeno in and it bubbles and sizzles.
  6. once the oil has come up to temp, bread the chicken, one piece at a time, by first dredging through the spiced flour, then dipping in the beaten egg, and then rolling through the panko/jalapeno mixture.  i find it works best to use just one hand as your breading hand (just hold the chicken piece in that hand and work it through all three bowls).  that way you have a clean hand left to turn on the faucet when it’s time to wash the messy hand!
  7. once you have about 5 or 6 pieces breaded, gently place them in the oil (if you drop them with too much force, the hot oil will splatter and burn you), and fry until both sides are golden brown (about 2 minutes on the first side and 90 seconds on the second).  i like to blot the fried pieces with a paper towel and then pop them into a 375-degree oven for a few extra minutes, just to make absolutely sure they are cooked through.
  8. you will want to fry the chicken in batches (that’s why i said 5 or 6 pieces for the first go), being careful not to crowd the pan. crowding the pan will result in stuck-together pieces and non-uniform browning.

jalapeno-citrus salad dressing

  • light syrup from a can of mandarin orange slices (if you don’t have a can handy, you can make a simple syrup by combining equal parts water and sugar in a pan and stirring over a low flame until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is slightly thickened — the mandarin flavor is lovely here though, and worth the price of the can)
  • juice from 1.5 limes
  • 3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar (plain white vinegar is fine too)
  • 1 small to medium sized jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed
  • 1 kiwi, skin removed, cut into chunks
  • 4 mint leaves
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. in a food processor, blend about 1/2 cup mandarin (or simple) syrup with the lime juice, vinegar and jalapeno, until the jalapeno is finely ground and gives the syrup a green-speckled, slightly opaque appearance
  2. add the chunked kiwi and mint, and continue blending until thoroughly ground
  3. through the pouring hole on the food processor container, pour a thin stream of olive oil, allowing the food processor blade to emulsify the dressing
  4. season the dressing to your liking

the dressing is super simple, right?  it’s deliciously tangy, and removing the seeds and ribs from the jalapeno makes it just spicy enough to give the dressing a real kick (a bit of an after-burn, actually), but without setting your entire mouth on fire.  i like this dressing over a salad of spinach leaves, chunked avocado, kernels of sweet corn, thinly-sliced red onion, chunked (or grape) tomatoes, and some sliced jalapeno-fried chicken fingers!

speaking of those, here is a picture of the finished product:

enjoy!





snail roll-ups bento

26 01 2010

i normally stick to a pretty vegetable-based diet with a smattering of fish, but tonight i wanted to cook something special for the boyfriend (no reason, just cause i love him!).  he LOVES meat, so i made a fancy chicken roulade stuffed with spinach and smoked brie, served over mushroom-infused brown rice (recipes below).  and the thought of making two separate dinners, and then bentoing after that, was… less than appealing — so you bet your sweet bippy i’m making an exception to my usual no-meat rule and chowing down on the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

i thought the roulade slices kinda looked like snail shells, so i cut snail heads/necks and antennae out of provolone cheese and added nori mouths, sesame seed eyes, and ketchup cheeks.  in the fruit and veggie side of the box i added some bias-cut baby carrot sticks, pea pods, grape tomatoes, blueberries in a heart-shaped silicone cup (a similar set is available for purchase on j-list), one nice strawberry, few cucumber slices and the cutest tiny clementine, plus a few slices of fish sausage hand cut to look like flower-stars (i know these aren’t fruit or veg, but i thought it needed more color, so just work with me).

the box is accessorized by another of my new laser-cut felt doilies, plus a “light my fire” spork.  here’s a close-up of the snail friends, and then after that the recipes!

chicken roulades

  • 1 bag pre-washed spinach
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 4 tablespoons minced garlic
  • a nice-sized wedge of brie (you won’t use the whole thing, but you’ll get to snack on the leftovers!)
  • salt, pepper, and olive oil
  • plain wooden toothpicks (do not eat!)
  1. chop up the bag of spinach.  in a large sautee pan, heat up about a tablespoon of olive oil.  add about 1/3 of the chopped spinach, sprinkling a little bit of water on top to help it steam.  when it’s wilted, add another 1/3 of the bag.  when that’s wilted, add the final 1/3.  salt and pepper to taste.
  2. while the spinach is cooking, place one of the breasts between two sheets of wax paper on top of a cutting board. pound the crap out of it!  you can use a meat mallet or the flat of your hand, but either way you want to do a downward-and-outward motion, basically displacing the thickest (center) part of the breast outwards to the edge so as to create a cutlet with consistent thickness throughout.  it will NOT be regularly shaped around the outside, but if you have approximately consistent thickness, that’s fine.  repeat this process on the second breast.
  3. spread 1/2 of the minced garlic over each pounded-out breast, and apply salt and pepper fairly liberally.  when the spinach is cooled distribute an even layer over each breast.
  4. look at the breasts:  there should be a wider, rounded-ish end, and a narrower, pointed-ish end.  slice some slices off of your wedge of brie, and line them up starting at the narrower end, leaving at least 1 1/2 to 2″ of the wider end cheese-less.  (you need this margin of cheese-less-ness for the chicken to roll up properly.)  once all your cheese is in, carefully roll up the chicken (starting with the narrower, pointy end), securing the roll with toothpicks once it’s rolled up all the way.
  5. brush a thin coat of olive oil on the outside of the breast, and apply salt and pepper to the outside as well.  bake in a pre-heated 375-degree oven (or toaster) for about 20 minutes (your oven may run differently than mine, so make sure that the juice runs clear when you take out one of the toothpicks and press firmly down on the roll), then re-baste with olive oil and stick the rolls under the broiler so that they brown up a bit.
  6. let them cool for at least 5 minutes, and then slice away for cute spirals!

mushroom-infused rice

  • 1.75 cups of brown rice
  • about 2 cups of sliced mushrooms, any kind you like (i used half baby bella and half white button)
  • a generous pinch of kosher salt, plus cracked pepper to taste
  • 1 “pat” (about 3/4 of a tablespoon) of butter
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 cups of water

this isn’t really a “recipe” per se, as my cuckoo does all the work for me.  i just dump all the ingredients into the rice cooker’s bowl, lock it, and set it on the pressure setting for about 35 minutes.  it came out a little al dente, so i might let it cook 5 minutes longer next time.  you’ll need to experiment with your own rice cooker, but cooking the ingredients under pressure together (no matter how much time your cooker requires) really gets the mushroom flavor into every grain.  yum!