Has Spring finally sprung where you are? It hasn’t really here in New England, but it’s very close! It has teased us, poking a toe out here and there, calling a little “yoohoo!” from around a corner. I am optimistic, though, that it will come on out for real very soon.
While we wait, we eat.
This week I tried out some dishes that are new to me – one that I have wanted to tackle for a long time. Avgolemono is a Greek chicken soup that I have long wanted to explore but somehow had the impression would be difficult and challenging. Wrong. This was so simple and is definitely a come-together-quickly weeknight meal. It is tops for chicken soup comfort but has a twist of lightness from the lemon, just what a springtime transitional soup should be. It might seem tricky with the egg but, honestly, this was not an issue at all and the result is smooth and bright and rich. If you want to squeeze in one last soup of the season, this should be it.
1 ½ lb chicken breast, pounded or cut to minimize thickness.
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup orzo or rice
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups baby spinach
Heat a soup pot over medium with a bit of olive oil. Salt the chicken and place it into the pan. Cook on one side for 5-7 minutes then flip, cover the pan, and cook another 5-7. Remove the chicken to a plate or cutting board then pour in a few tbsps of the chicken broth to deglaze the tasty cooked bits from the bottom of the pan. Pout in the rest of the broth and bring it all to a low boil. Add the orzo. Cook this for 8-9 minutes, until tender. While it is cooking, put the two eggs and the lemon juice into a blender. Spoon in a little of the broth then blend it all together. Slowly add about a half cup of the broth and don’t be concerned if some of the orzo slips in – it will help thicken the soup. Turn the heat on the soup down to medium low then slowly pour in the egg and lemon mixture, stirring all the while. Cut or shred the chicken. Add it and the spinach to the soup to warm and wilt. Season with salt and pepper before serving.
What do you crave? What treat do you go for regularly and wouldn’t want to give up? For many the choice would be something sweet – ooey gooey chocolate chip cookies, a rich cake or piled high ice cream sundae. While I like a good dessert, I could go on ok with my life if I never had one again. Cheese, however? Bread? Step back and hands off. That is my happy place. Add butter to that bread and make the cheese melty? Hello. Now we’re talking. This month, April, aka National Grilled Cheese Month, was made for me. Whomever it was who came up with this homage is brilliant. I bet if we met we would be fast friends. And a month is full of days – 30, in fact – so there are plenty of chances to enjoy all manor of grilled cheese variations. Since you will be looking for ideas in order to do the month justice, I am here for you. How about adding some sweet, smokey, tangy bbq chicken to your melted handful of joy? Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, then, hit that kitchen and get it going.
BBQ Chicken Grilled Cheese
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded to a uniform thickness
8 slices of sharp cheddar cheese
8 slices of hearty bread – I prefer sourdough
1 cup ketchup
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1-2 tbsp brown sugar or maple syrup (adjust to your preferred sweetness)
2 tsp apple cider or white vinegar
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp mustard
1 ½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cracked pepper
To make the bbq sauce, mix together all ingredients from ketchup down to pepper. Adjust flavors as necessary to your liking. Heat oven to 375. Lightly oil the bottom of a baking dish and place chicken breasts in it. Spoon a few tbsp of the sauce over the chicken ad flip it around to coat it all over. Cover the pan and cook for 20-25 minutes, until there is no hint of pink left. Remove the chicken to a bowl and use two forks to shred it. Pour on the remaining sauce and mix well. To assemble the sandwiches, lay out the pieces of bread and place a slice of cheese on each one. Pile some of the bbq chicken on 4 of the pieces. Top with another of the bread/cheese combos. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Place whatever number of the sandwiches you can comfortable fit into the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown and full of melty cheese. Repeat with any you couldn’t fit in the first round.
For vegetarian: bbq sauce works very nicely with mushrooms – as does cheese.