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Microwave . . .

Chicken Is Welcome Relief in Hot Weather

August 20, 1987|DIANA WILLIAMS HANSEN | Hansen is a Louisville-based cooking consultant specializing in microwaving

When hot weather appetites are dragging, a light touch with chicken will be welcome. With a microwave, you can cook easy but exciting recipes without heating up the kitchen. Unlike conventional ovens, microwaving does not waste excess energy by heating air or utensils. The energy goes directly to the food itself, making microwaving cool and efficient.

The recipes that follow have taken inspiration from the foods of tropical climates, where stimulating the appetite in hot weather is a challenge.

One of the chicken dishes is served Cuban style with a lightly sweetened orange sauce accented with lime juice, sweet red pepper and green onions.

The other, a Hawaiian chicken, is darkened with soy sauce and crisped with celery slices and crunchy cashews. Either can be served with rice or a simple salad and bread for a summer meal. Ice cream or sherbet, splashed with a complementary liqueur, is sufficient dessert.

Calorie-Trimming Trick

Don't forget to remove the chicken skin when you microwave. This is done for the same reason that you remove skin from chicken that is to be microwave simmered or poached: Chicken skin does not crisp or brown in the microwave. On the plus side, much of the fat in chicken is stored in or just under the skin, so removing the skin trims calories.

In summer, many cooks prefer to serve chicken dishes warm rather than hot. Somehow the flavor seems fuller and the texture firmer. I also love the idea that I don't have to rush to serve the food steaming hot. So don't worry if guests are slow in arriving at the table. Just hold either of these dishes in the turned-off oven and it will stay warm 15 minutes or a little longer.

CUBAN ORANGE CHICKEN

1/2 cup orange juice

1 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon granules

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 (3-pound) chicken, cut up and skin removed

Paprika

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper

2 medium green onions, sliced

1 medium orange, peeled and seeded, cut into 8 wedges

Stir together orange juice, bouillon granules, salt and pepper in small bowl. Set aside.

In 12x8-inch microwave-safe dish, arrange chicken with thickest pieces toward edges and corners of dish. Stir orange juice again and pour over chicken.

Cover with wax paper, folding paper down over rim of dish. Microwave at HIGH (100% power) 18 to 22 minutes, until no pink remains in thickest parts. With tongs, transfer to serving platter and sprinkle with paprika. Cover with wax paper and keep warm while making sauce.

Strain drippings from dish into 1-pint microwave-safe measuring cup. Add water, if necessary, to measure 1 cup. In small bowl or cup, mix cornstarch, sugar, 2 tablespoons cold water and lime juice. Stir into reserved juices with red pepper and green onion. Microwave at HIGH 3 to 5 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes, until thickened. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish platter with orange wedges. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

HAWAIIAN CHICKEN WITH PINEAPPLE AND VEGETABLES

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 (3-pound) chicken, cut up and skin removed

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1/4 cup sliced celery

2 medium green onions, sliced

1 cup chopped fresh pineapple

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/3 cup coarsely chopped salted cashews

Stir together broth, soy sauce and black pepper in small bowl. In 12x8-inch microwave-safe dish, arrange chicken with thickest pieces toward edges and corners of dish. Pour broth mixture over chicken. Cover with wax paper, folding paper down over rim of dish.

Microwave at HIGH (100% power) 18 to 22 minutes until no pink remains in thickest parts. Transfer chicken to serving platter. Cover with wax paper and keep warm while making sauce.

In 1-quart microwave-safe casserole, place butter, mushrooms, celery, green onions and pineapple. Cover and microwave at HIGH 2 1/2 to 4 minutes, until lightly cooked.

Meanwhile, strain drippings from chicken dish into 1-pint microwave-safe measuring cup. Add water, if necessary, to measure 1 cup. In small bowl or cup, mix cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water, then stir into drippings. When vegetables and pineapple are sauteed, microwave drippings mixture at HIGH 3 to 5 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes, until thickened. Blend thickened mixture into vegetable-pineapple mixture, then spoon evenly over chicken. Garnish with cashews. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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