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MICROWAVE

Cooking From the Outside In

February 21, 1991|MARCIA CONE and THELMA SNYDER | Cone and Snyder are the authors of five books on microwave cooking. and

Microwave ovens cook food from the outside in. This is a principle basic to microwave cooking. But even though the appliance has been in homes for 25 years, there is still some confusion about it.

The platter recipe that follows is the perfect demonstration of this principle. At the same time, it will teach you a very streamlined way to prepare food.

When cooking more than one type of food at a time on the same plate, the arrangement of the food is important. Longer-cooking, denser foods should be placed on the outside while shorter-cooking foods snuggle up on the inside. A little water or sauce is sprinkled on top to produce steam. A cover that traps the steam will help even out the cooking, and all the components will finish quickly and at the same time.

We call this a streamlined way to prepare food because the meal or side dish can be cooked and served on one dish. One dish means cleanup is streamlined as well.

POTATO AND CHICKEN PLATTER WITH ASIAN DRESSING

1 pound boned and skinned chicken breasts

1 pound potatoes, scrubbed

8 ounces bean sprouts

1 medium sweet red or green pepper, thinly sliced

2 green onions (green parts only), cut in 1/2-inch pieces

1 tablespoon sesame seeds (preferably black, available at Asian markets)

1 tablespoon grated ginger root

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, optional

Cut chicken breasts in 2x1-inch strips. Julienne-cut potatoes into about 1/4x2 1/2-inch strips. Arrange potato pieces, like spokes of wheel, around rim of 12-inch round or 15x11-inch oval microwaveable platter. Place chicken strips in ring inside potatoes, overlapping potatoes by about 1 inch.

Toss bean sprouts with pepper slices and place in center of platter. Place green onions between potatoes and chicken. Sprinkle sesame seeds on chicken.

Combine ginger root, orange juice, brown sugar and mustard in small bowl and pour over chicken and vegetables.

Cover platter tightly with plastic wrap, turning back 1 corner to vent steam. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 8 to 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender-crisp, rotating plate once halfway through cooking. Makes 4 servings.

WINTER VEGETABLE PLATTER

1 medium acorn squash, unpeeled

2 cups broccoli florets

3 large carrots, cut into 2x1/4-inch strips (about 1 1/2 cups)

2 cups mushroom caps

2 tablespoons water

Fresh Lemon-Herb Sauce, optional

Halve squash lengthwise and remove seeds. Cut in 1/4-inch crosswise slices (like half moons). Around outside rim of 12- to 14-inch circular microwaveable platter, arrange slices to slightly overlap, forming edible doily.

Arrange broccoli next to squash, with stalks facing toward outer rim. Arrange carrots against broccoli and place mushroom caps in center. Sprinkle with water.

Cover with plastic wrap, turning back 1 corner to vent steam. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 5 to 8 minutes or until tender-crisp. Drain and serve as is or with Fresh Lemon-Herb Sauce. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Note: If squash is difficult to find, eliminate and begin with broccoli on outside. Reduce cooking time by 1 minute.

Fresh Lemon-Herb Sauce

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped dill

2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Place butter in 2-cup glass measure. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH (100% power) 1 to 2 minutes or until melted. Stir in parsley, dill, chives and lemon juice. Spoon over drained vegetable platter. Makes 1 cup.

Note: Easiest way to drain vegetable platter so that vegetables stay in place is to hold sides with dish towel so that towel covers plastic wrap, then tip and drain.

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