March 22, 2012

Back to Basics - Cooking Chicken 101

I have had the privilege this week of working at clinics around Chicago that assist HIV positive patients in obtaining food, nutrition counseling, and shelter assistance.  Being a part of the compassionate and dedicated staff as well as working with many committed volunteers from around the city, country and world has been incredibly inspirational to me.  I have been a hunger-advocate for years, both participating in hunger action legislation as well as volunteering regularly at local food assistance programs, but I have never been able to counsel patients one-on-one before like I have during this rotation.  The challenges of living with chronic disease are especially frustrating when transportation, family support, medical support, and finances are limited or non-existent.

On my first day at a clinic, I encountered a really great question from a young client:  how do you prepare chicken?  He reported he had been boiling it in a pot, but wasn’t sure how to know when it was done or how to make it taste good.  Without having access to cook-books, supported by family, friends, or schooling that teaches cooking skills, or having the resources to purchase spices and ingredients, how could a person obtain basic cooking skill support?

Because of this great client, I created a hand-out on the very basic principles of cooking chicken (a commodity that is provided at many facilities) in a simple way for those who may have never attempted it before.  I also adapted two recipes involving items commonly acquired at a local pantry, or easily attainable and affordable at a grocery store.  Instead of a traditional recipe format, I chose a more simple lay-out with step-by-step instructions.  Do you think it works?  Check it out below! 

   Preparing Chicken
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Pour a very light layer of vegetable oil in the dish and on the meat.
Place pieces of chicken in a baking dish.
Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper.
Cook in oven for 25-30 minutes (until white in the middle and juices run clear).

Poaching (Boiling)
Place chicken in a single layer in a pot.
Cover chicken with broth or water.
Bring to a boil; then reduce heat to low so that the water is at a low simmer (not very bubbly).
Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Turn off heat completely and allow chicken to stay in hot water for 15-20 minutes.

Cut raw chicken into bite-sized pieces or thin strips (don’t let raw meat touch other foods).
Place small amount of cooking oil in a non-stick skillet or pan over medium-heat.
Add meat and cook on medium for 3 to 5 minutes or until browned. 

*Raw chicken can make you very sick!  If you have a meat thermometer, chicken should reach 165 degrees inside to be safe.  Always be sure that the chicken is cooked until it is white and no longer red or pink inside.  If you pierce the meat with a fork, the juice will runs clear (not pink) if it is done.  Cut open the meat to be sure it’s cooked through before you serve it.   Raw chicken carries bacteria:  be sure not to let it touch other foods and to wash your board, knife, and hands carefully after handling the meat.  

Orange Chicken Drumsticks

1.      Coat 8 chicken drumsticks (skin removed) in a bowl with ½ teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil.

2.      Heat a large nonstick skillet to medium-high, coat pan lightly with cooking spray and add chicken.  Cook for about 6 minutes or until meat is brown on all sides.

3.      Add 1 can of mandarin oranges with its juice, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to pan and meat, cover and simmer on medium-low for 10 minutes. 

4.      Remove chicken from pan and place on a plate. Bring sauce in pan to a boil over high heat.  Cook sauce for about 5 minutes, return chicken to pan, and stir to cover meat in sauce.

5.      Enjoy with rice and vegetables for a complete meal.

Stuffed Chicken Breast

1.      Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

2.      Flatten chicken breast with a meat tenderizer or the heel of your hand to make it thin.

3.      Put a small amount of lunch meat, ham, cheese, sauce, herbs, or greens on the breast.  You can choose the ingredients; use whatever you think sounds good!

4.      Roll the ingredients inside the meat and hold the rolled-up chicken with toothpicks so it doesn't come undone while it's baking. 

5.      Rub the chicken meat lightly with vegetable oil and place in a baking dish. 

6.      Cook in the oven for 40-45 minutes.  Check that chicken is completely done by checking the temperature (at least 165 degrees) or cutting it to be sure there is no pink color left.

7.      Enjoy with rice, potato, noodles or bread and vegetables for a complete meal.

*Created by Ginger Hultin, Dietetic Intern

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