Spring Chicken

Get out of your recipe rut with more wholesome takes on poultry—these three chicken dinners are all-around winners.




Flavio's Warm Chicken and Pesto Salad

Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 boneless chicken thighs, skin on 
  • 4¼ oz. mozzarella
  • 16 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the pesto:

  •  4½ oz. pine nuts
  • 2 oz. basil leaves and stalks
  • 2 Tbs. Parmesan, finely grated 
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled
  • 8 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil 

For the salad:

  • 7 oz. spinach leaves 
  • 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the pine nuts on a baking tray and roast for a few minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and tip onto a plate to cool.

Peel the skin from the chicken thighs and set aside. Season the thighs lightly with salt and pepper and stretch each one out onto a baking tray.

Stretch out the pieces of skin onto an oven rack, scatter with a little salt and cook just above the chicken thighs in the oven for about 25 minutes—the fat from the skin will drip onto the thigh meat below. The skin will shrink and become golden and crispy, and the chicken thighs should be cooked through in about the same time, but remove one or the other if one is ready before. 

Meanwhile, to make the pesto, whizz all the ingredients together in a small food processor or use a pestle and mortar. Season to taste and set aside.

When the chicken is cooked, remove the rack with the skin and set aside. Remove the tray with the chicken thighs and spoon over the pesto, using about 1 Tbs. per thigh. Tear the mozzarella into thumb-sized pieces and lay on top of the pesto. Scatter the tomato halves around the chicken and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown.

To make the salad, toss the spinach with the oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, and divide between four bowls or plates. Lay the chicken onto the spinach with the tomatoes, crumble the chicken crackling over the top and serve.

"Consider removing the skin from the chicken to lower the amount of saturated fat in this dish. Also, you don’t need more than two tablespoons of mozzarella, since cheese is high in fat and sodium and a little goes a long way.”—Sharon Katzman, registered dietitian and nutritionist, Ridgewood

Butter Chicken

Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
  • 1 tsp. salt plus more to taste
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice 
  • 4 fat garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 Tbs. fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 Tbs. ghee, butter or coconut oil (optional) 
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1-2 small green or red chilies, split in half, to taste
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin 
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric 
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander 
  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 14 oz. can of plum tomatoes, chopped
  • a few coriander leaves 

Directions

Put the chicken thighs into a bowl and scatter over 1 tsp. of salt, the chili powder, lemon juice and half the garlic and ginger. Mix thoroughly and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes.

Put the chicken thighs skin-side down into a large frying pan over a medium heat. When golden brown turn to the other side and repeat—it will take about 20 minutes to do this. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside while you make the sauce.

Add the ghee to the pan (unless there is enough chicken fat) and fry the onion with a little salt until softened, about 10 minutes. 

Add the remaining garlic, ginger and chilies and fry for a couple of minutes. Stir in the remaining spices and cook for another couple of minutes.

Add the butter and tomatoes and fill the can halfway with water and swirl it around. Add this to the pan and cook for 15 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft, stirring frequently. Add the thighs to the pan and continue to cook, covered with a lid, for 45 minutes or until they are cooked through and the meat falls easily from the bones. 

Season to taste. Add the coriander and serve right away.

"A healthier alternative to butter or ghee is avocado or olive oil, which are both anti-inflammatory fats. Avocado oil also has a very high smoke point, so it’s good for cooking.”—Alenka Ravnik-List, registered dietitian and nutritionist, Eating Right Matters, Woodcliff Lake

Chicken Tagliata

Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, skinned
  • 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 7 oz. rocket leaves or watercress
  • 2 Tbs. Parmesan or Grana Padano, in shavings
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper  

For the Dressing:

  • 8-inch sprig of rosemary, leaves picked
  • ½ fresh red chili, to tastes
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar 

Directions

Preheat the grill to high.

Prepare the dressing by finely chopping the rosemary, chili and garlic together on a board with some salt and a good twist of pepper. Mix in a bowl with the oil and vinegar. Set aside.

Open out the chicken breasts by cutting them three-quarters of the way through with a sharp knife along one long side. Butterfly them by opening them out like wings and flatten under a piece of cling film with a meat tenderizer or base of a small pan. The chicken should be an even thickness to ensure the same cooking time all over. 

Season the chicken breasts and rub a little oil over each one. 

Grill the breasts until they are cooked through—this will take about 4 minutes each side if the breasts are ¾ of an inch thick. If you have a meat thermometer, check that the chicken is 176°F inside, or cut into the deepest part with a sharp knife to check that the juices run clear and are not pink.  

Arrange the rocket leaves and Parmesan shavings on a plate or large wooden chopping board. When the chicken is cooked, slice it into strips and transfer to the serving plate. Drizzle the dressing over and serve immediately. 

"Cut back on the olive oil in the dressing by using just a drizzle of it mixed with any vinegar of your choice. You could also make dressing without olive oil entirely by combining the vinegar with lemon juice, Dijon mustard and a crushed garlic clove.” —Sharon Katzman, registered dietitian and nutritionist, Ridgewood

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