panko persuasion…

You know you’ve found a good man when you mention needing to cut up that whole chicken for dinner and you come home to a beautiful platter of carved pieces, ready to use. I think my husband is also still trying to ween me back onto chicken, fearing that if I must disjoint it myself, I might scrap the whole idea of eating it altogether. He is a very wise man.

The next recipe on my list was Panko Baked Chicken. Possibly panko could persuade me to eat meat? I figured a little less deep-frying while maintaining a crisp, flavorful breading would make for a more calorie friendly meal anyhow.

The panko process was very simple and gave me plenty of time to whip up a couple other side dishes to complete my autumn feast. I baked an acorn squash, boiled some orzo, steamed some cauliflower, and tossed some of our fresh cherry tomatoes with herbs. (Lots of sides are needed when there is a pseudo-vegetarian *me* at the table. The unpredictable creature could turn her nose up to the chicken at any time!)

The panko itself was excellent (hello, who can resist crunchy seasoned crumbs?). And the chicken? I found it to be just ok. I’m having omnivore issues still. The baby seal dream was a little much to digest. This is the 3rd bird that I have made and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier for me. It took me awhile, but I ate a whole panko crusted breast. I’m not trying to convert back to a full-time meat eater, but it would be nice to be more open minded. What an easier dinner guest I could be! I’m working on it.

I haven’t worked my way up to eating leftovers yet, which is posing quite the dilemma for my poor husband. He’s basically being asked to eat a whole chicken each week, less a breast. We still have around 9 more chickens in the queue! Time to start sharing the poultry wealth. We’ll make these spreads for guests now that I am more confident in my preparation abilities. Until then, does anyone want to come over for leftovers?!

Recipe: Panko Baked Chicken

1 whole chicken, cut into 8-10 serving pieces (or you could substitute just breasts or tenders)
2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 cups buttermilk (you could substitute a stick of melted butter if you prefer)
Cayenne, garlic pepper, aleppo pepper, salt, and/or any herbs desired

Preheat oven to 400. In one bowl, mix the buttermilk or melted butter with a few dashes of cayenne (optional: marinate the chicken for 2-4 hours in the buttermilk). In a second bowl, mix the panko crumbs, seasonings, and herbs. Dip chicken into marinade and then into panko, coating evenly on both sides. Transfer to a shallow baking pan and let crust form for 5 minutes. Bake chicken until well browned and cooked through, about 40-50 minutes (the smaller pieces may need to be taken out earlier).

Recipe: Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 acorn squash, halved and cleaned
1 cup dry orzo, rice, or couscous (2+ cups cooked)
15 oz vegetable or chicken broth
~1 cup water
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
½ stick butter or margarine
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400°F. Place 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of brown sugar in each squash half. Bake in a shallow dish or cookie sheet until very tender, about 40 minutes. (Or, microwave squash until tender in a dish with 1 inch of water, 6 to 8 minutes, turning halves frequently). Let cool for 5 minutes.

In the mean time, start boiling the broth with any additional water, following the directions on the package for whichever filling you choose. Cook down until water is mostly absorbed and filling is tender. Scoop most of the squash flesh out of shells, leaving them intact, and mix well into the filling. Stir in cranberries, nuts, remaining butter, and spices. Scoop mixture back into squash shells and serve.

Recipe: Mashed Cauliflower

1 head Cauliflower
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: parmesan cheese, rosemary, or garlic for additional flavor

Steam or bowl cauliflower until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and put into a food processor or mixing bowl. Add half the butter, milk, and desired seasonings and mix until smooth. Continue to add liquids until you’ve reached the desired consistency (like mashed potatoes). You may need more or less of the butter and milk depending on the size of the cauliflower.

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