Sue Willson's Easy Chicken cooking class should perhaps have been titled "Chicken Around the World - Plus."
The "plus" portion comes from many tips for substitutions, alternate methods of preparing chicken, and short-cuts for cooks.
In the recent Gourmet Chef cooking class, Willson prepared Italian-influenced Chicken Piccata and one-pot Arroz con Pollo with its Mexican flavor as well as Greek Chicken with Tomatoes, Chicken with Hoisin Sauce and a delightful Vietnamese-style Chicken Slaw, served as a salad.
Cleo Cantlon/MDN - - Instructor Sue Willson, left, serves up a steamy and flavorful plate of Arroz Con Pollo to Billy Luetzen in a recent class at Gourmet Chef.
Cleo Cantlon/MDN - - Greek Chicken with Tomatoes was a hearty, tasty dish in Sue Willson’s “Easy Chicken” class.
Cleo Cantlon/MDN - - Sue Willson slices chicken breasts for Vietnamese-style Chicken Slaw in her “Easy Chicken” class.
Cleo Cantlon/MDN - - The table was laden with treats at Sue Willson’s “Easy Chicken” class, including Greek chicken, upper left; Chicken Piccata, center right, and Chicken in Hoisin Sauce, bottom. Buttered noodles, center left, were served as well.
"Don't crowd chicken pieces in the pan when you brown it," she cautioned. "Then the meat gets boiled instead of fried, and the taste is much different. Cook it in batches."
Each dish also emphasized getting the most flavor from each bit of meat and minimizing amounts needed for satisfying recipes.
She also taught students that chicken should be lightly dusted with flour to seal in flavor before frying. Her technique for thorough cooking is to cut through pieces such as thighs and drumsticks, then butterfly, or spread the meat out.
Willson also cut breasts lengthwise to create thinner pieces that cook better. She tenderized breast pieces by adding salt and pepper, covering each piece with plastic wrap, and pounding it with a heavy bottle.
Willson also suggested substituting other meats, such as pork, pounded flat, in the Chicken with Hoisin Sauce recipe. As a working mother, she recommended shortcuts, such as using left-over chicken from the deli in the Chicken Slaw.
"Lemon juice marinade from the Greek Chicken works great to tenderize tough cuts of beef," Willson said. "For backyard barbecuing, I put it in a Ziploc bag."
"And if you buy fresh oregano and there is some left over, just let it dry, chop and freeze it for later use."
Vietnamese-Style Chicken Slaw
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
3 cups Napa cabbage, thinly sliced (or buy a bag of coleslaw mix)
1 medium carrot, shredded or thinly julienned
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded or cut in fine strips
1/4 cup each mint and cilantro, (save some for garnish)
Pinch sea salt
Crushed roasted peanuts
Juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce - you can substitute soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon chili garlic sauce, optional
In a large bowl, combine cabbage, carrot, chicken and herbs; toss with tongs. Pour dressing over cabbage, tossing to coat everything. Garnish with peanuts, mint and cilantro.
NOTE: In class, Willson added the chicken last, after she tossed it in small amount of reserved dressing, then added it to the slaw.
Greek Chicken With Tomatoes
6 or 8 bone-in chicken pieces (Willson used thighs and drumsticks)
Salt and pepper
1/4 pound butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
28-ounce can tomatoes
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons oregano, fresh or dry
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup red wine
Marinate chicken in lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set aside at least 30 minutes.
Heat butter and oil in large skillet; brown marinated chicken until golden on all sides. Remove from pan. Deglaze pan with wine; add tomatoes, onion, oregano, bay leaves. When mixture is bubbly, return chicken to pan. Reduce heat; add wine; simmer until chicken is done, 30 to 40 minutes, or bake mixture in 350 F oven for 1 hour. Serve with buttered pasta.
Chicken in Hoisin Sauce
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots
1 stalk celery, diced
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil for cooking
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon water
Marinate chicken for 15 minutes in medium bowl.
Heat olive oil in medium hot skillet, add chicken. Stir fry until chicken is just done. Add peas and carrots and hoisin sauce. Stir until all is evenly coated with sauce, and sauce is bubbly, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add green onion. Served with steamed rice or Asian noodles.
NOTE: Thinly cut strips of pork, pounded for tenderness, can be substituted.