Lifestyle

WHIDBEY RECIPES | Never heard of geoduck? And you call yourself a supercook

Remember when you were a kid and played “Let’s Pretend?” That’s what we’re doing today, so even if you were backward as a child and didn’t play “Let’s Pretend,” just go along with it for a bit.

Let’s pretend you have a package of frozen chicken drumsticks, a dozen or so mushrooms aging in the refrigerator that need immediate attention, a couple of lemons, an onion, some garlic, and of course, the usual things, such as olive oil, salt, pepper and such.

And let’s also pretend you’re tired of all the usual chicken dishes you’ve cooked over the years. “Not the same old thing,” you whine, “why can’t I think of something different.”

Well, loyal readers, I just found a new Web site I’ve been playing with for the last couple of hours (when I should have been working on this column), and it shows a lot of promise for that kind of a day. If you aren’t a computer person, or don’t “do” computers, you may as well stop reading now and pretend something else to your liking.

The Web site is here, and its entire purpose is to generate recipes based on what you already have in the kitchen, along with any other ingredients you enter. You can add as many ingredients as you wish, or eliminate any you happen to be out of or don’t use.

Tonight I’m making one of their suggested chicken dishes based on the ingredients I mentioned in the “Let’s Pretend” paragraph, only I wasn’t pretending when I entered my items and asked for their input.

Next thing I knew, I was hooked on the endless ingredient possibilities and started playing around with various odd combinations for too long, fascinated with the recipes that came up. Comments and star-based ratings are posted with the recipes, so you can get an idea of how others who’ve tried them felt about the results.

I soon realized there was a problem, however, and it’s that too many recipes pop up, so many that it’s virtually impossible to look at them all, let alone decide which one to try.

Entering my chicken dish ingredient list brought up 2,000 possibilities, which should come as no surprise considering I personally believe that chicken recipes are being generated by some unknown force and there will never be an end to yet another chicken recipe.

As I kept testing the site with increasingly odd combinations of ingredients just to see what would result, I was also thinking of my Uncle Larry, recently bereft of his cook, my beloved aunt, and his struggles to come up with reasonably decent meals for himself.

I think the Web site could be particularly helpful for men like Larry, as well as new-to-the-kitchen cooks learning their way, and for cooks such as myself, who need a jump start now and then with new ideas for familiar ingredients.

But, I also have reservations about this fun Web site and will withhold further judgment until I’ve tried and tested a few of their recipe suggestions for my proposed ingredients. Why?

When I entered “geoduck” into my ingredient list, supercook came back with “We have never heard of geoduck. Did you perhaps misspell the word? Can you re-enter the ingredient, please?”

Can you trust a recipe Web site that has never heard of geoduck?

RECIPES

The chicken dish I finally selected was our main dinner entree last night. I read some of the posted reviews and they were universally glowing, 4- to 5-star ratings (5 being top), so I had high expectations. It was very easy to prepare, cooked in less than an hour, and we both liked it, but not as well as many, many other chicken dishes we’ve eaten.

But I’ll probably save the recipe, and try it again when I have the same ingredients. Here it is for your assessment.

PORTOBELLO LEMON CHICKEN

1 onion, chopped

2 Portobello mushroom caps, chopped (I used crimini mushrooms, which are baby portobellos, chopped)

1 green bell pepper, chopped (the supercook recipe didn’t call for it, but I added it because I had it)

2 lbs. bone-in chicken pieces

Garlic salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Juice of two large lemons

Spread the chopped onion and chopped mushroom in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Arrange chicken pieces on top, skin side up. Pour the lemon juice over the chicken and season to taste with garlic salt and pepper.

Bake chicken in a preheated 400-degree oven for 20 min., then carefully turn chicken pieces over and return to oven; bake 15 min. more. Remove from oven, arrange oven shelf for broiling and turn oven to broil. Broil the chicken for 5 min., or until chicken is crispy. Remove from oven; serve with rice or pasta. Serves 4.

LIME AND THYME CHICKEN

8 chicken thighs

2 T. chopped green onion (scallion), including some of the green

2 t. chopped fresh thyme (or 1 t. dried)

2-3 garlic cloves, crushed (I use more)

Juice of 2 limes

6 T. butter, melted

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Lime slices and cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Place the chicken thighs skin side down in a baking dish or roasting pan. Using a sharp knife, make a lengthways slit along the thigh bone of each piece. Mix the chopped green onion with a little salt and pepper and press the mixture into the slits.

Mix the thyme, garlic and lime juice in a small bowl. Add 4 T. of the melted butter and mix well. Spoon a little of the mixture over each chicken thigh, spreading evenly. Spoon remaining butter evenly over the top of the chicken pieces. Cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hrs., or up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap from the chicken dish and replace with foil. Bake for about 1 hr. then remove the foil and cook for an additional 5-10 min., until the chicken turns golden brown. Garnish with lime slices and cilantro sprigs and serve, with white or brown rice. Serves 4.

One of my favorite quick/easy supper meals is a soup/sandwich combo, often tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich. But, if I have leftover cooked chicken, this will be my choice any time I also have ricotta cheese in the fridge, which is more often than not.

CHICKEN ZUCCHINI RICOTTA SANDWICHES

2 med. size zucchini, shredded

2 t. salt

1 T. olive oil

1 tub (15 oz.) ricotta cheese

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 t. grated lemon peel

4 pieces (about 5x4) focaccia or ciabatta bread, cut in half horizontally

2 thinly sliced tomatoes

Cooked chicken breast or other cooked, sliced chicken (you could buy already roasted chicken breast if you don’t have leftover), thinly sliced

Mix the zucchini and salt in a bowl; transfer to a colander set over a bowl and let stand 15 min. or more to drain liquid from the zucchini. Rinse and drain zucchini and squeeze to remove as much liquid as possible.

Heat oil in a skillet over med. heat. Add zucchini and saute 2 min. Cool slightly. Add ricotta, Parmesan and lemon peel to zucchini; stir to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (You can make this ahead as much as 8 hrs.; cover and chill until ready to use.)

Preheat the broiler. Arrange the focaccia pieces cut side up on a baking sheet and boil just until lightly toasted. Spread the ricotta mixture generously over the foccacia pieces and broil until ricotta mixture is heated through and beginning to brown in spots, about 4 min.

Top 4 focaccia pieces with tomato slices, then with chicken slices, dividing equally. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; cover with remaining 4 focaccia pieces, ricotta side down. Cut sandwiches diagonally in half and serve. Serves 4.

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