It’s time to enjoy some spring chicken

As the weather warms, lighten up meals by grilling meat and using herbs, fruit for a bright taste

The idea of spring chickens may not bring visions of delicious poultry to mind. However, this is the ideal time to prepare lighter dishes that feature chicken.

Instead of the heavier gravies that give chicken dishes comfort-food appeal in fall and winter, it’s time to think lighter in appearance and taste.

Use citrus or other fruits to brighten the flavor. Herbs add a special flair of their own. Place chunks of chicken in salads to create a light dinner salad or grill the meat to add a smoky flavor that evokes summertime.

Many people select white chicken meat, removing the skin to minimize the fat and calories. But the tender dark meat is equally delicious, albeit a little higher in calories and fat.

Just remember, when preparing dishes with chicken, refrigerate the raw meat promptly. Never leave it on a countertop at room temperature.

Freeze uncooked chicken if it won’t be used within two days. Thaw it in the refrigerator, not on the countertop, or in cold water.

When grilling chicken outdoors, keep it refrigerated until ready to cook. Do not place cooked chicken on same plate used to transport the raw meat to the grill.

Always cook chicken until well done, not medium or rare. If using a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should reach 180 degrees for a whole chicken, 170 degrees for parts with the bones and 160 degrees for boneless chicken.

To check visually for doneness, pierce chicken with a fork. The juices should run clear, not pink, and the fork should enter the chicken easily.

Never leave cooked chicken at room temperature for more than two hours. If it’s not eaten immediately, cooked chicken should be kept either hot or refrigerated.

Marinade in which raw chicken has been soaking should never be used on cooked chicken.

Always wash hands, countertops, cutting boards, knives and other utensils used in preparing raw chicken with soapy water before they come in contact with other raw or cooked foods.

Following are a few recipes from


Chicken Caprese

2 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

6 ounce jar basil pesto

4 to 6 slices fresh mozzarella or 6 ounces grated mozzarella cheese

8 cocktail or small tomatoes, sliced

Balsamic glaze

Fresh basil, slivered

Use a thin, sharp knife to slice the chicken breasts in half lengthwise. Season both sides with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat with olive oil and butter. Once butter has melted, add chicken breasts, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook three to four minutes on each side, until lightly browned and they easily release from the pan.

Spread one to two tablespoons pesto on top of each chicken breast. Top with a slice of mozzarella and a few slices of tomato. Transfer skillet to a 400-degree oven and cook 10 to 12 minutes, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Remove from the oven and garnish with fresh basil and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

Makes four servings.





Thai Ginger Chicken and Rice

1 bunch cilantro, stems removed

3 medium jalapénos, seeded and roughly chopped

2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

2 13.5-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch slices

3 cups cooked rice

Chopped green onion and sliced red serrano or Thai chili peppers if desired

Reserve two tablespoons cilantro leaves. Place the rest of the cilantro along with the jalapeños and ginger in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Heat two tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook the ginger mixture two minutes, until fragrant and season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Add onion and red bell pepper and cook five minutes, until softened.

Add coconut milk and soy sauce and bring to a simmer. Add chicken and the remaining salt and simmer about 10 minutes, until cooked through and the sauce thickens.

Spoon rice into bowls and serve with the ginger chicken. Garnish with the remaining cilantro leaves, green onion and sliced serrano peppers.

Makes four servings.




Beyond Easy Chicken Mole Enchiladas

For mole sauce:

2 cups hot water

4 dried Ancho chiles, stemmed and deseeded

3/4 sweet onion, roughly chopped

1 15-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, smashed

1 tablespoon honey

2-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips , melted

3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For enchiladas:

8 to 10 6-inch flour tortillas

3 cups shredded chicken

1/2 yellow onion, diced

2 to 3 cups shredded cheese

3 cups mole sauce

For garnish, optional:


Chopped green onion


Cotija cheese

For sauce, place hot water in a high-powered blender and submerge chiles in the water. Let sit 10 minutes to soften.

Add onion, tomatoes, garlic, honey and kosher salt and blend on high until smooth.

Add chocolate chips, peanut butter and cinnamon and blend for 30 seconds to one minute.

In a 9-by-12-inch baking dish, place one cup sauce, tilting the dish to evenly coat the bottom of the dish.

Fill each tortilla with 1/4 cup shredded cheese and 1/3 cup chicken. Drizzle with more mole sauce and sprinkle with chopped onion. Roll enchilada and place, seam side down, in the pan. Place the enchiladas snugly against one another.

Pour 1-1/2 cups sauce over the center of the enchiladas and top with more shredded cheese. Tent with aluminum foil and bake in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes, until warmed through and the cheese is melted.

Remove foil and bake 10 more minutes. Garnish with the chopped avocado, onion, cilantro and cotija cheese, if desired.

The enchiladas can be prepped ahead and refrigerated for three days before baking, or wrapped tightly with plastic wrap, then foil, and frozen for as long as two months. To cook, tent with foil and bake in a 375-degree oven for 45 minutes, then another 10 minutes uncovered.




Chicken Pot Pie With Puff Pastry Crust

2 tablespoons canola oil

1-1/2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white parts only

1-1/2 cups sliced brown mushrooms

3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

1-1/2 cups chopped asparagus

1 cup baby red potatoes, quartered

1/2 cup sliced carrots

1-1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 cups diced chicken breast

1 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup flour

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup  almond milk

1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg

Heat oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks and cook four to five minutes, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften. Add mushrooms, season with one teaspoon kosher salt and cook five minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic and cook two minutes, until fragrant, then add asparagus, red potatoes, carrots and thyme leaves. Season with the rest of the salt and black pepper and cook seven to 10 minutes, until potatoes and asparagus are tender.

Add chicken and peas and stir to combine. Sprinkle mixture with the flour, then stir to combine well and cook another two to three minutes.

Stir in chicken broth and almond milk, bring to a boil and cook two to three minutes, until thickened, stirring often. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Unwrap puff pastry and use a rolling pin to lengthen the dough. Cut pastry into four squares. Fill each of four individual baking dishes or ramekins with 1-1/2 cups chicken mixture, then top with a puff pastry square.

Whisk egg with one tablespoon water. Lightly brush puff pastry with the egg wash.

Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven for 20  to 25 minutes, until filling is bubbling and puff pastry is golden. Serve hot.






Stuffed Chicken Thighs With Spinach and Goat Cheese

1-1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

1/3 cup goat cheese, softened

1/3 cup cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup wilted spinach, chopped and squeezed of extra moisture

1/4 cup drained artichoke hearts, chopped

1/4 cup sun-drained tomatoes, drained and chopped

1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 to 3 tablespoons olive or canola oil

1/2 cup chicken broth

Let chicken sit at room temperature at least 20 minutes before cooking.

In a medium size bowl, mix goat cheese and cream cheese until smooth. Stir spinach, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper into the cheese mixture until combined.

Pat chicken dry with a paper towel. Carefully loosen the skin from the thigh meat with your fingers, making a pocket. Gently place a spoonful of the goat cheese mixture in the pocket between the skin and the chicken, keeping it in a small mound. Pull skin so it covers the chicken, then season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Place chicken, skin-side down, in the skillet and cook four to five minutes, until the skin is golden and crispy. Turn the chicken over and cook another four to five minutes, until golden brown. If the chicken sticks to the pan, it isn’t ready to turn.

Add chicken broth to the bottom of the pan and carefully cover with aluminum foil. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160 degrees. Remove from the oven and let the chicken rest five minutes. Garnish with more basil and serve.

Makes four servings.




One Pan Chicken With Spring Vegetables

4 small chicken breasts

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup rose or dry white wine

14 ounces canned stewed tomatoes

14 ounces canned white beans, drained

1 cup quartered artichoke hearts

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 cup chopped asparagus

2 tablespoons chopped chives, plus more for garnish

Season chicken breasts liberally on both sides with salt and pepper.  Heat a large skillet to medium heat, then add two teaspoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons butter. Sear chicken two to three minutes per side, until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add wine to pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up all the brown bits. Simmer until reduced by half. Add tomatoes, white beans and artichokes. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, then cook four to five minutes, until tomatoes and beans start to soften.

Add chicken, salt and asparagus to the pan. Cover and simmer three to four minutes, until chicken is cooked through and asparagus is cooked but still crisp.

Add chives and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with more chives.




Lemon Chicken Thighs With Artichokes

6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons butter

1 15-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts in water

1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

Season both sides of the chicken with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place chicken, skin side down, in a cold 12-inch cast iron skillet. Cook over medium high heat about eight minutes, until chicken releases from the pan and is golden brown. Transfer chicken, skin side up, to a baking sheet that’s lined with foil and topped with a baking rack. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until internal temperature is 160 degrees. Tent with foil and rest five minutes, until the temperature comes to 165 degrees.

Set aside all but one tablespoon of the oil from the skillet and cook the chopped onion three to four minutes, stirring occasionally, until it softens. Add wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in butter until melted. Add artichoke hearts and sliced lemons and cook five minutes,  until warmed and sauce reduces.

Place chicken back in the pan, sprinkle with parsley and spoon with the sauce. Serve with steamed rice or pasta.

Makes four servings.




Spring Chicken and Rice Soup

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced

3 carrots, cut into thin slices

2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves

10 cups chicken stock

1 cup basmati rice or any long grain white rice

1 rotisserie chicken, shredded, skin and bones discarded

5 ounces arugula

1 cup frozen peas

A couple lemons

Freshly grated Parmesan, for garnish

Fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Coarse salt


Bring oil to medium-high heat in a large pot. Add onions and carrots and sauté five minutes, until the carrots begin to soften. Add garlic and oregano and sauté another 30 seconds to one minute, until garlic is fragrant.

Add the stock to the pot. Add rice and let it simmer for about 15 minutes, until tender. Add chicken, arugula, peas and a large pinch of salt. Simmer a few minutes, until peas pop in color and arugula wilts. Add the juice of one lemon, stir and taste.  Add more salt, if needed, and some fresh parsley.

Serve garnished with a lot of fresh Parmesan, extra lemon wedges and a grind or two of black pepper.

Makes six to eight servings.




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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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