Thursday, April 18, 2013

Homemade Italian Dressing Chicken

You have probably seen the commercials that use bottled Italian salad dressing as a marinade; even seen it on recipe sites posted by many a home cook. You might even have that shaker bottle that you add oil, water, vinegar and a packet of dressing mix to; I still have mine and it comes in handy. First, lets that a look at what is in a typical brand name Italian salad dressing: VINEGAR, WATER, SOYBEAN OIL, CANOLA OIL, SUGAR, SALT, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF GARLIC*, GARLIC, RED BELL PEPPERS*, ONIONS*, XANTHAN GUM, SPICE, OLEORESIN PAPRIKA, POTASSIUM SORBATE AND CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA (TO PROTECT FRESHNESS). *DRIED.   Doesn't that look simply yummy...Not!

See the shaker bottle in the photo, told you it comes in handy, especially when creating your own homemade dressing.  Lets compare, the bottled brand uses vinegar, but what type?  I use balsamic which has a deep, rich flavor and scent.  Soybean and canola oils?  It's Italian dressing, so use extra virgin olive oil.  Dried garlic?  Nope, I used minced garlic that has been preserved in, what else, olive oil.  Where are the herbs?  While I use crushed rosemary, basil, oregano and parsley; the bottled brand uses...none?   While the manufacturer is using paprika to make the dressing "zesty", I use crushed red pepper flakes.  The onions and peppers, oh mine are coming later on darlings, and you will so love it.  Notice the manufacturer uses water; even when using that dressing packet mix, it asks for water...well how else are you going to rehydrate all those dried ingredients?

Lets get on to today's recipe and you'll certainly be able to see with all your senses why homemade is better than bottled.  Think about it, if you have the time to make that packet dressing, you most certainly can make it fresh from scratch.

Italian Dressing Chicken
4 (1/2 lb each) boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves; or 8 (1/4 lb each chicken cutlets)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups olive oil
2 Tbsp dried, crushed Italian herb mixture
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 each medium sized yellow, red and orange bell peppers; seeded and julienned
1 large red onion; peeled and julienned
If you are purchasing the chicken breasts halves, make sure they are partially frozen before slicing them.  Place your hand on top of the chicken and carefully draw your knife lengthwise throughout the piece to form two 1/4 lb cutlets.  Practice makes perfect, but your local butcher can do it for you if your hands are just too shaky.  Place the chicken cutlets into a large plastic, sealable bag.
To make the dressing, simply pour the vinegar, oil, herbs, garlic and red pepper flakes into your shaker bottle, or a small bowl; shake the bottle to mix or whisk in the bowl.  Set 1/4 cup of the mixture aside and pour the remainder into the plastic bag.  Work the dressing throughout the chicken, seal the bag and refrigerate for a minimum of two hours, but no more than four hours.

Preheat the oven to 350F; have a nonstick jellyroll pan ready (baking sheet with a 1/4 inch lip on all sides).   Heat a nonstick large skillet on medium-high heat; place 4 pieces of chicken into the skillet and sear for two minutes on each side; transfer the chicken to the pan.  Repeat with the next 4 pieces; wipe any residue out of the skillet.  Place the pan into the oven and finish cooking the chicken off for seven minutes.
Take the reserved 1/4 cup of marinade, place it in the skillet, medium-high heat again; and toss to coat the julienned bell peppers and onions.  This will continue to cook in the skillet during the seven minutes the chicken is finishing up in the oven.  Occasionally move the vegetables around as you're using minced garlic and you do not want to allow it to brown or burn.
Here comes the real fun, first choice is a piece of chicken with a side of the peppers and onions.  Second choice, slice up the chicken into strips, place on a sub roll with peppers and onions for a new take on the old favorite of sausage with peppers and onions.  This is a great substitute for people who do not eat pork or red meat, but do eat poultry.  The marinated chicken can be made completely on a grill, instead of partially in the skillet, then finished in an oven.  The chicken itself is so full of flavor from the marinade, fork tender and dripping with juiciness.  The balsamic vinegar truly brings out the sweetness of the bell peppers and red onion, so no need to add any sugar as they do in manufactured bottled dressings.
This recipe makes 8 servings, but can be easily cut down for lesser portions, but why would you want to?  Enjoy the homemade!
Mary Cokenour

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