The joy of a simple dinner. My tips for perfectly cooked, simply prepared but amazingly delicious simple meals.
Sometimes the simplest meals are the best – but they have to be done right. One way to make a simple meal company worthy is to serve PERFECTLY cooked meat. Especially chicken or pork. Most often something that could be really delicious is ruined because the meat is over cooked.
Dinner planning can get crazy sometimes and I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time to create amazing meals every night of the week. At least one night a week we have something very simple – a grilled or pan roasted chicken breast or pork loin chop – organic or free range whenever possible, with a side of vegetables. Easy, quick, but never ordinary. Fresh lemon juice and some fresh herbs, or deglazing the pan with some wine and adding garlic – make these meals seem like something special – and they taste fantastic!
Here are my tips for perfectly cooked, simply prepared but amazingly delicious chicken or pork:
- Let the meat come to room temperature if possible.
- Season well. Season with Kosher/sea salt, pepper and from there use your imagination. You can use dried herbs here too, whatever works with the enhancer you will be using. Lemon juice? Use dried oregano or basil. Lime juice? Dried chipoltle powder and cumin, maybe a dash of cinnamon. Trader Joes makes a delicious salt-free seasoning mix, the only mix I use, called 21 seasoning salute. It’s delicious and adds a lot of flavor but it doesn’t have sugar or artificial flavors/preservatives added.
- Sear well. Start over a high heat and brown well, locking in the juices and caramelizing the outside. Use a bit of a healthy oil/fat of your choice for this – coconut oil is great for high heat cooking.
- Lower the heat once both sides are browned well and let the meat continue cooking according to the thickness. If the pan starts getting too brown on the bottom, which will happen if the meat is very thick and needs to cook awhile, add a splash of water to the pan – don’t worry, it will evaporate off.
- Remove the meat from the pan to a cutting board or plate BEFORE the meat is finished cooking – about 10 degrees lower than the recommended temperature. I usually take chicken and pork out at about 165 degrees. Cover with foil and let the meat sit about 15 minutes. It will come up to the safe temperature and the juices will redistribute – the secret to juicy, tender meat.
- At this point you can take the fond, or the juices and bits left at the bottom of the pan and turn it into something amazing. Add some garlic, ginger, shallot, green onion, diced sweet oranges – these are just a few ideas. Saute, adding a dab of butter – about 1 tsp, if necessary…this adds great rich flavor.
- Deglaze with an acid of some sort – lemon juice, lime juice, red wine vinegar, wine, etc. Chicken or pork seasoned with dried oregano, then the pan deglazed with lemon juice – just about as perfect a meal as I can think of!
- At this point you can add another sweet flavor enhancer that goes well with your flavorings of choice – a splash of maple syrup, honey, simply fruit apricot jelly, whatever goes well with your flavorings. One of my favorites? Shallots, dijon mustard, white wine and apricot jelly…simply elegant! Bring the sauce up to a boil and let it evaporate to about half – a nice, rich sauce, not to drown your meat, but to simply accent it.
- This is where you can toss in fresh herbs, just after you finish your pan sauce and just before serving. A little garlic, deglazed with some lime juice? Cilantro would be great! Ginger, garlic, white wine and a splash of soy sauce, some green onions would be great with some cilantro also. Simple garlic and wine, meat seasoned with dried basil and oregano…basil is perfect. Use your imagination!
- Once the meat is rested, dredge the meat through the sauce and serve or serve on top, whichever is your preference.
- If this is a grilled meat I’m serving sometimes I will throw it back on the grill for just a few seconds after I add the sauce and let the sauce get “baked” on – mmmmm!
- Enjoy your perfectly cooked meat!
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