Here is a Monday night off meal, thrown together in about thirty minutes.
For me inspiration comes from someone wanting something new and unique. Cooking the same items on a restaurant’s menu becomes exhausting and stifling at times. I live for the moment a vegan comes in and wants a special entrée from the chef or when diners want tasting menus. All too often chefs fail to rise to this occasion and throw together small portions of items already in their menus. Now there is something to be said about a dish or recipe that is tested and perfected. They are our guidelines. But I was told by my father at an early age, “You live for the performance, not the practice.” I’m not good at coloring in the lines, so bear with me as I shoot from the hip here now and in the future.
“What are we making for dinner honey?”
“Well, chicken is quick.”
Then I saw it. A delicata squash so small I could fit it in my pocket. A few months ago Abby made a salad for us with roasted delicata squash in, and it had the skin on. Without thinking I started to relay how the skins of butternut, acorn, and kombucha squash can be bitter, bla, bla, bla. She calmly smiled and suggested I try it before I lecture. She was right. Now I can’t get enough of it. It’s like a ripe fruit. It has two textures in every bite!
“What are you going to make with that?”
“I have no idea…”
Using the wide world of knife cuts ensures the perfect distribution of flavors throughout each bite. It is good to be aware of the size of cuts in home cooking. It is something restaurants take hard into consideration when plating everything from single bites to pastas. Don’t be afraid to throw whole herbs anytime you use them. It is my belief that chopping them into tiny bruised fragments adds nothing but color and looks like grass clippings. If we are using beautiful parsley leaves from our garden, you’re damn right I put the whole leaf in. Cilantro leaves…same thing. When you get a bite of a grassy herb it explodes on your palate and connects your brain with the dirt and earth it came from and you can’t help but describe that bite as FRESH tasting. The only cautions I’ve run into is whole raw sage leaves and sometimes large amounts of fresh unchopped rosemary.
So, knowing I had about thirty minutes until Abby would get “hangry” (hungry/angry), I knew I had to make something quick with that tiny delicata squash and a few things we had around the kitchen.
Orange Cinnamon Chicken with Honey and Delicata Squash
Makes filling for 4-6 wraps
2 chicken breasts, large diced
1 small delicata squash, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 jalapeno, de-seeded and minced
1 onion, large diced
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 orange, zested and juiced
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 big spoonfuls of honey (about 3 tablespoons total)
1/3 cup water
1/2 bunch cilantro, rough chopped
cooking oil, salt and pepper
-brown rice tortillas
-4 radishes and 1/2 red onion, both 6 thinly sliced, topped with 2 ounces champagne vinegar and juice of 1 orange
Sweat the onion and garlic over medium heat in a pan with about enough oil to gently coat, about one tablespoon. Lightly season with salt & pepper. When the onion is translucent, add the squash and jalapeno.
Stir and cook for 2 minutes, then add one teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 spoonful of honey and the juice of one orange. Add water and lightly re-season with salt and pepper.
Cook until the liquid is reduced and thick and the squash is done. Be sure you don’t overcook the squash – you don’t want mushy squash! Use a slotted spoon to remove the vegetables when the squash feels tender, but still has some bite to it.
With the liquid left in the pan, add the chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper once it’s in the pan. Dust with the remaining one teaspoon of cinnamon and add the remaining 1 spoonful of honey and the orange zest. We don’t need to caramelize the chicken over high heat because the honey will replace the depth and sweetness obtained from caramelize through searing a protein.
When the chicken is cooked, add the vegetables back to the pot. Throw in the cilantro and stir.
We put this in tortillas and added the sprouts and “fresh-pickled” radishes and onion.
This is a perfect reheat for the next day!