Sure, you can quickly sear some chicken breasts or pop some thighs in a Dutch oven to braise. But aren’t you a tiny bit bored of your weekly Rolodex of chicken recipes, the ones you’ve been making for years?
Well that’s about to change once you get your hands on Food52 and Tyler Kord’s new cookbook: “Dynamite Chicken.” The book aims to rekindle your love for chicken with 60 recipes all staring America’s beloved poultry. There are big weeknight projects, like spicy parmesan chicken pot pie and chicken and grits tamales with salsa más macha, plus a ton of recipes devoted to weeknight meals, including an herby farfalle with chicken and broccoli.
Food52 Dynamite Chicken: 60 Never-Boring Recipes for Your Favorite Bird, $16.59 on Amazon
Plus, the book is loaded with a bevy of tips and tricks for cooking chicken, from how to break down a whole chicken to preparing your own homemade chicken stock. After reading through Tyler’s wealth of knowledge—peppered with his singular, offbeat humor—you’ll never have to worry about messing up a spatchcocked chicken again.
So the next time you’re looking for a chicken recipe that’s not, well, boring, try Tyler’s chickensagna (there’s actually an entire chapter in the book dedicated to not-boring chicken dinners). It’s a chicken and lasagna mash-up—minus the pasta. Pounded boneless chicken is coated in flour and piled in a pan between layers of tomato sauce, fennel, and ricotta cheese. The paper-thin slices of chicken act like pasta noodles, albeit a much meatier alternative. But the whole thing comes out looking just like lasagna, complete with that picture perfect bubbly and browned cheesy topping. It’s quite likely you’ll forget about those lasagna noodles altogether.
Reprinted with permission from Food52 “Dynamite Chicken: 60 Never-Boring Recipes for Your Favorite Bird” by Tyler Kord, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
What if I told you that I invented a lasagna-like casserole made entirely of chicken and containing zero pasta? I can hear you asking it now: “Why would you want to do that?” I’m not really sure either, because I think chicken and pasta are perfectly amazing together. But neither lasagna, nor ricotta cheese, are things I ate often growing up or have ever been super excited about. That all changed when I met my wife, Katherine, as her love of lasagna soon became our shared love of lasagna. And I have a hard time eating any pasta without ricotta since we fell in love (I mean, my wife and I, even though ricotta and I have become quite close). So I started obsessing over lasagna and its ricotta filling, inventing all kinds of crazy permutations—from chicken jus-sauced noodles with ricotta, to a huge ricotta-stuffed red snapper, braised in a fennel-infused tomato sauce. And I ultimately arrived somewhere in the middle, at this chickensagna: Pounded boneless, skinless chicken (breasts, thighs, or both) are dredged with flour and piled into a casserole, between layers of tomato sauce, lemony fennel, and a creamy ricotta filling. To me, it makes perfect sense.
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All of the work and finesse in this chickensagna happen during assembly, so it’s great for entertaining; you can simply cook and serve it without any last-minute fussing, and enjoy a glass of wine or a boilermaker with casual grace as your guests arrive. It can also be assembled ahead of time and kept in the fridge before baking—just give yourself an hour to cook it and an extra 30 minutes to let it rest before serving. Serve it with a loaf of crusty bread and a salad if you really want to go for it.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1⁄4 cup (60ml) heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- One 28-ounce (794g) can crushed tomatoes
- 2 fennel bulbs, cut root to tip into 1⁄4-inch (6mm) slices
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1⁄4 cup (60ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 8 ounces (225g) ground chicken, or 12 ounces (340g) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, for grinding
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 small green bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1⁄4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1⁄4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 15 ounces (425g) whole-milk ricotta
- 1 cup (110g) shredded part-skim, low-moisture mozzarella
- 1⁄2 cup (50g) grated Parmesan
- 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup (20g) torn or roughly chopped basil leaves
- 3 pounds (1.4kg) boneless, skinless chicken (breasts, thighs, or both)
- 5 tablespoons (38g) all-purpose flour
- 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
- To make the sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the heavy cream and salt and stir to combine. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until thick and awesome.
- Meanwhile, to make the fennel, in a separate sauté pan, combine the sliced fennel, oil, fennel seeds, and salt and sauté over medium heat until lightly caramelized. Add the lemon juice and cook, stirring regularly, until the liquid has completely evaporated and the fennel is tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. If it is not yet tender, add a splash of water and continue cooking a little longer. Transfer the fennel to a bowl and wipe out the pan.
- Next, make the ground chicken filling. If you’re grinding the chicken yourself, cut the meat into even 1-inch (2.5cm) pieces. Working in small batches, place the chicken in your food processor and pulse to finely chop, but avoid turning it into a mousse. To cook the ground chicken, add the oil to the pan you used to cook the fennel and heat over high heat. When the oil starts to smoke, add all of the ground chicken and cook until it begins to brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper, salt, thyme, and oregano and stir, breaking up the chicken into small pieces. Cook until the onion and pepper are tender but still crunchy, about 10 minutes.
- To make the ricotta filling, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, salt, egg, and basil in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.
- To prepare the chicken “noodles,” with a very sharp knife and steady hands, slice the chicken lengthwise into the thinnest pieces you can, approximately 1⁄4 inch (6mm) thick. I can get four slices out of a breast and three out of a thigh. Using a big piece of plastic wrap and a meat hammer or the flat bottom of a pan, beat all of your cares out of the slices so that they are even thinner—about 1⁄8 inch (3mm) in thickness—and approximately three times the size. Put your pounded slices in a mixing bowl, add the flour and salt, and toss, coating every slice of chicken well.
- Let’s put everything together because we’ve made it this far and may as well keep going. Right? Right! First, heat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Spoon a little tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch (23 by 33cm) baking dish. Lay one-third of the pounded chicken slices in a layer over the sauce, letting them overlap slightly (they will shrink as they cook). Spread half of the ricotta mixture across the chicken. Top the ricotta with half of the ground chicken, half of the fennel, and more sauce. Repeat that whole process, and finally top it with the remaining chicken slices, sauce, and the mozzarella. You did it!
- Bake the casserole for an hour, or until the cheese is brown and bubbly. If you want it a little bit darker on the top, broil it for a couple minutes at the end. Remove the chickensagna from the oven and let rest for 30 to 60 minutes before serving with crusty bread.
Header image courtesy of James Ransom © 2019