Sometimes the grind gets to you.
It’s about that time of winter when I crave summer: sundresses, peaches, picnics, the whole sunlight thing. Summer is dinnertime smoke from the grill and something cool to drink. Summer is a burger or the crunch of a garden cucumber.
But there’s no chance for fresh fruit or cucumbers; many CSA programs have been discontinued since January because farmers felt guilty giving their customers 6 weeks of kale and an occasional sweet potato. The grill and picnic blanket hibernate. Sundresses fear my legs, which are so white they could play a starring role in the Twilight series. (And for the record, if someone gives me 6 boxes of kale I definitely won’t complain. I might even massage it.)
If we are ever going to get summer, even spring, we need to cook her to us.
For a winter twist on summer, I made small chicken burgers, really meatballs, with cool tzatzeki yogurt sauce. Adding chipotle chili powder brings the smokiness of a summertime grill to your stove top. And the Mediterranean yogurt sauce recipe comes from a Cypriot professor, who is forever exiled from Turkey and parts of Cyprus for helping to lead Cyprus’s separatist revolt.
If “local” didn’t include ideas of sustainable social, personal, or economic health, “local” for me would include the Tyson chicken plant. But, “local” means more than just a 100-mile radius. So instead of supporting Tyson, I get my chicken from a man who raises free range broiler chickens, processes them himself, and sells them from a food truck around town.
When you buy chicken from Tyson, you buy a lot of chlorinated water. Because they process thousands of chickens who live too close together in feces their whole lives, chicken processing plants need to sanitize their birds in a water, salt, and chlorine solution. The birds absorb this solution which evaporates as you cook the chicken, making your chicken dry and lacking in flavor.
We’re not all chicken farmers, and we might need to get out chicken from the supermarket. But knowing where your chicken comes from is important. To stop buying chlorinated water with your chicken, look for chicken that is “Air Chilled.” The Cook’s Illustrated Test Kitchen’s favorite brands (which I also reccomend) include Bell & Evans Air Chilled Boneless-Skinless Chicken Breasts and Mary’s Free Range Air Chilled Chicken.
Happy Winter Summering!
Smoky Chicken Sliders
Serves 4; makes 12 small sliders or meatballs.
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion, quartered
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoons siracha
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chipotle chili power
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon tarragon
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6 oz each) quartered; local if possible
2 Tablespoons olive oil
- In a food processor, process all ingredients except chicken and oil.
- Add chicken and pulse until chopped finely, about 12 times, and ingredients are combined. Form into patties or meatballs according to preference.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add patties and cook, stiring often to brown all sides, about 3 minutes for each side. Serve warm on steamed vegetables, fresh salad, or bread with yogurt sauce.
1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup cucumber, grated
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 clove garlic, pressed
pinch of salt
- Mix all ingredients and serve with sliders as dipping sauce or topping.