Sara’s Weeknight Meals: Season 01

Episode 113: Poultry Dinner

This week’s show is about cooking poultry. Poultry is one of America’s favorite weeknight meals – it is versatile, affordable, and almost everyone likes it. I am often asked for new ways to serve chicken breast cutlets (boneless, skinless, breast halves) and in Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals you’ll find lots of suggestions for this most popular package in the poultry section of the supermarket. But in this show, I’d like to encourage you to explore other poultry possibilities – chicken breast halves with skin and bone, thin-sliced chicken breast cutlets, and duck breasts. I can’t wait to go on to whole chicken, chicken thighs, ground turkey, and more in the next season.

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Tips, Tools and Ingredients

Tips. Place a smaller plastic cutting board on top of your regular cutting board, to cut raw poultry or meat. This way, you can clear it away when you’re done, and have a clean, safe work surface to continue prep work.

If your cutting board slides around the table while you are chopping, anchor it with a square of rubbery shelf liner.

To thicken a sauce with either cornstarch or arrowroot, whisk the starch into a cool or room temperature liquid and then into the sauce. Don’t allow the sauce to cook too long after thickening or the starch will lose some thickening power.

Pie plates are perfect for breading because they are shallow and give you a wide work surface. Line them with parchment to make it easier to bread the item and not yourself (by lifting up the sides of the parchment to make the item roll around and get well coated by the flour or crumbs).

Choose panko bread crumbs when you want a thicker, crisper, less dense crust. But, they are not for every recipe, in a dry recipe the crisp, shard-like consistency can be unpleasant. They are best in recipes with enough moisture to soften the edges.

Duck breast is considered a red meat and is usually served quite pink in the center. Do not let your duck cook beyond medium-rare or it will toughen and take on an unpleasant flavor. (However, if you are in a high risk group – under 5, over 80, or immune impaired, do cook your duck longer.)

There is no need to add fat to the frying pan when cooking duck. Score the duck skin so the heat will penetrate and render the fat evenly, then put the duck into the pan skin side down. It will produce plenty of fat.

Save the fat that the duck produces to add great flavor to fried potatoes and other vegetable dishes.

The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than six ounces of cooked meat, poultry, or seafood a day. A cooked serving of these protein foods is about the size of a deck of cards, weighs 3 ounces, and has roughly 70 milligrams of cholesterol.

The French Paradox (first noted by Irish Physician Samuel Black in 1819) refers to the fact that people in France suffer relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease despite having a diet rich in saturated fat. It has been suggested that France’s high red wine consumption is a primary factor in the trend. (I like that suggestion.)

Resveratrol and other compounds found in the skin of grapes have been shown to have health benefits related to the prevention of cancer, heart disease, degenerative nerve disease, and other ailments. Red wine is more likely than white wine to have these compounds because it is fermented on the skins.

Tools. Flexible Plastic Cutting Boards make it easy to avoid cross contamination when working with raw meat, poultry, or fish as well as vegetables that are going to be served raw. They are inexpensive, easy to store, and are available wherever kitchen tools are sold. A color-coded, specially-marked set of four flexible cutting boards (one each marked with a chicken, cow, carrot, and fish) is available on line from Sur la Table or call 800-243-0852.

Ingredients. Cherry peppers are small round fleshy pods that measure about 1 3/4 inches in diameter and resemble a very large cherry. They are mildly hot with traces of sweetness and are heavily seeded. Cherry peppers are considered an extremely good processing, pickling, and home garden pepper.

Pickled peppers are fat-free flavor enhancers as well as a good source of Vitamins A and C.

Cornstarch and arrowroot are similar ingredients to work with. Both have almost twice the thickening power of flour. Cornstarch, which is inexpensive and a staple in most home pantries, produces a clear, shiny sauce while arrowroot, a more expensive ingredient found in the spice section of the supermarket, produces an even clearer sauce.

Panko is the Japanese version of breadcrumbs; the pieces are large and flaky in texture (rather than fine and granular like regular bread crumbs) and are made from a high-sugar yeast bread that is baked in such a way that it has little or no crust. It is available in Asian markets and now frequently in the international section of supermarkets.

In the market, the terms “duck” and “duckling” are interchangeable. Most ducks are marketed while still quite young and tender. Broilers and fryers are less than 8 weeks old and roasters are no more than 16 weeks old. Though higher in fat than most poultry (because of a thick layer of fat right under the skin), duck is a good source of protein and iron and when you remove the fat and skin it is as lean as white meat turkey.

Maple Leaf Farms duck is carried in many supermarkets; go to Maple Leaf to find a store in your area. D’artagnan is a good source for duck fat ; go to D’artagnan to learn more.


Thanks to

Sara's Weeknight Meals is produced by Silver Plume Productions and WETA Washington, DC, and distributed by American Public Television (APT) to public broadcasting stations nationwide. Corporate funding is provided by Best Buy, Gallo and King Arthur Flour. |