Yin and Yang Chicken Wraps

Sometimes I crave very spicy food.  And by sometimes, I mean about once a week.  I don’t always act on the impulse but when I do, I go all out.

I’m not the kind of person that goes around bragging about eating super-hot-spicy peppers and I’m not the kind of guy that likes to trick people with wickedly spicy food.  I just like the stuff.  Spicy food makes me happy.  It brings me peace when I need it.  I tend to crave very spicy food after a stressful day at work.  I feel as though I can burn away a bad day with blistering hot food.  Sometimes I just want something very spicy for no reason at all.  Like I said, I just like the stuff.

I call this Yin and Yang Chicken Wraps because it exists in perfect balance.  Admittedly, it contains things that are not so healthy yet, it contains things that are very healthy for you.  Think of it as the dichotomy of Good and Evil.

Good:  mango, chilis, lettuce, carrots, onions, cilantro, garlic and sour cream.

Evil: fried chicken, flour tortillas and mayonnaise.

Without evil, could we appreciate good?  Without good, could we perceive evil?  Oh yes, this is going to be some very philosophical food!

Another aspect of yin and yang provided by this recipe relates to taste sensations.  Spicy and Soothing. 

Spicy: all of the peppers and hot sauces

Soothing: mango, lettuce, sour cream and cilantro.

This recipe is relatively quick and easy to make.  In fact, if you pare it down to the core, it’s really just fried chicken strips with hot sauce and some vegetables, wrapped into a large burrito.  The ingredients may change, based upon what I have at hand.  Since I am growing chili peppers in my garden, I have lots of ways to bring spicy heat and bold flavors. 

red habaneros

Habaneros are the key in this particular recipe.  If  you have never tried fresh habanero, you should try them.  Be careful, though.  Habaneros are VERY spicy.  Slice a tiny sliver from a fresh habanero and pop it into your mouth.  Bite once and spit it out.  You will get a big dose of heat from the spice but not so much to knock you down.  You will also get to experience a most unique chili flavor.  There’s no other chili pepper like the habanero.  The taste is vibrant and unlike any other chili I have tasted.

If you want to try cooking with habanero but are concerned about being blown away by the excessive heat, try adding a slice or two to a stir fry.  Stir it with other items in the wok and pull it out after 10 or 15 seconds.  You will get the flavor and some of the heat.  If you like it, add a little more but beware, you can always add more habanero to a dish but you can never take it away.  Once it imparts its heat, you can’t undo it.

Notice that I also use ghost pepper powder.  Ghost pepper (Bhut jolokia) makes the habanero seem sweet and innocent, by comparison.  Ghost peppers provide extreme heat and very little flavor.  Any flavor a ghost pepper might provide is hidden behind screaming fire.  I grow ghost peppers and dehydrate them and grind them into a powder. 

A word of warning:  set your dehydrator outdoors or in a ventilated, open garage.  The fumes are practically lethal.  And, once in powder form, the ghost pepper is as strong as mace.  I’m serious.  You should use latex gloves and a mask and goggles when working with dried ghost pepper.  I don’t, but I should.

The way I use ghost pepper in this recipe gives some spice to the chicken but, after frying, the spiciness dissipates remarkably.  You will get a bigger kick from the habanero and jalapeño…believe me. 

If you want to make a tame version of this, skip all of the peppers and hot sauce and use everything else.

Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts

2 Tbs garlic powder

2 Tbs paprika

2 cups flour

3 Tbs cornstarch

2 eggs

1/3 cup cooking oil

1 mango, peeled and chopped

3 habanero chilis, thinly sliced

3 jalapeños, sliced

1 tsp ghost pepper powder (optional)

¼ onion, thinly sliced

½ cup cilantro

½ cup carrots, sliced

1 cup lettuce, julienne sliced

1 Tbs Salt

4 burrito sized flour tortillas

Ingredients for the sauce:

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup sour cream

3 Tbs sriracha hot sauce

Mix the sauce (mayonnaise, sour cream and sriracha).  Set aside

Additional sauces (for adventuresome risk takers):

Louisiana hot sauce

Habanero hot sauce

Directions:

Prepare the vegetables and set aside.

Lay the chicken breasts on a cutting board and slice them scallopini-style.  Hold the chicken breast in place with the palm of your hand.  Slice the breast in half horizontally, starting at the thickest end and work your way to the thinner end.  Dust the chicken with paprika and ghost pepper powder.

Prepare the flour dredge by whisking the flour and cornstarch in a large mixing bowl. 

Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and let the chicken rest in the bowl for 10 or 15 minutes.  The flour will mix with the moisture on the surface of the chicken and the chicken will become tacky, to the touch. 

While the chicken rests, add the cooking oil to a skillet and set the heat to medium. 

Mix the eggs in a shallow dish.

Dip the chicken in the egg and then dredge the chicken in the flour mixture again.  Shake off excess flour and lay the chicken in the hot oil.  Do not crowd in the pan.  You will probably need to fry in two batches.

Since the chicken has been sliced in half, it will cook quickly.  Turn the chicken after a few minutes and turn again.  Keep turning the chicken every few minutes until the chicken is crisps and becomes golden brown.  Remove to a paper towel lined plate.  Sprinkle a little salt on the chicken.  Slice the chicken into ½“ strips.

Warm the burrito sized tortillas in a microwave oven until they are soft and pliable. 

Lay a tortilla on a clean work surface.  As you prepare the wrap you will want to lay everything down horizontally.  Smear some of the sauce in the center of tortilla.  Lay the vegetables, herbs and mango down on top of the sauce.  Lay some chicken on top of the vegetables.

Add hot sauce, if desired.

Wrap the tortilla by folding the sides inward, toward the middle and roll the tortilla.

Serve with your favorite drink.  Milk, if you want some relief from the heat.  Beer, if you’ve had a particularly rough day.

Fried Chicken Therapy

Sometimes I embrace the South with open arms and a willing heart, and this is one of those times.  Of course my willing heart will probably resent the heavy dose of cholesterol that the fried chicken will impart but the rest of me is fully satisfied by this delicious, crunchy delight! 

I like to think that this sort of indulgence is okay, every now and then, as long as it is followed by rigorous exercise and several days of green salads and fresh fruit.  At least that is what my brain tells my arteries and my heart every time I indulge in this sort of foolish behavior.

What is it about recovering from a cold that makes me turn to the most unhealthy foods?  Maybe it’s just my newly awakened taste buds that make me crave the decadent things in life. 

Buttermilk is key here.  Crispy, fried chicken can be achieved by other means but the combination of the buttermilk and the flour/cornstarch dredge makes this chicken stay crispy.

Ingredients:

4 chicken breasts

4 Tbs cayenne powder

3 Tbs garlic powder

2 cups buttermilk

2 cups flour

3 Tbs cornstarch

3 cups fresh green beans

¼ cup chicken stock

4 or 5 medium russet potatoes

4 Tbs butter

3 Tbs sour cream

¼ cup whole milk

2 tsp all-purpose Greek seasoning (Cavender’s)

Directions:

Cut the chicken breasts by separating the tender from the rest of the breast.  Place the chicken pieces in a mixing bowl and dust with 2 tablespoons cayenne and 1 tablespoon garlic powder.  Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes.  Cover the chicken with buttermilk and refrigerate for one hour.

Wash the green beans and snip off the stems.  Set aside.

Peel the potatoes and cut into roughly 1” to 2” cubes.  Add the potatoes to a 4 quart pot and cover with water.  Boil the potatoes until they are soft.  Strain the cooked potatoes and return to the pot.  Add the butter, sour cream and Greek seasoning.   You can substitute the Greek seasoning with salt and pepper but if you have never added Greek seasoning to mashed potatoes you are missing a real treat.  There is something so very right about Cavender’s Greek seasoning! 

Add some splashes of milk and beat the potatoes with a fork or spatula.  Add more milk until you get the creaminess that you desire.  I usually use about ¼ cup of milk.  Cover the potatoes and keep in a warm place.

Add 1 tablespoon of butter to a hot skillet and sauté the green beans for a minute.  Add the chicken stock, turn the heat down to low and cover.  Stir the beans occasionally until they are tender.  Keep warm until ready to serve.

And now, for the chicken!

Mix two cups of flour, 3 tablespoons of cornstarch, 2 tablespoons of cayenne powder and 1 tablespoon of garlic powder to a large mixing bowl.  Whisk until thoroughly blended.  Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture and let the chicken rest in the bowl for 5 to 10 minutes. 

Heat a skillet and add enough cooking oil to fill the skillet about half way.  The oil needs to be good and hot before adding the chicken…350° is just right.

Dredge the chicken in the flour again and add the chicken pieces to the hot oil.  Don’t start messing  with the chicken right away.  Let it cook for a few minutes before turning over with tongs.  Keep turning the chicken until it is golden brown all around.  Boneless chicken breasts cook quickly…maybe 10 minutes total.  Once you think the chicken is done, take a large piece out and cut it.  If the chicken is white and firm in the middle (not pink), the chicken is cooked.  Remove to a paper towel lined platter and keep warm.  Sprinkle some salt on the chicken…because anything fried deserves a little salt. 

Serve hot. 

Eat salads and fresh fruit for the next several days.  Get plenty of exercise and get good sleep!