Thursday, 7 January 2016

Honey Thyme and Pink Peppercorn Chicken Kebabs on Focaccia

I've been on a bit of a sandwhich binge lately, and even though some might find it strange, we've been having sandwhiches for dinner quite a bit. They are not just a ham and cheese on sliced bread event though...I have been more inclined to make the meat and veg and use some form of bread as the starch, instead of rice, potatoes, pasta etc. The result? Filling, balanced and reasonably healthy dinner that everyone seems to enjoy.

This one allowed me to use up leftover chopped sundried tomatoes and roasted red peppers from our Salad Bar the night before, some thyme infused honey that I used to make a New Years' canape, grape tomatoes and some pink peppercorns (I am on a mission to use up all the miscellameous herbs and spices in the spice drawer; the ones that were bought for a certain use and are now just taking up space).

I made Focaccia with Caramelized Onion and Rosemary, slicing a thin layer off the top to make an open faced sandwhich.

 Two hours before cooking the chicken, cut it into bite sized pieces and marinate it in:

Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of salt

I used 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Make a flavoured butter by combining:

1 tablespoon finely chopped sundried tomatoes
1 tablespoon finely chopped roasted red pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 cup softened salted butter

Spread a layer of the flavoured butter over the bread you have chosen to use. I cut a thin layer off the top of the Focaccia with Caramelized Onion and Rosemary, after cutting it onto 4" X 6" squares, one per person.

Sprinkle lightly with grated Parmesan cheese. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.

Turn the oven on to heat up to 350F.  Skewer the chicken cubes, alternating with grape tomatoes. I put 4 pieces of chicken on each skewer, so each serving was a total of 8 pieces of chicken.

Heat a frying pan that is large enough to hold the skewers. Add a small amount of olive oil, and then sear the chicken and tomatoes on all sides, turning them as little as possible.

Place the pan into the oven to finish cooking the chicken.

At the same time as the chicken is cooking, roast some asparagus.

Snap the woody ends off, lightly coating the spears with olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper.

Roast until tender.

Put the baking sheet with the bread into the oven at the same time, so that the bread toasts and the butter and Parmesan melt.

Assemble the sandwhich on the plate: place a piece of Focaccia with Caramelized Onion and Rosemary onto the plate and top it with 2 chicken and grape tomato skewers, placing the asparagus on top of the chicken.

The idea is to squish the warm tomatoes and their juices into the bread and then dig in! A knife and fork is optional, but it certainly makes a lot less mess!

  • I made one recipe of Focaccia with Caramelized Onion and Rosemary, which allowed me to make 4 sandwhiches for dinner, and 4 more for lunch the next day (using other fillings).
  • The 2 chicken breasts made 8 skewers, which fed four of us.
  • Pink peppercorns are not technically pepper, but a berry that looks similar in size and shape to peppercorns.  They have a slight peppery flavour and bite to them, but I also find that there is more than a hint of fruitiness and lemon in the background.
  • Pink peppercorns are more delicate than true peppercorns, so they can be lightly crushed using a knife. The thin papery outside can be rubbed off and used to coat cheese or the peppercorns in a strainer and then gently rub the peppercorns against the mesh, and the fine outside layer will fall through onto a plate below. Roll your cheese or lightly press the fish into the pink dust.
  • I had first decided to grill the skewers, but by the time I started making dinner it was dark and freezing cold outside...
  • The skewers can be grilled or pan fried and served with salad, over rice or pasta.
  • Instead of chicken breasts, try pork tenderloin, beef tenderloin, firm white fish, prawns or scallops. 
  • Add other vegetables to the skewers if you like; omit the meat completely and make them vegetarian.
  • Turn this into a true sandwhich by marinating the chicken breasts whole, and then cooking and thinly slicing the meat. Layer it between slices of bread, or in a bun, with pink peppercorn mayo, goat cheese, grilled asparagus and lettuce.
  • The butter can be made from any herbs, spices or vegetables you have. I happened to have some sliced sundried tomatoes and roasted red pepper. Finely chop the additions and mix well with softened butter. I used salted butter; if you use unsalted butter you will need to add salt.
  • The chicken can be marinated the day before. It can also be skewered ahead of time, and kept well wrapped in the refrigerator. 

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