The Not-So-Hungry Games
Last week when I was trying to think up some dishes to go along with movies for a themed movie night dinner, I really wanted to find a dish that was reminiscent of the squirrel Katniss cooks for herself and Rue in The Hunger Games. Luckily, I came across a Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for roast chicken with dijon sauce that I had bookmarked months and months ago– that just so happened to look very similar, and mouth-watering to boot. Since squirrel’s a little hard to come by at the local Ingles’ store, I had to settle for chicken instead.
And then in place of the cheese rolls that Peeta makes for Katniss in the later books, I tweaked the Smitten Kitchen recipe for cheddar, beer and mustard pull-apart bread into cheddar-and-mustard-filled crescent rolls. Beth (the lady I’m staying with over the summer who’s really awesome!) gets all the credit for coming up with the crescent roll idea and actually forming the fancy crescent shape; I just mixed up the two mixtures for the filling, and bought the frozen roll dough (in this case, I really don’t think homemade dough would have made a huge difference). Honestly I was super nervous to make this, because this is one of the more complicated meals I’ve made; since I’m not exactly a master of timing everything to be ready at the same time, I was worried that the 5+ components would be stone cold by the time everything was ready.
But everything turned out alright. Beth and I prepped the crescent rolls and left them to rise for 30 minutes to an hour, which left me plenty of time to make everything else. I seared off the chicken in a cast-iron pan in batches and then added all the pieces back to the pan to finish cooking in the oven. This part really scared me, because it just looks like so much chicken in one little pan that I was worried it wouldn’t all cook through. But it did, so that was a relief.
And then while the chicken was in the oven, I cooked up a pot of orzo and steamed frozen green beans in the microwave. After the chicken was cooked through, I put all the pieces on a platter and made the dijon-wine sauce in the skillet while I sauteed the green beans in some butter (per my Mom’s suggestion, which gave them some much-needed flavor!) and baked off the rolls. There were definitely some culinary gymnastics going on in the kitchen yesterday.
But oh my word, it was so worth it! This might just be one of the best dinners I’ve made ever. (With the exception of my Mom’s family favorites, but they’re in a class of their own, so I’m not cheating on her chicken cacciatore. Whew!) The chicken was moist and flavorful, the sauce was tangy and chicken-y and light, and the rolls– if you make one thing from this post, it should be these crescent rolls. They’re like the cheese bread I would beg my Mom to buy at Kroger when I was little– but even better! They’re cheesy and savory and a little zesty from the hot sauce, dijon mustard, and paprika. Mmmmm!
This would be perfect for a night-in when The Hunger Games comes out on DVD, or for a special date-night. Word to the Wise: I poured the sauce over the platter of chicken, which was fine, but next time I might put at least half of it in a gravy boat to make sure that everyone can get some of that delicious sauce instead of it forming a big, delicious puddle on the platter. Also, if you have leftovers, store the sauce in a separate container from the chicken. As it cools, it solidifies, which disappears as soon as you heat it up, but fishing for chicken in chicken-jello is just not very appetizing.
If you go to check out the original recipes from Smitten Kitchen, I made some slight changes. The only thing I changed in the chicken recipe was an addition of a little paprika when I seasoned the chicken pieces before searing them off. I meant to add some paprika to the sauce too, but it slipped my mind. It was just fine without it, but I do wonder if the paprika would have added an extra little kick.
I changed the pull-apart bread recipe pretty drastically. Beth rolled out the roll dough, cut it into triangles, brushed them with the mustard mixture and sprinkled them with cheese, and then rolled them up into little crescent shapes, let them rise and baked them for about 15 minutes. This effectively took out at least half the steps of the original recipe, which I’m sure is also delicious. (It can’t hurt that her bread has beer in the dough, which sounds amazing.)