Champion Chicken

Easy baked chicken, just chicken topped with Homemade Sazón, a fresh 'n' alive Dominican sauce made with bell peppers, parsley and cilantro, onion and other pantry ingredients. So easy! So good! Plus a new trick for browning chicken!

Champion Chicken

So yeah, it's November and baseball talk is “so October”. But this story, it strikes me as one with year-round lessons.

You see, St. Louis is a baseball town, always has been. As girls, my friends Cindy and Kathy learned to tally scorecards from their dad who himself grew up in the Knothole Gang, boys who watched home games for free peering through the fences of the old Sportsman’s Park. Live in St. Louis and just by breathing the air, you learn these stories and names the likes of “Stan the Man” Musial, Bob Gibson and Lou Brock, Joe Torre and Ozzie Smith, and in my years here, Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols.

Baseball fans know that in 2011 the Cardinals played forgettable ball for the first 130 games, 80% of the regular season. In late August, the Cards were behind 10-1/2 games.

And then came the turn-around!

The Cardinals earned a Wild Card berth, then won the division and conference championships. There we were, the hometown St. Louis Cardinals playing the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Tied 3-3, it all hinged on Game Seven.

At game time, the city turned silent as if holding its collective breath. The streets were empty of cars, except for a few stragglers rushing home or careening to a sports bar, any place to park before a flickering screen.

Importantly, it was one night after the heart-stopping, record-breaking Game Six, when St. Louis clawed its way to a win in the eleventh inning, coming from behind twice, three times just one strike-out from a loss.

But yes, the Cardinals did win and St. Louis exploded with near disbelief. Fireworks and parades ensued. The next morning, t-shirts and baseball caps flew through cash registers. It’s still the talk of the town.

And that’s the thing that makes this baseball story a life lesson. This team, the coach, the players, they didn’t give up, even playing against long odds. The city didn’t give up either, even facing unlikely scenarios. To employ the sports cliché, the Cards stayed in the game.

And it makes me wonder, how often do we (do I) give up when we (when I) might keep fighting – not just “trying” – but fighting? When does laidback acceptance turn into complacency?

If we’re far behind 80% of the way in, do we just shrug and give up? If we are close, so close to a championship achievement, do we give up and accept second best?

This team, this run, it’s inspiring.

And oh yes, the chicken! It’s my version of Home Run Chicken, named for Albert Pujols’ habit of hitting home runs when he’s eaten this chicken the night before. The Domincan-style Homemade Sazón is a lovely condiment, not salsa, not ketchup, just good stuff, fresh and alive. It turns home-run hitters into champions. And maybe, just maybe, it can turn us into the champs of our own lives …

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite easy chicken recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

QUICK SUPPER:
CHAMPION CHICKEN

Hands-on time: 20 minutes (not including Homemade Sazón)
Time to table: 90 minutes
Makes 8 drumsticks
    CHICKEN
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (see TIPS)
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules (see TIPS)
  • 8 drumsticks or other chicken pieces, preferably skins off
    BRAISING LIQUID
  • 1 cup water (more if needed)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
    BAKE
  • Homemade Sazón, about a tablespoon per drumstick, more for larger pieces
  • Half rings of red and green pepper
  • Fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F.

BROWN CHICKEN In a large skillet (to save on dishes, use an oven-safe skillet), heat oil until shimmery, then sprinkle sugar and bouillon granules over top. Add the chicken pieces (in two batches if needed so not to crowd), rubbing across the skillet to coat with the oil/sugar/bouillon mixture. Cook for two to three minutes without moving, then turn over and cook another two to three minutes. Transfer to a baking dish.

BRAISING LIQUID In a bowl, water, tomato paste and cumin. Pour into the skillet around the chicken, it should be about 1/4 inch high, if not, add more water.

BAKE Spread Homemade Sazón on top of the chicken pieces. Arrange peppers on top, then sprinkle with parsley. Cover with lid or foil. Bake for 1 hour.

THICKEN SAUCE Ladle hot sauce into a small saucepan (or skillet used to cook chicken) and cook on medium high until the sauce thickens slightly.

TO SERVE Serve chicken pieces drizzled with sauce, preferably with Lighter Mashed "Potatoes" (they're not really potatoes, but a mix of cauliflower and turnips that makes for low-carb mashed "potatoes"!) or maybe Rustic Mashed Sweet Potatoes & Carrots or even Oven-Baked Brown Rice, something, anything, to soak up the delicious sauce.

ALANNA’s TIPS Here's that new trick for browning chicken, no more pasty-white chicken! The sugar isn’t for sweetness, it’s for browning. Just a spoonful turns the meat a pretty caramel color. The chicken bouillon granules are mostly salt, feel free to substitute salt and pepper. Any chicken pieces will work here, I happen to like drumsticks because they’re inexpensive and make for automatic portion control. A whole cut-up chicken would work too but for even cooking, I almost always choose all drumsticks, all thighs, all breasts, etc. Make sure that the oil is hot before adding the chicken, otherwise, when cold chicken hits too-cool oil, the oil will soak into the meat instead of browning the exterior. To check the temperature, flick a few drops of water off your fingertips into the skillet. It should sizzle – not fast and hard, that means the oil is too hot and the temperature should be turned down – but just a bit.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Drumstick: 129 Calories; 8g Tot Fat; 2g Sat Fat; 35mg Cholesterol; 47mg Sodium; 5g Carb; 2g Fiber; 3g Sugar; 9g Protein This recipe has been 'Alanna-sized'. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 3, PointsPlus 3
Adapted from Home Run Chicken from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch DISCLOSURE While I write a weekly column for the Post-Dispatch, my excitement with Home Run Chicken is as a reader, not a columnist. (My Disclosure Promise)

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna