Napa Chicken & Vegetable Bake

Monday, September 15, 2014

On Friday I mentioned my habit of auditing my kitchen cabinets. What do I have stuck back there? How can I use up what I’ve already purchased? Enter Napa seasoning.

I have no idea where we got this seasoning blend. The website listed on the back goes to a granola company. Googling the brand brings us to the Napa General Store, but it's not for sale. I found it on Amazon but you can't actually purchase it. It's basically a tin of herbs blended together that are scrumptious on chicken. The first of the ingredients listed? "Spices." I know, I can't. It reads: spices, sea salt, dried garlic, orange peel, chiles, lemon peel. So it's a little spicy, definitely salty, and zingy from the citrus. Plus spices. Even though it's a mystery, it's delicious.

I was inspired by a trio of recipes - two from Real Simple and one by The Pioneer Woman - that all involved baking green beans.

I went with green beans, quartered button mushrooms, peppadew peppers, fresh rosemary, a diced half onion, and chopped bacon.

I also tucked some lemon slices into the mix. I simply tossed everything but the lemon and rosemary together, poured it into a lightly oiled lasagna or casserole pan, and nestled the lemon wedges and whole sprigs of rosemary on top.

I want to lay down and take a nap on this. Or at least bottle the aroma and maybe burn it as a candle or possibly spritz it onto my pulse points.

I liberally rubbed the Mystery Napa Spices onto 8 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs, getting as much underneath the skin as possible. Those went on top and the whole thing went into a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.

And all of your taste buds kick into overdrive. The chicken is crispy and moist and so flavorful. And the vegetables are rocking, as well.

The bacon has crisped up, the mushrooms and peppadews have released all of their glorious juices, the green beans are tender but not mushy, and everything smells like lemon juice and rosemary. I could make this dish chicken-free and it would be a hit.

My iPhone illustrates that this whole plate visually skews toward brown, but the flavors are a rainbow. Yes that is a cheesy and ridiculous thing to say, but bear with me. All of the vegetables are done perfectly and, like I said above, would be delicious on it's own. I could also see this working well topped with pork chops or a tenderloin, or even a hearty fish like salmon. I'd also consider using this Napa blend on non-chicken, but it really was made for it.

This is a thing of beauty, no? You can see the pieces of chiles and the large flecks of sea salt - spicy and salty chicken alone is a gorgeous combination. But then you add the dried citrus peel and the elusive "spices"? If you can get your hands on this stuff, grab some. Take it hope. Massage the hell out of your preferred cut of chicken. It is so worth it.

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You can be sweet or spicy, but no sour grapes.

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