I know it is really popular to dis Rachael Ray. Next to George Bush (and Sandra Lee) she probably elicits the most negative response on the blogosphere. But she is popular,with two Food Network shows, books and a magazine, and she is almost everywhere. And while RR is no Julia Child, she has encouraged a whole generation raised on fast food to break out their pots and pans and start cooking for themselves. That in and of itself is something good, in my book.
As a working woman, I often go to her 30-Minute Meals archive to find something to make in a pinch, and yesterday, after catching the end of her show on a spicy barbecue chicken, I looked up her menu to try an make something new and different that would appeal to my husband's latest addiction to Mexican food (it has become so much an issue that my oldest daughter got him a sombrero and pinata as a joke for Christmas!) The menu included some spice-rubbed boneless chicken, pumpkin polenta, and a salsa salad with grilled pineapple. I didn't have everything in her recipes on hand so I made a few substitutions and some additions, but the final products together made a perfect blend of spicy, savory, sweet, and fresh that went over very well at our table. Even my polenta-hating (he often calls it placenta) husband loved the pumpkin polenta even though mine turned out a little bit lumpy.
I was only cooking for my husband and myself since Bridget was working and Molly was not feeling that adventurous, and again I forgot to take pictures before we devoured the whole dinner. Here is my version of RR's BBQ Spiced Chicken, Salsa Salad and Pumpkin-Chipotle Polenta or you can look it up and try hers by the book, but this is a recipe that you can really play with. While it is good with chicken, I also used this same rub on a pork tenderloin, and I am thinking this would also be great on salmon.
Spicy-Rubbed Chicken Thighs
1 tablespoon Montreal Steak seasoning
2 tablespoons smoked chili powder
1 tablespoon coriander
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
5 boneless skinless chicken thighs
Extra-virgin olive oil
Mix spices and sugar in a zip-loc bag. Add chicken and rub spice mixture into meat. Let sit for 15-20 minutes. Brush grill or stove top griddle with oil and grill chicken for 5-7 minutes on each side depending on thickness. Serve with pumpkin polenta and grilled pineapple salsa.
Grilled Pineapple Salsa
4 yellow heirloom tomatoes, chopped
handfull of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
5 pineapple rings (canned, packed in juice) or fresh pineapple spears, grilled
2 tbsp olive oil
A handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients and juice of two limes, oil with salt and pepper to taste. Toss and chill.
Pumpkin-Chipotle Polenta with Monterey Jack Cheese
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup fat free half-and-half
1 chipotle chili in adobo, finely chopped with 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
3/4 cup quick cooking polenta
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
Heat the stock and milk or half-and-half in a sauce pot with chipotle and adobo sauce. Whisk in the polenta and thicken 2-3 minutes, stir in pumpkin to warm through. Stir in butter and season with salt and pepper. Stir in cheese just before serving.
Serve polenta with chicken and salsa.
Though sometimes RR uses a lot of prepared foods, this menu focused on fresh and simple ingredients combined to compliment one another. So, while I am not about to make a YouTube video crying, "Leave... Rachel...alone..." I, for one, will be giving RR a pass for a great idea that resulted in a delicious, simple and quick dinner.