Fish can be fragile. Beef can be expensive – and more and more people are eating less red meat. Pork runs afoul of personal lifestyles.
But chicken…chicken can rule the roost for your special event.
The obvious go-to for chicken is the boneless chicken breast. As popular as the choice may be, it’s not without its own problems when being prepared for a crowd.
First, some history.
The boneless breast came about, in part, because it was quick to prepare. Busy restaurant chefs could give the chicken pieces a quick sear on each side then finish in a hot oven in just a few minutes. When prepared properly, this is the ideal application.
But your party of 50 – or more – cannot be served made-to-order chicken breasts. For large parties, we must think about keeping food hot, keeping meat moist and tender and delivering lots of flavor plate after plate.
The boneless chicken breast is not at its best when prepared in quantity. It tends to dry out – even when held in sauce. Plus, bone-in chicken has much more flavor than boneless breast filets.
Choosing chicken to save money is the right idea. According to price statistics from the National Chicken Council, the retail price of chicken can be just one-third the price of a comparable cut of pork and a whopping 75 percent less than beef.
So what are your options to serve chicken, save money and get the best dish possible?
Work with your professional caterer on braised chicken dishes, chicken in sauces or stews and always choose bone-in pieces. Use dark meat – thighs and legs – when possible because these higher fat pieces bring even more flavor to the table. These cooking methods will keep the chicken at its best – and allow you to introduce some international flavors to your event.
Chicken Tagine: This savory dish can use all pieces of the chicken – dark and white meat. The traditional Middle Eastern preparation incorporates rich flavors of the Med – lemon, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, parsley and cilantro. It’s a dish that is loaded with flavor and colorful variety.
Chicken Cacciatore: This rustic, Italian-inspired chicken dish can use all parts of the chicken and brings together flavors of Tuscany: Tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, oregano and basil. This dish offers an easy and affordable wine paring option – Sangiovese or Chianti work just fine and are great values right now.
Coq au Vin: This classic French dish is a crowd pleaser for both its simplicity and its flavors. Literally “chicken in wine,” the dish marries earthy ingredients like thyme, mushrooms and pearl onions with a rich wine sauce to produce chicken pieces that are moist, tender and delicious.
Braised Chicken with Wine and Oranges: The tangy oranges in this dish blend with the sweet Muscatel wine to create a Spanish sweet-and-sour chicken. Spain is also the source of some great wine values – and this dish pairs perfectly with the popular Spanish red wine grape Tempranillo.
Beer-Braised Chicken Stew with Fava Beans and Peas: This is a perfect foundation dish for parties where there are plenty of craft beer fans. Onions, mushrooms, herbs and spices ramp up the flavor in this hearty chicken stew – that can be make only with chicken thighs. Compliment the dish with beer like a Belgian-style ale.