First of all, I think Rachael Ray is brilliant at coming up with different (and usually fairly healthy) twists so you’re not eating the same old food. I watch her shows regularly. I have three of her cookbooks (the only other person who holds that honor is the late, great Peg “I Hate to Cook” Bracken).
I will say that in her 30 minutes, she gets a lot more done than I do! (Unlike Rachael, my area of food “expertise” is baking.) I’d almost never do a new main dish and a new side dish together on a week night, which she always manages to pull together on 30-Minute Meals.
My first (partly) successful Rachael Ray recipe, 3 Beans and Some Chicken, was from Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats. The pan-fried chicken, which incorporates EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), thyme and the juice of one lemon, was terrific, even if it took me longer than 30 minutes. I don't exaggerate when I say the chicken portion of the recipe alone is worth the price of the book. It’s my favorite way to eat chicken.
The beans didn’t turn out as described, primarily because I added too much chicken stock (there's a big difference between one can and one cup of stock!). It had to be served as “stoup.” It did taste good and I think I’d leave it as “stoup” if I made it again, but I'd also add some garlic to it. The next time, when I didn't have the time (or patience) to make the side dish and the chicken, I thought, “I hate to waste the lemon zest used in the bean mixture” and threw it in with the rest of the marinade. The lemon zest made it even better. The third time I made the chicken, I decided to marinate it in the cast-iron frying pan I cook it in and simply let the marinade evaporate until the point that the chicken browns on both sides. It was still awesome, and I had one less pan to wash.
Here is a recipe I made inspired by this recipe, featuring key lime juice, zest and cilantro. I have yet to try orange juice with the chicken, mostly because I’m not sure what herb to use to complement it.
Thinly-sliced chicken tenders (about 1 to 1 1/4 pounds)
two turns around the pan (about two TBSP.) EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil)
zest and juice from two key limes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 TBSP. roughly chopped cilantro (I don’t recommend dried cilantro for this)
To make marinade: Put the olive oil, lime zest, lime juice and cilantro in the pan, turning the pan around until the mixture covers the entire bottom of the pan. Salt and pepper chicken to taste (salt can be omitted, if desired), then marinate about 5 minutes on each side. (Each piece of chicken should have cilantro on it.)
Just before the marinating is complete, pre-heat the burner on medium high and then put frying pan on (I use a fine mesh pan cover so the oil doesn’t spatter too much. Clearly, I also use an electric stove; on a gas stove, I'd start with the pan on the burner.)
Reduce heat slightly when oil is sizzling. Cook approximately 6-8 minutes on each side, until browned and chicken has no more pink in it. (I usually cut the largest piece to be sure it’s done.)
The next recipe I plan to try from Rachael is in her May 6, 2010 web edition: Coconut Mango Chicken with Black Beans.