School Nutrition Association May 2017 : Page 54

BY KELSEY CASSELBURY Their versatility combined with your imagination allows chicken and eggs to rise from run-of-the-mill to remarkable. Get the 411 on these foundation ingredients. 54 | SN | May 2017

The Chicken & the Egg: Cast Off the Culinary Clichés

By Kelsey Casselbury

Their versatility combined with your imagination allows chicken and eggs to rise from run-of-the-mill to remarkable. Get the 411 on these foundation ingredients.

Let’s talk chicken-and-egg clichés. No, we’re not talking about the ol’ “which came first” debate or simplistic “why did the chicken cross the road?” jokes. Rather, let’s discuss clichéd menu plans. When you think about breakfast, what comes to mind? Eggs. When you are contemplating dinner, which meat are you most likely to select? Chicken. Sure, these proteins are veritable culinary clichés. But they achieved that status for good reason: their immense versatility.

Just ponder this fact for a minute. How many ways can you prepare eggs for breakfast or, frankly, any meal? You’ve got scrambled and sunny side up, of course, but there’s also poached, baked, hard boiled, soft boiled and fried. Then there’s over easy, over medium and over hard—plus you can incorporate eggs into a frittata, a quiche or an omelet. And consider all the ingredients that can be mixed in with eggs, from cheese and meats to fresh herbs and veggies!

Then, there’s chicken. Not only is there a slew of ways to prepare it— baked, roasted, fried, sautéed, boiled, stewed—but it’s an ingredient integral or adaptable to numerous global cuisines. Practically every country or region has a renowned chicken dish, whether it’s American fried chicken, Caribbean jerk chicken, Africa-by-way-of-Portugal Peri-Peri chicken or Italian chicken cacciatore.

Both of these foodstuffs provide a healthy source of lean protein— 6 grams per large egg and a whopping 19 grams per 3 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breast—along with other nutrients like vitamin B12 (only available in animal-derived products) and selenium, which has antioxidant properties (i.e. it helps protect your cells from all the icky things in the atmosphere—pollution, sun, etc.—that can hurt it). And while you may feel like information about chicken and eggs has been…er, thoroughly pecked over, there’s still plenty to…um, crow about!

Tastes Like Chicken!

Our fair, feathered friend seems so ubiquitous that it’s hard to believe that it hasn’t always been the most widely consumed meat in America. It was just in recent years that chicken overtook beef as the most-consumed meat by the American public. In fact, Priceonomics, a data collection website, named this “the golden age of poultry.” As of 2014, 58.7 pounds of chicken per person were available for Americans to eat, compared to 51.5 pounds of beef—and when there’s more availability, more people eat it.

And eating chicken we are. According to Google Trends, “chicken” is the No. 2 most-searched word in the food and beverage category (water is No. 1), followed by pizza, cake and coffee. That might be because it comes in so many forms. For schools, chicken available from USDA Foods can be procured in four ways:

» eight-piece cut-up, raw, frozen chicken;
» diced, cooked frozen chicken;
» chicken fajita strips, frozen; and
» unseasoned, cooked, frozen chicken.

These products can and are being processed into dozens and dozens of additional recipes and menu items, from breaded tenders and nuggets to sauced pieces for BBQ, Asian and other global cuisine favorites. And when you consider the additional options available to the home cook, there may be some ideas that will translate back to the school kitchen, whether you’re buying from a national commercial producer or a local farm.

The Whole Shebang. By far, whole chickens are the most economical way of enjoying poultry—with the exception of a super-sale on breasts or thighs, of course! You might not realize it, but there is more than one type of whole chicken. For example, a broiler/fryer—the most popular type of chicken—is typically between 2 1⁄2 and 5 pounds and does well with any type of cooking, except for stewing (it dries out). A roaster is slightly larger, 3 1⁄2 to 6 pounds, and it can pretty much be used interchangeably with a broiler/fryer chicken, depending on how much yield you need. You can nearly always buy roasters or broiler/fryers cut up into eight pieces: two breast halves, two wings, two thighs and two drumsticks.

A capon has a thick layer of fat under the skin, which makes its white meat fattier—and more delectable— than other types of chicken. Because of that, and the fact that capons usually run about 9 1⁄2 to 10 1⁄2 pounds, they make excellent roasting chickens.

A stewing chicken is one that is past its prime. Stewing chickens have flavorful but tough meat that must be broken down by a low and slow cooking process, such as—wait for it—stewing.

What about those Rock Cornish hens (or Cornish game hens) you might see in the supermarket freezer section, typically sold by the pair? That’s a hybrid chicken developed in the 1800s that’s small—at least 3⁄4 of a pound and, by its legal definition, no more than 2 pounds. Stuffed and roasted, these chickens are often just the right size for one or two people, without leftovers to pick apart and refrigerate.

Sum of Its Parts. Don’t want to deal with the whole bird? You can always buy specific parts: breasts (either boneless or bone-in), thighs (ditto), drumsticks, legs or wings. Those are the most popular pieces. While some home cooks make use of other parts, such as the neck, back and organ meats, we’ll let you research those opportunities elsewhere.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which are white meat, are considered the healthiest option—at least when it comes to calorie and fat content, plus they tend to be super-low in sodium. Take care, however, because it’s easy to overcook and dry these out. Cooking website The Kitchn ( claims to have a foolproof prep method:

1.) Flatten the chicken breasts by pounding them to an even thickness. Add salt and pepper.

2.) Add one tablespoon of olive oil or butter to a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and let it cook for 1 minute without moving. It should turn a golden hue, but not brown. Flip the chicken and cook for 1 minute on the other side.

3.) Turn the heat to low, cover the pan and walk away. Let it cook for 10 minutes—do not lift the lid, do not peek. Set a timer!

4.) Come back, turn off the heat and let the chicken sit for another 10 minutes.

5.) Check to see if the chicken is done. The safest measure is an instant-read thermometer, looking for the magic number of 165°F.

The Golden Egg

Beyond an egg’s versatility, it’s got something else going for it—at just 15 cents a serving, it’s the least-expensive source of high-quality protein, according to the Egg Nutrition Center ( If you want a little more protein, splurge on extra-large or jumbo eggs. But in general, one large egg has varying amounts of 13 essential vitamins and minerals, including one of the few natural sources of vitamin D. Most of an egg’s vitamins and minerals are found in the yolk, although the white does contain 60% of the protein.

Size (and Color) Wise. USDA has established the sizing of eggs based on weight by dozen. The most common U.S. size of a chicken egg is “Large,” and this is what’s typically referred to in recipes. The range for eggs extends from peewee on one end to small, medium, large, very large/extra-large and jumbo sizes.

Can you substitute jumbo eggs in a baking recipe that calls for large eggs? The answer is “not really.” If you add two jumbo eggs where it calls for two large eggs, you’re adding a whole extra ounce of egg to that recipe. If you’re going from medium to large or from extra-large to jumbo, the differences allow for more flexibility in recipes.

What are the implications of shell color? Are brown eggs “better” than white? The color of the egg shell doesn’t affect the nutritional value of the egg. Also hazy is the impact of terms such as “Pastured,” “Free-Range” and “Cage-Free,” for which there are no standard definitions. If you want to know how a chicken is raised and what it ate, you’ll have to ask the farmer.

Stay Chill. Beyond the size, there’s another question when it comes to eggs: Do they really need to be refrigerated? If you go to another country, you might notice that eggs typically are sold and stored at room temperature, but here the good ol’ USA, they’re always kept chilled.

USDA requires all eggs to be sold under refrigeration. This is because other regulations require that U.S. eggs be power-washed, removing all organic matter, including bad bacteria and the eggshell’s protective coating. Without that barrier, an eggshell is porous and risks contamination. (Though, for the record, the risk of getting an egg contaminated with salmonella is ultra-low at just 1 in 20,000 eggs).

Health Matters. And what about the cholesterol content of eggs? Turns out, that’s not much of a concern anymore, particularly for those individuals who don’t suffer from high cholesterol counts. Recent research found that regularly eating eggs may be associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and could help lower blood pressure. If you do have high cholesterol, it’s still okay to eat about four to six eggs per week; but as always, confirm this practice with your own health professional.

Incredible Edible Ingredients

So, which versatile preparation of chicken and eggs do you prefer? Roasted or braised? Soft-scrambled or over-easy? Perhaps this is a poll to take to your students—with all the different options you have for serving these nutritious proteins, it might be helpful to learn what they like the best. Set up a whiteboard or poster board with all the different preparations (you could include types of sauces or seasonings as well) and ask kids to tally their faves. When you’re planning your next cycle menus, you’ll know just what the hits will be!

Making the Grade

Eggs are routinely graded by USDA. The grading process measures the interior and exterior quality, but does not take into account weight or shell color. Eggs are graded and labeled as: AA, A and B. Grade AA eggs are considered practically perfect, with thick, firm whites and yolks free of defects.

Occasionally, you might see a grade on the chicken package—but don’t be alarmed if it’s missing. Chicken is graded for quality by USDA only if processors request (and pay a fee) for it. If it’s on the raw meat products in your market, it’s pretty much always a Grade A chicken, meaning it’s meaty, well-shaped, free from feathers and has a layer of fat. Grade B and C chickens are usually sold to manufacturers to be used in further processed and packaged products.

Buffalo Chicken and Barley Salad Shaker

4 lbs. Barley*
4 cups Yogurt, plain, nonfat
2 1⁄2 cups Mayonnaise
9 Tbsps. Hot sauce
7 Tbsps. Lemon juice
2 tsps. Kosher salt
28 cups Romaine lettuce, chopped
7 cups Carrots, diced
14 ozs. Blue cheese crumbles
3 1⁄2 lbs. Chicken, cooked, diced
7 cups Celery, diced


28 (16-oz. cups*)


538 cal., 16 g fat, 33 g pro., 67 g carb., 16 g fiber, 704 mg sod.


2.5-oz.-eq. meat/meat alternate, 2-oz-eq. whole grains, 1⁄2 cup dark green vegetable, 1⁄4 cup red/orange vegetable, 1⁄4 cup other vegetable

1.) Cook the barley according to package directions. Cool completely on a sheet pan.

2.) In a bowl, combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, hot sauce, lemon juice and salt to make the dressing.* Blend well.

3.) Fill 2-oz. portion cups with 1⁄4 cup of the dressing and cover each with a lid.

4.) In each 16-oz. serving cup, layer ingredients in the following order:

• 1 cup Romaine lettuce
• 1 cup barley
• 1⁄4 cup carrots
• 0.5 oz. blue cheese (about 1⁄8 cup)
• 2 ozs. chicken (about 1⁄2 cup, volume may vary depending on the specific product used)
• 1⁄4 cup celery

5.) Cover the serving cup with a flat lid. Place the dressing cup on top of the flat lid. Place a domed lid on top of the salad cup and press to seal.

6.) Instruct customers to prep the grab ‘n’ go salad as follows: Remove both lids; save the domed lid. Pour the contents of the dressing container into the serving cup. Replace the domed lid only and shake the salad until ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

*Notes: For each salad, you will need a 16-oz. clear cup with a flat no-slot lid and a domed no-hole lid, as well as a 2-oz. portion cup with lid. InHarvest White Barley can be used in this recipe. A pre-made blue-cheese dressing may used; simply add hot sauce to achieve the desired heat level. Note that such substitutions will cause the nutritional information to vary.

Recipe, Photo, Nutrition and Meal Pattern Analysis: InHarvest,

Kitchen Wisdom

• I suggest adding hot sauce to the chicken for additional flavor.

• The hot sauce can be eliminated for younger customers. To keep the dressing from tasting flat without it, increase the lemon juice by 2 Tbsps.

• Use an on-hand ranch dressing and cheddar cheese as another way to serve this salad.

• If you can’t offer the shaker concept, serve in a standard salad bowl or inexpensive clamshell container.

• I suggest reducing the amount of barley to a half-cup; as written, it’s a lot of barley in relation to the amount of chicken. Then serve with an additional grain on the side, as needed to comply with meal pattern requirements.

• I’ve offered an InHarvest shaker salad recipe in the past; the recipes they produce are very reliable. This would be a popular salad.

• I would not modify this, unless to change out the barley for wild rice or another grain.

• A great, healthy concept.

Ramen Bowl

12 lbs., 8 ozs. Spaghetti, whole-wheat
12 1⁄3 cups Szechwan sauce, low-sodium*
3 gals., 1⁄4 cup Chicken broth, low-sodium
1 cup Garlic, minced
1 cup Green onions, chopped
1 cup Vegetable oil
3 lbs., 2 ozs. Chicken, cooked and diced
3 lbs., 7 ozs. Corn, frozen, thawed
3 lbs., 7 ozs. Peas, frozen, thawed
2 lbs., 7 ozs. Spinach, fresh-cooked or frozen, thawed
2 lbs., 8 ozs. Carrots, shredded
5 lbs., 2.5 ozs. Eggs, hard-boiled, cut in half




515 cal., 16 g fat, 30 g pro., 68 g carb., 11 g fiber, 864 mg sod.


2-oz.-eq. meat/meat alternate, 2-oz.-eq whole grain, 1⁄4 cup red/orange vegetables, 1⁄4 cup dark green vegetables, 1⁄2 cup starchy vegetable

1.) Prepare the whole-wheat spaghetti according to package directions. Let the pasta cool completely, toss in vegetable oil and set aside in cooler.

2.) Prepare the broth by combining the Szechwan sauce, chicken broth, garlic and green onions in a pot over heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Hold hot for service.

3.) Portion 1 cup pasta, 1 oz. cooked chicken, 1⁄4 cup each of corn, peas, spinach and carrots and one half of a hard-boiled egg into a serving bowl. Top with 1 1⁄4 cups hot broth and serve.

4.) Optional garnish items: Fresh cilantro, lime wedges, additional green onions.

*Note: Minh Less Sodium Szechwan Sauce can be used in this recipe.

Recipe, Photo, Nutrition and Meal Pattern Analysis: The Schwan Food Company,

Kitchen Wisdom

• This is a very on-trend and modern recipe. I suggest marinating the cooked chicken pieces in Szechwan sauce for additional flavor.

• A dispenser of some sort would be needed to effectively serve the broth.

• There are a lot of components required for service, so I would mix the vegetables together in advance to speed up assembly.

• Consider removing the kernel corn, as it’s not common in Asian-inspired dishes.

• A frozen Asian vegetable blend can be used; it adds edamame and baby corn to the dish.

• Don’t overcook the pasta. After cooking, shock it in ice water to stop the cooking process and cool quickly.

Vegetable and Egg “Fried” Brown Rice

5 lbs., 12 ozs. Whole eggs, frozen, thawed
6 lbs., 4 ozs. Long-grain brown rice, uncooked
9 lbs., 4 ozs. Peas and carrots medley, frozen
2 cups Soy sauce
1 oz. Pan release spray
3 gal., 2 cups Water


100 (7⁄8 cup)


170 cal., 4 g fat, 7 g pro., 27 g carb., 2 g fiber, 240 mg sod.


1-oz.-eq. meat/meat alternate, 1-oz.-eq. grain, 1⁄4 cup other vegetable

1.) Preheat convection oven to 350°F.

2.) Pull four full steamtable pans and place at workstation. Lightly spray pans with release spray. Place 1 lb., 9 ozs. of rice into each steamtable pan.

3.) Boil water. Add 3 qts., 1⁄2 cup hot water to each steamtable pan. Stir well.

4.) Stir 1⁄2 cup soy sauce into each pan. Fold in 2 lbs., 5 ozs. of the frozen peas and carrots into each pan of rice.

5.) Cover each pan tightly with foil. Place in a convection oven. Bake for 1 hour or until all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. CCP: Heat until an internal temperature is reached of 155°F for 15 seconds.

6.) Pull four half-steamtable pans and place at workstation. Use pan release spray.

7.) Whisk the thawed eggs thoroughly. Pour 1 lb., 7 ozs. of eggs into each half pan. Place the pans in a preheated convection oven at 350°F. Bake until the eggs are firm, about 10 min. CCP: Heat until an internal temperature is reached of 155°F for 15 seconds.

8.) Remove eggs from the oven. Using a pizza cutter, cut the cooked eggs into “ribbons.” Using a crisscross pattern, cut ribbons into bite-size pieces.

9.) Remove the rice from the oven. Fold the egg ribbon bites into the brown rice-and-vegetable mixture, using one half sheet pan of eggs per full pan of rice mixture. Re-cover the rice and place in warmer. CCP: Hold above 135°F.

10.) Using a 7-.oz spoodle, serve 7⁄8 cup portions of “fried” brown rice with eggs. CCP: Hold above 135°F.

Recipe: American Egg Board,

Photo, Nutrition and Meal Pattern Analysis: Meatless Monday Goes to School,

Breakfast Stuffed Baked Potatoes

50 Frozen potato skins, thawed
1 1⁄2 cups Vegetable oil
4 Tbsps. Salt
2 Tbsps. Black pepper
2 Tbsps. Garlic powder
2 Tbsps. Paprika
80 ozs. Liquid eggs


50 (1 potato skin, 2-oz. egg mixture)


188 cal, 11.3 g fat, 8 g pro., 11.4 g carb., 1.6 g fiber, 445.5 mg sod.

Meal Pattern

1 1⁄2-oz.-eq. meat/meat alternate, 1⁄4 cup starchy vegetable

1.) Preheat a convection oven to 325°F.

2.) Place the potato skins on parchment-lined baking sheets.

3.) Combine the plain yogurt with 1 Tbsp. salt, 1 Tbsp. paprika and 1 Tbsp. garlic powder in a bowl and set aside.

4.) Mix the vegetable oil, 3 Tbsps. salt, 2 Tbsps. black pepper and 1 Tbsp. paprika in a small bowl. Brush the inside of the potato skins with the oil mixture and set aside.

5.) In a large bowl, combine the liquid eggs with the seasoned yogurt mixture. Evenly distribute the egg mixture into the potato skins, about 2 ozs. in each.

6.) Cover with foil and place in oven. Heat for 40 minutes or until the internal egg mixture reaches 135°F.

7.) Remove from the oven and serve.

*Notes: Lamb-Wesson MunchSkins Potato Skins and Sunny Fresh Eggstravaganza #440828 can be used in this recipe.

Recipe and Photo: SunnyFresh/Cargill Kitchen Solutions,

Meal Pattern and Nutrition Analysis: Chef Sharon Schaefer, SNS,; nutrition analysis powered by Meals Plus

Kitchen Wisdom

• Season the eggs with more than simple herbs. Because it is a breakfast dish, you could add ham or sausage crumbles. Vegetarian choices could include cheese, salsa or sun-dried tomatoes. It would be more acceptable to students and have more flavor.

• Two ounces of the egg mixture might be a bit too much to fit in the potato skin. I would cook the eggs and skins separately, and then fill the skins and sprinkle the seasonings over top.

• Potato skins are pretty popular, and it takes the monotony out of serving just eggs and hash browns for breakfast.

To Rinse or Not to Rinse?

Standard protocol used to be that you rinsed chicken once you took it out of the package. It was thought that you were getting all that yucky bacteria off the skin, making it safer to prep and eat. Now, that’s a big-time no-no. Washing chicken actually splashes the ickiness around your sink or countertops, increasing the risk of cross-contamination. Plus, if you follow proper cooking and holding steps, you will kill off salmonella and any other bacterium that could make you sick.

Denver Omelet Brunch Bowl

10 lbs. Frozen potato wedges
2 lbs. , 12 ozs. Red bell peppers, diced
2 lbs., 12 ozs. Green bell peppers, diced
2 lbs., 12 ozs. Yellow onions, diced
2 Tbsps. Vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. Black pepper
1⁄2 tsp. Salt
3 lbs., 2 ozs. Liquid eggs, scrambled
2 cups Milk, 1% lowfat
2 lbs., 3 ozs. Ham, diced
1 lb., 12 ozs. Cheddar cheese, reduced-fat, shredded
3 1⁄2 cups Salsa



(1⁄2 cup potatoes, 1⁄4 cup vegetables, 1⁄3 cup egg mixture, 1 Tbsp. salsa)


224 cal., 8 g fat, 12.5 g pro., 28 g carb., 3 g fiber, 321 g sod.


2-oz.-eq. meat/meat alternate, 1⁄2 cup starchy vegetables, 1⁄4 cup other vegetables

1.) Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the frozen potato wedges on parchment-lined sheet pans in a single layer, making sure not to crowd the pieces.

2.) Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are browned and tender. The internal temperature of the potatoes should reach at least 135°F. Remove from oven and hold at or above 135°F until service.

3.) Combine the bell peppers, onions, vegetable oil, black pepper and salt. Mix until the vegetables are evenly coated with oil.

4.) Place the vegetables in a single layer on parchment-lined sheet pans. Bake in the still-heated 375°F oven for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften. Remove from oven and hold at or above 135°F until service.

5.) Combine the eggs and milk and mix thoroughly.

6.) Coat two 2-in. full-size steamtable pans with pan-release spray.

7.) Divide the egg-and-milk mixture evenly between the pans. Add the diced ham to each pan, dividing evenly.

8.) Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 15 minutes, stirring once after about 10 minutes. Eggs-ham mixture should reach an internal temperature of 145°F for 3 minutes.

9.) Remove eggs from oven and sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top, dividing evenly between each pan. Hold at or above 135°F until service.

10.) To serve, place 1⁄2 cup potato wedges into a portion container. Add 1⁄4 cup of the pepper- and-onion mixture and 1⁄3 cup of the eggs with ham and cheese. Serve with 1 Tbsp. of salsa.

Recipe and Photo: Potatoes USA,

Nutrition and Meal Pattern Analysis: Chef Sharon Schaefer, SNS,; nutrition analysis powered by Meals Plus


Food Focus

Need another suggestion for adding chicken to your menus and staying on trend with hot flavors? This month’s online extras include a recipe for Kung Pao Chicken With Sweet Peppers. Also, in celebration of May as National Egg Month, check out more eggs-citing facts.

Visit to access.

Recipes published in School Nutrition have not been tested by the magazine or SNA in a school foodservice setting, except for certain “Kitchen Wisdom” selections, which are evaluated by a volunteer pool of operators. Required ingredients, preparation steps and nutrient content make some recipes more appropriate for catering applications or adult meals. Readers are encouraged to test recipes and calculate their own nutrition analyses, meal patterns and HACCP steps.

Kelsey Casselbury is a contributing editor for School Nutrition and a former managing editor of the publication. She is based in Odenton, Md., and likes chicken and waffles with over-easy eggs.

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