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This Expert Chicken Chef Collects Much More Than Just Recipes

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"The Artful Chicken" by Linda Arnaud ($29.95).

Whether you are sick of chicken or can't get enough of it, Linda Arnaud's "The Artful Chicken" should bring approving clucks. As for me, this terrific tome just may be the reason the chicken crossed the road. It's so engaging it's my favorite poultry pages of all time.

Arnaud offers lots of innovative fare that should keep your wings flapping in approval, too. However, Arnaud is also a bird-watcher extraordinaire: Her color photograph-filled book is a lot more than a recipe box to a terrific Southern fried chicken recipe. Many pages are filled with glorious photos of objects from the author's own chicken memorabilia collection or those of other avid collectors and antique and specialty shops.

The action starts with a Greek vase circa 500 B.C. (about the time chicken first arrived in the Western world) depicting a warrior holding a rooster and doesn't stop until we see a modern abstract chicken painting in the last chapter.

Arnaud's writing and research are as artful as her finds.

"History has even produced celebrity, if not celebratory, chicken dishes," she writes. "Napoleon's chef is supposed to have created a dish with chicken, tomatoes, crayfish and eggs on an Austrian battlefield to commemorate France's victory in 1800. The dish — Chicken Marengo or less than authentic versions (the eggs are generally omitted) — can still be found in recipe books."

Even if you only want to use the book as nothing more than a way to expand your choice of chicken dinners, most of the recipes wing to the top. Standouts include Honey and Lavender Baked Chicken Legs, Focaccia-Breaded Chicken Thighs with Mustard Sauce, Mashed Potato Baked Chicken Pie, and Sugar and Spice Grilled Brochettes with Plums and Sweet Onions.

Arnaud, whose home foyer includes chicken collectibles mingling with treasured family photographs, writes that much of the encouragement to create this classic book came from friends "who frequently dined at my table and were invariably served chicken, but rarely the same dish twice."

Her innovative recipes, as well as treasured classics, will undoubtedly have you believing that — but also most likely wanting to serve the dishes much more than once.

SUGAR AND SPICE GRILLED BROCHETTES WITH PLUMS AND SWEET ONIONS

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh marjoram

1 teaspoon (preferably sea) salt, and more to taste

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

Juice of 1 lime

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 large plums or 4 medium-sized nectarines, pitted and quartered

3 large red onions, peeled and cut into 6 wedges each

8 (8- to 10-inch) bamboo skewers, soaked in water

Yields 4 servings (of 2 skewers each).

Mix together herbs, 1 teaspoon of salt, sugar, paprika and cayenne in large bowl; toss chicken pieces in mixture.

Let chicken stand for 30 minutes, but no longer.

Mix together the lime juice, honey, mustard and salt and pepper, to taste, in a bowl.

Place plums in shallow dish and pour lime juice mixture over, turning to coat each piece of plum thoroughly. Let stand, turning and basting a few times. Let marinate for at least 15 minutes, but no longer.

Meanwhile thread onion sections on four skewers.

Alternate chicken with plum pieces on other skewers.

Preheat gas grill to high. (Temperature of grill should be at least 325 F. The Department of Agriculture suggests that chicken should be cooked to at least an internal temperature at its thickest part of 165 F and when pierced with a knife at thickest part, juices run clear without any trace of pink.) When grill is ready, cook onion skewers for 8 minutes, turning them once. Place chicken-plum skewers on grill and cook for 5 minutes, turning them once. Lower the temperature to medium and cook for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or until done and has reached the aforementioned 165 F.

CHILI-CINNAMON PAN-GRILLED CUTLETS

1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, chili powder

1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

3 whole chicken breasts, boned and skinned, halved (will equal 6 pieces total) and pounded to 3/8-inch thickness

Yields 4 to 6 servings.

Mix chili powder, cinnamon, salt and oregano together in a small bowl. Sprinkle chicken pieces with mixture on both sides and let stand for 30 minutes, but no longer.

Heat stovetop grill pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Grill chicken pieces until golden and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until done (per USDA guidelines, when chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 F when pierced at thickest part with a knife and juices run clear without any trace of pink).

Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." She also writes the Creators News Service "After-Work Gourmet" column. To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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