Non-Recipe, Recipe

October 22, 2009

I am a recipe person.  That is just all there is to it.  There is something about following the recipe and the assurance that by following it, the dish will work out.  Of course, we all know that is not always the case (especially when baking, I find).  But still, I take solace in recipes.  I oftentimes wonder as I am watching programs like Iron Chef or Top Chef how they can possibly just come up with fantastic sauces or marinades or foams all on the fly with no recipe.  I am in awe of it.  Knowing that I find it comforting to follow a recipe doesn’t bother me.  I am not a chef, so there is nothing wrong with letting someone else think up the idea and my carrying it out.  But on Monday evening I was presented with a personal challenge of sorts.

I got a call from the hubby to discuss the usual, “here’s what happened at work, who is going to pick up the little guy and oh, what should we do for dinner…”  When he says he is craving some Chicken Parmesan.  To which I reply that we’ll go to our favorite Italian place and grab some and he says he’d rather stay in.  I had already left the office and wasn’t about to go home to look up a recipe and then trek back out to the grocery where the rest of the neighborhood is at 5:30pm on a Monday.  So I challenged myself.  I cannot even count the number of times I’ve eaten Chicken Parmesan and come on, it’s a totally un-complicated thing to make.  Perfect for my first try at a non-recipe dinner!  As confident as possible, I ventured through the grocery before the craziness hit and went home to give it a whirl.  I actually was able to pull off a pretty mean Chicken Parmesan without even a cheating glimpse at a recipe. I measured nothing and let me tell you, it was pretty liberating.  My head kept focusing on the laptop perched on our dining room table begging me to do a little research but I stayed the course and got it done.

The “Guidelines:”
Because it is a non-recipe, recipe, there is no recipe for me to provide.  More like guidelines. 

First, I took about 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and butterflied them because they were massive.  I then pounded them out a little and seasoned them. 

Next, I put around 1 cup of flour onto a shallow plate and mixed in some dried oregano, garlic powder and some kosher salt and pepper. 

In a saute pan, I heated a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (and no, I will not use EVOO…ever!) along with a couple of tablespoons of unsalted butter over high heat.  Once it was nice and hot, I dredged the chicken into the flour, shaking off excess and threw it into the hot oil/butter goodness. 

While those were going, I sliced some red onion pretty thin and minced 2 cloves of garlic. 

After about 3 min., I turned the chicken and after about 2 min., I pulled it out and placed it on a rimmed baking sheet that I had lined with foil. 

I then added the onions to the hot pan and after about 3-4 minutes, added the garlic as well.  Sidenote: I totally sprung for the store-bought marinara because I am not a woman who spends Sundays creating homemade marinara to freeze until needed and I’m not sure I’ll ever be, so yeah, I bought the jarred stuff.  Shoot me. 

I poured the jarred marinara over the onions, garlic, oil and butter and quickly reduced the heat.  Once it was heated through I moved the chicken off of the baking sheet long enough to put about 1/2 cup of the sauce underneath it so it wouldn’t stick. 

I then placed the chicken on top of the sauce and topped each one with more sauce.  I covered the pan with foil and let it bake for 8 minutes.  I then pulled the pan out, took the foil off, topped each breast with fresh mozzarella (makes up for the jarred sauce, I think) and put it under the broiler. 

Get some nice whole wheat/whole grain pasta – they seriously have such a great selection of good for you pastas now! I am certain my mother is bitter about all of those spaghetti meals she served us back in the day. 

Anyway, place your chicken on top of your pasta, add some more sauce, get a glass of your favorite wine, maybe some crusty bread and viola!  A non-recipe, recipe!  Should have taken a picture but by the time I thought of it, the end-product had been devoured.  Next time, though.  I definitely feel that I am less intimidated by a non-recipe meal.

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Secret Weapon

August 15, 2009

I thought it would only be appropriate to provide a tip in my first post, given that the reader likes to feel as though he/she leaves with something out of their time spent.  Let’s just not jump right in though; have to make you sweat, right?  One of my biggest weaknesses is under-planning.  I’ll admit it, I am the one who is always up for anything and when it gets right down to it, forgets what the heck she was up for in the first place.  Ask my friends and they will tell you (although I think I have many of them fooled by now), that I am Miss Let’s Do It until it comes down to doing it.  One of the most frequent occurences of such behavior always happens amidst the workday.  I will be bored, sitting at my computer when, oh yay, an email from a friend comes in and in my hurried response (because I’m at work, hello) I say wouldn’t it just be so lovely if you would come for dinner tonight and we would have the best time.  Of course, I belive this as I am typing it and a good time is always had but what starts out as “this will be so fun” turns into rush-hour, pick up at the sitter’s, hubby needs to shower so no help there, kind of stuff and you’ve casually invited friends to dine.  Everyone knows pasta is awesome for entertaining…easy to re-warm, stretches a buck, pairs great with the Chainti that most dinner guests bring and honestly, who doesn’t love pasta, especially when accompanied by some good crusty bread?!

Ok, so for the weapon part.  This is so bad but you should know what you are dealing with up front.  I am a subscriber (can you even say subscribe when it’s free?) of the Food and Family mag that Kraft puts out.  I know, I know, but I warned you, not a snob and this magazine has gotten me out of many hairy entertaining situations.  My secret weapon came from one of their recipes.  If you are entertaining friends with pasta, you are obviously going for a restaraunt-style pasta dish, right?  Too bad you worked all day and barely have time to change, let alone be a slave to the stove.  Rest easy, my friend, the folks at Kraft have got you covered.  Simply purchase your favorite pasta sauce – I really like the spicy tomato basil variety – simmer it on low in your sauce pan and once it is warmed through, add 1/3 of a brick of cream cheese.  It melts into the sauce beautifully and makes a creamy, light sauce that everyone will think is homemade.  To go the extra mile, I often sautee garlic and onion before adding the sauce and sometimes will add criminis while simmering.  Even by itself, it makes a darn good sauce and people will think you stood over a simmering pot.  If you think I am crazy (and/or lazy) that’s fine and if it isn’t good enough to try on your week-night dinner guests, try it on yourself.  Trust me, you will not be disappointed.