Monday, December 12, 2011

Eat Mor Chik'n

Don't you get sick of chicken?  I don't know when it happened that the only acceptable protein is chicken.  Is it because they aren't cute?  Beef has a bad rap because it's all fatty and clogs your heart.  Ditto bacon.  Leaner pork is ok, but everyone is always afraid it's going to cause parasites or something.  Fish is expensive.  People don't shoot squirrels or possum for themselves; and if I tried to serve rabbit I think my children would disown me.  Actually, they might try to have me arrested.  Bunnies are cute.  Cows and pigs are cute, fish is expensive (plus: mercury).   Chickens, well, they are loud, smelly, and peck your feet.

Ok, I don't actually know that for sure because I haven't truly spent a lot of time with chickens.  When my mom was growing up in Kentucky, there were chickens running all over my grandfather's gentleman's farm.  And when my grandfather was growing up in West Virginia - a lot of what his family ate came straight from the yard - what they grew and what they raised.  I think it's a little sad that I am most intimate with chickens when they are already sliced into a cutlet and wrapped in plastic.  But what can you do.  I don't live in the country.  The farmers I know, I know because they are standing under a tent in the parking lot of the GSB building once a week.  Selling stuff from a truck.

I'm going off on a rant here - and it's doing this post no good whatsoever because the meal I made last night was indeed chicken, pre-sliced into a cutlet and dressed with ingredients that are either slightly exotic or out of season, or both.  So much for my holier-than-thou-I-only-shop-at-farmer's-markets attitude.  Because the reality is, my kids ate it and asked for more - Which means that this recipe is a keeper and I'm going to make it again.

I took a Martha Stewart recipe and bumped it up a bit.  The original is in the December issue of Martha Stewart Magazine.  If you have time, marinate it longer - I really only had time to throw the ingredients on it and let it sit out on the counter for an hour while I cooked up some rice.

I do not like this picture, it's too shiny.  Food shouldn't be this shiny.

Lime & Basil Chicken

2 limes - juice one and a half for about a 1/4 of lime juice.  Slice the last half for garnish
1/4 cup of grape seed oil
2 tblsp of lower sodium soy sauce
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 tbslp of brown sugar
1 tsp of dried basil
1 tsp salt
some grindings of pepper
8 thinly sliced chicken cutlets (or you can take 4 boneless chicken breasts and with a very sharp knife, slice them in half length wise)
1/4 cup of white wine (something slightly sweeter - but not too sweet)
1/4 cup of chicken stock
1/4 cup of fresh basil - (which I didn't have - however I did have the cool frozen basil from Trader Joe's - which comes frozen in these great little cubes - I used about four of those) plus a bit extra for garnish.

Mix the first 8 ingredients (limes through pepper) in a shallow dish - and then place the chicken in the dish flipping and swishing them until they are covered in marinade.  Let them sit at least an hour, or, if you're more organized than I am, mix it all up in the morning before you head out for your day so they are all nice and marinady when you get home.

Then, heat your saute pan until it is very hot.  Drop 3 or 4 cutlets in the pan (don't over crowd the pan, it's ok to do all this in sections).  Turn the heat to medium and sear the cutlets on one side for about 4 minutes.  Then flip them and sear for another 4 minutes.  Repeat with remaining cutlets.  Let the chicken rest in a bowl where all their chickeny juices can collect.

When all the chicken is cooked and relaxing in the bowl, pour the wine and chicken broth into the pan along with the marinade.  Don't worry, you are going to cook the marinade - in fact start scraping up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Let the marinade come to a boil, stirring all the while.  Reduce it down so that it is about half the amount, add the basil, and then return the chicken to the pan, cooking to heat it through over a lower heat.  Serve the whole thing over a nice steaming bowl of rice.  You can sprinkle some of the lovely basil over all, which I didn't do because I didn't have any.  I did, however, lovingly place a sliced lime right on top of your cutlets.  Very pretty.  And it keeps the cows happy...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Steak & Potatoes -

I did not take this picture which is why it looks so good...
So, the other day, I called my friend Laura and invited her to the movies.  I wanted to see if she could drop everything and run to a 6pm movie with me, but she couldn't, so we planned on seeing a later show - 8:45 in Center City.  It was Sunday, and I decided I'd make dinner for the family - I grabbed some steak, and sliced some potatoes, and sauteed some green beans.  Then one daughter came home and started talking to me about the movie she'd just seen, and my husband began a conversation with me about what we were going to do with the leaves outside and my older daughter came down and declared that she wasn't going to eat, and then there was that fight.  At about 7:45 I got the dinner on the table.  We all sat down, and I played some Christmas music, and we all started talking about - actually, I have no idea what we were all talking about - but it was just one of those shiny moments that happen when you are completely involved - then the phone rang.  It was 8:28.  On the other line was my friend Laura who I was supposed to have picked up at 8:15.  She said, don't tell me you forgot.  But I did!  I had actually completely forgotten that she and I had made a plan to do something FUN not two hours before.

This is my life - in a nutshell.  I have no ability to attend.  I'm like a freaking magpie - something - anything - shiny distracts me.  I cannot hold a thing in my head: not plans I've made, not conversations I've had, not important things I'm supposed to do. Maybe it's age.  I'm getting on up there, much to my own disbelief.  Maybe it's because I have a lot on my plate with teaching and kids and - ok that's it, just teaching and kids - that seems to be enough.  But even if I make a plan for something fun - if it's not bright and shiny and right in front of my face - it flies out of my mind like a goose flees winter.

This is why I like simple foods like steak and potatoes.  It is the only thing that I can make when I am mightily distractible that I can do, and do fairly well, with out, well, as my 15 year old likes to say (a little too often) totally f*ing it up.  Throw the stake in a hot saute pan, on a hot grill pan, or on a hot grill outside.  Set the timer.  Flip the steak.  Reset the timer.  Take the steak off and let it rest in a bit of marinade (I like to reverse marinade because who has the foresight to marinade earlier in the day).  Flip it.  Let it sit in the marinade a bit longer.  It's that easy.

cutest freaking sous chef in the world
Potatoes are easy like this too - I always seem to have potatoes kicking around my kitchen.  (Literally kicking around because some times my sous-chef likes to stretch her long paws up into the bowl on the counter just to see what she can get - and what she usually gets is a potato which she doesn't really like, but hey, she's a dog, and it's food, so she kind of takes a few bites before leaving it under the table where it gets kicked across the room a few times before some one thinks to pick it up.)

And while your steak rests and your potatoes rest you can toss some fresh green beans in a pot of salted water.  Or frozen green beans in a pot of salted water.  Or if you're feeling ambitious you can throw said fresh or frozen green beans in a saute pan with salt, water, a little olive oil and a crushed clove of garlic and let all that simmer on a low heat until the water has evaporated, at which point in time you give the whole thing a lazy stir so the oil salt and garlic get properly incorporated with the beans.  But that's it.  That's the whole effort - and a desultory effort at that.

This is the kind of food where all you have to do is set the timer on your iPhone while you drift into the family room to watch the last half of How I Met Your Mother (which the 15yrold is obsessed with) or Adventure Time (an obsession of the 13yrold) or X Files reruns (the husband).  You can make this dinner if you are reading a really good book you can't put down which means you can only cook with one hand because you're holding the book with the other.

And this is the kind of meal I make when I have about 30 papers to grade, and I've been distracted by all sorts of shiny (ie movies with my friend... cleaning out the refrigerator ... organizing necklaces in my jewelry box) and I have to return said papers to students tomorrow.  At 8am.

I'm making a lot of steak,  potatoes and green beans these days.

My Favorite Steak

about 1 1/4 lb London Broil steak
garlic - as much as you happen to have
thyme, or tarragon, or parsley, or cilantro - what ever.
1/3 or so of olive oil.  Or grapeseed oil, or canola oil
1/4 cup of lemon juice, or red or white wine or balsamic vinegar - or any other acidy liquid you have hanging about.  My favorite is lemon juice, but red wine is also awesome.  And if you use red wine throw in a splash of Worcestershire sauce - you won't regret it.
1 TBlsp of Sea Salt, or 1 tsp of Kosher salt or table salt
LOTS of fresh ground pepper.

Heat your pan super hot.  Turn on the fan over your stove.  Oil the steak,  dash with a bit of salt, but not too much.  Grind some pepper over the whole thing.  Slap it in the pan.  (Or grill).  DO NOT TOUCH IT FOR 7 MINUTES.  Then flip it over DO NOT TOUCH IT FOR 5-7 MINUTES depending on how well done you like your steak and how thick the whole thing is.

Meanwhile dump the rest of the ingredients in a dish that will fit the steak.  Whisk it all up.  When the steak is done, plonk it in the dish and turn it so that both sides have been dredged in marinade.  Tent with foil and DO NOT TOUCH IT FOR 10 MINUTES.  Flip the steak and let it be while you finish making the rest of the meal, setting the table, and drinking your Manhattan.

Cut your steak thinly and on the bias.

Here's one way to do 'em -
New potatoes or Yukon Golds, quartered
Sea or Kosher salt
about 1/8th to 1/4 cup of olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400 or so.  Dump the potatoes in a roasting pan, a cast iron skillet or a jelly roll pan.  Swirl with olive oil and salt.  Roast for 20 min.

OR slice your potatoes into match sticks, and do the same thing, only don't roast as long.  Matchsticks will be cooked in 10 minutes

Green Beans - I don't actually need to tell you how to cook green beans, do I?