Sunday, March 8, 2009

Easy Weeknight Dinner

Most of the food we show here definitely falls into the category of "slow food." This may seem intimidating for those its-Monday-and-the-last-thing-I-want-to-do-in-this-world-is-cook days. In that spirit we figured we'd post a quick recipe that works for any weeknight. Luckily, for those of you that think that a news article or a 5 minute YouTube video is just to stinking long (SLOW DOWN PEOPLE!!!), we decided to include many pictures to hold your interest.

First of all, get all your stuff prepped. I can't stress the importance of the mise en place. Without it, you will do what most of us inevitably do in the around like a mouse on cocaine. Good chefs look like they are in such control because they are. Get your stuff laid out ahead of time and you'll go quicker, stay more sane, and actually put out better food (note: I did not say good food...that takes a little magic...I don't want to be sued for false advertising.)

Here is what you will need to get laid out:

Start by prepping potatoes. We used small red potatoes because they taste good and we have them around. As always, improvisation is one huge key to cooking better. In this photo I am also prepping some fresh thyme, some of the only stuff that overwintered here, for the potatoes.

Butter and a few teeth of garlic got simmered for about 5 minutes at low heat simply to infuse the butter with the garlic and to mellow out the garlic. Turned off the heat and stirred in the thyme.

In a small sauce pan caramelize some onions. I personally love to use pancetta fat to do this as it works amazingly. I could write a book on the greatness of onions. Truly one of the most diverse vegetables in the world. In short, the method we generally use is

-low heat
-not to crowded a pan (cast iron for life)
-salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar (maybe) in the beginning.
-Stir occasionally.
-finished when brown.
-if you are really feeling it, throw in a half cup of white wine and reduce the whole mess down to almost nothing. All you will need is a spoon and a corner to eat it in so no one else gets a shot at getting any.

Notice the great wrist action on that pepper mill:

Please salt your food. Supposedly, this is the single biggest thing that culinary students get yelled at for at great culinary schools around the world. Notice the sweet skills this guy has at flavoring this concoction of pure awesome from a great height.

The chicken. This is skinless, boneless breast. The bane of most chefs and most everyone else. You have to cook these puppies right or you will end up with the inevitable dry piece of tasteless mess that actually benefits from having cream of mushroom soup poured over it (insert vomit sound here). This is no dig to those of you that like that kind of stuff. You're crazy, but we still live in a country where you can do something like that (although I'd argue it is both unjust and probably a sin).

I cut the breasts in half. This makes pan frying even quicker. Speed equals flavor. There is not much to be had with this cut of meat so every second counts.

Pay attention to the sushi-chef-like skills.

Then comes the all important step of flouring your chicken long before you plan on cooking it. This will give time for the coating to adhere and make a good crust instead of the sloughy (yes, I made it up) stuff you usually end up with. Just dredge it good and forget about it for 15 minutes.

Here the onions have caramelized and are ready to be joined b some green beans. Costco sells some great organic frozen ones. Not the first choice, but in this part of the world you have to take what you can get in the winter. We have found that if you add them to a medium hot pan frozen and them toss them for 15 minutes you come out with a pretty interesting sauteed-like texture that is really good.

The moment of chicken cooking nirvana has arrived. Equal parts butter and olive oil hit the pan on medium heat, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan 1/8 inch or so. When the butter is done foaming you are good to go. If there is smoke you are in trouble. Drop the chicken in and wait for it to brown. This should not take long. It takes a lot of practice to get it right. Come over and I'll have a good excuse to show you and make this again!

When you have flipped it and the other side is almost as brown as the first; drop in a half cup of Marsala wine. Immediately cover and put heat on low. Wait five minutes and you'll be good to go.

I forgot to get potato sequence photos, but lets face it, they are potatoes. Drop them in hot water until almost at mashing consistency. You'll want them out just a touch early so they hold a bit of form. Drain the potatoes and then remember that garlic, thyme infused butter from the beginning of the post? Mix that in with the drained potatoes tossing them to make sure each one is covered, season with salt and pepper, and you're good to go.

While the beans are good as they are...why not finish them with bourbon?!? That's what I thought!

Plated. Not the prettiest meal and not one you will get a cover at Savour magazine for, but it is quick and tasty. Pair it with a good IPA or wheat beer and you'll be a happy person.


  1. Yum...but still looks like a lot of work! ;)

  2. That's just because there are so many pictures. It's easy I swear! :)