Chicken Rustica

I considered calling this post afternoon chicken, because that’s when I made it. In the afternoon, while the light streamed in from my tiny door onto my tiny stove. But then, I didn’t want you to be confused, see, because you can make this chicken anytime, not just in the afternoon. You could make it in the morning, if you felt like it. Personally, I don’t have the stomach for morning chicken, being more of an oatmeal girl, but who knows. If you are a morning chicken person, you just might like this chicken in the morning.

Light on chicken, a still life.

Chicken isn’t fancy. You already know this. And yet, as a bay area resident, I almost have a weird level of guilt in admitting that I periodically roast up a whole chicken or that it is my preferred protein to toss into salads. Instead of ahi tuna or mung-soaked tofu (Is that a thing? It sounds like a thing. I’m just making up pretentious food things now! Wheee!) or San Francisco bay lobster that I caught myself on my yacht – my hybrid yacht! – which runs only on ethanol and electricity, and love. Sweet hippie love.

Nope.

I bought this chicken at the grocery store. And then, I put it in a pan, and I put some salt and pepper on it, and then, for fun, some fresh rosemary, and then for even more fun, some parmesan, just to see what would happen. And what happened was a delicate cheese crunch, a burst of warm rosemary flavor, and a hint of pepper that played nicely with the moistness of the chicken and the flavor of the olive oil it was seared in. Easy, rustic ingredients that everyone has on hand.

After that, I cut it up and put it on some mixed greens and added some heirloom tomatoes (which I did not get at the farmer’s market) and a toss of balsamic and some avocado. And I ate it on my deck with some amazing goat cheese, which came from a goat whom I do not know personally, and made at a farm I’ve never heard of. Though, the farm is nearby, so we can pat ourselves on the back for eating local.

You guys, I am hanging my head in shame over all this. Everything but the cheese.

Except, I’m not. Because great food is for everyone. This is something that’s been bothering a bit, because while the Bay Area is full of passionate eaters and wonderful chefs, both in restaurants and in homes, there can be a level of pretention that is completely ridiculous about food. Is it vegan? Did it come from Whole Foods? Is it organic? Did you get it at (insert Ferry Building vendor here) because otherwise I will slightly judge this food and deem it unworthy of my consumption.

I don’t ever want anyone to think that this blog (i.e., me) comes from that place, but sometimes San Francisco people get lumped into one category. If you got that organic chicken at the grocery store, or if you killed that chicken in your backyard, you can still make something delicious out of it. If you don’t live within spitting’s distance of a farmer’s market every day of the year, you can still cook! And even if you’re not the greatest cook in the world, you can still try. You don’t have to live vicariously through food blogs and cookbooks or dream of when you are advanced enough to cook ahi, or think that you can’t cook amazing dishes because you live in Nebraska and not San Francisco. Just get some chicken, don’t feel bad about it, and fire up the stove.

You can do it. I know you can!

And you know what? In your honor, non-pretentious cook to fellow non-pretentious cook, I will rename this post Afternoon Chicken. Because that’s when I made it. It’s not fancy, but it’s good. And sometimes, good is great.

 

CHICKEN RUSTICA AKA AFTERNOON CHICKEN

Ingredients:

. 1 lb. chicken breast

. 3 tablespoons EVOO

. 3 tablespoons grated parmesan

. A few sprigs of rosemary, to taste

. S&P, preferably sea salt, if you have it, because the flavor is more dense than regular table salt

Instructions:

1. Heat EVOO over medium heat, until the skillet is coated and swirls in the pan.

2. Lay the chicken in the pan and season liberally with salt, pepper, parm and a sprig of rosemary

3. When the chicken begins to turn white, flip it over and season the other side.

4. Continue flipping and turning, until the chicken is cooked all the way through. The outsides should be brown and nicely crisped, but not burned. Adjust heat accordingly. I like to cook on medium high and watch it carefully, for a really nice sear, but if you’re multi-tasking, turn it down so it doesn’t burn.

Chicken Paprikash + Contagion

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So, my boyfriend and I thought it would be really fun to do a theme date night. Like, we would go see Scorched at A.C.T. and go out for Middle Eastern food, or we could make some curry and watch Slumdog Millionaire, for example. Something like that.

But instead of either of those ideas, which are excellent, we thought it would be a great idea – nay, a hilarious idea! – to watch Contagion, and make chicken. Yes, chicken. Ye old salmonella carrying, easily disase transmitting, bacteria-ridden, chicken.

These descriptions are so fabulous – it’s like I should write a cooking blog or something.

In retrospect, not a great idea. Especially since I boarded a plane the next day and proceeded to wash my hands 47 times and look extremely askance at strangers. But, the upside of scaring ourselves silly and being ridiculous, is that we discovered an amazing recipe I’m so excited to share: chicken paprikash. It’s warm, spicy, but not in a tongue burning Mexican food way, and almost bricky. Which seems like an odd thing to say. “Hey ya’ll, you’ll love this dinner, it takes like the side of a house! You’ll love it!” But really, it has a delicious dry heat, almost like tandoori, and you can taste old world spice, dry clay, and home. Delicious.

Now, if only we could stop our Purell addiction.

CHICKEN PAPRIKASH

Ingredients:

. 4 chicken leg quarters, cut in half at the joint (about 3 pounds total)

. Coarse salt and ground pepper

. 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

. 1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise

. 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

. 2 tablespoons sweet paprika

. 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

. 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

. 1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes

. 1/2 pound wide egg noodles

. 1/2 cup sour cream or thick plain yogurt

Instructions:

1. Season the chicken with a heavy dose of salt and pepper. Then, in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat the oil on high. Cook your chicken, skin side down, until golden and crisp, for about six minutes. Flip chicken and cook until browned, six more minutes, and transfer to a plate.

2. Discard all but one tablespoon fat from pot and reduce heat to medium. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently and scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, until beginning to soften, about two minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for three minutes. Add paprika and flour, season with salt and pepper, and stir constantly until paprika is fragrant and mixture begins to stick, for one minute. Add broth and whisk until smooth. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil over high. Return the chicken to the pot in a single layer, skin side up, and reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through, for about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain noodles and divide among four bowls. Top with chicken. Stir yogurt into the sauce, then ladle the whole mess over the chicken and noodles.

Pea Pesto

The other night, my friends come over for dinner and I made it. Then, I needed something to zuzsh up some pasta salad, so I added it. Then, last week, Joanna came over for a day of epic cookery, and we made it again.

There is no situation that cannot be made better by pea pesto. And that probably includes some emergency situations, or situations wherein you are not even eating. Like a tennis match, perhaps. Or maybe even a trip to Disneyland. I’m just saying. You won’t be sorry.

This recipe is the perfect blend of spicy garlic and smooth olive oil, which allows the freshness of peas to take front and center. Even when you use frozen peas (which I usually do) the Spring pea flavor bursts forth. It pairs deliciously with any shape of pasta, and is also a fabulous topping on crostini or as a dip for fresh bread. Also, possibly it’s most sterling feature, it takes about four and a half minutes to make. A maximum of 12 if you boil your pasta at granny pace. Which I know a lot about, as I do most things at granny pace. Running, biking, swimming, water boiling. Etc.

Anyway. This pesto is good. And delicious. And mostly healthy. And though I’ve never brought it down to Disneyland, I would consider it. Do mice eat peas?

PEA PESTO

Ingredients:

. 3 cups frozen peas

. 2 tbs. parmesan cheese

. 1/2 tbs. salt

. 2 tbs. pine nuts

. 1-2 cloves of diced garlic

. glug of mild EVOO

. half cup of halved cherry tomatoes, if desired

Instructions:

1. Microwave the frozen peas in a bowl of water on high for three minutes, or on the stove top in boiling water, or use the same amount of fresh peas.

2. While the peas cook, put the water on for pasta.

2. Chop the garlic, then put all the ingredients in the Cusinart Mini-Prep or another food processor or blender and zoom zoom zoom!

3. Mix with the pasta and add in cherry tomatoes, if desired.

YUM.

Mediterranean Curry Burgers

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Do you ever crave two things at once, and can’t decide what to eat? Do you ever wish you could smash together two favorite dishes, even though they would probably never, ever taste good together? Sushi and lasagna come to mind, as do avocados and ice-cream. Some of my favorite things should just never be together on a plate.

But then, there are those inexplicably weird combinations that are so strange they totally work and taste AMAZING: chicken tikka masala burritos, lavender Earl Grey ice-cream, egg and potato pizza, and this sandwich, which we have previously discussed and you still haven’t tried, have you? Get on it.

The latter is also the case with mediterranean curry burgers. A perfect blend of crumbly burger, with the freshness of mediterranean food, and a hint of Indian spices to put a fire in your belly. And the best part? Completely vegetarian, with a vegan option, and if you can find G-free pitas, you can have it that way, too.

Incidentally, the orange was just for color, but it’s actually the perfect dessert to add some tartness to your palate and cut the spicy. And also to prevent scurvy. Must keep on top of that, also.

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MEDITERRANEAN CURRY BURGERS

Ingredients:

For the burger:

. 1 frozen Amy’s Organic veggie burger

. 1 whole wheat (or g-free, or rice flour, or whatever) pita

. 1 cup of spinach

. 1/4 cup of cucumber, thinly sliced

. 1/4 cup of tomato, thinly sliced

. 4 tbs. plain greek yogurt

. 2 tbs. hummus

For the dipping sauce:

. 3 tbs. ketchup

. 1/2 tps. sweet yellow curry powder

. 1/2 tbs. siracha sauce

Instructions:

1. Bake the burger at 350 in a toaster oven or regular oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven’s strength

2. Halve the pita, spreading hummus and greek yogurt inside, laying out the cucumber and tomato slices, and stuffing with spinach

3. Halve the burger, and insert into the pockets, topping with additional Greek yogurt and spicy curry ketchup, if desired.

A Formula for Fabulous

After a long day, I will be the first to admit that I lose motivation very quickly. A long run turns into a short bike ride or yoga in the living room (maybe) or…nothing. A delicious dinner turns into carrots and hummus, eaten while standing. A long freelance writing project turns into reading for ten minutes and conking out.

But the more comfortable I’ve become – in the kitchen, in my closet, in my own life – I have found there are sneaky little ways of going halfway, when halfway is all you can do. And it’s less about specifics, and more about a formula.

For example, this formula of Kate’s. It’s genius! My edition turned out to be linguine, spicy salami, manchego, and kale, and it came together in five minutes. Five minutes! You can’t do anything in five minutes. Except make this delectable dish. As long as you follow the formula, you’ll be fine, and there’s freedom to switch things up along the way. How divine.

I’m loving this idea – a formula for something fabulous – and it’s something I’m excited to explore in the next few months!

Do you have anything like this? A fail-safe formula for getting something done? Pulling something off? Getting something from zero to great, that works every time? I would love to know!

Image found here.