Storm Ian will be paying us all a call this weekend. After it tore through Florida and then meandered its way up the coast, it’s going to be here in time for the weekend. I think it is safe to say that autumn has arrived.
It’s still too early to pull out all of the casserole dishes and stew pots and the slow cooker, but it seems like a little comfort food should be in order. There is nothing I like better than a nice roasted chicken, with a side of fluffy, buttery rice, but if I cook yet another simple, roasted chicken, Mr. Sanders is likely to keel over with boredom. I like monotony. I like predictable. I like routine. I like the fact that I can finally roast a chicken well. He would say that I like bland, white foods. He might have a point.
It has taken me a while to cotton onto the beauty of cooking in a cast iron skillet. They always seemed too heavy and unwieldy, and difficult to clean. It seemed like something we would bring camping, not use for home cooking. Now that I have been using this pan for about five years it isn’t intimidating any more. I can appreciate its versatility. I can admire its heft. Not only can I roast a chicken, I can make great personal pizzas, Dutch babies, corn bread, pork chops and even chili. And so I adored mastering Mark Bittman’s roast chicken recipe. https://markbittman.com/recipes-1/simplest-roast-chicken-8-ways
Much of my cooking is for just the two of us. Even if I think roasted chicken and rice is about the best possible home cooked meal, I need to respect my dinner companion’s tastes. And so, in consideration of our marriage, I upped the game ever so slightly recently, and I made lemon-strewn Chicken Française for dinner, with a side of fancy, cheesy risotto. There is nothing like a little continental flair to make dinner seem special. And the lemons were very pretty.
(I halved this recipe. In fact, I used just one boneless chicken breast, slicing it to get 2 thin pieces, which I then flattened it with a rolling pin to get truly wafer-thin portions.)
4 large skinless boneless chicken breast halves (2 pounds total)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 large eggs
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus 1 whole lemon, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and gently pound chicken with flat side of a meat pounder or with a rolling pin until 1/4 inch thick.
Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking.
While oil is heating, stir together flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a shallow bowl. Dredge chicken, 1 piece at a time, in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Lightly beat eggs in another shallow bowl. When oil is hot, dip floured chicken into beaten eggs to coat, letting excess drip off, then fry, turning over once, until golden brown and just cooked through, about 4 minutes total. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and keep warm, loosely covered with foil. Fry remaining chicken in same manner.
Pour off and discard oil, then wipe skillet clean and heat butter over low heat until foam subsides. Add wine, broth, and lemon juice and boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced to about 1/2 cup, for about 6 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken and top with lemon slices and parsley.
The risotto, since the truth must be told, came from a box. But I did make salad dressing from scratch, and for once I ironed the napkins. And there was candlelight and music, thank you, Alexa.
Mark Bittman thinks that risotto is a meal unto itself: https://www.bittmanproject.com/p/371308_mb-risotto-5-8- And I promise I will cook it his way one day, since he did not lead me astray with his roasted chicken, for this meal I took the easy way out.
This was a dinner that could not be beat, and it was fancy enough for a Sunday dinner, and familiar enough to satisfy my yearning comfort. And it was pretty.
Be careful with the tidal surges this weekend.
“Ordinary folk prefer familiar tastes – they’d sooner eat the same things all the time – but a gourmet would sample a fried park bench just to know how it tastes.”
― Walter Moers
“If we have less time alive than the time we have lived, shouldn’t it all be comfort food?”
― Terrance Hayes