I’m trying to get into the sustainable food movement, one big toe at a time. I listen to The Splendid Table podcast relentlessly (I hope I don’t run out of old episodes too soon – I really am addicted to it) and Evan Kleiman’s “Good Food” radio podcast. They both talk about sustainable food and not chucking stuff out because it went bad and you disrespected the product and the effort it took to get it to your refrigerator in the first place.
So I thought about this all day today because I did a bad thing. I went to Cosco for something else but ended up bringing home a package with six perfect red, orange and yellow peppers. They were from Israel and I felt slightly bad about that. I like Israel, but the peppers weren’t grown in the United States and they weren’t in season. But I needed peppers for some fajitas so I bought them.
Well, that was last Saturday and all week long I’ve worried about the five I didn’t use going bad in the refrigerator and having to chuck them over the side of the deck (we live in a house surrounded by woods – I’m telling you the patch of ground just off the deck is the best fertilized dirt in Tennessee). So all day long I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with a mess of peppers.
Here’s what I did. I sliced one each of a red, yellow and orange pepper into thin strips. I filmed a pan with olive oil (don’t you love that – filmed – it’s the newest culinary catch word). Added the peppers, salt and pepper and some dried oregano. Sauteed until just beginning to brown and then added three cloves of minced garlic.
In the meantime, I put some water on to boil fettuccine. And I coated three chicken breasts with egg and then panko breadcrumbs mixed with shredded Parmesan cheese. Took the peppers off when they were crisp tender. Added some olive oil and butter to the pan. Sauteed the chicken breasts until golden brown. Held them in a 170 degree oven. Added the fettuccine to the pot of now boiling water.
To the pan I sauteed the chicken in, I added about 1/3 cup of white wine and the juice of one lemon. Reduced it down and swirled (another good word) about 4 tablespoons of butter in to make a sauce. Added the now-drained fettuccine and the peppers to the pan. Threw in a handful more of shredded Parmesan. Tossed to coat the pasta, put it on the plate and topped with the golden brown chicken breast. Delicious.
So here’s the part about Michael Symon. I heard a podcast yesterday in which he was interviewed about Iron Chef and the question was: Do you know the secret ingredient in advance? I actually think he fibbed a bit because he said no, even though I’ve read somewhere that the chef’s know it’s going to be one of two or three ingredients so they can plan all the other things they’ll need to cook. As I was inventing this dish on the fly tonight I wondered what I would do if I were on Iron Chef and the chairman announced: The secret ingredient is peppers! I realize as I’m thinking about this that my peppers and chicken dish would seem impossibly simple and stupid compared to what an Iron Chef would come up with. There really is a huge gap between an accomplished home cook and a trained chef. I just hate that.