Tag Archives: lemon juice

Flat chicken and green noodles

Well, this just isn’t going to work out at all. Noah called today to tell me he’d found an apartment off-campus. But clearly he’s not ready to live on his own yet. I mean, just look at him. He can barely see over the counter. An apartment is a lot of responsibility. He doesn’t know how to do laundry. He doesn’t know how to cook. I expect he could figure out how to fit the Eggo waffles in a toaster, but I’m not going to let him use a toaster. He’d burn himself. He’s just a little boy. A wee little boy.

Okay. I know. I’m delusional. But that’s what I was thinking this morning when my wee little boy, who

The real Noah: large and able to accomplish simple tasks on his own.

is edging toward six feet tall, told me he’d found an apartment. With Bunny’s help. His grandmother has been my long-distance goon squad for the last month.  We were in total agreement. Nothing that exhibited evidence of roaches or vermin. Nothing where you could see dirt through the floor boards. Nothing icky. For $400 a month. That was his limit. I truly thought I had him at a standstill because there’s no way he could find something for $400 a month.

Dammit. Dammit Boy. He did. “Uh, the only thing, Mom, is that I have to move in in June,” he said over the phone. “They won’t hold the apartment until August. ” … So that means you’re not coming home this summer? “I hate it, Mom, I was really looking forward to coming home for the summer, but I don’t really have a choice.” Liar, liar, pants on fire.

Oh, hell. I remember wanting to live off campus and the place I found would have horrified my parents had they seen it. It was a former funeral home in Murray, Kentucky, and there was a suspiciously long stainless steel sink in my room. I shared it with four other people. I loved it. It was a total dump, but I loved it. It’s just that it’s different when it’s your baby of almost 20 living in an apartment. On his own. Did I tell you I’m going to turn his room into a guest room? Ha! That will fix him.

So, flat chicken and green noodles. Noah’s favorite childhood meal. I think he can accomplish that in his efficiency apartment. In his spacious kitchenette with a 24-inch stove he can probably reach into the refrigerator for the ingredients, cook the meal, clean up and get ready for bed without moving an inch. He called it flat chicken because I pounded the chicken breasts into thin cutlets. And green noodles? Just pesto and pasta.

Flat Chicken and Green Noodles

2 chicken breasts, pounded into 1/4-inch cutlets

Seasoned breadcrumbs

Vegetable oil

Juice of one lemon

1 4-ounce container pesto

1/2 pound thin spaghetti

Put the breadcrumbs on a plate. Rinse each cutlet with cold water and then dredge them in the breadcrumbs. Heat the oil and lemon juice to medium high heat. Saute the cutlets until golden brown.

Cook the pasta starting in warm water in a shallow pan deep enough to submerge the pasta. Keep moving the pasta around with tongs to keep it separated as the water continues to get hotter. The pasta will be cooked al dente before the water reaches a boil. Mix with pesto sauce.

 

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Dad’s barbecue sauce

My dad had his first heart attack when I was 4 years old. It was not a momentous event for me, of course, because I didn’t know what a heart attack was. However, that was when Mazola Corn Oil entered our lives. Mazola Corn Oil, apparently, was the cure-all for heart conditions in 1956. My dad’s doctor instructed him to drink a shot glass of it every day. Can you imagine? Yuk. But Troy A. Chapin Jr. faithfully carried out the doctor’s instructions until the day he died, yes, of another heart attack but many years later.

Here I will digress because Mark found this fabulous photo of my dad and me at my debut. In the South, we are very keen on making our debuts. Generally speaking, debutantes are introduced to society at age 18. In the olden days, when a young lady made her debut it meant she was eligible for marital suitors. Of course, that whole thing has gone by the wayside and now it’s just an excuse to get dressed up in white gowns and allow your poor parents the privilege of shelling out massive amounts of money for parties and such. That is probably why my father looks rather shell-shocked here. He’s just adding up the dollar signs in his head. This photo was taken at Curtis Hixon Convention Center in Tampa, where I made my debut, where I danced an exquisite waltz with my dad and where my then-boyfriend, Tommy, was mortified that, by custom, he had to dance with my mother who absolutely hated him. Too much information. And that’s not fair. My mother was always careful to point out that we were not allowed to hate anyone. We could intensely dislike them.

I will now return to the subject at hand. Mazola Corn Oil. Since butter was no longer on the list of approved heart healthy foods (and, truth be told, we were a product of the 1950s and margarine was king at the moment anyway), my father was keen to incorporate this new wonder drug into his everyday diet.  I am most partial to oil and vinegar dressing for salads because that’s what I grew up eating.  There was rarely frying in our household, but when that happy occasion occurred  it was done with Mazola Corn Oil (even now, I say those three words as one).

But the best an highest use of Mazola Corn Oil was when my father grilled chicken. He came up with this wonderful tart combination of lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and Mazola Corn Oil that was so clean and delicate and completely unlike chicken grilled with that other favorite of the 1950s, Kraft Barbecue Sauce.

The only detail in which my father cheated was leaving the skin on the chicken. It is a must. Don’t do this with skinless chicken breasts. My recipe returns butter to the dance because it’s better. The recipe that follows is for two well-proportioned chicken breasts, bone in. If you want to grill more chicken, just double or triple the recipe. The beauty of this sauce is that you can continually baste the chicken – and you should – because there’s no sugar in the sauce to burn.

Dad’s Barbecue Sauce

Juice of 2 large lemons

2 teaspoon’s Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

½ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

¼ pound butter

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat until butter is melted, stirring all ingredients to incorporate completely.

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Chicken piccata

My people – the Chapins – are renowned throughout all recorded history as having NEVER thrown anything away. Through the generations various offspring are forced to inherit. And guilted into never parting with the useless items they inherit.

When my mother downsized after my father’s death, I inherited. I have a pair of ice shoes, metal contraptions that fit over somebody’s size 10 boots in 1927 that were used to safety navigate icy sidewalks. I have antique wooden golf clubs, which would be thrilling if I played golf. I have a vintage top hat still in its original box. I have a lovely oil painting of a gentleman that nobody in my extended family can identify.

However, there is one thing I inherited that I do not use for its original purpose but which has become indispensable in my kitchen. It is a very large wooden mallet. I don’t know what it was used for or who owned it. But it is the best meat pounder ever invented.

Like most cooks, I had invested in a very nice meat pounder actually manufactured for that purpose – the kind with one flat side and one dimpled side. My wooden mallet puts it to shame. In fact, I threw the modern version away a few years ago. So when I want to make something like chicken piccata, which requires very thin pieces of meat, I bring out the mallet.

I am almost embarrassed to show you a picture of the mallet. It’s pretty big. I imagine someone used it to pound fence posts into the earth on one of our southern Illinois farms. Or maybe it was used with a wedge to split wood. I don’t know. I pound chicken with it. It’s a good and noble purpose.

So, chicken piccata. I am in love with all things that involve lemons and capers and this involves both. It’s simple to make, elegant to behold and utterly delicious. If you don’t have a giant wooden mallet on hand, you can either use a regular meat pounder or, in a pinch, a heavy pan. Even if you don’t want to mess with pounding out thin slices of chicken, just use regular chicken breasts and cook them for a bit longer. The thing here is the sauce – lemon, white wine, turkey or chicken stock, capers, butter. I always serve it with pasta dressed with a little herb butter because the sauce also permeates the pasta and that is always a good thing.

Chicken Piccata

3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise

1 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup dry white wine

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (juice from two medium lemons)

½ cup turkey stock

1/3 cup capers

2 tablespoons butter

Pound chicken breasts until they are thin between two sheets of plastic wrap. Put flour, salt and pepper into a large plastic bag. Shake to combine. Add chicken a few pieces at a time to coat. Shake off excess flour.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and sauté until browned on both sides. Remove to a plate and keep warm in a 170-degree oven.

Pour out any excess oil from the skillet and add the wine and garlic. Cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Add the lemon juice, turkey stock and capers. Continue cooking until that mixture has reduced by half. Add the butter and swirl to combine. Add the chicken back to the pan and coat with the sauce.

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Mediterranean brown rice salad

I know. I know. Why in the world am I writing about a rice salad the day before Thanksgiving?

Because I am atoning for my gustatory sins and after tomorrow you will be, too. I am having two Thanksgivings this year. The first was last week at the reunion at which only starches were served (to my great delight) with just a smidge of turkey on the side. Tomorrow, we are going to Kim and Lori’s for Thanksgiving and Kim will over-achieve as always.

I will promise before I go over there that I will just take a small portion of anything that involves cream or butter. I will be lying to myself. I mean the woman is making pumpkin pie filling from actual pumpkins!

So mark my words. After tomorrow we are all going to be eating twigs and sticks for a week. Or Mediterranean brown rice salad. You pick.

Mediterranean brown rice salad

20 ounces brown rice

¼ cup olive oil

Juice from ½ lemon

½ teaspoon cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup diced red onion

1 small green pepper, diced

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

¼ cup salted shelled pumpkin seeds

Cook the rice according to the package directions or use an equivalent amount of frozen brown rice. Cool slightly and add the remaining ingredients. Chill at least two hours before serving.

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What is that?

“Oh, my God. She’s brought a tree branch into the house. I never get to go outside so I just see them from the screen door. I think it’s a tree. No, it’s got nubby things on it. What are those?

Should I be afraid of this thing? Maybe she wants me to use it as a cat toy. But I don’t do toys. She knows that. I barely do people. Maybe when she leaves the kitchen I’ll take a little nibble. I like green things. I always chew them up and swallow them and then, wouldn’t you know it, I just throw them back up. That’s why she usually doesn’t have green things in the house. Shoot, she’s not leaving. So I guess I’ll have to pretend not to be interested. That’s not hard. I don’t do interested, even on a good day.

Max.

It’s not often you walk into a grocery store and see Brussels Sprouts on a stalk. So when I walked into Trader Joe’s today, I just giggled. I have to have that! I felt giddy just carrying it around. I have written before of my love of all stinky vegetables. In fact, I have given you the recipe before that I am about to give you again. I sense everyone didn’t make it.

Noah is coming home from college tonight and I will teach him what Brussels Sprouts look like before they are slathered in butter and bread crumbs. He is also a lover of stinky vegetables and he is bringing a friend home. I will convert him as well. I think of it as a mission.

O.K, here’s what you do. This is more of a procedure than a recipe. You can do this with just a few Brussels Sprouts or a whole stalk, which I am just so proud to possess.

Take off the outer leaves of each sprout. Put them in a microwave container with a little water and nuke them for about three minutes. Let them sit for a few minutes before testing to see if they’re done. They should be just starting to give to pressure. Not rock hard. Not squishy soft. If they’re still rock hard, keep nuking until you get the right consistency.

Now then, melt a copious amount of butter – real butter – in a skillet. Add the juice of one lemon (or half a lemon if you’re not doing a big batch of sprouts).

Meanwhile, cut the sprouts in half through the core. Put the sprouts cut side down in the skillet and let them brown nicely. Browning is one of the keys to this so just be patient and do it. If it looks like the pan is getting dry, add more butter. Once the sprouts are browned and you still have a pretty good amount of butter in there, add a sprinkling of seasoned breadcrumbs – enough to soak up all that butter! Toss and serve. If you don’t become a convert after this, then I just feel sorry for you.

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Greens rethought

Winter Market has started. The days are shorter, the tomatoes are gone. It’s on to root vegetables, which have their own kind of comfort. I pick up some turnips, with the greens still attached. And I think back to Anissa Helou, the Lebanese cookbook author I met at the Southern Foodways Alliance event a few weeks ago. As we were driving through the Delta we talked about the obesity epidemic sweeping this country. It was so foreign to her as the Lebanese diet is inherently healthy. That conversation stuck with me.

So I bring home my turnips and greens. Maybe I can do without the ham hock just this once. I will try greens rethought. So I separate the greens from the turnips and  cut them up into thin strips. Then I saute them in just a blink of an eye with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Anyone who has  cooked greens knows that they go from a voluminous amount to next to nothing so I don’t have a lot to show at the end of this experiment.

But they were delicious. Peppery, tangy with the lemon juice and lush with the olive oil. “We could have this again,” says Mark. That’s his code for not only did this not suck, but it’s actually quite tasty. There will be lots of greens in the coming months. It’s the season. I’m stocking up on lemon juice and olive oil.

 

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Sole Meuniere

I’m doing something in real time right now. I don’t know if I want to know the answer. My absolute favorite fish in the world is Dover Sole and I got some at the Trader Joe’s a few days ago. It’s this incredibly mild, almost buttery tasting fish. The filets are thin and delicate and lend themselves best to a quick saute.

But I’m getting more and more involved, at least in my own head, with sustainable farming, ranching and fishing. In other words, you eat fish that aren’t endangered. And there’s a website you can go to and find out what’s in danger and what’s not. So I’m going to go there right now. Be back in a minute.

Well, I feel better. Sort of. If my sole came from the Atlantic Ocean, that’s bad. If it came from the Pacific Ocean, that’s good. I choose to believe that my little fishy came from the West Coast.

Sole Meuniere is a classic recipe. Meuniere is French, obviously, and means “the miller’s wife.” The only thing I can think of is they named the dish that because it’s really simple to make and kind of humble. Or that the miller’s wife was fat because Sole Meuniere is nothing more than lightly sauteed fish absolutely swimming, pardon the pun, in browned butter. And  browned butter is easy to make. You just put the butter in a saute pan and cook it until it turns a pale brown. Add lemon juice, perhaps some capers, and you’re done.

So here’s my Sole Meuniere. It was absolutely delicious. Because you have all that rich butter sauce, you don’t want to gild the lily by serving it with scalloped potatoes or green bean casserole. Simple is as simple does. Just a quick saute of green beans and some basmati rice is all you need.

There are a million  recipes for Sole Meuniere out there so I did not feel I had to develop my own. I used my old friend Ina Garten’s recipe. Here it is. She’s not really my old friend. I probably need to make that clear. But I wish she was.

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