Saturday, August 2, 2014

Chicken with Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Gravy: In this house, we use all the food and none of the dishes

Some conflicts are inevitable.  Chief among them is who does the dishes, followed closely behind by "WHY IS THERE NO MILK?!?" It would be great to end up a world-famous author or lawyer, but there are days when my ultimate success is simply to avoid both leaving the house and ordering takeout.  Enter, Chicken with Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Gravy, a miracle of resourcefulness and no-dishes-ness.  

This is what I found in my refrigerator on the day in question:
  • Formerly fresh basil that had become dry
  • Several jars of sun-dried tomatoes in oil (Can you ever have enough?)
  • Chicken breast that needed to be cooked immediately
  • 1 still-edible fresh tomato out of a pack of four
  • Shredded mozzarella 

I also had in the pantry:
  • Olive oil
  • Flour
  • Thin spaghetti 
  • Seasoned bread crumbs
  • Goya seasoning 
  • Oregano
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Pepper
  • Paper plates
With these meager, somewhat stale ingredients, I created deliciousness and only two dirty pans.  Let me tell you how to do it, because you shouldn't have to leave the house either and dishes are for suckers.

First, lay out three paper plates assembly-line style with the bread crumbs in the middle.  The first plate needs a hefty scoop of sun-dried tomatoes and shredded cheese.

Next, slice through the largest part of the chicken breast.  I don't have a picture because I'm scared to death of contaminating my phone with chicken juice.  Old vegetarian phobias die hard.

Shove the tomatoes and cheese into the chicken.  Don't be too eager, since you still want it to close.

Dredge the chicken through the bread crumbs.  Place the coated chicken on the third plate.  Repeat.

Wash you hands.  For god's sake!  The juices!

Ok, in a large skillet over medium heat, pour some olive oil and some of the oil from the sun-dried tomato jar.  Place the dried basil on the skillet and let the two infuse.  Add the chicken breasts.  Top with the remainder of the cheese and the seasonings.  Cover.  Cook until the breasts are no longer vectors of disease.

Don't worry if they touch.

Seal in the goodness.
While the chicken is cooking, chop of the tomato.  Once the chicken is done, remove it.  

Store on a paper plate while you make the rest.
Scrape all the little chunks of goodness into the drippings.  Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan.  Let them cook in the drippings a bit, then move the tomatoes to the edge, like they were about to start a dance circle.

Who is going to do the bump?

Add a sprinkling of flour and immediately begin stir it into the drippings. If the tomatoes weren't juicy, you may need to add water or broth (which I didn't have).  When you have a smooth paste, mix in the tomato chunks.  Cut the heat.

Make the spaghetti according to directions and drain.  Add the spaghetti to the saucepan with the gravy and mix together.  Add more oil or butter if you have it.  Sprinkle with sea salt.

That's it.  Serve it up.  The nice thing about this recipe is that it stores well and the chicken makes delicious sandwiches the next day (and the next).  You also have only two pans to wash and no dishes.  And really, the spaghetti pan is like a half-wash.

  • Could you have used dishes and saved a tree?  Sure.
  • Could you have replaced the chicken with tofu and saved a chicken?  Yes, but you won't get the drippings, so use more seasoning and oil.  Maybe vegetable broth.
  • Did your ingenious plan result in Mr. Shiftless doing the dishes? No.  The dishes remained.  But at least there were less of them.
  • Why are your pictures blurry?  My phone is awful.  Here's a Shiftless Quickie: Never buy last year's model.  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

I'm back and I'm eating at Minihane's Irish Pub in Elkton, MD

Remember when I said I would be back after exams?  You shouldnt have believed me.  Lettuce move past the anger and get to the food.  (Shiftless Family motto.)

The Shiftless Family visited our local Y today, where I lifted heavy things for an hour and the rest of them played in an inflated castle.  As a result, by lunchtime the kids were cranky and I was looking to eat an entire side of beef.

Speed being of the essence, we went nearby to Minihane’s Irish Pub.  A competent reviewer would give you background on the establishment.  By contrast, I’m going to tell you that Minihane’s was previously the Howard House, where my friend’s mom used to bartend.  Are the two businesses related?  No idea.  Answering that question involves non-food talk.

Corner of "across from where the Newberry's was" and "where the live music sometimes is"

Because both Mr. Shiftless and I had previously been to the Howard House, we attempted to enter at the old restaurant entrance, only to realize the only entrance is through the bar, pub-style.  Maybe this should have offended my prudish sensibilities but I needed food in my belly immediately.  

Fancy, but not too fancy.

The d├ęcor is rustic, with exposed brick and exposed floors and exposed wooden tables.  It is all fashionably and comfortably naked.  The table settings had wine glasses and fine china, which the kids immediately began touching with their grubby hands.  The waitress promptly removed the excess wine glasses, apparently assuming, correctly, that the Shiftless children would take their wine in a take-home fun cup with a lid.  

There is no children’s menu, but all the items can be prepared in half portions.  This was fine with us, as Mr. Shiftless and I end up eating the majority of the children’s meals in any event, and today was no exception.

True to my beef-eating word, I got the burger with Dubliner cheese and Irish bacon.  The Shiftless minions each got half a burger with cheddar.  All were delicious, although I had asked for my burger medium and got more medium-well.  This may have been a function of the minions getting theirs well done, and it was still good.  If you haven’t had Dubliner cheese, it is a salty, sharp, cow’s milk cheese.  People who actually know cheese call it “somewhat sweet.”  I can’t tell if they are delusional, lying, or just accustom to cheese so sharp it slaps one across the face.  If your main dietary cheeses include “American” and “Pizza,” you will not find Dubliner “sweet,” but it is still worth trying. 

Mr. Shiftless got the Spring Wrap, which provoked snorting from this gentle reviewer, but ended up being delicious: smoked salmon, mint and herb goat cheese, watermelon, green things, and watermelon vinaigrette.  He ate it before I could get another bite.  In fact, we all finished eating before I could grab photos.  

For dessert we had the Rollo Salted Caramel Brownie.  It came with a banana sauce and ice cream.  I managed to get a picture before we dug in:

Not pictured: main course

Fair warning, I got more “banana” than “salted caramel,” from the sauce, but overall we couldn’t get enough of it.  The chef also sent out a selection of cookies for the kids.  There was chocolate, oatmeal, shortbread, and toffee.  I’m a staunch believer in chewy cookies so toffee was my favorite, but the chocolate had a satisfying bite and assertive flavor.

Chocolate cookie was already claimed.

Before we left the chef came out to say hello, which was very nice.  The service overall was great.  We’ll be back, mostly because I didn’t get the Reuben, which is apparently life-changing:

I believe all Reubens straddle the fine line between delicious and terrible.

If you’ve had the Reuben-experience, or just want to comment on your visit to Minihane’s, don’t be shy in the comment section.  Also, if you haven’t been to Minihane’s, do get off your duff.  Elkton needs to support its quality restaurants.  One cannot live on square pizza and wings alone.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Day 30. NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo...When my heart's not in it, there is always popcorn.

Today is the last day of National Novel Writing Month and National Blog Posting Month, also known as November.  I honestly can't believe I managed to post everyday this month, although I can't really say everything I posted was a gem (we all know there were some close calls and phone-ins).  I'm consoled by the fact that most of these posts average around 4-5 views due to my complete lack of promotion, so no harm done.  I should be using this one to wrap up my storyline, but I'm just not feeling it.  Rather than shortchange my characters with a lackluster ending, I'm putting it on hold until after exams.

Not that the goal was to learn something from this experience, but it does seem like I'm coming away with a counter-intuitive lesson that it is perfectly acceptable to not finish things occasionally--to come back later with a fresh perspective.  I've always been prone to just get things done, no matter the outcome, because it's better than not finishing.  Alternatively, if I know I'm not going to get to something any time soon, I push it so far back in my mind that I forget all about it.  This experience has made me more comfortable with having things be in progress.

So, since you aren't going to get an ending to the story today, here is a consolation prize:  learn how to make popcorn on the stovetop, and then go to it.  It is awesome.  I'm eating some right now.  Go enjoy some popcorn for awhile and then, before you know it, I'll come back and write some more about Joan and her friend.  I promise I have a really good ending.  I just don't have time to do it justice.


Have no idea about which I'm rambling?  Read the full story.