Over the years it’s been a challenge to cook for four busy people with conflicting schedules. For this reason, I made an effort to plan meals that could be made ahead and heated as needed. I also prepped lettuce and other ingredients needed to make salads. This “on the go” dining is fine during the week when there is no other option. However, on the weekend, the best way to decompress and catch up is to sit down as a family for a “real” meal.
Dining should be an experience, not the simple act of shoveling food down your throat. How many times have you heard someone say, “Wow, that’s so good, I’m going for seconds,” yet they still have a full plate. They aren’t tasting or savoring their food, and we wonder why so many Americans are overweight. In the book French Women Don’t Get Fat, the author suggests ways to fully enjoy your meal so you can eat what you want and not worry about the calories. The Europeans eat smaller portions of food and much slower than we do. They also do not understand the American need to supersize everything.
In the European tradition—set a nice table, cook a delicious meal and savor each bite of food while you catch up on the events of the week with your loved ones. With everyone going in different directions, for me, it’s a way to make sure my family gets a well-balanced meal and at the same time we are restoring the art of conversation, a lost concept in this texting generation.
The next challenge is what to make for a picky family. I have Eleni, the lactose intolerant cheese hater (with a few exceptions), who also hates mushrooms and tomatoes. Then there is Alexa, who in the last few years has decided she can’t digest red meat and tries to avoid all meat, but will eat chicken sometimes. Other than that, she likes everything, especially vegetables. Then there’s Ray. After thirty years I’m still trying to figure him out. He will eat most things, sometimes…if he’s in the mood…but I don’t know when that is. Then he might eat something for months, and then decide he doesn’t like it anymore, but doesn’t mention it until I make it again. He usually loves what I make, but every once in a while he says, “I’m not in the mood for that. Mind if I have a sandwich and a pickle instead?” So, I try to come up with things that will please everyone.
I like chicken Cordon Bleu. It’s an old classic, but it’s fun to update it and stuff the chicken with something else. I would need to anyway. Eleni hates Swiss cheese and Ray hates Proscuitto. Instead I used a soft garlic and herb cheese, sundried tomatoes and broccoli. I made a white wine reduction sauce and served roasted baby potatoes and steamed veggies. This was a hit with everyone! It is an impressive enough dish for company and quite simple to prepare.
Garlic and Herb Stuffed Chicken
Pre heat oven 325 degre
4 thin sliced chicken cutlets
½ cup flour
2 cups panko bread crumbs*
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons garlic and herb spreadable cheese, such as Allouette
8 rehydrated sundried tomatoes
4 blanched florets of broccoli
* You may purchase pre-seasoned panko breadcrumbs or you can season them yourself. Mix some parsley, garlic powder, pepper and a dash of salt to season the panko.
Whisk the eggs and milk together and set aside. Place the flour in one dipping dish and the panko in another.
With each of the cutlets you will spread 1 tablespoon of the herb cheese in the center of the cutlet. Lay two sundried tomatoes and one broccoli floret on top of the cheese and roll the cutlet as tight as you can. Dip the rolled chicken into the egg, making sure to moisten the open ends well. Dip into the flour, and then dip into the egg once again. Lastly, roll into the panko, making sure that the chicken if fully covered. Place into a hot skillet with the vegetable oil and butter. Make sure you place the chicken roll seam side down. This will seal it and ensure that the roll does not open. Brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels and transfer to a baking dish and place in oven for 20 minutes to cook through. This can be served with any number of sauces, but I like a white wine reduction sauce. This takes a while so you will have to plan ahead. You need one and one half hours to make the reduction. I have made red wine reductions that have taken a lot longer so this is not bad. You want to start the sauce first. Then you can put your potatoes in the oven. Roasted potatoes at 450 degrees will take forty-five minutes. Toss the potatoes with a little olive oil, fresh garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Sometimes I mix some grated cheese in for extra flavor. If you are using the tiny baby potatoes it will only take thirty-five minutes. The steamed veggies will take less that ten minutes if you have a pot of boiling water ready. Just place the vegetable on the steamer right before you are ready to plate everything else. You don’t want mushy veggies, so don’t over steam them. You can sprinkle whatever spices and herbs you prefer or steam some garlic in with them and squeeze some lemon on them. The key to getting everything on the table at once is to know how long each component of the meal takes.
White Wine Reduction Sauce
1 bottle of white wine
1 apple, peeled and cut
1 shallot, quartered
1 clove garlic
1 carrot, quartered
2 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring to a boil the wine, apple, shallot, garlic, and carrot. Lower to a simmer for one hour. Strain, add the chicken broth and simmer for thirty minutes. Make a slurry of cornstarch and water and add to sauce, whisking until it thickens slightly. Season to taste.
Originally posted on 2/27/12 on cheffieskitchen.livejournal.com