Friday night I had a taste for something tomato Italian, and I didn't want to make Ragu spaghetti. I had a frozen chicken breast that I wanted to use, too, as it went into the freezer back in November. I was a nice chunky breast, probably 8 ounces! Enough for two meals, as I cook for myself and no one else.
While the chicken breast, tightly wrapped in tin foil, was defrosting using the cold water method, I rummaged through my cabinets. Not much, hmmm!
Hardly any extra virgin olive oil left!
I quickly scootched around the internet for some easy recipes, but didn't find anything EASY enough!
So, I gulped and decided to wing it on my own, with NO RECIPE! I said to self, "Jan, how many cooking shows have you watched over the years? How many Hell's Kitchens? How many Master Chefs? How many Cooking with Julias? How many Jacques Pepin? You can do this, woman. Just do it!"
What I had on hand was:
A half-empty jar of small pimento-filled green olives (store brand)
Three-quarters of a jar of Ragu spaghetti sauce with green peppers and onions (they are so small and so few you need a magnifying glass to see them)
Other spices, including salt, pepper and dried parsley
After the chicken breast was thawed, I rinsed it well under cold water and then dried it with paper towels; cut it lengthwise, being very careful as I was working with a large sharp knife that scares me half to death, and then trimmed away the fat and the small ends with a smaller knife. I then cut both halves into roughly 1/2" thick "medallions."
In a plastic grocery bag, as I did not have any "shake and bake" bags on hand, I mixed up some all purpose flower, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried parsley, and a wee bit of Italian seasoning mix, about 1/4 teaspoon. I tightened up the bag opening and shook the ingredients to mix them, and then tossed in the chicken medallions and tossed away until they were well coated.
Meanwhile, I added a couple of tablespoons (rough measure, as I was just pouring from the bottle) of vegetable oil into a skillet, and added about a tablespoon of olive oil. Brought to about medium heat. Then I shook off the excess flour mixture on the chicken medallions one by one and added them to the hot oil, being careful (1) not to burn myself, LOL! (2) to maintain the bubble of the oil around each piece as it was added by temporarily increasing heat (gas stove) as necessary, and (3) working quickly so that some medallions would not finish cooking well before the others!
I cooked then all for about a minute, then did a "slide-shake" of the pan to redistribute the medallions from around the hot spot in the center of the pan. Cooking time on the first side was about 5 minutes, then turned them with tongs, checking to make sure the first side was browned. Success! Nicely browned, YES!
Second side was cooked a scant 3 minutes and I did the shake/slide thing with the pan a couple of times. The last minute or so I added some chopped green olives and a little of the juice from the jar to add some brine, did a couple more shake/slide things with the pan and then turned off the heat as I was removed the chicken and olive bits to a bowl; covered with tin foil to stay warm while I did the sauce. This is what the chicken looked like after I removed it from the pan -- try to imagine it not blurred:
I have no idea where the thought to make a roux came from, but when it entered my brain I instantly went with it. In a little bowl I mixed a bit of all purpose flour -- and yes, I did a major sin, I used some of the left-over in the plastic grocery bag from coating the chicken medallions! Since I'm still here to write about it, I did not kill myself with ptomaine poisoning. Added more salt and pepper. Dumped a couple tablespoons of cold butter into the frying pan and turned on the heat. When the oil that had been left in the pan and the newly-added butter was bubbling, I slowly added the flour mixture with one hand from the bowl and frantically stirred with a fork in the other. Let's just say my technique leaves something to be desired. But it worked because I REALLY whisked that fork around and was careful not to add too much flour mixture all at once.
Brought the roux to a foam, while stirring constantly:
I let it foam until it turned a rich golden brown color and started slightly smoking, added some dried parsley (I have no idea why):
I turned down the heat and added about a cup of the Ragu sauce, a wooden spoon-full at a time, stirring each in well before adding the next. This is what it looked like after I finished putting in the spaghetti sauce:
You can see that using the roux made the sauce very thick! And it added a layer and depth of flavor, not sure how to describe it, but remember when I said it was smoking just before I added the first of the Ragu spaghetti sauce, I was reaching for a certain subtle smoky flavor I've seen done on those t.v. cooking shows, but didn't want it to taste burned! I thought it tasted really good and turned out well, but I am well aware I was treading on dangerous ground!
By the way, that is a genuine Grandma Newton wooden spoon. She died in 1960. Afterward, as the old family home was cleaned out and Grandpa went to live with my Aunt Laurel and Uncle Verne, the possessions were divied up amongst my dad and five aunts. This spoon and other things ended up in our family stash. When I moved away to my first apartment in the summer of 1969 after graduating high school, I took with me an assortment of odds and ends, including a beat up (even then) old tin kettle that I'm pretty sure came from Grandma's house, a relish dish, a fancy glass bowl, some knick-knacks, and Grandma Newton's wooden spoon. That wooden spoon, and the other much loved items, too, have been with me ever since. I remember she had a set of wooden spoons that she kept in a glass jar on one side of the sink. They were worn and stained. I loved those old spoons because Grandma Newton made magic happen with them! Now my old, inherited wooden spoon is like Damascus steel, it's indestructible!
How well I remember sitting on a tall stool on one side of the butcher block island in her small kitchen, watching her cook. My nose was never far away from the bowl, LOL! She NEVER used a recipe! So, this wooden spoon is, at a minimum (if I date it from the 1950s), about 70 years old now. Likely older. Who knows? Maybe Grandma Newton got those spoons as a gift from her mom (Mathilda Forsythe Belanger, 1861-1943) when she married Grandpa Newton. Holy Hathor!
After I stirred the sauce into the roux for a few minutes, I put the chicken back in:
Then I let it all simmer on very low heat for about 5 more minutes, covered.
Meanwhile, I prepared a single serving of fetticini for myself. When the chicken was done, I spooned a good helping over my fetticini and added some shredded parmesan cheese.
Popped it into the microwave for 30 seconds to slightly melt the parmesan and then had at it!
Very good! The chicken was moist and tender, easily shredded with my fork. The sauce was thick (which I like) and stuck to everything, very tomato-y, and had that little "extra" flavor (slightly smoky?) As a last second garnish, I tossed on a few more chopped green olives, which added a bit of saltiness, because the dish otherwise was not salty (I have to watch it on the salt for health reasons). I will make this for myself again. It is probably an abbreviated version of chicken parmesan but without the black olives :)
I have left-overs for one more supper, just have to cook up some fresh pasta.
April 6, 2019:
The income taxes are finished and were taken to the Post Office yesterday to send out via certified mail, which now costs nearly $16 for two 8 1/2 11 envelopes with return receipt. Yikes! But worth it because I have proof positive once I get the little green cards back that the returns were delivered and received. And just in case, there are tracking numbers that I can also tap the U.S. Post Office for to verify that delivery was made. In these times, it's better to be safe than sorry
I have been working in little bits and pieces outdoors whenever a window in our crappy weather has presented itself. Today, however, was the first day where I was able to spend an extended period of time outside. First, I cleaned up areas on the sidewalk and driveway along the edges where pine cones and branches tiny branches blown off during the seemingly wind storms we endured over fall and winter 2018-2019. After resting for a bit, and removing the winter hat, gloves and jacket, I moved to the back yard because I'm sick of feeling sick to my stomach every time I look at it through the patio doors in the dining room and window above the kitchen sink. This winter left it a true disaster zone. I worked steadily raking small areas and filled two trash can size black trash bags full of debris blown down from my arborvitaes and neighboring trees over the winter, in addition to about half a ton of nut shells. The nut shells are my fault because I feed all the neighborhood squirrels. They are so entertaining, and very smart! I also made a small dent in starting clean-up of the flower beds, where the "mild" (ahem) weather and thawed earth has encourages perennials to start popping through, whether I'm ready for them or not!
All in all, a somewhat decent start to making a larger dent in clean-up operations. I worked outdoors about 4 hours off and on. I didn't want to overdo it, and truth be told, I'm pooped! It's humbling to not be able to work as long or as hard as I used to. I can get it done, but I have to take lots of rest breaks so it takes quite a bit longer now. Good thing I'm retired