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Friday, February 25, 2011

The "Little Red" Experience

I live in the south and as we all know when someone is sick or has been taken to the other side, it is our moral obligation to take food to them or their families. I did not make these rules, but my mother does it, my grandmother did and as I understand her mother did it also. It is not because we fear being thought of less if we don't do it, or because we expect something in return. It's just something we do, like saying "Yes Ma'am" automatically to all of my mother's living friends. ( Well , honestly the dead one's aren't much for conversation so a yes or no really isn't required) Friday night I got to take food to my good friend whose husband has just had some really nasty surgery. Technically I know that it was he, not she who had it, but I also know that it can be grueling to be the caregiver. Sometimes it is nice to not have to think about the small details like "What's for dinner?, and concentrate on physical therapy instead.

She asked me to share the recipe, which I would be happy to do if I actually used a recipe. Instead I will just recreate it using guesstimates of the actual ingredients. I found this recipe online a while back and each time I make it i change it a bit, so here is the totally bastardized version of the easily Googled recipe for Romantic Chicken with Artichokes .

Romantic Chicken with Artichokes Somewhere on the Google

4 chicken breast halves, cut in bite size pieces
olive oil
4 or so cloves garlic finely minced
1 onion . I cut it in half then just slice crosswise in in about 1/2 inch slices so there will be nice strips of onion in the dish
1 or 2 cans artichoke hearts in water, drained. Use the smaller artichoke hearts or cut the large ones in quarters
Chicken broth. I generally use homemade only because I tend to buy a hen for boiling a couple of times a month and I freeze
the liquid. I am guessing I use about a cup. Feel free to use canned. I would if I didn't have it on hand.
Thyme ( dried french is the tastiest and I probably use about a teaspoon)
mushrooms ( about a cup) if you have them, but Friday I didn't.
parsley ( about a tablespoon of dried or 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped)
acid of some sort. Friday I used a combination of lemon juice and balsemic vinegar. No idea how much I actually used but you want at least a couple of tablespoons.
salt and pepper to taste
Italian dressing
corn starch

Put olive oil in a large skillet ( decent puddle to swirl around the pan a time or two. I do not use EV in this recipe because I don't want the olive taste to interfere with the taste of the artichokes. Get the pan decently hot and add the chicken pieces, cooking till just browned. Remove from the skillet and add a little more olive oil to the pan. Toss in the onions and cook till wilted then add the minced garlic. It should only take 30 seconds to a minute to wilt the garlic. Add the chicken back to the pan and pour in the chicken broth. Throw in the seasonings, artichoke hearts and mushrooms if you have them. Let it just sit on the stove at a slow simmer for about 15 minutes. Add a couple of tablespoons of Italian dressing ( I use Kraft Fat Free) and stir it thoroughly. Make a slurry of 1 tablespoon of corn starch and 1/4 cup cold water. Stir it into the chicken liquid and cook til thickened a bit. Serve over rice.

I use brown rice because we do not eat a lot of refined products.. Years ago when I used to cater I learned a valuable lesson from David Crosby ( Yeah the Stills and Nash guy) Well I learned 2 valuable lessons from him. The first is to treat people with respect so that when you leave they won't think " What waste of a perfectly good kidney transplant" (BTW David if you are reading this: I did cook the blooming ham from scratch and just because one of the kitchen helpers had worked at Honey Bake and knew the secrets of spiral slicing does not mean we bought you a ham there! Oh yeah, and when I woke up the next morning you were a memory. When you woke the next morning you were still a jerk!) The second and valuable lesson I learned is even though a jerk requests short grain brown rice, it does not negate the fact that short grain brown is a better product. So thank you for that. If you cook short grained brown rice commit to the full 45 minutes it takes to make it. There are no shortcuts, but the end result is well worth the time invested. The grains are full and chewy with that wonderful nutty flavor. Nothing is needed but tiny bit of salt to enhance the flavor. As a base for the chicken, well it is nearly perfect.

I also took them some broccoli slaw. It was your basic bagged broccoli slaw, rinsed and drained and dressed with a very special dressing (laughing and giggling as I type this)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 or 4 shakes of Beau Monde seasoning
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Mix the aforementioned exotic ingredients and pour over the slaw. Toss to coat and serve.

This meal travels well and really is good. In fact if any of you are under the weather and need a boost from me, most likely this is what you will get.

Have a great day and stay well!

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