January 28, 2010
The Long And Short Of It
I love to leisurely putz around my kitchen on the weekends. We make huge breakfasts that we don't serve until almost lunch time, we bake cookies, and we eat dinners that take 1 1/2 to 2 hours to prepare. It's fun to do that sometimes.
On weeknights however, I often find myself rushing around trying to throw together a healthful and appealing meal, before kiddie bath time, stories, and bed. In the last few years many of my glacial recipes have mutated into what I call "mommy recipes." These are meals that I've found short cuts to reduce the prep and cooking time. Often these are the recipes I teach in cooking class because I realize not all the ladies like to spend all day in the kitchen as I do.
Here are a few ideas to save time:
Have your butcher prep your meat while your shopping--that IS their job, you know. They will do just about whatever you ask...take the bone out of chicken breasts, but leave the skin on, remove fat, butterfly your fish, slice meat to your desired thickness, even chop a roast into stew chunks for you!
Make sauces in large batches and freeze for later, OR buy good quality jarred sauces.
Prep your veggies on grocery day before you put them a way, OR buy pre-cut veggies.
I know time-saving items can effect the grocery bill a little. But I find myself feeling that 40 more minutes of cooking time is worth the extra $1.50 difference between a jar of good organic marinara and the ingredients it would take for me to make it. Sometimes...
Here is a recipe I occasionally make into a "mommy recipe." It is inspired by our favorite Italian restaurant in Tulsa, OK--Mary's Trattoria. It's a cozy little restaurant. With old family portraits on the walls and doilies covered with oil cloth on the tables; it reminds me of a mom and pop shop you'd find it Little Italy. The food has a very homey quality. I LOVE their version of Chicken Cacciatore...simple and hearty. When we moved, I weaseled the ingredient list out of the owner. I have played with the proportion enough now that think I've got it!
I'll try to explain both methods, long and short.
12 oz. thinly sliced mushrooms
4 boneless chicken breasts
¼ cup flour
3 Tb. butter
3 Tb. olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups marinara (homemade or jarred)
1 lb. spaghetti
Fresh basil or parsley for garnish
*If you are going to make your tomato sauce from scratch, make it first. You can prep everything else while it's simmering. The recipe is below!
Heat a large pot of salted water over high heat for the pasta. Heat your largest skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tb. of oil and 1 Tb. of butter to the skillet. Saute the mushrooms until they are soft and brown--10 minutes, then remove them from the skillet.
Sauteing the mushrooms first gives them a more concentrated earthy flavor and better color. But, if you are in a hurry, skip this step and throw the raw mushrooms into the sauce later!
Butterfly and separate chicken breasts.
To skip this step you can buy chicken "cutlets" at the store, which are thinner slices of chicken breast.
Salt and pepper both sides of each piece of chicken; then rub with flour.
Add 2 Tb. of butter and 2 Tb. of oil to the skillet and wait until butter is melted before adding chicken to the skillet. Saute’ chicken 1-1 ½ minutes per side; then add wine and garlic. Cook chicken in wine for another 3 minutes.
Remove chicken from skillet and tightly cover with foil to keep warm. Add the mushrooms and 3 cups of marinara to the skillet and simmer for 10 minutes—stirring regularly.
Meanwhile, add pasta to the boiling pot of water for 6-8 minutes—then strain.
Serve with the sauce over the pasta and chicken. Serves 4.
*If using jarred sauce, choose something thick, herby, and slightly sweet. Taste the sauce before adding it to determine if you need to throw in a tablespoon of sugar and 1-2 tsp. of herbs.
2 Tb. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. dried thyme (or Italian seasoning)
½ carrot, finely grated
1 28 oz. can crushed or diced tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
In a medium sauce pan; heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and carrots and cook another 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook another 20 minutes to thicken. Salt and pepper to taste. Makes 3 cups.