Saturday, March 27, 2010

How Does 15 Minutes Turn Into 1 Hour (and a Half)?

So, the other day I decided that I was going to take on the task of making dinner for Antoine and I, which is slightly out of the ordinary for me. I had been perusing Pioneer Woman's recipes and found an "easy" Chicken Piccata recipe that looked delicious (see below):

Ree (aka PW) made it look and sound so easy, so I figured, what the hey I'll give it a go! I should note that while I can in fact cook (I'm not as good as Antoine, but I think my baking skills are a little better than his) I don't do it very often. What with our schedules and the fact that we got a super awesome grill for Christmas/housewarming our meals tend to be on the low maintenance side (i.e. steak/chicken on the grill, crockpot recipes, etc.). But I was feeling adventures and I really wanted to try one of PW's recipes. So, this past Wednesday I gathered up all the ingredients and began this "easy" recipe. You might ask yourself, why does Jessica keep putting quotes around the word easy? Good question reader! Well, because every time I type easy I'm making air quotes in my head. You see, PW listed this recipe as "easy" (come on, air quote with me now) listing that it took 15 minutes of prep time and 15 minutes of cooking time to complete the recipe. HA! 30 minutes!!?? More like an hour and 30 minutes! I did have some the cats who were circling the counter the second I unwrapped the chicken (it's a usual thing anytime there's raw meat in the kitchen)...

So, the cooking began and from the beginning I had a feeling that it might take a little longer than PW had of course, I poured myself a glass of wine! [Please note: the recipe actually does call for one cup of wine, so I had to open the bottle anyway! You could say I was just letting it breathe! Of course, you'll have to do me a favor and ignore the fact that it's a white wine.]

So I cooked the chicken without a hitch and set it aside, then I began making the sauce. Here's where I ran into some problems. Now, I followed PW's recipe to a tee, but my sauce just wouldn't thicken. What she says should take 5 minutes (the thickening) or so took me roughly 45 minutes or more, and still my sauce wasn't even slightly thick. I suspect it might have been the pan I was using...I think I would have benefited from using a broader, larger pan. Anyway, while waiting for my sauce to thicken (or not) I decided to go ahead and start making the breakfast casserole I was planning to make after dinner. I assure you, the breakfast casserole was not meant to be an after dinner snack, instead I was making it to serve as breakfast/lunch of the next couple days. Making large batches of things (i.e. casseroles, rot roasts, pots of chili) works really well for Antoine and I then we have lunches and dinners for the next couple days, which is particularly handy when we're working at one job and then going straight to another.

Look at me, multi-tasking! Top left: sausage browning for the breakfast casserole. Bottom right: sauce bubbling in an attempt to thicken.

While I was slaving away in the kitchen I can reassure you that Antoine wasn't sitting idly on the couch, beer in hand, watching tv and waiting for his woman to make him some dinner (that's just not how we roll). Generally, Antoine and I make our meals together, but this time I wanted to make dinner for him so he took the opportunity to do a little yard work in the backyard and assemble our new patio table. He also made a little time to make friends with our neighbor's dog, who occasionally wonders around our cul-da-sac saying "hello" to neighbors and making sure everything is as it should be.

After an hour and a half of frying, flipping, boiling, stirring and baking I was finally done! The piccata was cooked, the sauce was as thick as it was going to get (i.e. not thick), the breakfast casserole was in the oven and Antoine and I were more than ready to eat. Luckily, the piccata recipe made 4 servings which meant dinner for the next night (with breakfast casserole for either breakfast or lunch).

The finished product. Not as pretty as Pioneer Woman's, but not too shabby!

The verdict? It was good. The sauce was uber powerful (very lemony) and the chicken had dried out a bit while I was trying to thicken the damned sauce, but it was still good. Acutally, it was 50 times better as left overs. Somehow, the miracle of 24 hours mellowed out the sauce a bit and made the chicken less dry...leaving a very tasty dish.

The breakfast casserole, which took me no time at all turned out really well, even though I sort of forgot it was in the oven while we were watching How I Met Your Mother and it got a little too brown. I basically took a bag of frozen hash browns, let them thaw a little, 5 eggs, a container of egg beaters (equivalent to 6 or 7 eggs), 1 cup skim milk, browned sausage, cheddar cheese, salt, pepper, Spike seasoning and parsley and threw it all in a greased casserole dish. This is our third day eating it, Antoine's been eating it for breakfast instead of oatmeal and I've been eating it for lunch instead of a sandwich. It's pretty tasty!

After dinner, we cozied up on the couch to watch some tv (see above). And I de-stressed from the slightly aggravating non-sauce-thickening-took-way-longer-than-expected dinner by partaking in some wine. Now, when I say "some wine" I mean the rest of the bottle. So that's one whole bottle of wine (Antoine's not a fan of the vino) minus the cup I used in the not-so-thick sauce. Here's an account of how the next couple of hours progressed in Jessica drunkenness land: I got more and more giggly, started a laughing fit for no apparent reason that lasted 5 minutes while Antoine just stared with bewilderment, pushed Antoine off the couch, stretched out across the entire sofa while Antoine was exiled to the loveseat, passed out with Gui sleeping on my hip...

Antoine couldn't resist taking a picture of this. I, of course, was unaware he had taken this picture until I uploaded pictures this morning.

Horrifying and hilarious at the same time...that's me for ya! At least it is when I've downed a whole bottle of wine. My best friend could tell you so many stories from our glory days of living together in Mariemont when we'd drink a bottle of wine then stumble up to the Dilly Deli to buy another! [Spoiler: most of the stories end with me laying on the ground...either in the middle of the street or someone's front yard...laughing up a storm.]

[Awkward silence while you process that...]

I thought the night was pretty successful, even considering my giggly drunkenness. I tried something new (and got a little drunk) and now I can check chicken piccata off the list of meals I've made. I'm eager to try some more Pioneer Woman recipes and see if this "easy" one was just a fluke and if the other "easy" recipes are actually easy! We'll have to see. I think the next recipe up to bat will be PW's pot roast. Difficulty: "easy"....we'll see about that!?

**Update (6/3/2010): Last night I made probably my best batch of Chicken Piccata yet! I was out of wine so I just used chicken stock to deglaze the pan. The sauce turned out very rich and lemony...and THICK! From now wine (except for drinking), just chicken stock! This has become one of my favorite dishes to make!

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