CXLIX – Dinner is Served!

There are nights when I’m off, or home from work somewhat early, that I have absolutely no ambition to make anything for dinner. Many nights, however, since I’m the only one who really cooks at the house, I must come up with something. I don’t like making the same thing all the time. One night I’ll cook up a steak, other nights some fish. Sometimes I get ambitious and I’ll try out a recipe I find online.

Recently, while using an app called Tasty, I found a recipe for Chicken Parmesan, specifically, a stuffed chicken parm. Since I like trying out new things, I gave it a shot. I’ve tried before, and sometimes the results weren’t as good as I liked. When I made them this last time, it turned out quite well. The chicken was not dry, but at the same time not overcooked. That’s a problem some people have when they cook chicken: it’s either still pink and underdone (hello, Salmonella), or it’s way overcooked and dry as a goddamned doorstop, like biting into a piece of a tire tread or chicken jerky.

CHEESY POTATOES

Along with that, I baked some potatoes in the oven. I found a scalloped potatoes recipe, but I guess it technically was au gratin potatoes, as I added some cheese to the sauce. Either way, the potatoes turned out delicious. Many recipes call for yellow potatoes or Yukon Gold. For my meal, I used red potatoes. Whatever works, I say.

Red potatoes and onion are the start

Sometimes I forget how much prep work can be involved in cooking. Anyway, I decided to gather what I needed for dinner. I’ll include recipes toward the end, but here, I’ll run down what I did. I started by gathering the potatoes and onions. I don’t have a mandolin, so I sliced each one of the potatoes by hand. Amazingly, most of them came out pretty thin, but a little uneven. Once sliced, I soaked the potatoes in cold water. That helps release some of the starch that makes the potatoes stick to each other while baking.

Thinly sliced potatoes for scalloped or au gratin. Sometimes I impress myself when slicing freehand

Next, I chopped the onion. I learned a neat way to chop onions by watching a kitchen basics video by Gordon Ramsay. It’s the best way I’ve found to chop onions without crying. First, you cut the end off, but not the root end. If you do that, the onion bleeds out and releases the acid that burns the eyes. One peeled, cut vertically, almost to the root and repeat horizontally. Then, hold the onion together and begin slicing. Voilà! Diced onions, and the only waste is the little bitty root.

Next, I sautéed the onions and some garlic in melted butter. I used a jar of minced garlic, which works fine for me, or you can smash cloves if you wish. After a few minutes, I added some flour to make the roux, then slowly added milk and vegetable stock—this because I didn’t have any chicken stock or chicken bouillon cubes—and let that cook and thicken. Season with salt and pepper, and here is where I added some shredded cheddar cheese and let that melt.

Once the sauce was made, I put the about half the potato slices into a half-size foil steam table pan. I could’ve used a 13×9” pan, but the foil one can be thrown away after use, and that’s one less dish to wash. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper, pour cheese sauce onto the potatoes, then repeat for the rest. You could add more cheese on top, and garnish with some paprika for color. Bake covered with foil at 350°. After 45 – 50 minutes, remove the foil and finish baking another 45 – 50.

CHICKEN PARMESAN

Making the chicken parmesan took a bit more patience. Take some breast of chicken and cut horizontally to make a pocket, says the recipe. I cut them nearly in half and pounded them down flat, to make it easier to stuff with cheese and fold. Put some shredded mozzarella cheese on the flattened breast and fold. I also used a toothpick to help hold it closed while breading. You could also use flour/water to seal the chicken. Dredge the chicken in flour, then into egg and bread crumbs, and pan fry in hot oil to brown the outsides. Some people mix panko with plain bread crumbs, but I used crushed pork rinds and a little panko—something to give it a little texture. After you’ve seared the chicken, line a sheet pan with foil and put some marinara sauce (or plain tomato sauce) on the foil, then place the seared breast on the sauce. Repeat for however much you’re making, then top with the remaining sauce and some cheese. Since I didn’t have parmesan, I just used more mozzarella. Bake the chicken in a 350° oven for around 20 minutes, but since it’s poultry, make sure it reaches 165°, or even a couple of degrees under, since the temp will rise slightly while resting.

Serve it up with whatever sides you desire. You could use roasted vegetables, pasta, veggie noodles, mashed potatoes, or whatever else. I opted for the oven potatoes, along with some corn and garlic cheese bread.

If you want to do this yourself, these are the recipes I used for this meal.

Chicken Parmesan recipe
Recipe for cheesy oven potatoes. I followed this recipe, but added a handful or two of shredded sharp cheddar cheese to the sauce mixture

One thing I love about cooking is that you can take a recipe and alter it to your liking; change something around or give it your own twist. Cooking is like art and the ingredients are your canvas. Eating is something I love, and we all have to in order to sustain life. So why not learn this basic life skill, and make something enjoyable? Whether you are vegan, keto, omnivore, or whatever your preference, find something you like, try it out, and put your heart and soul into it. Because I cook both at work and at home, I like to have some pride in what I prepare. If you don’t cook for the food to be enjoyed, what then would be the point?

I hope you enjoyed this different kind of post. It’s just another side of this multi-faceted middle-aged man behind the keyboard, doing some things I enjoy doing, and learning something new all the time. Hopefully, you do what you enjoy. Until next time, enjoy the good food, be nice to the restaurant staff, especially your server—please tip them well. They depend on those tips! Don’t overdo it in the summer heat; hydrate! Bon appétit, be safe and be well.

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