Thursday night, one of my friends came over for dinner.
I have bad luck when cooking for friends, because most of the time things take a long time to prepare and cook, or at least they take me away from my friends. I have to focus on the food.
Luckily, I've gotten good enough at cooking that I can focus on more than one thing at a time. Marla came over on Thursday night, came home with me once I got out of work, and I made dinner with her standing there, playing Cat Williams stand-up and talking to me.
I made walnut crusted chicken, and goat-cheese mashed potatoes. This is really easy to make, and even the pan sauce was really simple, so I'm going to give the recipe.
Walnut-Crusted Chicken, with Goat-Cheese Mash.
4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1 cup (roughly) of walnuts.
Panko bread crumbs.
Salt, Pepper, Poultry seasoning (or garlic powder), butter, olive oil.
About 2 pounds of small yellow potatoes.
Chevre (goat cheese). If you want to get fancy, herby or garlicky goat cheese.
Smash the hell out of the chicken breasts, until they're about a half-inch, to a quarter inch thick. I use a rolling pin for this, but I've also heard of using a cast-iron skillet, another heavy pan, or if you're really fancy, a meat mallet. Once they're sufficiently smashed, sprinkle them with salt and pepper on both sides. Leave them out for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, put the walnuts in a food processor and whirl them around until they're small, crushed, but not a powder (if you don't have a food processor, put them in a zip-bag and bash the hell out of them with the rolling pin/skillet/heavy pan/meat mallet's flat side).
Combine the walnuts with about a quarter-cup of flour, and about the same amount of panko in a shallow, wide dish. Season the breading element with the salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning (or garlic powder). Beat up the egg in a separate dish and season it with the same mixture.
Cut the potatoes in half, if you need to, and put them in a large pot of water. Add salt liberally, and put them on a medium heat to boil. Basically, boil them until they fall apart when you poke a fork into them.
Put about 2 tablespoons of butter, and 2 tablespoons of olive or sunflower oil in a big pan, and heat it over medium heat.
Dip a chicken breast in the egg on both sides, and then put it into the flour/panko/walnut mixture. You're probably going to have to pack it on, because the walnuts will be chunky enough to not stick. Put the chicken breasts in the pan, and cover. Cook for about 4 minutes, then flip and cover again. The crust will get crispy, and the chicken will stay moist.
If you have to cook this in shifts, scrape out the fallen walnuts between cookings, and add a little fresh butter/oil. You're going to want to keep the stick of butter out for this dinner.
When the potatoes are done (see above for my indicator of doneness), drain them in the sink. If you've done this properly, this will be about the same time that the chicken is getting finished cooking. To help get everything done, you can take the chicken out and put it on a plate, covered with foil, while you're taking care of the potatoes and the pan sauce. Or you can get your lazy, ungrateful guests to get off their arses and help you.
Put the potatoes back into the pot you cooked them in, and let them dry out. They'll generate some steam while they're doing it - this will lead to better mash.
When they're a bit dry, throw in a few tablespoons of butter, a splash or two of cream, salt, pepper, and some of the goat cheese.
Mash and smash. Taste, taste, taste. I can't tell you how much is right, because mashed potatoes are a very personal thing. Basically.... throw in more or less of all of the above until it brings a smile to your face when you taste. Then, stop, cover, and try to keep them warm.
Now, to the pan you cooked the chicken in. Hopefully, you've scraped out the spent walnuts again, and returned it to the (low!!!!) heat. Splash in some chicken broth, say half a cup. You may need more. This will make a fantastic noise and some steam. Scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, and whisk in some butter. Taste, season with salt and pepper, and add a bit more butter. Taste again. Add some cream (or not. Cream optional.) and whisk. Let it reduce until it roughly coats the back of a spoon, or you realise that you have to serve before everything gets cold. Squeeze in a bit of lemon juice (more if you don't use cream. Just a little if you do) and add some chopped parsley both to the sauce and the potatoes.
Put the chicken back in the sauce for a minute, to heat up and to get all cozy with it.
Serve the potatoes, chickies, and sauce all together on one plate. Sit back and smile.
My ever industrious buddy brought along a HUGE bottle of cheap white zinfandel. We drink this on nights where we want to follow in our mothers' footsteps -- they're wonderful women, but classy broads, they're not. Basically, we killed a big bottle of white zin over dinner, and I don't feel bad about it. I'm not joking - this bottle didn't even require a corkscrew. Just pull the tab to break the foil-y stuff, and then twist and pop the top off.
Class. We has it.
If you have a thoroughly non-classy mother, and want to go down this road, serve the zin straight from the freezer, and drink it fast. Sutter Home is preferred.
I love cooking for people who knew me before I was a cook. They're always pleasantly surprised. And they always tell me so. It's a great feeling.
Next time.... In which Comfort Food and I get comfy.
In which I I discover I have a Grate boyfriend.