Monday, March 29, 2010

Passover and Pasta - Carb-o-rific week!

Passover started on Monday. I wasn't invited to any sedars, but I did make a celebration in my own small way. I made a nice, traditional, matzah ball soup. I just love matzah (matza? matzoh? matzo?) ball soup. Great stuff.

I used a recipe I came up with a couple of years ago. No, I'll never be a Bubbe, but I can at least attempt to make some Passover recipes that won't make my husband's grandmother spin in her grave.

This year I was much smarter than I have been in the past. The first time I made these I took the attitude that there are fewer dishes to wash if I don't simmer the matzah balls separately.

"You idiot!" I tell myself now. One should never cook the starches in the soup. Starches will soak up the broth that I so carefully worked on simmering for hours. That leaves me with msuhy starches and no actual soup. Yuck!

I simmered the balls in water and then put them in a bowl and poured the soup over it. In other words, I did it properly and my matzah balls didn't soak up so much broth that they got too mushy and fell apart. There was also still plenty of my delicious homemade broth in the bowl.

Tradition went out the window as the week progressed. I wanted a nice, casual meal for a weeknight and pasta seemed an easy choice. The late Dr. Atkins would definitely not approve of my food choices this week with the soup and the pasta.

I wasn't in the mood for traditional marinara sauce. I wanted something even simpler. My husband loves his spaghetti and meatballs, but he is also quite fond of plainer pastas. He enjoys his pasta just dressed with garlic and oil - or even just butter. I had some onions that I had purchased at ther farmer's market over the weekend and decided to put them to use.

My recipe was like a very light alfredo, with caramelized onions thrown in the mix.

I started with 3 thinly-sliced onions that I cooked in olive oil at a low temperature for a good 45 minutes. They were nice and soft and brown.

I added 4 cloves of minced garlic and just let it become fragrant. Then in went 3 tablespoons of butter. Then finally, a dash of cream (no real measurements - just a dash).


Meanwhile I had a pound of spaghetti cooking up. I tossed it around in the pan.

Finally I served it up and covered it with pine nuts I had toasted previously and plenty of freshly-grated parmesan. Hubby got it without the cheese and as few onions as possible.

Even though these photos are rather disturbingly beige, this dish was quite good.

My recipes have been a bit easy this week, but I have lots of good stuff in store. There will be restaurants and there will be Easter posts. Brace yourself for some pie my friends!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Forgotton Blogiversary - and Forgotten Book!

I completely forgot to acknowledge something quite important. Monday was my Blogiversary.

Yes, TERP is now three!

Can you believe it? I am so grateful to all of you who have been reading this blog all along, and am always happy to see more new readers enjoy my special brand of kitchen insanity.

Three years can be a long time to stay on top of your game and keep coming up with new and creative ideas in the kitchen. If you're a disordered cook, you do sometimes have your dry spells. I don't want to disappoint people so I always search for new inspiration.

Last night I decided to try a suggestion that came courtest of Cookie Pie. Pull out a disused cookbook and open it to a random page. Make whatever recipe you find.

Well, remember two posts ago I mentioned how I won a cookbook at the Ultimate Recipe Showdown? I also mentioned I never used it. The time had come.

I opened it up to a recipe for turkey turnovers. Three pages back there was a recipe for roast turkey, so I assumed that the recipe was meant to be a way to use up leftover turkey. I had no leftover turkey, so I made a tweak or two to make the recipe my own.

I poached a pair of bone-in chicken breasts and used them in the place of turkey. The original recipe called for shitake mushrooms, but I used cremini. Shitake are too strong for me.

A pan of butter, mushrooms, onions, chicken, brandy, mustard, and heavy cream. You couldn't find more classic TERP ingredients in a recipe than this. Hmmmm...was I not being original by choosing this recipe? The filling is so much like many of my recipes. Funny how what I chose at random is a lot like the stuff I cook regularly.

Everything gets wrapped up in puff pastry and baked. I admit I'm not very good at working with stuff like this. This turnover was the best one of the bunch.

On the side is Broccoli Hash, also from the book. I really should have chopped the broccoli a bit smaller. The FN recipe has you blanching the broccoli in hot water, but never tells you to give it the cold water bath. I'm telling you to do just that.

Chicken Turnovers(Adapted from Making It Easy from the Food Network Kitchens)
3 Tbl butter
1 onion, diced
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup brandy
2 Tbl dijon mustard
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups of cooked, diced chicken meat
4 Sheets thawed frozen puff pastry

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a skillet melt butter and add onions. Cook until soft. Add mushrooms and cook until they are soft and dry looking. Stir in brandy carefully (don't let it flame up). Cook until evaporated. Add cream and mustard and bring to a boil, cooking until the sauce is thick. Stir in chicken.

Place puff pastry sheets on the cookie sheet. Cut in half diagonally. Place 1/4 of the filling in the center of each triange and fold over, using a little water to seal the edges and crimping with the fork. Brush with additional cream if desired.

Bake 25 minutes or until golden.

Broccoli Hash (Adapted from Making It Easy by the Food Network Kitchens)
1 head broccoli cut into small florets and stems cut in small pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 large shallots, diced
3 Tbl pine nuts - toasted
3 Tbl butter

Blanch the broccoli for 2 minutes in heavily salted, boiling water. Immediate remove and plunge into ice cold water. Drain and set aside. Cut into even small bits if desired.

Melt butter in a skillet and add shallots. Cook until soft. Add garlic and cook until fragrant - about a minute or two. Add chopped broccoli and cook until soft and it develops some brown edges. Sprinke with pine nuts and serve.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Quick and Simple Seasonal Comfort Food

Passover begins next week. As Jews worldwide are starting to use up the last of their chametz in preparation for the holiday (well, except for these guys) the stores are now being heavily stocked with matzah.

I've always loved matzah. I'm not sure of the reason. I guess as a gentile there was something exotic about it. As I child I remember how my mother and grandmother always bought a box during Passover season to snack on. There was always something so special of that annual treat of a matzah sheet spread heavily with butter. (Is that kosher? Probably not. At least not if you're having it alongside your chicken dinner.) I was fortunate enough to have many Jewish family friends who would invite us to Sedars and I learned the joy that is matzah ball soup.

I grew up and married into the tribe. I married someone who doesn't really celebrate holidays and doesn't have a really big family to celebrate them with (my mother-in-law celebrates Christmas and Easter with my family), but still loves traditional foods. As I've pointed out in the past, I'm the Meshugge Shiksa. Jewish foods are not my strong suit. I am a failure at latkes. But I do keep trying. The least I can do is buy a box of matzah.

I recently joined a local singing class. I haven't been doing much singing lately and I feel like my voice is out of shape. The local school system's continuing ed program had a cheap singing class available, so I decided to take it. That meant another night I wouldn't be home to make dinner. I am out of class at 8:30. Kevin comes home at 9. I can squish a home-cooked dinner in there if I am quick about it.

This week I decided on a very classic, and very simple dish - Matzah Brei. I sometimes jokingly call lit a matzah omlet or matzah french toast. It's simply matzah softened with water and mixed with eggs and fried. Some folks break the matzah up in pieces in the eggs. Others like to coat whole sheets. You can make it savory by just adding salt and pepper or really make it omlet-like by adding things like vegetables, onions, or cheese. You can also make it sweet by adding sugar and cinnamon and serving it with jam (great breakfast idea).

It's so easy you don't need a recipe. I made a savory version for dinner.

Start by soaking 4 sheets in boiling water. You don't want the sheet to fall apart into soggy pulp, but you want them soft and pliable and easy to break into pieces.

Now mix 6 eggs with salt and pepper - as much as you would for your scrambled eggs.

Mix with the softened matzahs.

Now what do you fry them in?

You can fry them in shmaltz. If you do this and are concerned about kosher rules, remember using chicken fat would make this a meat meal. That would limit what other foods you can serve with it. No dairy foods would be allowed with it or immediately following it (no ice cream or cakes made with butter for dessert).

You can also fry them in butter. This also limits your options as the meal is now a dairy meal. I would say making this a dairy meal would be slightly less limiting than if you used the chicken fat.

You can certainly use vegetable oil. That would make the meal neutral, but it wouldn't be nearly as tasty!

Personally, I liked using the schmaltz. I don't have any concerns about kosher rules. When I roast chickens, I always save the excess rendered fat for future use in matzah balls. It's the only way to bind a matzah ball (well, the only way I'd want to bind one). I tend to save more chicken fat than I need, so using it to fry my matzah brei is a great way to use it up. Imagine the flavor of chicken fat mixed into this! I suppose duck fat would also be really good. would bacon fat, but I'm not going to go there.

Allow to cook in the skillet until the bottom has set. You can alternately just scramble it like eggs. I decided to be daring and flip. The best flip method is to cut the large round in quarters and flip individually as I did here. Another method is to just make small rounds of it.

You can serve this with sour cream on the side like you would with latkes. If you're doing it the sweet way, top it with jam and powdered sugar.

It won't win any beauty contests, but it really is delicious. I'm not sure why something as simple as eggs and matzah tastes so good. There is something about it that screams "comfort food" to me. It's a treat that is so easy to make I don't know why people have to wait for passover to eat it.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ultimte Recipe Showdown

Do did you watch last night? I hope you did! Emily was awesome wasn't she? Such a heartbreak. I am outraged.

She just stands out among her competitors.

It's that cute little way she has of staring.

Hey wait! What's this photo doing here? How did I get involved with this post and what am I doing with Guy Fieri?

Okay. I have a confession to make.

Remember that lunch I had with Sue last fall? Let's just say while we certainly enjoy the pleasure of each other's company, that wasn't the primary reason we had met in the city for lunch that day.

That's as much as the producers would let me take a photo with Emily before the show.

Yep, Sue and I had the pleasure of being in the studio audience for this year's Ultimate Recipe Showdown.

It was quite a day. After our lunch we headed to the elevators in Chelsea Market where audience wranglers herded us to the studio. While we were waiting, we saw Emily's family (whom Sue had met at last year's competition). I had a chance to meet her sweet mother as well as her aunt and uncle who were also there to see the competition. Once we were upstairs, Emily was in her kitchen but I was unfortunately unable to do anything but wave to her.

We didn't watch the first part of the competition. We were only there for the quick round. However, while we were waiting for the quick round to start, they also taped the announcement of the results of signature round. We held our breaths and wished, but had the diappointment of seeing Emily come in third. At least she scored strongly - as everyone did in that round.

We were entertained by an audience warmup guy while we waited for the next round to begin. The man was obsessed with TV theme songs and was giving away prizes for people who could sing his favorites. He was surprised that two white girls were able to rap the entire theme to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air word for word. He then said he wanted someone to sing the theme from All in the Family with him. Who could do a good Edith Bunker impression? Being the ham that I am I couldn't resist showing off my best, "OOOHHHHH ARCHIE!" to him and so we did a duet of "Those Were the Days" together. (I apologize for any shattered eardrums that resulted from my beling out Edith's "And you know who you were then," line.) For my troubles I won four tickets to Dangerfields comedy club. I never used them.

Finally the compeition began. Actually it took about 3 starts and stops on behalf of the crew before the cooking actually started. Poor Emily was putting her stuff on her counter and putting it back each time. Although they made her look frazzled and disorganized on TV, she seemed quite efficient and calm from where I was sitting.

There was just one issue. We saw Emily put her frico chips in the oven. The cooking went on. Judges commented. Audience watched. In the middle of it all, Sue and I began to smell burning cheese. We were so afraid for her. We kept whispering under our breaths, "Emily take your cheese out of the oven," hoping we could psychically get the message to her. After seeing the show on TV, I found the judges noticed it too. Although they were problematic, they weren't terribly burned and the judges' fears that Emily was headed for disaster seemed a little unfounded.

They really edited the judges' comments on TV to increase drama. What they seemed to like and not like as they watched the cooking occasionally had little bearing on what they actually thought of the dishes.

During the judging I thought they were continuing to do a little "increase the drama" effect. Michael Psilakis was raving over Emily, complimenting her, making it seem as if she would be the winner. Clearly both the judging and the editing was angled to make Emily some kind of sentimental favorite. I really don't like they way there were trying to create drama at Emily's expense. It felt as if they were almost building her up to bring her down.

While we waited for the annoucement of the winner, the warmup guy came out again. He asked a lot of movie trivia questions. Many of them were Oscar related. It's funny. I don't watch the Oscars. I shun them. I was also reluctant to answer questions that I knew because I had already won a prize. Nonetheless, when he asked the audience who the youngest person to ever be nominated for an Osacr was, everyone was cluless. I knew the answer. I finally decided to answer. It was Justin Henry for Kramer Vs. Kramer. I may not watch the Oscars, but I have an ironclad memory. When Kramer Vs. Kramer came out, I was in 4th or 5th grade and Justin Henry was around the same age. He was trotted out in kids' events a lot, and as a young talented actor, I guess he was something of a role model for me and my peers. He never left my memory. I won a Food Network cookbook, which I also haven't used. Maybe I will remedy that in my blog soon.

The announcement of the winner was agonizing for Sue and me, so I can't imagine what it must have been like for Emily. They did about three takes before they would finally get around to announcing. Again and again we had to watch Emily and the Cajun Pizza Lady step out into the middle of the floor, have a spotlight on them, and shake hands. JUST TELL US WHO WON ALREADY.

Okay. They told us. Sue and I were outraged. Poor Emily was so heartbroken. We really felt for her. I saw Guy go over and give her a big consolatory hug, which was nice of him. I finally got to actually go over and talk to her. I had hoped to be giving her a hug of victory and not a hug of consolation!

Sue and I headed back to the train to ride to our respective suburban homes. Emily's loss had put a bit of a damper on our fun day, but I was so glad we had gotten together anyway. We had a great lunch. I met Emily in person as well. Not all was lost.

I also don't believe all is lost for Emily. She is so talented. Even though she lost, she is getting herself and her name out there. People are paying attention. I know Emily is headed for greatness. She's already a celebrity in my family. I make so many of her recipes that all I have to do is mention that a recipe is Emily's and everyone knows it's going to be good. No one asks, "Emily Who?" anymore. They all know. In fact, I'm going to be going through Emily's blog to figure out what dessert I want to make for Easter.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Super Awesome Birthday Dinner (In which I cook my first whole duck)

If you read my blog regularly, you'll notice two things are mentioned on a fairly regular basis. One is that I never cooked a whole duck before. The other is that I often wish for a fancier holiday dinner.

This Christmas I asked my father and stepmother to come over to my place, where I had hoped to serve them a duck dinner. Sorry. They wanted us to go to them instead. Could we do dinner at my place another time?

My stepmother's birthday came around and she loves duck. I decided to pull out all of the stops and make my first whole duck along with plentiful amounts of other goodies.

I decided that when it came to cook the duck, I would use Alton Brown's method. That's risky for me. I'm not fond of Alton Brown's methods because they rarely seem to work for me. When I saw Alton's show on duck though, I found his words of doom on improperly cooked duck to be so compelling I felt as if any method but his would lead to failure. I cut the sucker in half, salted it well, and let it sit in the fridge for 3 days. Time would tell how that would work.

A literal interpretation of a "dead duck."

Have I mentioned that Sir Pickypants collects duck decoys? It's a little quirk he picked up in Chincoteague where decoy carving is the most prominent art form. He said he wanted to cover up the eyes of the decoys while we ate dinner. I said that the point of decoys is to lure real ducks to their death. His decoys should be proud of a job well done.

I decided to stick with one of my own recipes for the sauce. I made my brandied fruit sauce to serve with it.

We did not have a good night for a party. It was raining in buckets and the wind was fierce. Ealier that day I had gone out to do some errands and I felt as if I were blowing away. What's worse is that there is a leak in my bedroom and water was dripping down the wall. It was not an auspicious start. I wondered about the safety of them coming here. I made up the futon in the spare room in hopes that they would at least stay the night if they decided to come.

They did eventually make it. They were only 20 minutes late. We cracked open the wine and got dinner going.

Dinner started with Chestnut Soup. I made this one other time. (Actual recipe here) It's a great soup and perfect for a chilly evening. It was just the right start of a meal on such a horrible night.

Then onto the duck. It came out perfectly. It was crispy, browned and delicious. Okay. I give Alton credit on this one.

Note I had to serve a couple of pieces of chicken alongside the duck for certain picky husbands.
Alongside the duck I served a roasted cauliflower, caramelized onion, and gruyere bread pudding (recipe to come). Don't ask how many calories were in this thing.

Then there was dessert! I made my Orange Bourbon Pound Cake (one of the best non-chocolate desserts I ever made.

To complement the cake I debuted my my newest ice cream recipe. Remember how a few months ago I mused about how good caramel-cinnamon ice cream would be? Now I can muse no longer. I know it's an awesome ice cream. (Recipe coming up below)

My duck, nicely washed down with a glass of pinot noir (or two).

Cauliflower, Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Bread Pudding
Ingredients1lb loaf hearty bread
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
Olive oil for tossing and frying
4 onions, thinly sliced
8 oz gruyere grated
1 Tbl fresh thyme leaves
2 cups heavy cream
5 large eggs
Pinch nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Cut bread into chunks a day or two beforehand so it can dry out a little.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cauliflower with olive oil and lay on a baking sheet. Roast about 30 minutes or until nicely browned.

Heat olive oil in a pan on low heat and add onions. Cook onions slowly, at least 30 minutes, until brown and soft. Don't rush this. You want the onions to really develop their sugars.

Toss bread chunks with cheese, onions, cauliflower, and thyme leaves in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and taste because this is the last chance you have to taste your food.

In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, cream, and nutmeg.

Place bread mixture in a buttered baking dish. Pour cream mixture over bread and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake pudding for 45 minutes or until custard is set and bread is nicely browned.

Cinnamon Caramel Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup half and half
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (keep both pod and seeds please)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup sugar
1 tsp grated cinnamon
1/4 cup water
6 eggs
1 tsp salt

Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.

Comgine cream, half-and-half, ground cinnamon, and vanilla beans scrapings and set aside.

In a saucepan combine sugar and water. You don't need to let it all dissolve. Just wet the sugar. Bring to a boil for at least 5 minutes, or until it turns a dark amber color. Remove from heat and add the cream mixture, quickly whisking it in to combine thoroughly. Don't panic if you caramel hardens, it will dissolve eventually.

Put the caramel mixture over low heat to keep warm. Add the vanilla bean pod and the two cinnamon sticks to infuse.

In another bowl, whisk eggs yolks until frothy and light in color. This should take about 5 minutes. Quickly whisk in some of the cream mixture to temper them. Then add the entire mixture back to the pot. Stir in salt. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This shouldn't take too long.

Strain into large bowl set over the ice water bath. Remove cinnamon sticks and vanilla bean pod. Stir until the mixture has cooled a bit. Set a piece of plastic wrap directly over the cream and refrigerate several hours or overnight until completely cold.

Freeze according to your ice cream maker's directions.

Soup of the Day

I have been going crazy for soup making lately. I'm so into roasting chickens that I end up with lots of tasty carcasses left over. I've taken to freezing them along with any aging veggies I have lying around the refrigerator, and then boiling it all up for a nice stock when I feel I have enough. I can make quite a bit of stock in one shot, and that means I have a few quarts of homemade stock in the freezer to make soup any time I feel like it.

Soup is a fun thing to play with. I like experimenting with what types of veggies, fruits, and meat combinations I can come up with. A nice pot of soup means lunch for an entire week.

For this week's soup I got a little crazy. I wanted something a little exotic. I was thinking of maybe doing some tom ka gai (one of my most favorite soups in the world), but I thought it would be more fun to create a soup of my own, something that would still have a nice curry flavor to it.

I came up with an idea for a chicken curry soup that would have a more Indian, rather than a Thai, flair. Sad to say, the soup is heavily based on a curry sauce I've made in the past that often is part of a vegetarian dish! I diluted a vegetarian curry sauce recipe with chicken stock!

I am going to include a vegetarian version in the recipe, but I won't apologize for using chicken stock. Homemade chicken stock has a taste and quality that can't be beat. I've made a few vegetarian soup recipes in the past few weeks where I have substituted my homemade stock. If you have it, use it!

I wasn't crazy about the color of the soup. Next time I might add another can of tomatoes to make it a bit redder.

Chicken (Or Not) Curry Soup

2 Onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Oil for sauteeing
1 Tbl fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp garam masala
3 carrots, thinly sliced
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can lite coconut milk
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 Quart chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
Diced cooked chicken (optional for non-veggie version)
Cooked cauliflower, peas, potatoes, and whatever other veggies you might want to throw in for a veggie version

In a large pot, cook the onions in a little oil till soft. Add your tumeric, coriander and garam masala until very fragrant and has really coated the onions. Add the ginger and garlic and stir cooking till they are fragrant as well. Add carrots and cook until they start to soften.

Add tomatoes, coconut milk, and stock. Simmer about 30 minutes or until everything is soft.

Using a stick blender, or working in batches with a food processor, blend the soup until smooth.

Add your chicken or veggies add ins and gently heat until all is heated through. Serve and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

So I Made Another Chicken Recipe (and I tried to be different)

So I'm still looking around a bit for my creative spark. This week I wanted a new recipe for the blog, but I wanted to give myself a little bit of a challenge.

It seems most of the recipes I've been making lately have contained nuts, alcohol, or heavy cream. What about people who are allergic to nuts? What about people who are lactose intolerant (like my own husband)? What about people who don't like the taste of liquor in their food? Since I created a Facebook page for this blog, I have friends who may be reading it more than they used to and if they're coming to me for recipe ideas, I would like to be more inclusive with recipes they might actually like.

Before I went shopping today, I told myself to try to find an ingredient I have never cooked with, or haven't cooked with in a long time. The dish couldn't contain nuts, cream, or alcohol. I also challenged myself to leave onion and garlic out of it.

My inspiration came from Peter. Why not try pomegranates? I have mixed POM with proseco as a beverage, but I couldn't think of too many other times I've cooked with pomegranate. I decided it was time to give it a try.

I bought a bottle of pomegranate concentrate. I poured it into a pot with honey and lemon juice and reduced it way down. I brushed it over a split chicken.

I served the chicken in a pool of more pomegranate sauce with some green beans (I confess I just tossed some frozen ones in garlic, oil, oregano, and red pepper flakes). It was very simple and very tasty. Pomegranates make excellent sauce.

I didn't plate it very well unfortunately.

Chicken Roasted with Pomegranate Glaze

1 3-4 pound chicken
1 cup pomegranate concentrate (found in the juice aisle)
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup mild honey
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, remove the backbone of the chicken by cutting up either side of it. Press flat and place on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle well with salt and pepper.

In a small pot combine lemon juice, honey, and pomegranate concentrate, Bring to a boil and reduce by half until the sauce is thick and syrupy. Don't overcook or it will get too sticky and thick.

Brush sauce liberally all over the chicken, reserving extra sauce for serving. Place chicken in the oven and roast for about an hour or until juices are no longer pink.

Carve and serve with additional sauce.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Well, I Didn't Technically Steal the Recipe

As regular readers know, it seems that I go back and forth these days between bursts of creativity and big fat slumps. Last week I felt so dried out that I had to ask my husband what to make for dinner. What we ended up with was turkey burgers and pasta, because that's what he always wants for dinner.

It was Monday and I was dreading dinner because I wanted to make something good and most importantly, something original that I could make for the blog. Unforunately,my brain was not cooperating. I have such envy for people who are organized enough to know every meal they are going to make in a week. My plan was to just go to the store and see if anything in particular would inspire me or trigger a craving.

Since the beginning of the year I have been suffering from tendinitis in my knee and some worn cartilage. The pain was bad enough to send me to the doctor who put me on a physical therapy regimen. I've been spending my lunch hour for the past few weeks being prodded, massaged, lasered, and stretched in impossible ways while having to do torturous exercises at home. The end of each appointment is a merciful few minutes with an ice pack and a magazine to pass the time.

At the conclusion of Monday's session I pulled a random girly magazine off the rack and flipped through it while the ice did its thing. Right there in the magazine I had my answer. There was a new chicken recipe. The recipe had almonds and sherry and garlic and chicken breasts. I knew right then and there what I would make for dinner.

I read the recipe through, but I am a conscientious patient and I was not about the steal the magazine from the office, nor did I want to rip the recipe out and ruin the magazine for others. I would simply remember the recipe as best I could. Then I could take what I remembered and make the recipe my own.

I browned chicken breasts with lots of garlic, then I deglazed the pan with sherry and chicken broth, and then added the ground almonds to the pan.

Towards the end of the cooking time I was rudely interuppted by my building's fire alarm. I had to turn off the heat and leave my chicken on the stove for a while. I went down the stairs to find the entire first floor full of smoke and nearly bumped right into a fireman. It turns out my superintendent had a kitchen mishap and burned his food. No big emergency, but it was a big inconvenience. Kevin was coming home from work just as I was leaving the building for a breath of fresh air. He was not amused to be coming home to that.

The upshot is that my chicken absorbed a lot of the liquid and ended up having less of a "sauce" and more of a paste covered in flavored ground almonds on it. I think it still tasted pretty good. I would be happy to make this one again.

I served it with steamed broccoli that I tossed with olive oil infused with garlic and orange zest.

Chicken with Sherry Almond Sauce

4-6 bonelss, skinless chicken breast pieces
Flour for dredging
1 cup whole almonds
1 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
1 tsp paprika
Few grinds black pepper
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl butter
1 cup chicken stock (or more if your sauce dries out a bit as mine did)
1/2 cup sherry
1 bay leaf
1 Tbl fresh time leaves

Heat oven to 300 degrees and spread almonds out on a baking sheet. Toast for about 15 minutes giving the sheet a shake now and then for even roasting. Finely grind the roasted almonds in a food processor.

Mix flour with salt, paprika and pepper. Dredge chicken pieces. Heat olive oil and butter in a large pan and brown the chicken pieces well - about 10 minutes per side.

Add garlic to pan and cook until fragrant. Deglaze the pan with sherry and chicken stock. Stir in thyme, bay leave, and almonds. Add additional salt if desired. Return chicken to the pan and simmer on low for another 15 minutes or until cooked through.