Feel like you can’t get it right when you’re in the kitchen? I’m here to tell you that happy recipes happen when you approach fresh ingredients with curiosity. Embrace the imperfections in your meals and learn how to make each meal more magical!
There’s a day to celebrate EVERYTHING. This one hit me in my kitchen!
I think some of the intimidation surrounding cooking is the thought that: “I’m not going to get it, right?” “It won’t turn out like the picture.” “It won’t taste like it should.”
If you feel like this before you begin, how are you going to cook with confidence? Let’s get rid of this stinkin’ thinkin’ and learn that no matter what you do, it will work out!
I’m working on a new book with just this idea in mind…
Create a dish that works for you with what you have on hand and the flavors you like. Then when you are comfortable with this, start experimenting with new flavors using your trusted basic recipe. Let me give you an example…Let’s make mac and cheese from scratch. We start with the sauce. Melt butter in a large pot or deep pan. Whisk in an equal amount of flour to form a paste (two tablespoons butter needs about two tablespoons flour). Now we’re going to stir in a liquid. You can stir in milk, half and half, chicken stock, or a combination of lemon juice, white wine, and stock…any liquid you use will work. Stir the mixture over medium heat until it thickens into a sauce.
Next, we add cheese. ANY cheese works. If you grate the cheese, it will melt quicker, but chunks of cheese are fine. You can add a combination of cheese and as much or as little as you want. Stir until the sauce is cheesy goodness.
Now you can flavor your sauce with any herbs or seasonings you like. Salt and pepper for sure, but try dried thyme or tarragon, onion and garlic powder, nutmeg, or chili powder. It’s yours to decide. Taste as you go and add a little at a time.
Finally, we boil the pasta, again any pasta you like. Once the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the sauce. You have mac and cheese ready to serve. Or you can pour the sauced pasta into a dish and bake it for baked mac and cheese. You can top this casserole with more cheese or breadcrumbs or crumbled potato chips or anything you like.
Got it? There’s no right or wrong. There’s only you having FUN in the kitchen!
Let’s do the same thing with a chicken breast. Slice a boneless, skinless chicken breast in half horizontally.
Then pound the chicken breast so that it is an even thickness. This will make sure it cooks evenly. Season the breast with salt and pepper and anything else you like. At this point, you can grill it and slice it for sandwiches and salads.
Let’s coat the chicken with anything we like. Brush it with mustard and dredge in breadcrumbs. Brush with mayonnaise and crust in crumbled cracker crumbs. Dust in flour and season with oregano. Anything you want to do will work.
Melt olive oil and butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until golden on one side, turn, and cook on the other side. This will only take you a couple of minutes depending on how hard you hammered your chicken! Now you have a seasoned chicken breast that you can use for everything.
But let’s make it better! In the same pan, make a pan sauce by adding more olive oil. Cook your favorite vegetables like onions, peppers, garlic, celery…anything.
Deglaze the pan with about a cup of wine or chicken stock. Now you can add in other flavors. – For Chicken Piccata, add lemon juice and capers.
– For puttanesca add olives and tomatoes.
– You can add sliced artichoke hearts, freshly sliced fennel, spinach leaves.
Anything THING will work. It’s your sauce for your chicken breast. Add a bit of butter at the end of cooking for a buttery sauce, a bit of cream for a creamy sauce, a bit of tomato paste for a tomatoey sauce, mustard for a mustardy sauce. Got it? Again, any THING will work!
Here’s a preview recipe from the new book. Use it as a guideline to create your own chicken dish and share it with me and everyone else! Remember, an upsy daisey can turn into a creative opportunity!!! Especially in the kitchen.
Tried it? Tag it!
I would love to see what you did with this recipe. Share your creation by tagging #inthekitchenwithjorj and with Scrumptious Possibilities With Jorj, my free private home cooking group.
Place the chicken breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Use a meat mallet or rolling pin to pound the chicken to about ½-inch of thickness. Season both sides with some salt and pepper. Brush both sides with mustard. Dredge in breadcrumbs. Place the chicken onto a platter, cover with plastic wrap, and place into the fridge. You can do this several hours in advance. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken breasts until golden on one side, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Carefully flip and cook on the other side until golden, another 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter, tent with aluminum foil.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion to the pan and cook until just soft, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the wine, removing all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. When most of the wine has disappeared, pour in the chicken stock and cream. Stir in the mustard. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the sauce until it begins to thicken. Add the chicken back into the sauce and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, another 4 to 5 minutes. Serve the chicken with the sauce and garnish with a bit of caviar on the top. I recommend sustainable American-produced caviar from Marshallberg Farms.
My recipe inspirations borrow from my favorite shows, restaurants, and magazines…and also what makes me HUNGRY. And this is how my Cheese and Crackers Chicken was born! Click to skip to the recipe
People always ask me where I get my recipes. I tell the truth, that I love to copy food from magazines, restaurants, and tv shows. And I do.
But the real truth is that those inspirations are often, just that; an idea for a dish that makes me hungry.
For example, I’ll see a lovely magazine picture of a wine-rich beef stew, and my tummy grumbles. Or Molly Yeh will make a skillet of perfectly cheesy nachos, and I want to grab one through the tv screen.
Or I see a waiter go past my table with a dish and I’ll stop him to ask, “What’s that?”, knowing just the passing aroma and food presentation is enough to make me curious.
My food is based on inspiration but also on what makes me hungry.
It’s also based on what I have on hand. I might be hankerin’ for chicken, but if I’m lacking my favorite pieces (chicken thighs) then that plain old breast will do.
I can not stand to waste food, so those last bits of carrot or lonely sweet potato will find themselves on the dinner plate that night too.
So, when people ask me where I get my recipes, the answer is that I get hungry, I see a dish that might satisfy that hunger, and then I see what I have in the fridge that will make it happen.
This is how my recipe for Cheese and Cracker Chicken was born.
It started with my devotion to cheese and crackers. This is my go-to food when the tummy rumbles and that fasting headache emerges. Just a little bite of cheese takes the edge off. This works…for a while.
What happens next is that cheese begins to sneak its way into my dish. I love cheese on my scrambled eggs. Cheese in my salad. Cheese and crackers for my snack. Then inspiration hits.
Why not cheese and crackers in my chicken dinner?
I had the remnants of a box of everything seasoned Ritz crackers and the bottom half of a plastic container of grated Parm. Defrosted chicken breasts and some odds and ends veggies created a great meal.
I sliced the chicken breasts in half and generously coated each with cracker crumbs so that each bite contained that crackery goodness.
Then I made a simple white sauce laced with just enough Parmesan cheese to consider it cheese sauce.
Cheese and Crackers chicken was born with the perfect side dish of curry roasted sweet potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower. That ladies and gentlemen, is how I create my food.
Cheese and Crackers Chicken
Time: 30 minutes ’til it’s ready
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons Dijon style mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 sleeve buttery round crackers
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
Place the chicken breasts onto your work surface. Place your hand on top of one breast. Use your very sharp knife to cut each in half horizontally. Repeat create 4 pieces. Brush each piece on both sides with mustard and season with salt and pepper.
Smash the crackers into small pieces. Use a meat mallet, rolling pin or the bottom of a sauté pan to gently crush the crackers in the sleeve. Then you can simply pour the crumbs into a shallow dish. There will be about 2 cups of crumbs.
Dredge the chicken breasts in the cracker crumbs generously coating both sides of the chicken. Transfer the coated breast to a platter.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the butter is bubbling, place the chicken into the pan. (You can do this in batches if your pan will not accommodate all 4 breasts.) Cook until golden on one side, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook on the second side until golden making sure that the chicken is cooked through, about another 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a clean platter.
Sprinkle the flour over the juices remaining in the skillet. Reduce the heat to low. Whisk the flour in the pan to form a bubbly paste, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
Serve the Parmesan cheese sauce over the cracker-crumbed chicken. Garnish with fresh thyme.
When my kids were little, we had a Friday night tradition of going to our local TGI Friday’s restaurant and order our favorite appetizers: Wings and loaded potato skins. This version of that meal makes me sunshiney happy. I hope it does for you, too! Click to skip to the recipe
I’m a morning person.
Mostly, I’m a morning person because my dog refuses to sleep in…. at all! As soon as the sun breaks through the cracks in the window shades, we’re up. Not “stretchy-downward-dog” up; We’re “running-around-in-circles”, “grabbing-for-the-coffee-pot” UP.
The weather and the mood around here have been a little bleak lately. But, just this morning, I am inspired by just a few seconds of watching a glorious sunrise. The clouds turn pink and then crimson and then the fiery ball climbs up and over the faraway mountains and makes itself known to me, just me. Watching this miracle of nature is just enough to raise my mood and open the door to the prospects that today brings. What a joy.
In just a few minutes, with the caffeine beginning to take root and the sun rising, I can plan my day with a smile on my face. Soon, I know that this miracle will be shared with others and that they, too, can begin to build on this glorious sunshine.
Today I share it with you, my friends, family, and blog friends. My wish is that your day begins with sunshine, maintains the good feelings that this sunrise gives you, and ends with the promise of another glorious miracle after a night of restful sleep.
Meanwhile, here’s a recipe for a sunshine-inspired, fiery Buffalo chicken recipe. Enjoy!
Fiery Buffalo Chicken
When my kids were little, we had a Friday night tradition of going to our local TGI Friday’s restaurant an order our favorite happy: Wings and loaded potato skins. This version of that meal makes me sunshiney happy. I hope it does for you, too!
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
4 chicken thighs
4 tablespoons butter
For Buffalo sauce:
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
¼ cup hot pepper sauce
¼ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Crumbled blue cheese
Preheat the oven to 425°. Place the flour, chili powder, onion powder, garlic salt, salt, and pepper into a resealable plastic bag. Place one or two chicken thighs into the seasoned flour in the bag and shake, shake, shake until the chicken is coated.
Place the thighs into a baking pan that has been coated with cooking oil spray. Repeat until all the chicken is in the pan. Top each chicken piece with a pat of butter.
Bake until the top of the chicken begins to turn golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Whisk together the green onions, diced jalapeno pepper, hot sauce, and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Remove the chicken from the oven and reduce the temperature to 350°.
Pour the sauce over the chicken. Place the pan back into the oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through, about another 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and crumble blue cheese over the top.
I served Buffalo chicken with potato skins and jalapeno corn. The corn is easy. Simply remove corn kernels from the cobb and sauté in a bit of olive oil with red onion and finely diced jalapeno pepper. Season with chili powder, salt, and pepper. For the potato skins, scoop out some of the flesh from a baked potato and cut the skins into wedges.
Place a pat of butter into each piece and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with diced bacon, ham, pepperoni, or prosciutto. Your choice!
Spread some grated cheddar cheese over top and bake until the cheese melts. Garnish the skins with sour cream and hot pepper sauce.
As spring slowly begins to surround our stay-at home lives, we find ourselves searching for something different to do. A little change of pace. A supper to look forward to.
I have a plan based on my new favorite corner pub, the end of my driveway! Driveway drinks is my new normal during cocktail hour… but that’s another (socially distancing story).
For now, I’m thinking about setting up the ultimate picnic, and have the perfect recipes in mind.
What makes this supper special is that you can prepare it in advance (like even the day before). It tastes better served at room temperature than it does right out of the fridge. And, you can leisurely enjoy the meal. There’s no rush. If you are a grazer like me, eating this supper will take up some valuable time during these very long days.
For my supper, I’ll include three dishes
The first is a caprese salad. This dish is simply arranged by layering slices of tomato, mozzarella cheese and basil. Drizzle the dish with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. But, here’s the secret. Make this salad several hours before serving and DO NOT REFRIGERATE it. The salt and olive oil will bring out the flavor of the tomatoes.
The second dish is a riff on Niçoise salad, but in place of tuna, I substitute salmon that has been simply roasted with a rub of brown sugar, chili powder, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I include olives, hard boiled eggs, simply sautéed green beans, roasted baby potatoes and a white balsamic vinaigrette.
The third dish is one of my very favorites! Based on the Italian dish, Vitello Tonnato, cold poached veal with a tuna and caper sauce, I substitute chicken for the veal. The chicken is poached in wine and broth.
The liquid is flavored with onion, lemon and celery, but you can add whatever you like. Parsley, fennel and radishes are excellent additions. The trick is that the chicken is moist and retains that moisture by covering it with the very flavorful sauce. Again, although you refrigerate the dish to marry the flavors, the chicken is best eaten at room temperature.
So, set up your picnic table, lay out your platters, pour a glass of something FUN and leisurely enjoy the first picnic supper of the season.
Let’s look forward to many more to come….. together!
In a Rich Tuna Sauce
serves 6 to 8
2 large (or 4 medium) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 small white onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1 small lemon, sliced
2 to 3 stalks celery
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
For tuna sauce:
1 (7-ounce) can tuna packed in oil
4 to 5 anchovies
2 tablespoons capers, drained
Zest of 1 lemon, about 1 tablespoon
Juice of 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
1 cup mayonnaise
Place the chicken breasts into a pot. Pour in the wine and chicken broth. Add the onion, sliced lemon and celery. Add the salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to a simmer (some steady bubbles but not a mad bubbling volcano). Cook the chicken in the poaching liquid until it is just cooked through, about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breast. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. About 165° is perfect. Remove the pot from the heat and keep the chicken in the poaching liquid,
Place the tuna, anchovies, capers, lemon zest and lemon juice into the bowl of a processor. Pulse to combine. Transfer the tuna mixture to a bowl. Fold in the mayonnaise. Remove one breast from the poaching liquid and place onto your cutting board. Cut the breast (across the grain) into ½-inch medallions. Fan these out onto your serving platter. Continue with the remaining chicken. Smooth the tuna sauce over the chicken. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour (or up to several hours) so that the sauce seeps into the chicken.
To serve, remove the platter from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Garnish with slices of lemon, capers and fresh parsley.