I came from a foodie family (as I imagine many others here did as well). They were (and are) all great cooks, but it was my grandfather who taught me to be a gourmet. I remember sitting in his lap and practicing my reading with a Betty Crocker Cookbook. No, not the height of gourmet, but there was this chart in the front that helped you with what herbs and spices went with what foods. We made it a game. He would ask ‘Rosemary?’, and I would respond, ‘Lamb, chicken, potatoes…’, you get the idea. I guess it is like learning a language fun… it really sticks in that sponge-like youthful brain!
He first taught me to make scrambled eggs, which although simple, is all about technique. I’ll likely post that one some day. But today I’m sharing my favourite meal, and a family recipe, which I began helping with when I was around 5 years old, when Poppop let me ‘bam the chicken’. Like the eggs, it is a simple recipe, but all about technique.
- Chicken breast (boneless & skinless, at least one per person, but you’ll want leftovers!)
- Flour seasoned with salt, pepper, herbs de provence
- An onion, chopped
- A couple cloves of garlic, chopped
- Sliced almonds
- Olive oil
- White wine
- Wedge of lemon
Take the chicken breast and ‘bam’ it – use a mallet to pound it fairly thin, about a quarter of an inch, then cut each piece into 2 or 3 smaller pieces. Dredge your pieces in the flour mixture (a few at a time is easiest, when you are ready to cook it). Heat enough butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat, so that it will make a thin layer over the bottom (tip: using both is not only healthier than using just butter, but also olive oil stops butter from browning/burning too quickly). When your butter is melted and bubbling, add the chicken to the skillet and cook a few minutes on each side, until starting to brown.
When browned, remove your chicken to a plate, add a little more olive oil and the onions & garlic. Cook for a few minutes, then add the almonds. Cook both until the onions are cooked and clear, and your almonds start to toast. Return the chicken to the skillet, then pour some white wine (not too much, but enough so it sizzles and steams) and squeeze the lemon over the top. Cover and turn your heat to low or off, and let simmer/steam for a few minutes.
I like to serve this with a grain dish. In my hometown of Miami, we would sometimes serve it with Vigo yellow rice to make life easy. But with no access to Vigo – and wanting a bit of a nicer alternative, I’ll sometimes make some saffron rice to go with it (add one cup basmati rice to 2 cups boiling water, add saffron, cover, remove from heat until infused, about 20 minutes). Tonight I decided to make more of that couscous I had with my lamb, cause it was so good. It is a perfect accompaniment, especially when mixed up with the toasty almonds!
This is wonderfully paired with a fruity white wine, or a rosé, which is happily back in fashion and what my family loved to drink.