Lazy Foodie Contradiction “Recipes”

I realized on my drive home from dinner last night that I lead a life of contradictions.  For instance, I’ve mentioned before that I’m happy to chop 20 different vegetables into quarter-inch dice for minestrone, but I refuse to mix cocktails, even though I love cocktails.  I will refuse to eat the same kind of food (Thai, Italian, sushi, etc.) for consecutive dinners if I eat out at restaurants, but at home, my tolerance skyrockets.  Also, I am too lazy to cook something different for just me for each meal, and circumstances have removed cereal and popcorn from my meal repertoire.  What this all adds up to is that there are only a few things that I’ll make for myself at home, and if I can make that thing in a larger batch with minimal additional effort, then it’s worth eating the same thing for dinner (or even lunch and dinner) for a couple or several days in a row.

I own roughly 50 cookbooks, and I subscribe to Cook’s Illustrated, both in print and online.  I also have access to the internet.  Despite all this, I find that the dishes that I make for myself most frequently, I learned

by watching someone else cook them.  The pan sauce “recipe” I shared came from getting to Katy’s house early for dinner and watching her put it together.  I have a chili “recipe” that I started making because I watched my friend Maria throw together dinner for us in 30 fast minutes.  I’ve been eating a lot of nachos lately after seeing the Viking throw them together before a Saturday evening of college football and solitude.  (I can’t remember what wine she paired with the nachos, but if you send her an e-mail on her site, I’m sure she’d be happy to tell you.)

Recently, a friend taught me how to make Sazeracs at home.  The first ones I made were not great.  I mean, I still drank them, because seriously, who wastes good rye like that, but each one I’ve made has been better than the last, and the most recent one made me cackle with glee it was so good.  Last night, Carie asked for my “recipe” for toddies.  When she lived with me during the winter, we drank them almost every night, and now that it’s mid-October, evenings are finally cool enough that toddies appeal again.

So in this post, I’ve written my “recipe” for pan-fried chicken with wine/butter/Dijon sauce and roasted cruciferous vegetables.  On Monday, I’ll post my “recipes” for chili, lower-guilt nachos, Sazeracs, and toddies.  All the amounts for ingredients are whatever is more intensely loosey-goosey than “approximate” because I dump them in willy-nilly.


You will need two to four boneless, skinless chicken breasts, depending on how many people are eating and what your tolerance is for leftovers.  I find that one chicken breast is plenty for me for dinner, and I can put away more food in a single sitting than most, but maybe you live with a lumberjack who will only be satisfied with two or three.  I don’t judge.

Pound the breasts thin using a fancy pounder or a heavy pan.  Thinness will depend on your preferences.  I pound the thick end until it’s even with the thin end.  Two great things about flattened chicken breasts:  (1) they cook faster, which is great for people like me who wait until they’re too hungry to be patient to start cooking; and (2) more surface area means more fond in the pan.

Get your biggest frying pan, put about a tablespoon of cooking oil in it, and heat the pan to medium.  I know a lot of people like to use olive oil, but most people only have extra virgin olive oil in their pantries, and extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point.  By the time you have finished cooking your chicken, the direct heat from the burner on the pan will break the olive oil down into carcinogens.  One of my horrible OK Cupid dates informed me of this, and an acquaintance who went to cooking school confirmed.

While you wait for the oil to heat up, salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts.  When the oil shimmers, carefully lay in the chicken.  My pan is big enough to hold three chicken breasts, but I usually do two at a time.  It’s easier to manage.  Wait patiently for the chicken to be golden brown on the pan side.  Force yourself to wait at least two minutes before checking.  In fact, now is a good time to get out wine (if you haven’t already poured yourself a glass), butter, and Dijon mustard.

Flip the chicken when the pan side is brown.  Wait patiently again for browning to occur on the other side.  Now would be a good time to get a plate and a big piece of foil ready, because when the chicken is golden brown on the other side (and it won’t be uniformly golden brown – don’t wait for that), you should put it on the plate and tent it with the foil.  This will help keep the chicken warm as you cook the next batch of chicken (repeating the browning process) and/or make the sauce.

Turn down the heat on the pan as low as it will go.  Pour ¼ cup of wine for each pair of breasts that you’ve cooked in the pan.  It will make a satisfying, loud sizzle.  Use a wooden spoon to stir up the brown bits that are stuck in the pan.  (Pan sauces, in addition to being delicious, make cleaning up easier.)  Once you’ve scraped up the brown bits, add 2T of butter for each pair of breasts that you’ve cooked (I love butter, so sometimes I use more), let it melt, and then squirt in a tablespoon or two of Dijon so the sauce holds together.  Transfer chicken to dinner plates, then spoon (or pour) the sauce onto each breast.

The traditionalists will tell you to use white wine for the sauce.  I have used white wine, red wine, and chicken broth.  It’s all tasty.  Use whatever bottle of wine you have open for drinking.


I either use a bag of Brussels sprouts or a head of cauliflower because I love them the most.  If the Brussels sprouts are small (about an inch to inch and a half in diameter), I cut them in half.  If they’re bigger, I cut them into quarters.  I cut cauliflower into the size that you see on most grocery store crudité platters, roughly two bites.  If I have other vegetables, like carrots or grape tomatoes that I know are going to go to waste or are on the verge of aging past their prime, I’ll add those, too.  You should cut the carrots into bite-sized pieces.

Put all the prepped vegetables in a bowl and add a glug or two of olive oil, enough to coat the veggies.  (We’re cooking with indirect heat in the oven, so I think the olive oil situation is less cancerous, but I don’t know for sure.  I’m willing to risk more in this case.)  Then I sprinkle on whatever dried herbs and spices I have handy.  Sometimes I go all herbs, like basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, and marjoram.  Sometimes I worry about Alzheimers and go with chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, and turmeric.  Use whatever you like, and if you don’t like any of those things, skip the herbs and spices altogether.

Put them into an oven that’s been preheated to 450°F and roast for about half an hour, plus or minus.  I check them at 20 minutes to see what’s happening.  I like my vegetables to be golden brown but still have a little crunch.

I wait until they’re on my individual plate before I salt and pepper.  The sprouts and cauliflower are good with the chicken and the pan sauce, and if you dip the vegetables into the pan sauce, you probably won’t need salt.  I’ve had reheated chicken, vegetables, and sauce for lunch and felt pretty smug about the deliciousness.  The veggies are also delicious the next day cold as a salad with Italian dressing or vinaigrette on them.

If you have go-to dishes that you cook that don’t have recipes, I’d love to know about them.  Fair warning, though, I’ll probably co-opt them for myself.

This entry was posted in food and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Lazy Foodie Contradiction “Recipes”

  1. Carie says:

    People need to understand the greatness of your toddie concoction. They’re perfect for the cooler weather and fight off chills and bad attitudes.

  2. Jane says:

    Lately I’ve been a big fan of taking a bag of either Brussels sprouts or kale, tossing it in olive oil and Slap Ya Mama seasoning, and roasting in the oven until the outer bits are crispy. If I have friends coming over for dinner unexpectedly in 20 minutes, I’ll add white and sweet potatoes cut into strips, then throw some veggie burgers on the stove. A side of onion dip isn’t unwelcome :-).

  3. Pingback: More Lazy Foodie Contradiction “Recipes” | Travel, Food, and Life

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s