6: Dinner: A Love Story — Grandma Jody’s Chicken
They say that you hurt the ones you love the most. It stands to reason, by that token, that it’s the ones you love the most that will hurt you in return.
I had an amazing apple fritter this morning (Sunday, as I write this), and I haven’t felt right since.
Back it up.
I glean a deep personal joy from food: eating it, cooking it, sharing it with friends. Last week, I had one of the very best meals of my life surrounded by dear friends, and it might have been one of the best days I’ve had all year. Yes, that was partly to do with the superlative meal, but it also had very much to do with the company.
Because food can fill you up inside and it can make you feel good and temporarily distract you from the things you dislike in your life, but it’s no replacement for people. And you can eat and eat all the amazing food you want, but if you’re just sitting alone in your apartment, eating to comfort yourself, then eventually, it’s gonna stop feeling so great.
The point is that I’ve officially gotta jump back on that healthy-eating bandwagon because I feel like crap.
Not because of this project! Oh hell no. This is more about the takeout and the convenient grab ‘n go grocery store prepared foods and the snacking at work just because we have cookies and the scrounging in the kitchen late at night, pouring paleo granola we got sent at work directly into my mouth before I fall asleep watching You’re the Worst. Again.
Because of this, the following few weeks are likely to feature recipes that are a) fairly healthy or b) the kind of thing you can enjoy a serving of and then freeze the rest for whenever. (That’s right; gnocchi is coming, and there’s a doozy of a story coming with it.)
For now, we’re kicking it homestyle. Homeskillet. Skillet fried.
However, my current block is a lack of desire to cook as I currently have no desire to eat. Today, the day I’m supposed to cook, my stomach is totally messed up from that goddamn fritter.
it was oily
and so fried
1 hour later:
Still feeling awful. Oh god, is this food poisoning? Oh god.
I FEEL UNWELL.
“Dana, you could still cook the food now and eat it later.”
Here’s the thing about that: I could. But since this is one of those recipes which will be best eaten right after it’s been cooked AND I was specifically planning to make it a single serving, that seems dumb. And since I’m feeling nauseated, the idea of prepping and smelling food as it cooks sounds pretty unappealing.
“Dana, why did you wait until Sunday to do this? And why can’t you do it tomorrow?”
I have an array of answers for this ranging from “I didn’t/don’t have the time” to “I didn’t want this for breakfast” to “I did not feel like it so get off my damn back.”
Another hour later:
Alright. It’s not food poisoning. Feeling better. And sometime in the near future, I’m going to need something that’s not dough fried in oil and coated in a sugary glaze in my stomach. I think it’s finally time for…
This is yet another meal that drove me to get the book itself. I’m not even gonna lie — I’m a total sucker for pretty pictures and good graphic design. Example: Being fairly ignorant about how to select a wine in a sophisticated manner, I’m the first to admit I’m driven by price first and label second. And seeing this dish featured on some website — probably Food52 again — I NEEDED IT. It looked like the food my soul was crying out for. I mean, look at it.
Jenny Rosenstrach is a cookbook author who those of you with little ones might especially want to check out, along with anyone who wants to get more into cooking but are daunted by the scary recipes out there. You know, the ones that have a million ingredients you’ve never heard of, or ask you to scald the milk before adding it to your batter (no shade, poffertjies, just love). Jenny has a great way of making good food feel totally accessible. Dinner: A Love Story is a great place to start, but her other title — Dinner: The Playbook, A 30 Day Plan for Mastering the Art of the Family Meal — also sounds like a really good primer for those just starting out or who look around wondering, “Where did all these tiny people come from and why don’t they want to eat anything but chicken nuggets??”
Oh, and on the topic of breaded chicken items…
The Recipe (directly from the book, which you should buy):
Nice and simple, people. This one goes out to the picky eaters and the people trying to feed them; the comfort food lovers who are trying avoid fast-food fried chicken sandwiches; the people who come home drained after a day of work and would just like to eat something nourishing that tastes great and isn’t going to kill them.
Things to Note About the Recipe:
I’ve got to say, this recipe saved my life a little. I finally got my appetite back, and I knew that I needed NUTRIENTS in my body, but also that something comforting would be nice as well. This was exactly what I needed.
(Note: I basically made a half-recipe version of this, but ate both servings myself, and I was fine with that.)
This had the comfort-food appeal of both fried chicken AND of the kind of thing a beloved family member might make for you at home. I’m all about that cornflake crust, people. And I should have crushed the crumbs a little smaller — I’m nervous about over-crushing! I don’t wanna crush too hard! — but it all turned out fine. I definitely could have stood to crush the cereal more finely because I wasn’t using standard Corn Flakes. Instead, I bought the bougie health-store Nature’s Path version, because I love their cereals. And since those flakes are a lot more sturdy than the conventional version — you know, the one that goes flaccid the second it hits milk? — you can definitely get away with a vigorous grind.
(I could rewrite that last sentence to make it less suggestive. But I won’t.)
And since Grandma Jody leaves the seasoning up to your preference, I threw in salt, black pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder. Delicious. Did I measure them? No. Grandma Jody said I didn’t have to.
All this said… I always forget how much of a pain in the ass adding a breadcrumb coating to anything is. THREE BOWLS. Three separate bowls. And a pan, and two cutting boards, and a couple knives. And a spatula. All these dishes dirtied to make my meal for one? Ughhhhhh. This is why you want to make this dish for a group of people; so the dishes feel a bit more justifiable.
Side note: Chickenpounding (which I just accidentally wrote as one word and, ya know, I like it) video to come.
But while this had a “Mom made dinner” vibe, it also had a fresh and contemporary twist in being topped with the lightly dressed arugula and tomato salad. It’s like the salad pizza of breaded chicken cutlets. People put chicken on top of salad all the time; why not put some salad on top of your chicken, huh? Give it a chance to show that chicken who’s boss. NOT SO BIG ARE YOU NOW, SALAD???*
Note: I love arugula. I love its bitey peppery flavor, I love its delicate little leaves, and I really love that I generally don’t have to chop it in order for it to be salad-ready. Along with a DIY vinaigrette (Grandma Jody gives a lot of leeway on this whole recipe) and tomatoes, the salad provides just the right acidic and bitter note to balance the pan-fried chicken. I just tossed my greens with a slug of olive oil, a sploosh of apple cider vinegar, a pinch of salt, and a VIGOROUS GRIND of black pepper.
How did it taste?
It tasted fricking great. I felt NOURISHED by this meal. Was that because all I’d eaten that day was an apple fritter that took me down for a few hours? Partly, sure. But this is a terrific little meal to make for yourself or someone else you want to keep alive for a while.
Would I make this again?
Definitely. But I’d certainly give my cereal a more (say it with me, kids) vigorous grind.
Do I recommend this cookbook?
I really do. Less so for very experienced and confident cooks, more so for people looking to get a handle on simple, awesome family cooking that tastes great and doesn’t stress them out so much they can’t even enjoy it. (GOD, haven’t we all been there?)
What’s the next recipe I want to make from this book?
Hmmm. Maybe that Chicken Pot Pie with Sweet Potatoes. Damn. That sounds great.
That’s one more damn recipe down from one more damn cookbook and it’s very damn late and night and I didn’t take a picture of my bookshelf with the book on it, because the book is right here in front of me, and I’m not turning the lights on in my kitchen and going to get that picture AND THAT IS GOING TO BE OKAY because let’s be real — if I hadn’t mentioned it, you wouldn’t even have noticed.
Of course right.
*I’m sorry, I finished this post late Monday night. Things got a little weird. One Damn Recipe appreciates your understanding and patience.