Two weeks ago tomorrow I moved into the apartment I had been trying to get renovated for more than a year. For a while I thought I should start a blog documenting that process, but I'm glad I didn't--it would have been gloomier than a fourteen-year-old's journal. One of the hardest things about waiting all that time was that most of my STUFF was in storage, and I love my stuff. It's good, I suppose, that I learned to live without the reassuring presence of my books, but boy, am I glad to have them back now.
I'm especially glad to have my cookbooks back (though I kept some essentials with me, and couldn't resist acquiring a few more). For the first dinner, I wanted to try out both the cooktop and the oven, so I chose recipes from two books I had particularly missed: a potato leek gratin from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and a provencale chicken breast from Simple to Spectacular.
As so often happens, everything had to be tweaked--this time because the cooktop was not yet functional (is still not functional, I might add). Curiously, Jean-Georges does his foil packets of chicken in a skillet on the cooktop; so I had to adjust and try it in the oven, which resulted in someone's suffering sweetly through a piece of half-raw chicken. I tried the recipe again this week, though (at a home where the cooktop works), and it was fan-tastic. I would have found Simple to Spectacular too intimidating (Jean-Georges? Spectacular? Caviar on the jacket?) to pick up, but happily a friend recommended it as a learn-to-cook text. The simple recipes (the ones I've tried, at least) really are fast, easy, and yummy, and the only reason I haven't tried the others is that they often call for ingredients that make me nervous.
chicken in a foil packet
Put two 18" square pieces of foil on top of each other. Smear about a tablespoon of olive oil in the middle. Layer on top of olive oil:
2 thick slices of tomato
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 6 oz. each
salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
10 pitted black olives (I sliced them up)
2 branches of thyme
Seal the packet up good and tight by folding, but leave some room around the chicken. (There weren't really clear instructions for this, and I'm pretty sure I didn't do it right, since the packets didn't puff up. But the chicken was cooked and good). Put a skillet on high heat; after a minute, add a mere film of olive oil. Put packet in skillet, seam side up. After two minutes, it should puff up; then you cook it for 5 more minutes. Let sit for one minute off heat, and be sure to spoon juices out of packet when you plate.
As I said, my packet did not puff up, so I cooked it longer, and I could have cooked it longer still. Next time I will try folding the packet differently (and next time, I hope I get to do it in my own kitchen!).