I’m going to attempt to write this post, even though I currently want to hurl. I don’t THINK my nausea is the chicken’s fault. Maybe my breakfast (yogurt) was blechy, or maybe I’ve finally caught my roommate’s lingering sickness. At any rate, I began to feel ill as I was driving along the hairpin turns of Mulholland Drive, which is so famously twisty that there’s a ride at California Adventure named after it. Goooood times. (What came first, the nausea or the drive?)
Yesterday at lunch I finally finished all my leftovers from last week’s cooking jaunt, so I decided that I would whip up a new creation that could give me another few days of leftovers. Given that I’m not sure whether my oven works (the gas is kinda wonky– only 2 of the 4 burners on the stove are currently functional), I chose this recipe from Real Simple but decided only to cook the chicken part of it.
Other considerations: I already had garlic, olive oil, pepper, and salt– and I wanted to make something that would go well with rice pilaf or couscous, because I have a bunch of years-old boxes of Near East in my cabinet (I went through a phase where I would just make a box of rice or couscous and eat half for dinner and half for breakfast, more or less) that I want to use up before I move (that’s a little less than 2 months away).
So I went to the store and for about $10 I acquired the lemon, Greek yogurt & chicken. That made me happy because I’m trying to make cooking at home cost LESS than going out to eat. And this will last me for several meals. (It’s ALL about the leftovers… and actually re-using the ingredients you buy.)
The recipe called for chicken cutlets, but Albertson’s (and probably most grocery stores) only carries chicken breasts. I looked it up and found out that a cutlet is created by cutting the breast lengthwise and pounding it thin. But I decided to be real about my ability and resources (I have neither a mallet nor a rolling pin), and just make my best attempt to cut the breasts lengthwise. (Oh, PS: I bought .89 lbs of chicken– 2 breasts– and the recipe called for 4 cutlets, 4 oz each. So… I’m not even sure I used the right amount of chicken.)
I also lack a garlic press, so I just sliced the garlic as I did for the sauce. But I should probably just buy a jar of crushed garlic. My mom uses that for garlic bread, and it’s… potent.
I kinda made a tactical error, in that I cooked the couscous and the broccoli first. I should have done everything with the chicken, put it away to marinate, and THEN cooked the other stuff. But they were really easy and fast, so… whatever. Next time I’ll be smarter. (Also… it took a lot of willpower not to eat ALL the couscous while the chicken was marinating in the fridge.)
After I finished the sides and put them… aside (oh brother… this is not Shakespeare, guys), I got down to the marinade. That took about a minute to make. (Note: I do not like the way Greek yogurt smells.) Then the really scary part happened– having to cut the chicken! First of all, chicken is scary because of salmonella or whatever. Second of all, knives are scary.
I don’t have any pictures of that part, because I didn’t want to get chicken juice on my phone. Let’s just say… chicken breasts do not have natural seams that make them super easy to cut lengthwise. You can’t just make an initial cut and rip it along the seam.
But that’s basically what I tried to do. I just wanted to make the breasts thin enough that they would cook all the way through.
Once the chicken was mangled to the best of my ability, I coated it in the marinade and put in the fridge for “at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.” (I decided on 35 minutes… not the bare minimum, but not so long that I ate dinner at 9:30pm.)
Then I watched “Being Human.”
35 minutes later, the marinade was smelling pretty nice. I mean, garlic and lemon. Hard to go wrong.
The directions said to wipe off the excess marinade before putting the chicken on a heated pan with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. (That didn’t seem like enough oil, but the chicken released a bunch of juices while it cooked.) I don’t know whether to say “seared” or “fried” or what about how I cooked the chicken. I don’t think it was oil-ish enough to be fried. Whatever. I cooked it!
At first I was going to use a paper towel to wipe the breasts, but I ended up just using my hands. (I don’t really know how to handle breasts… need to consult a straight guy.)
I was kinda sad that the marinade was getting wiped away and couldn’t be used as some sort of sauce… but obviously it was full of raw chicken juices. I’m no cooking expert, but I’m not THAT stupid. (When I work with raw birds, I feel like I should be wearing a Hazmat suit in some sort of “situation room”… kinda like this Postal Service video.)
So I stuck them on the pan for three minutes on one side…
And three minutes on the other…
The directions said to cook the chicken until “golden brown and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side.” Because I knew that my cutlets were not ACTUALLY cutlets, and because 3ish minutes looked pretty non-golden, I kept going for a another minute or two. That might have been a mistake.
Also, this “cutlet” kinda looked like the United States…
When the cutlets looked golden brown, I took them off the stove. I didn’t know yet whether they were cooked through, but I was pretty confident about it.
But it wasn’t until I cut my “cutlet” (oh boy, my vocabulary feels HUGE right now) that I saw that I was safe.
At first bite I was a bit disappointed, because the chicken didn’t taste SUPER flavorful to me. Like, maybe not worth all that time. But the second bite was somewhat better. And I think I’ve assessed my mistakes, for next time.
-Try to find cutlets, or be a little better at making them. (Maybe pound them.) (Oh God.) (Note: I saw TURKEY cutlets, but… screw turkey.) (GROSS THOUGHTS!)
-Maybe use ground garlic, either from a jar or from buying a garlic press. I think that would make the garlic flavor pop more.
-Marinate the chicken for a bit longer… maybe an hour. I think that might have helped it absorb more marinade/flavor.
-Cook the chicken slightly less… I think I potentially burned the marinade off/overcooked. Like, the chicken was not DRY, but it wasn’t as good as I think it could have been.
You know what else I learned, just from typing this? (I am not even looking this up to corroborate my findings.) MARINATE is a verb, and MARINADE is a noun.
I’m looking forward to the leftovers. (Ooh, maybe my appetite is back?) I kinda want to squeeze a bit of lemon over the chicken, but I think I got chicken juices on the lemon. So… I should probably just toss it.
Next time I want to try some sort of glaze– on chicken or salmon. Ooh, that would go well with my rice pilaf.
What do you think? Tips, hints, etc?