re: strange horses and cooking on a budget

close your eyes and imagine you are a five-year-old.  it is your birthday, and your parents have tied a bandana around your head to cover your eyes with.  the time for presents has come, and when the big reveal finally happens, you find a mini-clydesdale standing in front of you.

it’s a horse, and as a five-year-old, you realize how awesome that is.  but once this realization passes, aren’t really sure where to go from here.  you don’t know if it will be your friend.  you don’t know if it is dangerous or not.  you aren’t even sure what an animal like a mini-clydesdale can be used for.  can you ride it?  do you take it for walks?  does it stay in your house or outside?  because you don’t know the answers to any of these questions, you just kind of stand there slack-jawed in surprise and excitement and confusion.

now imagine that you are you, and the mini-clydesdale is the perfect 10.  i gave you a list.  i did a good job of telling you why i made the list in the way i did.  but i didn’t really tell you what it is good for.

so now, i’m going to teach you how to ride the mini-clydesdale.  that’s right, it is recipe time.

spaghetti napolitana w/ baked herb chicken  served w/ cucumber salad, garlic toast

you’ll need:

  • pasta (spaghetti or angel hair or linguine)
  • a can of tomatoes
  • two cucumbers
  • chicken stock
  • one chicken breast
  • yogurt
  • french bread
  • spinach
  • butter
  • about a head of garlic
  • a small onion
  • ham or bacon
  • parsley
  • coriander
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • olive oil
  • red pepper flakes
  • sugar
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • lemon juice
  • green onion

spaghetti napolitana w/ herb baked chicken

  1. invite some friends over, because we are about to do this up right.  your kitchen is going be whipped into quite a frenzy, so maybe drink some coffee before you start cooking.
  2. peel your onion and about five cloves of garlic.  mince super finely, and while you are at it do the same to the bacon.  add some olive oil to a frying pan, and start to saute all three together once the pan reaches medium-high heat.  cook until the onions are transparent.  i know i’m preaching to the choir, but make sure not to burn the ham or the garlic.
  3. add the can of tomatoes and half a cup of chicken stock.  stir in a generous amount of black pepper, thyme, oregano, and parsley.  add a spoonful of sugar, some red pepper flakes, and then salt to taste.  bring to a strong boil over high heat, and then turn the heat as low as possible, cover, and let simmer for a long, long time.  the longer you simmer, the better the flavors will blend and the more delicious your sauce will become.  thirty minutes to an hour is generally recommended.  occasionally check on it and give it a quick stir to make sure the water level is okay and nothing on the bottom of the pan is burning.
  4. meanwhile, take the skin off your chicken breast, wash it with cold water, and dry it with a paper towel.  rub it with olive oil, and then sprinkle oregano, thyme, coriander, salt, and black pepper on both sides.  get friendly.  use your fingers to rub the spices into the flesh of the chicken.  once finished, place the breast on a piece of tin foil.  peel and thinly slice two or three cloves of garlic, and loosely place them on top of the chicken.  add a pat of butter on top and seal the edges of the foil into a package.  wrap this foil package in another piece of foil to create a tight seal and prevent juices (see: delicious herby flavor) from escaping.  put the foil-wrapped chicken in the oven (or toaster oven) for 20 to 25 minutes at around 375 °f (190 °c).
  5. break the leaves off the spinach and discard the stalks.  wash with gentle cold water and place in a colander to drain off any remaining water.

garlic toast

  1. peel and mince the rest of your garlic.  cut the french bread into thick pieces, and spread butter on one side of each slice using a sharp knife.  sprinkle with coarse salt, black pepper, and the last of the minced garlic.  throw the toast on a baking tray, and add to the oven alongside the chicken when there is about five minutes left on the cook time.

cucumber salad

  1. put the piece of your drip coffee maker that holds the filter in a tall glass.  put in a coffee filter, and then fill the filter with plain yogurt.  leave it until it stops dripping slightly brown water.
  2. wash the cucumbers and split them into quarters lengthwise.  chop them into wedges about half an inch long.  add to a large bowl.  cut the base off of four or five stalks of green onion, fold, and chop finely.  add to the bowl with the cucumbers.
  3. take the yogurt out of the filter and put it in a small mixing bowl.  add black pepper, a hearty drizzle of olive oil, and salt to taste.  don’t add the lemon juice yet or it can cause curdling and strange texture.

putting it all together

  1. add some chicken stock to a pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  add spaghetti and give the pot a quick stir to make sure each strand of pasta has separated from the rest.  bring the heat down to medium-low, cover almost all the way, and let simmer.  stir occasionally and check for doneness after about six minutes.  don’t overcook the pasta, it should be al dente.  once finished, drain the pasta using a colander and start plating.
  2. take out the contents of your oven.  don’t unwrap the chicken yet (unless you want to have a little taste-test).  cover the foil package with a towel to keep it warm, and set the garlic toast on a serving plate.  add a squirt or two of lemon juice to your cucumber salad dressing, and pour the dressing into the mixing bowl.  give the salad a good toss and scoop it out onto a large serving dish.
  3. this part can be a little tricky if you pasta has already gotten a sticky, so do your best to get plating while everything is still hot.  make a pile of pasta in the center of a plate, and create a large dimple in the middle of the mound.  the dimple should reach down to the bottom of the plate.  tear the leaves of spinach into small pieces and place gently on top of the ring of pasta.  take a heaping ladleful of napolitan sauce and pour it into the empty hole.
  4. unwrap the chicken and slice it into bite-sized pieces.  make sure to cut along the grain.  gently lay the chicken breast on top of the pasta.  pour a few spoonfuls of the juices left over in your foil pouch over the top of the whole ensemble.
  5. bring everything to the table, and rub your skills in everybody’s faces.  then go back in the kitchen, take all the money that you didn’t spend on this meal out of your wallet, and make it rain.  a touchdown dance might also be in order.

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