Wednesday, September 14, 2011

PPCC! Peanut and Pretzel Crusted Chicken!

I made one of Nathan's favorite chicken meals last night! Being a redneck who would be happy to eat nothing but venison and potatoes, the fact that this chicken is on his favorites list at all is an accomplishment.

I saw this recipe a few months ago on Rachael Ray. Not having a job, I got sucked into daytime television like there was a Hoover hovering over my brain. The problem is that up in the boonies where I live, Nate Berkus is on at 10 and Rachael is on at 3. A show telling you a great recipe to make for dinner should not be on at 3 o'clock in the afternoon! There wasn't enough time for food shopping and defrosting meat before a 5 o'clock dinner. BUT then I realized: Just because mom always served dinner early doesn't mean I have to! So I found the giant can of honey roasted peanuts Nathan had been snacking on, got some chicken out to defrost, a can of  green beans, some apple sauce... but we didn't have any pretzels! Luckily, Nathan's Gran lives a stone's throw away and had pretzels... so I went over to borrow them. Turns out she was making it for dinner too! She watched Rachael and decided it looked like a good idea...

The problem with the original few times we made this chicken: Our stove.

The original stove? Ancient. In the house when we moved in. The original stove from when this building became a house. 20+ years old. Gas, with no settings. Just "light" and "high" and nothing else. That meant it was impossible to simmer anything. Or could things through slowly... SO I ended up serving "blackened" chicken and having to silence the smoke alarm several times.

Gross? Yes.

The new stove? Absolutely beautiful. We found it on and it was literally brand new. The connector hoses still had a plastic coating on them, they'd never been hooked up. We looked at stoves online to figure out what kind of burners we wanted, and all the little details... but we are on a super budget and were not going to be spending $1000+ on a stove. So we went on Craigslist and WantAd Digst for a few weeks and searched. And searched. And searched. The old stove was technically still working, so we didn't NEED a new one. There was one for $400, but we only had $300, so we waited... 2 weeks. It was still listed, still for $400. Nathan emailed them and said "Hey, we've only got $300, would you take that?" and the guy said "Sure!" so we drove down and got it. The guy's mom bought appliances and decided she didn't want them, so she gave them to her son to sell... 

Beautiful, shiny, with a WINDOW TO THE OVEN AND A LIGHT!

So I cooked the chicken on that beautiful stove. We had a pasta side (I love those... just add water and boil), green beans, pickles from Rob, and the chicken. I started the prep with the blender. Honey-roasted peanuts and pretzels (any shape you want, doesn't matter!) into the blender til they look like bread crumbs. Then, I cut the chicken into tiny little chicken-nugget sized pieces and cracked an egg into a bowl and whisked it. The chicken gets dipped into egg and then coated in the peanut/pretzel mix. Then oil in the frying pan (I use Smart Balance bc I have high cholesterol), and cook the chicken tidbits til they're a little stiff and the coating gets a little dark.

The trick to preventing the coating from turning black is to keep the oil fresh. I had a small frying pan, so I had to do multiple batches. The more batches that cook in the same oil, the darker the coating will get... if you don't switch it out or add a little more and mix it up, you'll end up with blackened chicken.

It was the best Peanut and Pretzel Coated Chicken we've made since moving in. I think the things that really helped were... using the new stove, cutting the chicken into little pieces, and not using the same old oil the whole time. Huge success!

So, what's for dinner at your house tonight?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chef Salad!

So it's my goal, as a new house'wife', to learn how to cook. I can do the basics, but I want to get good at cooking. Mom bought me the Better Homes Cook Book when we first moved into 119, and then bought me a venison cook book... which I haven't really even used. Venison is still Nathan's forte, and I'm alright with that. I do pretty well coming up with meals and planning things out for a few days at a time, but then there will be 2 or 3 days where we just have Pizza Bites or something... and that's not healthy or improving my cooking skills.

Today, I hit healthy and involved! Went to Price Chopper, spent almost $100 on miscellaneous foods, and then came home and set my mind on making us delicious chef salads! First off, are you aware of how many varieties of cold cuts there are? We made a list last night and decided turkey, ham and roast beef would be good for the salad. So I (being budget-friendly) went up to the counter and asked for a ¼ pound each of Price Chopper brand turkey, ham and roast beef. "Anything special on those?" I didn't even know what to say, special things on the cold cuts? No, just cut. "Well, there's seasoned roast beef and Italian roast beef. There's off-the-bone ham, baked ham, black forest ham. And then there's multiple types of turkey..." So I picked randomly and ended up with some delicious looking meats. Also got some baby portabella mushrooms, a cucumber, and some radishes. Plus, we already had Swiss cheese, eggs and lettuce at home!

The cucumber, radishes and mushrooms all got sliced. The leftover bits, like peels and stuff, made a mini salad for Clover (my giant bunny). The meats and cheese got rolled up and then sliced. I hard boiled eggs... "Put eggs in cold water. Boil water on stove top (as opposed to?). Once water reaches rolling boil, remove from stove. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Then, rinse eggs in cold water." That whole process seemed bizarre, and my eggs ended up being a little under-cooked. I'll have to leave them in a little longer next time, I guess. Then the eggs got sliced. Finally, it was ready! We sat down to eat, I took about 3 bites and said "Hm, what time is it?" and realized it was 6:15! I had to leave for grad class!

I grabbed my books, kissed Nathan goodbye, and ran out the door. Nathan wrapped my salad and put it in the fridge... let's see how it tastes leftover tomorrow.

So, what's for dinner at your house tonight?