I have found myself in the uncanny position of having several blog postings in my queue, waiting to be written up to share with ya’ll. It’s testament to me being on a major roll lately. I’ve been cooking up some awesome dinners for me and the husbandman these days, each one better — one way or another — than the last. It’s not that I’ve been engaging in crazy techniques, or unusual ingredients, or delving into haute cuisine – it’s more about how elegantly and easily my meals have been coming out, and how delicious everything has been. I humbly remind Clayton how lucky he is to have a permanent seat at my table, which he dutifully acknowledges with rote platitudes of praise. What can I say? He’s used to it.
Tonight’s dinner had to be posted before the others waiting in the wings for one main reason: it was inspired by a gift. Thanks to my friend and colleague, T. T. (for his privacy’s sake, I’ll refer to him using the Victorian convention of initials only), who brought me a little something something from NYC’s Eataly after his sojourn there last weekend. I had eyed this product on my last visit to Mario Batali/Lydia & Joe Bastinach’s haven for all things Italian and edible, but my natural parsimoniousness prevented me from plunking down the cash. I regretted my miserly ways as soon as we were on the bus back home, so I’m glad T. gave me another chance to work with this stuff. The rich truffle cream blanketed a juicy roasted chicken breast, served atop some mashed garnet yams, sauteed spinach, along with some nutty shiitake mushrooms. A very easy meal to prepare, but with sublime impact!
Roasted Chicken Breasts, Shiitake, Garnet Yams, Spinach, Truffle Cream
2 boneless, skin-on chicken breasts
1.5lb garnet yams
6-8 large shiitake mushrooms
6oz baby spinach
2-3 tbs sliced scallions
EVOO, sea salt, cracked black pepper
1 3.5oz can of Urbani Cream and Truffles Sauce
Roasting the sweet potatoes is what took the longest amount of time for this meal, so I get them started about an hour before service to make sure they get nice and soft. I don’t do anything to them but place them on a lined baking sheet before setting them in a 400° oven. But before I did that, I channeled me some MacGyver by figuring out how to roast my shiitake mushrooms (and later my chicken breasts) on the same pan at the same time. Y’see, the mushrooms needed to be doused in EVOO – but the potatoes didn’t. Still, the spuds only took up 1/2 the pan, and loath as I am to dirty another dish, I decided to create a dam by folding a seam in the foil paper at the halfway mark. Then I tossed the mushrooms in the oil before spilling everything into the damn pan (I know, it’s “dammed”, but I couldn’t resist). A little salt and pepper, and into the oven everything went.
In nice weather, when I ride my bike back and forth to work, I get to stop at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s for my groceries because they’re on my way. But in the cold, icy, windy winter, I take the T home, and the only grocery store on my path is a local co-op which has slim pickin’s in their meat and poultry section. I generally don’t freeze anything, so I’m bummed by the fact that they only sell boneless chicken breasts in packs of 5 or more; I never need more than two at a time. In this case, though, I wanted chicken that still had the skin on, so buying a pair of split breasts was actually a good thing. I removed the bones myself, but left the skin in place. After dredging the boners in flour, I put them skin-side down into some hot oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
… I remove my mushrooms from my jerry-rigged baking pan, and replace them with the chicken breasts. These roast for about 20 more minutes (which, when done, will mean my potatoes will be perfectly roasted, having sweated it out in the oven for an hour.)
Two things hit me the moment I popped the top off the Urbani Cream and Truffles: 1) it looked just like cream of mushroom soup but 2) it’s aroma was an overpowering smack in the face of rich, deep, pungent umame. So, in the looks department, it left much to be desired, but in the mushroom department? Hot damn! The instructions were simple: dump the contents in a saucepan and heat it up — no additions needed. So dump I did – heat I did – and then…
A steaming truffle snuggie of cream and deliciousness envelops my crispy-outside-tender-inside chicken breast, which rests on a nest of simple sauteed spinach (which I forgot to take pictures of) and a mound of mashed golden yams. The roasted shiitake mushrooms are firm and packed with earthy woodsiness, resonating with the truffle in the cream sauce, off-setting the rich sweet complexity of the mashed potatoes. This is comfort food at it’s best.