Chicken In Threes

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Of all the types of meals and tangents my food preparations take me, French is the most foreign. A lifetime of avoidance based on a strong anti-French cuisine bias held by my dear old dad. Too rich, too saucy, too fussy and snobby. Just not his style of food and summarily dismissed from my culinary world.

That is, until I walked across the road to my dear friend Betty Gillette. She and her husband Russell had long been retired, their sons grown and out of the house when I started to visit their sweet white painted cottage surrounded by giant oak trees. Ponytail swinging, nearly bounding as I would skip up the well worn dirt path through the tall grass to their front door, uninvited, no phone call in advance and always welcomed. In her sunny kitchen ringed with bookcases filled with cookbooks she would open one up and we’d explore a different world in an afternoon’s visit, usually with a cookie fresh out of the oven. Betty was a consummate foodie of her time. She even subscribed to Gourmet magazine! She would attend ladies luncheons (white gloves and all) with her dear friend Miss Parlier, a home economics teacher at our high school and you know the food was magnificently different. When her son married a French woman, her joy was to finally go to France and stay with them over several months. Her adventures recounted at the same sunny table, the sights and smells coming alive as her eyes sparkled in the retelling. Our deep friendship began when I was so small. More than just a neighbor, she watched me grow up, marry and enjoyed my children who also bounded up the path, across the field to her front door.

When Betty died, her sons sent over two big boxes of her recipes and cookbooks for me with a note saying she wanted me to have them. What a incredible blessing and amazing friendship. What a different kind of childhood in a different time. It would be hard to imagine a like friendship forged today between a five year old and the old lady that lives across the street. Is it still possible?

This post and side trip to slightly French cuisine is dedicated to Betty.

Fresh endive, grapes and apples

It started out simply enough, buying the chicken that is. On sale, jumbo pack boneless, skinless chicken breasts — enough for three meals, less that two bucks a pound. Next, something French, something with endive. So elegant and often served as an appetizer or starter with some sort of cheese stuffing. Surely, it can be more than that? What would Betty do? Research her collection for inspiration, of course, yet I turned on my laptop and visited Dorie Greenspan.

A main and a side decided upon. Marinate the chicken breasts in Girard’s Champagne Dressing (a go-to, love it quick marinade and… Champagne is French, no?)  Daylight savings and warming temperatures make week night grilling finally possible again. While my darling dear managed the coals, I stepped inside and sauteed endive, apples and green grapes in two pats of salted butter and a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary. Simple, rustic and great with the grilled chicken. Just my style. The sweetness of the apples and grapes offset the tang of the endive in caramelized rosemary hinted buttery goodness. Dinner One.

Endive, apples and grapes — From Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table

The California girl in me started taking over mid-week. Utilizing the left over grilled chicken made short work of a weeknight dinner, especially with rising daytime temperatures and crushing work week. Dinner Two was a quick walnut spinach salad with honey mango, tangy red onion, grilled chicken and Gorgonzola cheese crumbles dressed in a lemon honey walnut oil vinaigrette.

Grilled Chicken Spinach Salad with Walnuts, Mango and Gorgonzola Crumbles

Dinner Three took advantage of some good pre-thinking at the grocery store. Ready to roll out whole wheat pizza dough on sale for 1.88, fresh shiitake mushrooms that looked really, really wonderful (opportunity purchase not an impulse buy) and fresh basil. 

Chicken Pesto Pizza with shiitake mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes

1 ball whole wheat pizza dough
1 cup Sargento Reduced fat three cheese mix
1 1/2 cup slice shiitake mushrooms
1 1/2 cup diced grilled chicken
1 1/2 cup walnut basil pesto
1/4 cup asiago cheese grated
1/8 cup sun dried tomatoes
1/4 cup torn spinach leaves

Preheat oven to 450º F. Roll out pizza dough to 10″-12″ circle, sprinkle pizza pan with corn meal before placing dough. Spread pesto from center to 1/2″ of edge. Sprinkle ingredients over dough, top with asiago cheese. Bake for 12-15 minutes until cheese is bubble. I took the pizza off the pan half-way and cooked directly on the rack so the bottom would be crispy. Next time I will probably put the tomatoes under the cheese instead of on top so they don’t brown so quickly.

We eat!

A little pre-planning, some inspiration, fresh ingredients and this week I didn’t get tired of eating chicken.  Not once. Chicken in Threes, it’s a good idea.

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4 Responses to Chicken In Threes

  1. Hi Robin! I love this article–it’s the way we cook too. For me there’s nothing better than having ‘leftovers’ in the fridge to use as the basis for the next meal. Transformed, of course, but still keeping the link to meals past. That concept is at the heart of basic French cooking, I think, as well as Italian. Good ingredients, nothing wasted, respect for the flavors and the labor that produced them.

    That endive looks delicious. It’s Belgian, though, isn’t it? We get to claim Endive and Fries and Mussels and Waffles. And the beer. But then we also have to own up to sprouts (which I actually love). Chocolate, let’s not forget the chocolate….

    I saw your comment on Facebook, and I’d love to Skype. We’re currently in the US, doing our East coast tour. We’ll be home in a couple of weeks, and I’d love to Skype. By then we should know more about our October trip.

    Kate

    • Hey Kate! Yes, Yes. Belgian endive but I get to call it “french cooking” because I used Dorie Greenspan’s recipe, guess that’s as close as I get this time round. An American’s take on French prep of a Belgian vegetable. hee hee.

      I’m a little jealous of your travel adventures, but would love it if it brings you to California in October. Would love to catch up.

  2. Reena says:

    Hi Robin. You were very lucky to have such a friend – thank you for sharing your memories of her. I grew up with a “more mature” friend too – Mrs Rankin. I still feel the loss of her passing but I’m so glad that she got to meet my hubby. Keep writing – I love the warmth in your posts. Reena

    • Dear Reena,

      you don’t know what your kind encouragement meant to me this morning, but I can tell you it made my day. Heartwarmed to know you had such a friend as well. – R

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