It’s no secret that I love to cook. After a long day at Epicure, which begins with soup production in the morning followed by endless trays of brownies and 60-pound batches of cookie dough in the afternoon, Michele gingerly asks me, “What are you cooking for dinner tonight?” As I stand in the kitchen, still wearing my chocolate and tomato stained chef’s coat, we both smile at the thought of me spending the next hour preparing dinner. She smiles because it’s such an unreasonable request given my daily work agenda combined with my disheveled weary appearance. I however, smile because as tired as I am, and no matter how raw my hands are, I still want to cook something delicious. This is the life of a chef.
I’m pretty certain that when you get home from your job, whether or not you love what you do, the last thing you really feel like doing is cooking. Maybe you are a “weekend warrior” in the kitchen, but during the week you probably don’t really enjoy going through the motions of cooking the same chicken dish that always comes out bland, along with an uninspiring salad and overcooked veggie. I could be wrong, but my goal here is to get you excited about cooking dinner, so play along. Rather than give you recipes in a traditional format, I’m going to simply tell you how to pull together a simple yet delicious meal consisting of a salad, chicken, rice and a vegetable that will take your cooking skills and the end results to another level. More importantly, you will enjoy the fresh ingredients, the fundamental techniques that make it all happen and the layers of flavors you enjoy in other people’s kitchens.
THE RICE –
This will take the longest, so get it started first. Bring 2 cups of water to boil. In a glass baking dish, combine 1 cup of brown rice, 1 tablespoon of butter, 1 tablespoon of dried herbs (your choice), 1 teaspoon of salt and the boiling water. Cover with foil and bake in 350 degree oven for exactly one hour.
THE SALAD –
In a bottle with a cap, (you can use an empty water bottle if you have a funnel), combine juice of 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons of white wine, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup of olive oil, salt and pepper. Shake. Taste. Add salt. If too tart to your liking, add a tiny amount of honey. Shake again.
THE VEGETABLE –
Place broccoli, brussels sprouts or asparagus in a small baking pan. Sprinkle with kosher salt, pepper and drizzle with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Place in the oven when the rice has 15 minutes left.
THE CHICKEN –
Take boneless chicken thighs (or breast cutlets if you prefer), dry them with paper towel, salt and pepper both sides and add to a hot non-stick pan with olive oil. If you don’t hear a sizzle, the pan isn’t hot enough. Sear for two minutes each side. When flipping the chicken, add the lemon halves that you used earlier, cut side down into the pan. When chicken is browned on both sides, remove to a baking pan with 1/2 cup water and place in oven at the same time as the vegetable. Leave the lemons in the non-stick pan and turn off the heat.
PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER –
Toss mixed greens or arugula with the dressing. Take out the rice and fluff with a fork. Taste for salt. The chicken and roasted vegetables will be ready at the same time. Plate the rice, lay a piece of chicken on top of the rice and place broccoli next to it. Squeeze the caramelized lemon over the entire plate. Done.
Michael Love is the Specialty Chef at Epicure Gourmet Market and Café and the creator of “Epicure with Love,” an all-natural gourmet line of food including soups, prepared entrées and desserts. Michael is also available for private and group cooking instruction and can be hired for dinner parties and events.