Put the meal back into breakfast.

Mrs. P’s Breakfast Potatoes

It’s time to get unreasonably excited about another skillet seasoning opportunity! Cast iron and home fries enjoy a perfect symbiosis, the oil from the potatoes greasing the pan while the starchy buildup seals it in for a nice long moisturizing. The frequent scraping off and incorporation of the browned coating lends a crispness that contrasts delightfully against the clumps of soft potato and caramelized onion. I don’t recommend adjusting the salt in this recipe; were I facing dietary changes due to high blood pressure, I’d sever my relationship with the home fry completely before I’d witness it lose its soul to the realm of the low-sodium.

3 baking potatoes, diced
1/2 large red onion, diced
1/4 C vegetable oil, plus more on hand
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried cilantro

Heat the oil in your skillet over high heat until it’s hot, about a minute and a half. Add the potatoes and spread them out in the pan, then leave them alone for 2 minutes. Fold them over with a wooden or metal spatula and leave them for another 2 minutes, and repeat this process until all the potatoes have at least two browned sides.

Open up a small circle in the middle of the pan and pour in another tbsp or so of vegetable oil, wait 10 seconds, then add the onion and fold into the potatoes. A metal spatula works best, as the potatoes will want to break apart as they soften. Scrape any stuck-on residue off the bottom of the pan and you fold.

Turn the heat down to medium, add the salt, pepper and cilantro, and continue to cook, folding and scraping every 3 to 5 minutes, until you achieve your desired level of done-ness. This will take a while, and you should plan on chopping your first potato about 45 minutes before you want to eat. The picture directly above illustrates the stage at which you’ll want to eat them, but remember that you trade looks for taste when it comes to home fries. I cook mine to the stage shown all the way at the top, then let them sit in the pan for 10 minutes or so off of the heat for a final crisping. Whatever your preference, don’t forget the eggs over easy for yolk-dipping, and jelly should figure into this in some capacity, whether on toast, English muffin, or a buttered and grilled bagel.

Risotto Fail 1

We had our first risotto failure last night without even turning on a burner. I chopped the white part of the leek, clipped the whites and greens of the scallions separately, grated the granite block of Parmesan, and minced the meanest yellow onion with which I’ve crossed paths in a while, sticking my head in the freezer for a little relief every thirty seconds. Ten o’clock found all ingredients prepped, utensils readied and pan positioned, so Mr. P suggested a cigarette break.

The first time I stayed up for over eighteen consecutive hours was about two years ago, and only because someone started yelling directly into my ear on a nightly basis. When 10 PM rolls around, my body begins looking for the first opportunity to close up shop, and anything remotely resembling a mental wind-down triggers the landing gear. Within five minutes, I was bumblingly throwing cling wrap over the prep bowls in an effort to get everything in the fridge before passing out, and fell asleep misguidedly impressed by my foresight.

As Billy the Kid dragged me downstairs this morning for his 6 AM milk and coffee, I noticed that my house smelled like the produce section at Market Basket. Opening the fridge, both BK’s and my faces seized up as the pungency of all those onions heaved forth in a cool belch. My two options at this point appear to be either masking the odor with a house-wide insect bomb or waiting out the smell until I’ve become accustomed to it and then never leaving again.

In what promises to be a lasting lesson in biting off more than one can chew, I will complete execution of round one with my sins from last night, if for no other reason than to set an easily surpassable bar. Let’s hope I’m not about to strip the paint off my walls.

Or we could wash the chicken and the sink.

French Onion Chicken

The cold weather has me regressing big time back to childhood comfort meals, and this is one of my mother’s more indulgent dishes. If you note the date, it’s actually gorgeous and temperate in Lowell, but it was freezing this morning and I awoke with cream sauce on my mind. As the title suggests, this one’s heavy on the onions, so make sure everyone in the house has it for dinner. There are also mints.

On a chicken note, I recently learned that the FDA considers it safer not to rinse off raw meat before cooking than otherwise, since the splash-back spreads germs around the sink that won’t be killed off by cooking. I wouldn’t buy beef or pork that I thought needed a good scrubbing, but chickens are filthy. If they weren’t so delicious, they’d be considered vermin. While I don’t (yet) use gloves to prepare any food, every time I touch raw chicken, I’m reminded of a scandal back in the early 90’s, when a bunch of chicken plant employees’ hands went numb (I can’t find it anywhere – does anyone else remember that?). Most of us buy prepackaged supermarket chicken, and let’s not pretend it’s not a little slimy when we pull back the plastic. But since we’re saving money by not paying a butcher to clean our meat, we can spare a few minutes to Fantastik the sink and counter. Wash the chicken.

1 cut-up chicken (official pieces)
1 pkg egg noodles
2 yellow onions, sliced into thin rings
1 C white wine
1 C flour
1/2 C heavy cream
4 tbsp butter
salt and pepper

Dredge the chicken in flour to coat the pieces completely. Heat 2 tbsp butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken for 3 minutes on each side, then transfer them to a plate. Add 2 more tbsp butter to the pan, and when it stops foaming, add the onions, and cook them until they caramelize. Put the chicken back into the pan, and add the wine. The liquid level should just cover the chicken; add water if necessary. Preemptively set the oven to 200 and start the water for the noodles. Continue to cook the chicken over medium-high heat for 20 to 25 minutes, adding water as needed to maintain the liquid level. Transfer the chicken to a plate and stick it in the oven to keep it warm.

Your water should be boiling, so throw in the noodles and time according to the directions. Adding 2 tbsp of light olive or vegetable oil to the water will prevent clumping. With the onions still in the pan, scrape any bits off the bottom and cook the liquid over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s reduced to 2 or 3 tbsp. Slowly pour in the cream while stirring and mix until even. Fold the chicken pieces back in and turn the heat down to medium for a few minutes before serving over the drained and rinsed egg noodles.

The main flavor comes from the wine, and the difference between a self-proclaimed cooking wine and one that you’d consider drinking is huge. Bad wine renders this inedible. I can’t make a recommendation, as I don’t really drink (and I try, I love the glasses, but I can’t stand how alcohol compromises Diet Coke). Mr. P is our resident oenophile, so I leave such selections to him. My advice is to use the leftovers from a bottle you enjoyed, or just grab something in the $7 range and keep it on hand as your cooking supply.

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