I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but recently I’ve been avoiding the kitchen. To what do I attribute this sudden disinterest in food? Maybe it’s all the stress from the job search. Maybe it’s not having a kitchen to call my own. Or just a failure of inspiration. Whatever the problem, it’s making me shy away from my favorite room in the house.
At the beginning of the week I had a menu plan and got as far as buying the ingredients, but like a spooked horse approaching a jump, I stopped short just as I was starting to prep. Much to Andy’s disappointment, dinner one night became fried eggs on toast, followed the next night by main-course Panera salads, then finally, the ultimate cop-out, Chinese food. Delivered. I had a lot of good excuses, of course, but the truth is I just couldn’t focus, couldn’t get in the groove.
The realization of my problem was starting to set in (as was the guilt), so the day after Chinese delivery, I promised Andy a good home-cooked meal. Spaghetti Bolognese, one of our favorites. I had the ingredients, planned to start cooking around 4:00, but when I went to the pantry—no canned crushed tomatoes. Here, for the first time all week, was a legitimate reason to beg off cooking. Somehow, though, I was determined to make dinner.
I couldn’t make Bolognese, but I opened the freezer and spied a couple chicken breasts. If you’ve got that, it doesn’t matter what else you’ve got in the house—you can always make something. I decided to go back to basics, to a simple recipe Mom used many a weeknight when Sharon and I were young and she was working full time: Sautéed chicken breasts with a pan sauce. I won’t lie. The meal itself wasn’t a show-stopper. I served the chicken with frozen vegetables and instant brown rice, but the chicken was so good it carried the meal. And most importantly, I cooked. Andy devoured. The magic of the kitchen—cooking and eating—was back. The next day, I felt drawn to the kitchen again.
Gotta say: This sautéed chicken breast and pan sauce concept is probably one of the best recipes Mom ever developed. It’s in How To Cook Without a Book. A master recipe for sautéed chicken breast, pork chop or piece of fish with dozens of simple, done-in-a-minute pan sauce choices to suit your taste buds or what you happen to have in the pantry. Because sometimes you just have to get dinner on the table. Especially when you’re kitchen spooked and need to get your mojo back.