Inspiration and Improvising Dinner

Adam here. There isn’t a recipe at the end of this post – instead I hope you find some inspiration for your own improvisation.

Last Friday I was going through Lifehacker and happened across this post: “Five Sauces Everyone Should Know.” If you haven’t already, take a look. It was a great post and offered some excellent tips on building the sorts of sauces that really make up how I cook. Whether starting a soup with a roux (equal parts butter or olive oil and flour) or creating the garlic sauce I’ll talk about a little later, the way of improvising where you start with a basic sauce and the take whatever you have in the fridge and make a tasty meal is where I feel like I do my best cooking.

A little bit after reading through the Lifehacker piece and the directions on creating Creme Toum linked with in, Laura texted me that most important question:

What’s the plan for dinner?

I responded with “chicken, veggies, and a baguette.” Beyond those very basic descriptors I didn’t really know what I was going to do. So I looked back at the Creme Toum recipe (find it here: garlic-y goodness) and thought to myself: time to do something new. I grabbed garlic, olive oil, eggs, and lemon juice and started broke out our food processor.

Now, the recipe called for 5-7 cloves of garlic. I put in something closer to 12. Those got chopped in the processor until they disappeared with an egg white. Then I very slowly added the 3/4 of a cup of olive oil until it was all completely emulsified and then added my lemon juice. The resulting sauce is very powerful. Like so powerful that if you have a loved one that can smell – ensure that both of you enjoy it. So, that got made and put aside. The creme toum would be the sauce for dinner but what on Earth was I going to do for the rest?

I pulled some frozen chicken out of the freezer and started it defrosting and then started poking around the pantry searching for inspiration. I found pistachios. Lovely, roasted pistachios. A nutty compliment to a simple meat. I broke out a meat tenderizer, put the shelled pistachios in a bag and smashed the dickens out of them. With beaten-down pistachios now on hand, I added some olive oil and set it aside.

With the chicken on the counter moving towards being defrosted, I put myself together and went out to run some errands. About two and half hours later, I returned triumphant with a fresh baguette from one of my favorite DC area grocers: Glut Food Co-op. If you’re in the DC area, especially around the Hyattsville area, check them out and enjoy!

With some time to kill before Laura got home, I went ahead and got started putting dinner together. I filleted the chicken as thinly as I could and spread the pistachio and olive oil paste across and then rolled it up – holding the roll with a few toothpicks. I added the leftover paste to the top and cracked some black pepper to finish it off. Then, I put them into roast at the relatively low heat of 215ºF. The chicken roasted for two and half hours wrapped in parchment paper to keep it moist.

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So – that gave me the chicken. Now – what to do with the toum? Garlic bread. I broke out the baguette, cut a trough into it and spread as many several teaspoons of the sauce as could reasonably be spread. Then, with some finely grated parmesan romano to add creaminess, I replaced the bread I’d cut out, wrapped the bread in foil and put it in to heat up with the chicken about 30 minutes before Laura was supposed to get home.

Chicken and bread. Veggies. I thought for a moment about what would be a tasty addition and settled on steaming some broccoli. The broccoli then got dressed with a little bit of the grated parmesan and a touch of lemon juice.

Here’s what it looks like plated:

Pistachio-encrusted Chicken, Brocoli, and Garlic Bread

The paste at the bottom of the plate is the finished creme toum.

All told, Laura and I had a lovely dinner inspired by a Lifehacker post. Happy Improvising!

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