Thursday, 13 March 2008

A Quick Dinner for the Frazzled and Time-poor

As I compose this title I chuckle at the SHEER NERVE of it.

I am a stay-at-home Mom who has left the house precisely twice today. Once, to take the child to school (other child is on a field trip; and I have a "lift-share" -- cute English term -- in the evening); and once to get milk. I'm glad that England is (usually) not a violent culture, and grateful for the fact that West Berkshire is largely handgun-free, because otherwise someone would probably come shoot me for having so much free time.

People, please have mercy on me in your judgment. And know that tomorrow I will NOT be able to spend hours playing on my computer because I will actually have big, important things to do like get my Volvo serviced.

Yes, the hours flew by today. I was a blogging fool with my shiny, fun toy.

Sum total of today's accomplishments: sent 18 emails (4 of them could be classified as "business" as they were loosely associated with my half-hearted job hunt -- so that's okay). Two of them were to Sigmund. His response to the first was, and I quote: Have you been drinking ? I then had to form a rebuttal as I was drinking nothing but lightly caffeinated tea. (hence the need for milk) One of them was to someone who may or may not be in Managua. Several had something to do with blogging, although they weren't actually blogs.

I also engaged in a debate about the impending food crisis and rising grain price --with all of its attendant causes.

I also commented on an article in More Intelligent Life . . . and envied, not for the first time, the perfection of someone else's writing and observations.

I also checked in with my favorite food blogs and my favorite person in south Texas in a town that begins with "port."

I also updated my profile, which meant some time scanning my bookshelves and Ipod and thinking about all of my favorite things.

I then randomly clicked on "A Thousand Acres," "Jonatha Brooke," and "Moving On" -- and found a fellow enthusiast for each of these special interests. My new friends, in case you are interested, are a creative writer who lives in the north of England, a really funny Mom who lives somewhere in the U.S, and a blues musician from Chicago. He had a very detailed post about the music scene in Chicago -- past and present. I couldn't say much to that, so I offered him a story about me and "Moving On" that no one else in this world knows.

Well, it was all fun and games and I was complacent about dinner because I had fed the youngest child two pieces of cinnamon toast (from the last of the homemade oatmeal bread) and Sigmund said he was going for a run after work. (Sigmund has been engaging in both the Dutch and the British drinking cultures this week.) Then, so suddenly, it was 8 pm and Sigmund was home and I couldn't find the recipe for the chicken thing that I was going to make for dinner! What to do?

Well, I looked to Nigella in my hour of need. I have already referenced Nigella, in these few short weeks of posting, and I can't promise that it won't happen again. Nigella and I have been friends for a long, long time. I was reading her food columns in British Vogue back when the 90s were middle-aged and I was first in line to buy the wonderful "How to Eat" in 1999. This was back in those halcyon days when Nigella could do no wrong. These days, the UK public (or at least press) makes mock of Nigella on a regular basis. But I put that down to envy, as Nigella is rich, beautiful, a good writer, and someone who still has a thin face even when she puts on weight.

It has come to my attention that some people have trouble getting dinner on the table not because they have been frittering away time in the blogosphere but for more worthy reasons. A 12 hour working day combined with single parenthood would be one good example.

For these good people, I offer up the following recipe: brought to you by Nigella, and made by me tonight. It was quick, nutritious, and crowd-pleasing. (If you can call three people a crowd.) It also had the virtue -- which I must say is a first for me in last-minute cooking -- of only containing ingredients which I just happened to have on hand.

Voila! "Pollo alla Cacciatora"

1 T olive oil
75 g pancetta cubes
2 shallots (or similar)
clove or two of garlic
1 t rosemary, finely chopped (I used fresh, because I have it in the garden, but I'm sure dried is perfectly fine)

500 g chicken breast (I used two breasts -- frankly, I've got no clue about what 500g might be. The beauty of this recipe is that it doesn't really matter. If you think I stuck to the recipe you don't know me and you are having a laugh.)

1/2 t celery salt (I actually had this, but I doubt you need to bother)

125 ml white wine (this is the good part; you can either use the manky wine left in the fridge that someone brought you, or you can open a decent bottle and drink the rest of it with dinner. I went for a combination of the two approaches.)

1 400g can chopped tomatoes (please don't ask me to convert into ounces; it's just that standard medium sized one)

2 bay leaves

1/2 t sugar

1 400g can cannellini beans (if you don't have these, just serve it over pasta or rice)

Saute the onion, garlic and rosemary in the olive oil a couple of minutes.
Add the chicken (cut up smallish; but hey, cut it however you like) and sprinkle with celery salt.
Pour in the wine, and let bubble before adding everything else but the cannellini beans.
Simmer for 20 minutes -- during which time you can either see to some chores, or sit down with the paper and a glass of wine (my choice).
Drain the beans and add to the pan. Give them a minute to heat up and you are good to go.

I just served this with bread. I would usually bother with a salad, but tonight I didn't. Anyway, I counted at least three vegetables in this dish plus one legume.

Enjoy, my frazzled friends, your "express" but still reasonably home-cooked meal.


Brave Sir Robin Hussein said...

You gotta love a woman who has 75g of cubed pancetta in the Fridge.

I'm just sayin . . .

Sounds lovely.

What, pray tell is a "lift-share" ?????

I'm guessing car-pool?

Bee said...

Brave Sir,

Now you already know I'm a foodie -- albeit a lazy one. Actually, pancetta is one of the nice things about England. It comes in a package with two separate units -- already chopped. Also, it lasts for a good couple of weeks. Since I am from the school that bacon improves the flavor of most things, I almost always have it on hand.

lift-share = car-pool

I used to struggle roll with it, but now it just rolls off the tongue!

Brave Sir Robin Hussein said...

I am from the school that bacon improves the flavor of most things, I almost always have it on hand.

Ha!, we are kindred spirits indeed. I'm so glad to see the "food police" back off of pork.

I can get what they call pancetta here in little packages, but it's not the greatest quaility. That's one of the things I miss about living in the city, access to pretty much anything I wanted to cook. I can however, get excellent bacon.

lift-share sounds much classier than a car-pool.

Do you visit Steamy kitchen? If you don't, you should check it out. She is a riot, and her photos are envy inducing.

The chicken does sound nice. I love the ides of serving it over beans instead of pasta.

Anne said...

The chicken sounds delicious! And I second (or third?) the notion that bacon makes most things better. I found a recipe for bacon-and-corn cupcakes last week, and although it might sound strange, they combine two of my very favorite things, bacon and cupcakes (corn's good, too), so I'll probably try them at some point.

I'm sure that somewhere around here I can get pancetta in something other than pre-sliced form, I just haven't figured it out yet. I miss Central Market (one of the few things I miss about Texas), where they slice it to whatever thickness you want.

And finally, just a quick shout-out to the Volvo crowd! Don't tell my V70, but I SO covet the C30, and when they come out with a hybrid version, watch out!!!

Anne said...

Oh, I almost forgot: a fellow Nigella fan here. I LOVE watching her cook and talk about food! There is nothing better than someone who really enjoys food, and talks about it in a way that conveys that passion.

Brave Sir Robin Hussein said...

Anne - Remember this post?

Look closely at the corn.

Bacon = good eats!

Bee said...


I have a V70! Sky blue, except for the thick crust of gray sludge which covers all UK cars at this time of year. (Ick! We breathe that stuff.) I just had to take my baby in today for a new fog light.

Didn't know you were a former Texan! Austin or Houston? (I'm just guessing since you mentioned Central Market.)

BSRH -- just checked out Steamy Kitchen. Once again, I'm overwhelmed by the creativity and superior visuals. You'll never get those here, but I do promise a wordy personal response to every comment!

Brave Sir Robin Hussein said...

but I do promise a wordy personal response to every comment!

That will always be better than pictures!


Anne said...

BSRH - I do remember that post! And is there bacon in the corn?!? I bet the smoky saltiness is wonderful with the sweetness of the corn.

Bee - My V70 is tan-ish (I think the official name of the color is "moondust") and currently covered in tons of pollen. Bea (the car) is due not only for a bath, but also for a maintenance checkup.

I'm a native Californian (SF Bay Area), but spent my first three years of graduate school in Houston (at Rice). Now I'm doing the rest of my thesis in absentia back in California.

If you enjoy the visuals over at Steamy Kitchen, you might also like the ones at la Tartine Gourmande.

Jan Doble said...

Just wanted to thank you for the birthday wish and for leaving such a nice comment. Of course now that I've checked your blog I've found you quite interesting... so,I'll visit when I can. Was your birthday in march too? If so, happy birthday!

Brave Sir Robin Hussein said...

Anne - oh yes, tiny little bits of diced bacon.

Saute the bacon in a tiny bit of olive oil until just crisp.

Pull it out and set it aside, then saute what ever else you are using, I think that one had shallots, roasted Anaheim's, green onion and diced tomato. (add the tomato later, after the corn). Add the bacon in the last minute. The corn was fresh cut off the cob, and the sweetness of the corn, the bite of the chile, the salty bacon. mmmmmmm

It was so good.

k said...

i love nigella. here in the US we don't get gossip about her so she's stayed perfectly chaste in my mind!

i will definitely try that recipe. i make her "world's easiest dinner" with halloumi cheese A LOT.