My attitude toward cooking tends to swing wildly back and forth between “what is the quickest thing I can nuke” to “what do you mean, Safeway is all out of Meyer lemons??” I recently experienced a swing to the ambitious side when I received some Le Creuset cookware for Christmas from my husband, along with the new New York Times Cookbook. (I’m just going to pretend I didn’t notice the not-so-subtle hint.)
The cookbook, a lengthy, witty collection of readers’ favorite recipes tested and compiled by Amanda Hesser, now haunts me day and night. I want to try all the recipes, but I'm also perplexed and frightened by them. Some of the recipes share the secrets of traditional American and European dishes like fried chicken and cassoulet. Many are complex and time consuming, and some of them are just plain crazy, using ingredients that are very unlikely to taste good together, and yet… do. And pretty much all of the recipes call for generous amounts of butter, bacon, salt pork, lard, or your fat of choice. Hesser warns of this in her introduction, cautioning cooks not to use the Times cookbook as a weight-loss plan.
There are, thankfully, some quick and easy recipes sprinkled in between the ones that call for homemade duck confit and quail eggs. Hesser joked that she should have called the book "Chicken and Dessert" judging by the number of reader requests for these. (We chefs here at L'Academie de CurrentMom Cuisine favor chicken entrees too: Check out Moroccan Grilled Chicken, Tortilla Soup with Chicken and Avocado, and Red Curry Crock Pot Chicken.)
So, as tempted as I was to build a large bonfire in my back yard to make Eisenhower’s Steak in the Fire, my better judgment (and my homeowner’s association) won out. So far I’ve stuck with chicken entrees that are simpler to prepare. One, in particular, stands out as both incredibly easy and improbably delicious: Chicken Roasted with Sour Cream, Lemon Juice and Mango Chutney, adapted from Fifteen Minute Meals by Emmalee Chapman and published in the Times on July 15, 2001:
Chicken Roasted with Sour Cream, Lemon Juice and Mango Chutney
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half, 4 ounces each
1/2 cup Hellmann's mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons Major Grey's mango chutney
1 teaspoon curry powder
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon or 1 regular lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lay the chicken flat in a medium roasting dish (either Pyrex or enamel). In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and sour cream. Add the chutney and curry powder and whisk until smooth. Add the lemon juice a little at a time and taste as you go. It should taste quite tangy. Stop when it is to your liking.
2. Spoon the sauce evenly over the chicken. Place in the oven and roast until the chicken is just cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, season with freshly ground black pepper and serve.
YIELD: 2 servings .
I like this recipe because it requires little investment—if you hate it, you will only have lost 20 minutes of your life and two chicken breasts. I know what you’re thinking. Chutney? Mayonnaise? Trust me. After tentative first bites, we devoured it and my toddler demanded more. The sauce is smooth, tangy, and delicious and the chicken stays wonderfully tender. (And no, you don’t have to use a Meyer lemon!)
Photo by Chiot's Run on Flickr.