When I started out on this challenge, I figured that by the end of the year I'd have at least a dozen new tried-and-tested chicken recipes, and another dozen or so pasta ones, salads, sides, etc., that I'd be able to turn to with confidence instead of relying on all our old faithfuls. So this week I turned back to finding a quick chicken dinner option that hopefully expanded our weeknight choices. I like the idea of making a delicious pan sauce while the chicken is cooking and thought this tomato and fennel sauce would be a nice accompaniment... unfortunately, lesson learned: I loved it (tasty, rich and mellow) and definitely good for adult fare or easy company dinner, but not a hit with either of the kids who were at the table that night. Maddie wouldn't even give it a try and Austin took a bite and then passed. All was not lost since they both loved the crispiness of the panko-crusted chicken but neither wanted to complicate things with some fancy, and apparently unneeded, sauce.
This week actually marks the end of the full 365-day cycle of this challenge for us since I began it as the kids went back to school last September. At the time, Corbin had tried to convince me to postpone it until January so he would only have to suffer through eight months of it before leaving for university in August, but I knew myself well enough to know that I'm way more goal oriented, energetic and focused in September than I ever am in January (seems like such a cliche for the entire world to have resolutions en masse) so I couldn't be talked out of it. But January is when Jen, Carole and I actually started blogging about our adventures so I still have another four months to go before we really reach the finish line together. It hasn't quite unfolded the way I expected. When I started out, I thought that by the end of the year all my cookbooks would be sauce-splattered, sticky and covered with handwritten notes and reviews in the margins, but technology intervened. When my iPad arrived unexpectedly on Christmas Day, all of my attention turned online instead. Talk about making my life easier. And, ever since, it's been my lifesaver and trusty companion, propped on the kitchen counter and providing never-ending inspiration. Thanks to Q for knowing I needed one when even I didn't.
Chicken Milanese with Tomato and Fennel Sauce
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups panko
2/3 cup grated parmesan
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, tenderloins removed
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp olive oil
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 clove garlic
1 tsp dried thyme or 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using three wide shallow bowls, add the flour to one, the eggs to another and the panko, cheese, basil and thyme to the third. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly, then dip into the beaten eggs, and then coat with the panko mixture, pressing gently to adhere.
In a large, nonstick saute pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add two pieces of the chicken to the oil and cook until light golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to the oven and cook for about 15 minutes. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
For the sauce: using the same saucepan, add the olive oil to the reserved cooking juices and heat over medium heat. Add the fennel and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the cherry tomatoes, salt, pepper, garlic and thyme. Cook for 5 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender. Remove the pan from the heat and add the mascarpone and stir until the mixture is creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Rest of the week
Aug 30 Assorted paninis
Aug 31 Chicken milanese with tossed salad
Sept 1 Farewell family dinner at The Keg for Corbin before he leaves for university. Sob.