“Recipes for Young Men” is a theme I’ve tossed around for a while now. It was first inspired by a bi-monthly request from an ex-boyfriend in good standing for my baguette recipe. Come to think of it… Yo, I believe I never sent it to you the last time you asked. If this is the case, let me know. At any rate, one of my co-workers falls into the “Young Man” category and I’ve been promising to pass on Jeff’s chicken masala recipe to him with no follow through. So it has come to pass that “Recipes for Young Men” will see the light of day. The recipes I’ll be including are not for the wide-eyed newb with zero kitchen skills. Instead, they are for folks who find themselves at the crossroad of college and first job; those who are ready to build on their foundations and learn to cook like a mensch. The ingredients are cheap and accessible. The required kitchen tools do not go beyond what most folks have in their kitchens, although adaptions will be offered in certain cases. They also make great leftovers for work lunches the next day if sandwiches have ceased to amuse.

So…here we go.

Jeff’s Chicken Masala

Get thee:

Bottle of white wine – Don’t throw down $20 on a bottle, but pick one you can stand to drink since you won’t use all of it for cooking.
Large package of mushrooms; 12 oz I think
1 chicken breast or a 1 – 1 1/2 lb package of those prepounded chicken cutlets all the mercados sell.
flour – Don’t be afraid of buying a 5 lb bag of flour. It lasts forever if you keep it sealed in a cool, dry place.
butter
olive oil
salt
pepper
thyme – Get yo spices in bulk at a food co-op or, since we are in Chicago, the ubiquitous Whole Foods. Fuck Jewel-Osco and their $7 bottles of stale herbs.

Preparation

1) Pour a cup of flour into a bowl. Lightly coat your chicken cutlets or pounded chicken breast in flour. Make sure to shake off any excess.

How to pound chicken breasts – Lay the meat on the counter. Cover it with plastic wrap. If you don’t have plastic wrap, use the plastic that wrapped the chicken or even a plastic bag. Whack it with something heavy if you don’t have one of those meat tenderizer mallets. A rolling pin works best, but I’ve also been known to use a soup can (carefully, watch your fingers), a hammer (gently, since it will puncture the chicken), the end of a screwdriver. A baseball bat might even work, especially those miniature commemorative ones they sell at Wrigleyville. Keep at the chicken until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Slice into 4 portions since it will get wider as it gets thinner. Think one slice per person size, not chicken tender size.

2) Heat a bit of olive oil and 1/2 tbsp of butter in your skillet. Cook the floured chicken pieces until lightly browned on either side.

For the skilletless – Do the above but in a pot. Pick a pot that is wide enough to lay the chicken flat and shallow enough to get a decent browning. If it’s too deep, you’ll end up steaming the chicken and it will never brown.

3) Add sliced mushrooms on top of the chicken.

4) Add salt and pepper as you like, then about 1 tbsp. of thyme.

5) Add 3/4 cup, maybe 1 cup of wine. Cover the skillet/pot. If you don’t have matching lids for the pot, a large plate will work.

6) Turn heat down to medium, simmer for 15-20 minutes.

7) Remove lid. If mushrooms are cooked, sprinkle 1 tbsp of flour on top. Stir it around a bit without breaking the cutlets. The remaining liquid should thicken a bit into a nice sauce.

8) Serve with orzo or mashed potatoes.

Notes
1) This dish is also good with a couple tablespoons of capers or some chopped up black or green olives. Jeff has been known to throw in some Hungarian paprika for a touch of heat. Oregano is good too.

2) This dish will serve four.

3) Get a skillet, for the love of the kitchen gods and gastronomy. For the same price as one night out, you could get a really nice one that won’t give you Alzheimer’s or heavy metal poisoning from Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond. Make a day of it. Grab your cooking friend, get some Sunday brunch and go to BBB. There is one in your neighborhood. A whole world of cooking will open up. You can scramble those eggs you keep buying and forgetting to use.

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