April 2011 archive

Chicken Gratin With Onion Sauce and Gruyere & How I Kicked Ass While Powered by Bacon

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You know what’s awesome? Wearing a ‘Praise the Lard’ tshirt and warming up for a 5K while being surrounded by elite marathon runners. I loved watching all these hardcore athletes warm up knowing that they would be powered by Powerade while I would be powered by bacon.

Another thing that’s awesome? Running through campus early on a Sunday morning (through Frat Row no less) and seeing all the myriad walks of shame going on.  There’s nothing like seeing college kids trudging along in various states of undress with obvious hangovers to make me feel virtuous (and old) as I jog by.

You know what’s made of awesome sauce? Finishing your first 5k while being smoked by a 6 year old.  Watching him run was a treat.  He started quite a bit ahead of us and this kid was bound and determined to run the whole thing, regardless of his parents’ plans.  We caught up to him right before we entered the stadium and watching him sprint to the finish line while Marcus and I cheered him on actually made my heart squee.

You know what’s really, really awesome?  Realizing that beer and margaritas work so much better to soothe away post race pain than Bengay.

You know what is amazingly awesome? Getting through months that have seemed like one sucker punch after another and knowing that we never quit running. Through all the frustration, anger and sadness we kept putting one foot in front of another and we never stopped. Shinsplints tried to slow us down but we persevered. And what was our reward? Waking up at 6am to get ready to put one foot in front of the other.  And doing it surrounded by people of all ages, athletic ability and body types.  And knowing you’ve got friends out there in that race sucking it up and running/walking until the end.  And crossing that finish line located on the 50 yard line of Neyland Stadium.  That, my friends, was awesome.

You know what’s else is really, really, really awesome? This chicken.

Read Lobel’s Meat and Wine for more wonderful recipes like this

Oh sure – I thought it would be tasty just based on the ingredients list alone.  Chicken is browned in butter until it’s golden brown.  Onions and shallots are browned into a gorgeously caramelized allium mix.  Wine is added to deglaze the pan and get all the fondy bits of goodness mixed into the sauce.  The chicken finishes cooking in this sauce so that the shallots, onions and wine soak into every crevasse of each piece of chicken.  Then, creme fraiche and mustard are combined at the end and whisked into this mixture to make a sauce that’s smoother than a satin dress. If that wasn’t enough, sprinkle the whole delectable mess with Gruyère cheese.

All of those ingredients are things that I would gorge on by themselves but when you combine them together?  This is a recipe where the sum is greater than the parts, so great that I was briefly rendered speechless when I tried it.  Trust me folks – that’s about as common as a day in Tennessee where no one bitches about the football coach.

I have the hottest sous chefs – my husband and this gorgeous creature.

This is not a recipe for those of you counting calories.  The skin stays on the chicken.  Creme fraiche is no diet food and sprinkling cheese all over it certainly does nothing to slim down its nutritional profile.  But I’m a big believer in eating real food that tastes good, even if it has to be in smaller portions  The gluttony you may feel before you dig in will quickly disappear, alleviated by the rapturous sighs you make while eating it.  It’s that good.

Chicken Gratin with Onion Sauce and Gruyère

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • One 3.5 to 4lb chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 5 ounces Gruyère Cheese, coarsely grated

Cooking Directions

  1. Cut the chicken into 8 serving pieces.
  2. Generously salt the chicken on all sides. In a large saute pan, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat. Work in two batches if needed so you don't overcrowd the chicken pieces, cook the pieces for 5-6 minutes per side until golden brown for a total of 12 minutes. Remove the smaller breast pieces after 4 minutes per side to make sure they're not overdone. Remove the chicken to a plate loosely tented with foil and put them into a 200 degree oven.
  3. Drain the oil from the pan leaving 4 tablespoons and turn the heat to medium. Place the onion and shallot in the pan and saute until the onion pieces start browning on the edges, around 10 - 12 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the wine simmering for two minutes while scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Return the legs, thighs and any juices to the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes per side for a total of 10 minutes. Add the breast pieces and cook for 5 minutes longer making sure all the chicken is cooked through. Remove the pieces from the pan to a plate and keep warm.
  4. Whisk the creme fraiche, mustard and a teaspoon of salt into the pan. Preheat the broiler. Spread half the cheese over the bottom of a casserole dish large enough to hold all the chicken pieces in a single layer. Place the chicken over the cheese, and then pour all the onion sauce evenly over the chicken. Spred the remaining cheese over the chicken and sauce. Place under the broiler until the cheese is starting to brown.

Note: When cutting up the chicken, you’re going to end up with eight pieces.  First remove the entire wing on both sides and set those aside.  Cut off the leg quarters on both sides (leg and thigh) then separate them.  You’re going to filet off the breast and tender on one side, and then repeat on the other side.  You will then cut the breasts in half cross ways.  That will give you your eight pieces.  You can use the back and wings to make stock.

So tomorrow, I’m going to run my first 5K

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My toes are painted.  I’m convinced that glitter nail polish makes me run faster.

I’ve carbo loaded tonight.  Not that this is necessary for a measly 5K but I’ll take any excuse to stuff myself with pasta and pizza.

My ‘Praise the Lard’ t-shirt is washed. My lucky sports bra is clean.

My hot pink running shoes are ready to go.  And I do have scientific proof that these shoes make me run faster.  Plus they make me more fabulous.

I’ve never been much of a runner.  The last time I ran any kind of distance at all was back in college when I was a coxswain for my university’s men’s club crew team.  To be quite honest, I probably wouldn’t have kept up the 6am practices and 5 mile runs but the jerkwad I was dating at the time told me he didn’t think I would be able to keep up the early morning practices. Looking back through the hazy distance of time, I’d like to think that he was just trying to motivate me but I’m still pretty sure it’s because he was an egotistical dick. But I’m grateful for him. Just to spite him I woke up at 5:30am for every single one of those practices. I’ve never been an early morning kind of girl but I made sure to put a smile on my face while I helped lead erg workouts and runs for men who had longer legs proportionally than spiders.

All of this came from the girl that during junior high feared the time of year when the Presidential Fitness awards time came around in gym class.  All of this from the girl that used to be one of the last people chosen when teams were picked.  This from the girl that used to hide behind the shed when forced to run laps in high school gym.  It may have been spite that motivated me, but it was guts and determination that made me stay the distance.   Those are the very things that have made me keep up my running over the last few months.

I’m not a natural runner.  I’ve got a body made for sin and shins made for splints.  I have never felt older than I have the last few months.  The first thing I do when I come back from a run is apply ice and pound Advil.  I think I’ve set a new record for longest time taken to complete the couch to 5K program.  Running is one of the things that I’m truly awful at, but over the last few months, it’s been one of my constants.  I let my life fall apart in other areas but I never stopped running.  I once went running during the rainstorm that flooded the Fellini Krogers.  I’m pretty sure that that’s one of the seven signs but I didn’t stop pounding the pavement.

I’m a bit of a black or white kind of girl.  So I had visions of myself sprinting across the finish line.  Now I was attempting to be realistic; I knew I wasn’t going to run any kind of crazy fast time.  But I had this vision of myself running the entire course which came to an abrupt end when, despite all the ice and ibuprofen in the world, I developed shinspints last week.  So tomorrow, I’m (once again) counting on my husband to chart a new, more realistic course.  I’ve already made a pledge not to run the whole course but I’m trying to remind myself that crossing the finish line is what’s really important.

To celebrate this achievement, I thought I’d post something non-food related.  Instead, I’m sharing some of the songs that will keep my feet moving tomorrow.  Because I’ll use any excuse in the world to make a new playlist and running my first 5K is worthy of that endeavor.

When I work out, I usually stay away from most music that’s ever been played at a music festival.  It’s not that I don’t love that kind of music.  But it’s not the music that makes me want to move.  I usually go back to the 80s which were a kinder, gentler era, especially for my knees.  I have a tendency to pick either music that brings out the drag queen in me or music that I used to mosh to.  And that’s what I’m going to inflict upon you tonight.

I would like to note that the music below is the only time I’ve ever willingly listened to Taylor Swift.  And Whitney – I will always love you.

This next song could only be more fabulous to run to if I was a six foot tall drag queen. Alas, I have to work with what I’ve got.  As I run to this, I choreograph the flash mob musical number I will one day perform with one hundred drag queens. Eh – who am I kidding? I choreograph that number in my head even when this song isn’t playing.

Britney + Dead or Alive = awesome.  Actually anything with Dead or Alive is made of awesome sauce.

Because Goldfrapp is made of glitter and unicorns:

Because if I had ‘Maniac on my playlist’, I’d forget to run and start breaking it down on the race course. Besides, this allows me to point at the imaginary judges and occasionally leap through an imaginary sunbeam:

Kanye – I try to quit you dude but Imma let you finish after I run to this song:

Because you have to listen to this song when you run. It’s a rule:

I’m looking for this man. To sell him to another man:

Because there is never a time in your life where Abba isn’t appropriate. Ever.

And I really should be ashamed at the amount of Britney that I listen to when I run but that would require a degree of soul searching that I’m not willing to be capable of. This will be one of those songs that keep me going at the end:

So tomorrow, I’ll be running come 7:45 in the morning. I know there are cupcakes waiting for me at the finish line. I wish myself shins that don’t hurt and wish you all sweet dreams. I’ll see you at the finish line.