Last night, I made plans to make an intricate dinner — the sort of meal that involves several layers of cooking preparation, and the sort of meal I would have made easily pre-baby. I planned to slow roast tomatoes, caramelize mushrooms and pan sear a flattened chicken breast in fig balsamic vinegar. I was going to serve the chicken with goat cheese and spinach as well as the prepared mushrooms and tomatoes.
But then the baby cried. And cried. B tried to console him and I worked quickly in the kitchen, but it became clear quickly that what he really wanted was milk. Out went the plans to slow roast the tomatoes. Rather than slowly caramelize the mushrooms, I threw them into the pan and splashed in a few ingredients to make a quick sauce. The tomatoes went in, fresh, with the spinach, and I quickly plated the meal over coucous (a great grain for the time-challenged, since it comes together in 5 minutes).
Basically, I learned to make dinner as a busy parent. And you know what? It was delicious. It was home-cooked, hearty and healthy. It was all those things, and while I missed the deep flavor of the tomatoes I couldn’t roast or the tanginess of the goat cheese I didn’t have time to slather on, it was the freshest meal I have had since Baby S was born. And for that I was grateful.
So, busy people of the world — parents or otherwise — this one is for you. Recipe after the jump.
Note: I used a fig balsamic vinegar in this recipe that was gifted to me by a friend. You can definitely substitute regular balsamic vinegar, or even a red wine vinegar. It will taste different, but definitely still delicious. Experiment with what you have on hand!
Start by butterflying 2 chicken breasts by slicing them horizontally almost the entire way through. This thins out the breast so it cooks faster. Sprinkle 1 tbsp. flour, 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. black pepper over both sides of the chicken.
Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a cast-iron skillet. I used my Lodge, which I highly recommend because it is a great kitchen tool that is also affordable.
Saute the chicken for about 5 minutes on each side, until it begins to brown. Remove from the pan into a plate a cover with foil.
Deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of white wine or water. Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth, 2 tbsp. fig balsamic vinegar and the juice of 1/2 a lemon.
Once the sauce comes to a boil, add 2 cups of sliced cremini mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes, then add 2 cups of fresh spinach leaves and 1 cubed beefsteak tomato. Saute until spinach wilts, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Return chicken to pan and spoon the sauce over it. Remove from heat, and prepare your couscous (or whatever grain you plan to serve). Plate the chicken over the couscous, top with a generous heap of the vegetables, and pour some of the pan sauce over both the chicken and the couscous.
You could top the dish with chopped parsley, though I didn’t have time to do that. If you wanted to include the goat cheese, I would slather it on the cooked chicken before piling on the vegetables. That way it will melt into the flavors of the dish.