Real Food. Real Family. Real Midwest.

5 Rules. 5 People. 5 Weeks… and counting.

The last two.

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“Two what?,” you ask?

The last two dinners from my list of 6 easy, boy-pleasing “real” dinners, silly! You know, the things I cook over and over again. Remember? From that kinda rambly blog post back in April? “Oh, yeahhh…,” you say (here I like to imagine you nodding excitedly).

“Well, it’s about time…!” you then add (which makes me feel a little bit annoyed with you.) I’ve been kind of busy: three boys, summer vacation, actually getting paid to write every once in awhile (e.g. this article about swimming pools for the News-Sentinel). But I digress.

So. The previous posts were for #1 turkey meatloaf and #2 sauteed shrimp; then #3 broiled tilapia and #4 pasta and “gravy”; and NOW:

#5 Broiled Salmon

Of course, you should be looking for wild caught — better for you, better for the oceans (check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium app for helpful guidelines on buying fish). It’s wonderful if you can get it fresh, but that isn’t always an option. I think frozen cooks up almost as well (and it’s handy to just have some in the freezer when you need to make an easy dinner).

I give it basically the same treatment that I give to the tilapia.

  • defrost (if frozen)
  • smear with olive oil, salt & pepper
  • place skin side down in a broiler pan
  • press some parmesan and/or whole wheat bread crumbs on top; drizzle with more olive oil
  • broil for, uh… 5 mins? depends how thick the pieces are and how done you like your fish — I dislike overly dry salmon, so I take it out when it’s still very moist in the center

Serve with brown rice that you get going before starting the fish — here’s Gwyneth’s (yes, her again — eyeroll) recipe.  Add a cooked frozen or fresh veg that’s easy for you.  Or I sometimes do roasted potatoes — Mama Fries — instead of rice. Not often, because it makes the timing for one oven trickier OR I have to use both of my ovens and the kitchen gets super hot. But I guess we had a chilly summer because I have photos showing that I apparently cooked up potatoes some time recently:

salmon with roasted potatoes and green beans

salmon with roasted potatoes and green beans

wild-caught salmon with organic brown rice and organic frozen peas

wild-caught salmon with organic brown rice and organic frozen peas








#6 Sauteed Chicken Breasts

Local, free-range, all natural. Natch. Now this approach to cooking chicken breasts I learned from watching Jacques Pepin’s cooking show on PBS: Fast Food My Way. I actually don’t watch cooking shows much.

“OBVIOUSLY,” some of you may say. (You guys are being kinda jerk-y today. Hmmph.)

So I don’t watch cooking shows much, but I love, love, love Jacques Pepin. He’s so quintessentially French, yet so unpretentious.  So classically trained, yet so laissez-fair in his approach to cooking. And he’s adorable (yes, I realize he’s about 80 years old but I would definitely go on a date with him if he asked).  And, by the way, his autobiography, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, is a super fun read — especially the part about overseeing food service for the Howard Johnson restaurant/hotel chain back in the 1960s (you can imagine the types of dishes he was forced to cook up for the American palate back then).

Anyway, back to the food! Until just a few years ago, I did not at all like to cook (or eat, for that matter) skinless, boneless chicken breasts. They always came out so bland and DRY with that weird chewing gum texture, you know? But I caught an episode of Jacques’ show where he explained how to cook chicken breasts so that they come out moist and flavorful every time. And he’s right!

It really does make a huge difference: do NOT use the highly processed chicken breasts from massive industrial chicken processors. Even the best cooking method can’t save these sorry excuses for food, I’m afraid.  I find that freezing the good stuff doesn’t adversely affect how it comes out — so I keep a few packages in the freezer at all times. Here are the steps:

  • defrost (if frozen)
  • get some olive oil (or safflower) heating on med-high in a skillet
  • rinse and pat dry; generously sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper
  • once oil is hot, place chicken in the pan — don’t crowd it and don’t move it around
  • get a nice brown sear on that side (if it’s sticking to the pan when you try to turn it, you haven’t seared it enough); then turn to other side and do the same — depending on size, this takes roughly 4-5 mins per side
  • when both sides are seared, immediately cover the pan with a lid and remove it from the heat; let sit 5+ mins, depending on size
  • slice to verify doneness and serve

Here are some pics — don’t they look nice?

Nicely done!

searing chicken

searing chicken







sauteeing mushrooms in butter

sauteeing mushrooms in butter

Then, do the usual from previous posts, serve up with rice or potatoes and an easy cooked or fresh veg. Though in these photos I got a little fancy for a weeknight: sauteed some organic mushroom, cooked some organic frozen corn, made mashed potatoes from organic potatoes, AND made gravy from the pan drippings (I use whole wheat flour as the thickener). I don’t typically put quite so many elements into dinner for the boys — not sure what came over me… probably I just had a craving for mashed potatoes and gravy.

And as Jacques would say in that heart-melting French accent, while toasting the camera with a big glass of wine: “Now THAT is fast food MY way!”



making gravy

making gravy

Author: Beth Behrendt

freelance writer with particular interest in food, urban development, architecture, technology and history

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