Some days, I judge a book by its cover and get taken by appearances.
About a year ago, while browsing through recipes books at Barnes and Nobles, I came across a beautiful recipe book.
Doesn’t it look gorgeous? Such an elegant looking cover and I just love white!
Beautiful pages inside too!
It took me sooooo much willpower to put the book back on the shelf and walk out of the bookstore without buying it. Of course I’m going to get that book. I can’t put the beautiful cover and pictures of country brunches in ranches, cocktail parties with cinnamon pear scones, garden parties in sun-drenched dining rooms out of my mind! But just not at full price. I went back home, logged onto to Amazon and bought a used copy at half the price. Heh heh.
Fast forward a year later, and I still haven’t tried a single recipe from this beautiful book. My friends, let me introduce you an interesting word, and human condition.
Yes, I often buy a book and then leave it unread. I am well aware of this condition I have, and that was why I bought the book used. Anyway, while tidying my shelves, I picked up this book, flipped through the pages and wondered why on earth I haven’t tried anything from here…and also realised that it must have been close to once year since I bought this book. Well, no more procrastinating. I am going to try out a recipe from this book this week!
So it was a case of spotting the first recipe that looked simple enough and didn’t require me to drive out to buy ingredients. On page 178 were two recipes: Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Balsamic Sauce and Polenta, and Tea Room Parmesan Crusted Chicken and Tomato Basil Coulis. Well…there is this bag of yellow corn meal that’s been sitting in the pantry for a long time…and I have parmesan cheese in my fridge. So it will be Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Polenta for dinner – one item from each recipe.
Now, what on earth is Polenta? (You clever ones can skip the next two paragraphs and go straight to the recipes) I’m not the most sophisticated diner and I only came across this word a few years ago. And no, I’ve not eaten it. Guess tonight will be my first.
After Google-searching for what’s Polenta, I felt much better. Apparently, there must be a lot of people out there who do not know what Polenta is, because I came across an article on Huffington Post published in not-too-long ago October 2014 explaining what Polenta is. Well, long story short, polenta is a cheap Italian comfort food, very much like grits. (Again, don’t feel bad if you don’t know what grits are; I have never eaten grits back in Singapore either, and only ate them when I lived in Texas.) It is made from ground cornmeal, usually gets cooked slowly over low heat with any combination of milk, water, cream and butter. It can be served creamy, or chilled and cut into squares and then fried or baked. Polenta and grits are slightly different because of the corn variety. As a result, grits often come out on the mushier side while polenta is generally a little coarser. The Kitchn also has a good article explaining what polenta is.
Okay! We all learnt something new! Now, let’s get on with the cooking!
So I tried the recipes with high hopes…and a little trepidation…Firstly, I’m always nervous trying recipes from a brand new cookbook; you just never know whether the recipes are good and I have my fair share of disappointments. Secondly, I don’t really like to cook with chicken breasts because I find that they easily get dry. I very much prefer chicken thighs.
To be honest when the dish was done, I was a just a liiiitle bit disappointed because it didn’t have that ‘wow’ factor. (My gripe with this recipe book is that it doesn’t have pictures of every recipe. I really need some kind of pictorial reference to know my food came out okay!) I didn’t think this would be a recipe to share BUT, then, I took a bite, and the chicken tasted better than it looked! The meat wasn’t dry, and the crust was crispy and tasty. The polenta tasted good too, even when it was no longer warm much later when we had finished dinner. My husband commented that it tasted like fried chicken and asked if it was fried. Nope. Just pan-fried till golden then baked in the oven. It’s easy enough to prepare, and definitely suitable for a weeknight. There’s some waiting in between, but you can take those pockets of time to do some other stuff. The actual prep time and cooking time when you have to stand by the stove is short.
Parmesan Crusted Chicken Recipe
1 cup milk
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup panko bread crumbs
6 to 8 boneless chicken breasts
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
5-6 tbsp butter
Whisk together the eggs and milk and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the cheese and panko. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a shallow dish. Dredge the chicken in the flour, dip into the egg-milk mixture and press into the cheese-panko mixture. Place in a baking dish, cover and put in the freezer until the coating is almost frozen, about 30-45 min.
While the chicken is in the freezer, prepare the Polenta recipe (see below)
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry polenta (I used yellow cornmeal, because The Kitchn said in the article above that they can’t taste much difference. So I’m gonna use up my old bag of yellow cornmeal!)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Combine the milk, salt and broth in a medium saucepan and heat over medium. Gradually mix in the polenta. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce heat to low. Stirring frequently, cook until the liquid is absorbed and the polenta is creamy, about 20-25 min. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Set aside and keep warm till ready to serve.
They don’t look wow! but I assure you, they do taste great, plus they are really easy to make! Hope you will try this!