Tonight’s dinner started with high hopes and eager enthusiasm. After Monday night’s success, I was fired up about coming home and cooking another fresh, homemade dinner on a weeknight. Yes, my day at work had not been the best. Yes, I was suffering from the early stages of a cold and/or allergies. Yes, I was tired. But I was going to cook! I had the menu all planned: Double Mustard-Apricot Chicken (which my mother-in-law, Loveta, made last week, to great success), Spicy Wilted Spinach, and Roasted Yellow Squash.
I got the yellow squash in the oven, no problem. I had the garlic minced for the spinach. It was time for the chicken. Loveta had suggested I pound down the chicken breasts so that they would cook evenly and quickly. One kitchen utensil I do not own: a meat mallet. After some quick thinking, I grabbed a jar of salsa from the pantry and pounded away. It wasn’t elegant, but it worked. Then I preheated my recently-seasoned cast iron skillet and put in the chicken. Immediately I sensed danger. I gently tried to lift the edges of the chicken; they were adhering to the skillet. I just left them alone until it was time to turn the chicken over. I had to use a spatula to pry the breasts up, but I got the job done. Needless to say, the chicken was looking a little burned by this point.
True disaster struck five minutes later, however, when I removed the chicken from the skillet and put in the ingredients for the sauce. It was as if Mt. Vesuvius was getting ready to burst, there was so much smoke. Within seconds, alarms sounded. Literally. The smoke detectors and alarm sensors in Every. Room. In. The. House. went off. While all of that was happening, I also was trying desperately to save what sauce I could before it burned into oblivion, get the spinach off the heat before it, too, was cooked beyond repair, and take the squash out of the oven. John, meanwhile, managed to turn the sirens off, and I, defeated, fixed our plates.
The chicken tasted like burnt chicken rather than mustard and apricot, as you might expect. In fact, I cannot even rate the recipe because I have no idea what it should have tasted like. The spinach and squash were tasty, at least, and I can still count tonight as my 9th new recipe of the year because the spinach was a recipe new to me. (It earned 4 stars from me, 3 from John.) As for the Double Mustard-Apricot Chicken, it will have to wait for another day.
In the meantime, I can remain thankful that I still had food to eat for dinner tonight, and that I have a sweet husband who volunteered to clean up my kitchen mess, including the sad, sad skillet. John, I love you.
Spicy Wilted Spinach
1 TB olive oil
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (5- or 6-oz) package fresh baby spinach
1/8 tsp. salt (In the post-siren craziness, I did not even think of adding this.)
4 lemon wedges (Nor these.)
1. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add crushed red pepper and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add spinach, and cook 1 minute or just until spinach begins to wilt. Sprinkle spinach mixture with salt, and serve immediately with lemon wedges.
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1¼ cups spinach and 1 lemon wedge – supposedly: my serving was nowhere near that amount.) Per serving, 1 PointsPlus.