Yesterday, for whatever reason, found me in a funk. An eye-straining day at work spent staring at numbers on a computer screen, followed by a walk home through the rain, followed by an hour and a half of a particularly exhausting workout, and I was in no mood to cook. But the show must go on, unfortunately.
With friends coming over in an hour, I picked a quick, easy recipe to throw together, hopefully before they arrived, so I wouldn’t force them to watch me eat (and on that, I was a failure). So Chicken Milanese it was! This recipe actually comes with “four very special ways” to make it, so I’m pretty sure Gwyneth is counting it as four separate recipes. Which is actually something I can respect. If I had to write a cookbook, I would totally count one recipe as four, just to reach my 150-recipe goal. I can’t fault Gwyneth for that.
I decided to prepare the meal the first “very special way,” Chicken Milanese with Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Arugula, which comes with an amusingly egotistical origin story: “One of my best friends once called me in a panic — she had to cook dinner for her boyfriend and did not know what to make — she had never cooked anything. I described how to prepare the Chicken Milanese and winged this topping — it was a hit. She, and I, make it to this day.”
Ummmm bullshit. Who is this friend, this adult woman, who had never cooked anything? And even if such a person existed, who had literally never cooked a single thing in her life, how had she gotten into a situation in which she absolutely HAD to cook dinner for her boyfriend? What sort of a boyfriend demands his girlfriend cook for him, when he knows full well that she has never even so much as sauteed an onion? Nope, no way this story happened. And if it did, then your friends are awful, Gwyneth.
Anyway, still in my sweaty workout clothes, I trekked to the grocery store to get the few things I needed. They were all pretty basic, so I didn’t fear any hiccups. But hiccups there were! The grocery store was, of course, out of arugula. If there was one thing I was definitely not in the mood for, it was going to a second grocery store (which is almost always going to be necessary for most of these recipes), so I just grabbed a pre-packaged “spring mix” of lettuce and called it a day. I also bought organic, free-range chicken breasts, even though the cost for that stuff is astronomical. But that’s the price we pay for not ingesting chemical slurry made to look like chicken, I guess.
The first step when I returned home was to cover some cherry tomatoes in olive oil and a pinch of coarse sea salt, and then toss them into the oven for 45 minutes, until they’re “split and blistered and super sweet.”
Then the fun part: pounding the shit out of some chicken. I gave the chicken breasts Gwyneth’s recommended salt scrub, after which I was told to dry them with paper towels. Well, we’re out of paper towels, so toilet paper will have to do. This meal was already turning into a cheap imitation of Gwyneth’s Chicken Milanese, so why not throw all respectability out the window and incorporate toilet paper into the disaster? Once the chicken was dried (and any lingering strips of toilet paper carefully picked off), I placed it between two sheets of parchment paper and went to town with a mallet. Have you ever tenderized chicken before? It’s fantastic. The chicken really flattens with every whack of the mallet, giving you a strangely satisfying feeling of demolishing something. It’s great for frustration.
I gave the tomatoes a stir in the oven — they were definitely splitting and blistering! — and heated up some olive oil in a skillet. I then took the chicken and dunked it into a bowl of almond milk. Gwyneth merely specifies “milk,” but I remembered her admonitions earlier about “cow’s milk” being an alternative to almond, soy, or hemp milk, so I chose almond milk to appease the Paltrow gods. Although the act of dipping pulverized dead chicken meat into a bowl of thick almond milk felt absolutely, horrifyingly disgusting. I suddenly wasn’t as hungry. Then, I simply rolled the milk-coated chicken in a pile of panko, and fried those suckers up in the olive oil.
While the chicken was frying, I tossed my stupid boxed “spring mix” with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt. Once the chicken had a nice, brown, crisp crust on both sides, I plated the chicken, and topped it with the spring mix, as well as a heaping pile of the slow-roasted tomatoes. And that was dinner! It was actually simple and cheap, and it only required my friends to sit and watch me cook for 20 minutes or so. (Sorry, guys.)
The Chicken Milanese was actually good, too. I mean, it’s fried chicken, which is never bad. The best part was by far the slow-roasted tomatoes — I made sure to have one with every bite of chicken. The meal wasn’t particularly inspiring or exciting, but it was simple, easy, and satisfied my post-workout craving for MEAT without being overly heavy or unhealthy. So not bad, I guess.
And then the wine, and then Survivor, and life was good again.