Roasted Fall Tomatoes and Chicken

a photograph of a roast chickenSo, it should be some indication of how scatterbrained I am these days (read: genuinely busy being a mom and a regular person) that I somehow didn’t post about this recipe. And, holy cow, what could be nicer? I had a recipe in the Dallas Morning News on September 11th. Now, there were other things going on that day. It was one of those rare nights when Pitts and I indulge in getting a sitter and going out to play. My gal Lori Whitlow was having a wee little birthday dinner at the new Andre Natera eatery, Village Kitchen. We gorged on appetizers, including a fantastic fresh avocado flat-bread and by the time I ordered dinner I was approaching full. Wait, that isn’t quite right. We gorged on cheeses and grilled Italian artichokes packed in olive oil from Molto Formaggio at Lori’s, then we pigged out on appetizers, and then I had to make choices from Natera’s very entertaining menu. I say entertaining because I wanted to try pretty much everything. I don’t like being confused. So I punted. If you ever want people at a nice restaurant to look at you like you have flipped your lid completely, order this for your entree:

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Crunchy Basil Chicken

main image of crunchy basil chickenThis was my answer to my internal dialogue wherein I asked myself if I was really going to make plain chicken breasts again for dinner. I gazed out my kitchen window and I also chided myself for not having used any of my fresh basil plants which I have kept alive through sheer force of will throughout the summer. I have pinched it and watered it and talked to it, but I haven’t really cooked with it. So, while I was giving myself a hard time about these things, the skeleton for this recipe emerged in my mind.

Breaded baked chicken dishes are usually disappointing unless you are a master fryer. They never seem to get crisp on the bottom and often end up soggy.  Plus, grilling or pan sautéing chicken is so quick and handy. The trick was to combine the two…and use my basil.

So, my mind turned to the idea of preparing a crunchy topping instead of a messy breading and I came up with the idea for a savory granola. This recipe makes twice as much as you need for a four person meal. But I detest the notion of using “half” of a separated egg. This is not exactly logical but, you will find a million different ways to use this topping…basically on any meat for which you would like a breading but don’t want to fool with the mess of frying. It also makes a stellar casserole topping and, in fact, I used it for a crunch topping for a tuna noodle casserole and it was just perfect. It is simply a great and easy “All Purpose Crunchy Topping.”

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Jalapeno Chicken Salad Wraps with Spicy Pecans

Jalapeno Chicken Salad Lettuce WrapsLast week in Wichita Falls, I had a ton of help from Sera Daugherty and Stacie Curd, who operate a catering company called Bistro Express. I realized sometime during the preparation for the speaking engagement for the Wichita Falls Symphony League that I could not, in fact, speak to 170 people AND feed them. I also realized that since I am just a home cook, I might not even be allowed to do so legally. So, basically, Bistro Express saved the day and made all of the food for the event using my recipes. Incidentally, I’m good at sizing chef’s recipes DOWN to family size from crowd size, but I am not necessarily good sizing recipes UP from family size to crowd size. Sera and Stacy made the tuna tartare, lobster bites, whole grain mustard and sour cream sauce for the hot smoked salmon, handled the service and generally made my life simple…or at least more simple.

One of the many lovely things they did was feed me lunch on a day when I was running about like a headless chicken. They had made a huge tray of Sour Cream and Chicken Enchiladas for another event and sent me home to work on my speech with a plate of enchiladas to strengthen me. They were amazing. I’ve been thinking of them ever since. Yesterday, instead of making hot enchiladas, I was inspired by their dish to try a “cold enchilada” wrapped in a lettuce leaf. You see, one does not get very healthy “testing” Texas cheeses, honey, caviar, smoked salmon and the like. This is what resulted. I got a round of compliments from my family and decided to pass it along to you.
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Green Chile Chicken Soup

I have a friend named Natalie. She just turned 50 and jumped out of an airplane to mark the occasion. She also smiles non-stop, laughs from her soul, and creates new friendships by magnetically pulling diverse individuals into her orbit. She is silly and goofy and pretty and nice.

She gave me a recipe for this soup, generally. I changed it a bit, loved it, and then misplaced it. I went back through my photos of the first try, put the steps back together, and came up with this version. So, this is Natalie’s idea, except that it might not really be even remotely similar.

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Individual Chicken Pot Pies

I’d be fibbing if I didn’t admit that the spiritual predecessor of these pies is Rebecca Rather’s “All Sold Out Chicken Pot Pies from her exceptional The Pastry Queen.” At this point, they don’t really match up, but hers was the first recipe that made me think that I could actually make a superior chicken pot pie. The cookbook, The Pastry Queen, is a favorite of mine and one of the 20 or so cookbooks that I don’t think I could ever be without.

Now my pies are slightly different in almost every regard, but the result is the same great comfort staple. I remember as a kid thinking that the Swanson pot pies were truly the end-all-be-all of lucky dinners. Someday I’ll make this in tiny little foil pie tins just so my kids can experience the joy of the little tongue scorching personal meal. These homemade pies are much better, but I laugh at myself that I consider the TV dinner version a true symbol of comfort. I can hear my brother and me at the grocery store, begging my mother to buy several boxes.

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