I am not a perfect cook, but at least my successful meals greatly outweigh the bad ones. As any parent knows, it is simply impossible to prepare perfect meals and baked goods every time you enter the kitchen. In my case I usually screw something up because I am deliriously tired, hence not concentrating on the task at hand, or am distracted by my daughter stuffing the entire contents of my tupperware drawer into the washing machine. Just this winter I really messed up my favorite cookie recipe, one that I had successfully made a thousand times before. During the dough preparation I was so tired from being awake for two hours the night before (she was teething) that I flat out forgot to put baking soda in the dough. Needless to say, the resulting cookies resembled hard lumpy frisbees, not unlike something I had made in pottery class during third grade. At times like these I remind myself that as parents we have to forgive ourselves these little mistakes. We can't be perfect all the time, and, after all, that is why the delivery menu was invented.
Last week I had a successful run of delicious meals and, instead, managed a food screw-up of the technical variety. I just made the below dish and was thrilled with the results. As with all of my dishes I took several pictures for you, including a great one of the bright green spring asparagus in the steamer basket. I was excited to post them here for everyone to see, confident that you would love them. Then I plugged the camera into the computer and, bam, I erased them all in one fell swoop. In this case I can't even blame my daughter for the mix-up, she was asleep. I think I was just tired after a long morning of chasing a toddler around a playground and hit the wrong button. To that end, I apologize for not having photographs of the food for you. (However, in lieu of food pictures I have posted some pictures of my friend Peggy's awesome kitchen.) But I do want to assure you, despite the lack of visual evidence, this dish is very good.
The whole reason I chose to make this dish in the first place is that my husband loves shallots. I don't know why but he is always requesting shallots in his food, even encouraging me to replace onions with shallots whenever possible. I don't mind these requests at all since I love them too. As you can imagine, when I was recently reviewing my "to try" file I was thrilled to find this recipe clipping. I was even more thrilled that from the start it proved to be perfect for Naptime Chef-ing. One of my most important Naptime Chef time-saver techniques is to pre-chop vegetables and prepare meat or poultry ahead of time whenever possible. In this case, during afternoon naptime I seasoned the chicken breasts and placed them, covered, in a pan in the fridge for the remainder of the afternoon. Then I peeled and quartered the shallots, zested and juiced the lemons, and trimmed the asparagus, all of which were placed in individual glass bowls in the fridge for that evening. When it came time to prepare the dish all I had to do was set up my bowls next to the stove and add everything, bit by bit, to the skillet. The asparagus was perhaps the easiest thing to do, merely requiring that I set it in a steamer basket for a few minutes while the chicken was bubbling away.
As we began to eat our meals my husband went straight for the shallots on his plate. In the chicken pan they had turned tender and translucent, absorbing all of the delicious chickeny juices, and when they were speared with a fork the layers literally came apart on their own. Upon the first bite the shallots burst in our mouths, yielding delicious pockets of a juicy mild onion flavor enhanced with a natural chicken stock. The chicken proved to be wonderfully moist and lemony, which paired nicely with the tender green asparagus that had been lightly sprinkled with the lemon-shallot sauce. This meal was satisfying on many levels, not the least of which was the delicious shallots that more than adequately satisfied my husband's craving. I have put the recipe in our permanent file, something that I draw from again and again. Of course, there will always be days when nothing goes right and I end up ordering delivery while I erase all of the pictures on my computer. But, until then, I'll be eating shallots.
Lemon Chicken with Shallots and Asparagus - adapted from Food & Wine 2005
3 T. Olive Oil
2 Bone-in chicken breasts
Salt & Pepper
4 shallots, peeled and quartered
1 cup of water
2 T. unsalted butter
1 bunch thin asparagus, ends trimmed
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1. In a large skillet heat olive oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper, place the pieces in the skillet and brown evenly, about 10 minutes.
2. Add shallots to the chicken and cook for additional 2 minutes.
3. Add water to chicken and shallots and cover with tightly fitting lid. Let the water simmer on low heat until chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and place cleaned asparagus in a steamer basket over the water to cook. Remove asparagus once it is tender, but still green. About 3-4 minutes.
5. Transfer chicken to a plate, add lemon juice and zest to the water and shallots. Bring to a boil and reduce sauce for about 3 minutes. Finish sauce with unsalted butter, swirling it in the water to melt.
6. Pour the sauce over the chicken and asparagus to serve. Be sure to add several of the cooked shallots to each plate, they are delicious.
Naptime Recipe Props: This meal as all of the hallmarks as the perfect Naptime Chef dish, a lot can be done ahead of time and the dish is consistently delicious. Feel free to add whatever else you would like to the dish depending on your mood. You might like to try using haricot vert instead of asparagus, for example, or try adding more shallots if you so desire.
Naptime Stopwatch: The naptime pre-time took about 30 minutes. Then, the actual cooking time is about 25 minutes. Be sure to make sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked, nobody likes raw chicken.
Naptime Reviews: Obviously my husband adored this dish. My daughter loved the chicken, which I cut up into little bits for her. However, she still finds asparagus too strong for her young palate, so I substituted peas instead.