Cooking for Two, the second time around

I was checking out Google’s new, expanded newspaper archives this weekend, because Toby’s been feeling under the weather and I’ve renewed my pledge to attempt to cook more. First of all, let me say that I’ve believed this site will revolutionize Clipped & Diced since the moment I heard about it on Lifehacker.

First of all, as a big visual person, I was floored to see the timeline breakdown of when articles were published. Here’s what I saw when I searched for recipes.

One of the first pieces I found was an LA Times article discussing the increase in recipes designed for two diners. Toby and I receive subscriptions to several magazines targeted for two-person households, and we have a few cookbooks along those same lines. The interesting part of the article to me was the fact that it was printed in 1986. It could have very well been written today.

Look at the increase in articles that match the term “Cooking for Two” over time.

Twenty years after the L.A. Times article was written, the Pillsbury Bake-Off caught onto the trend and added a Cooking for Two category, as I discovered from The (Doylestown, PA) Intelligencer. However, it appears as though by 2008, the category was eliminated. Never fear, I contacted the folks at Pillsbury as to the history of this category, and perhaps they will get back in touch with me.

I needed more facts and figures. So I went to the US Census Web site and trolled through a few reports.

The image is tiny (I took a screen capture from the PDF I opened at school), but you can see two-person households increased from 25.2 million in 1980 to 34.4 million in 2000. That’s a lot more potential subscribers to Cooking for 2 magazine.

The previous image may have seemed dramatic, but this graph indicates that the average household size actually only decreased from 2.75 people to 2.59 people between 1980 and 2000. According to the Cansus Bureau, “The steepest decline in average household size occurred in the 1970s, a period coinciding with the baby-bust period, relatively low levels of immigration, and increasing proportions of people living alone.” Additionally, the relatively small chance between 1990 and 2000 may be because of “higher immigration levels and the tendency for immigrants to live in larger households.”

Have I mentioned the Census Bureau is a delightful source of random interesting information?

For our attempt at a two-person meal, Toby and I settled on a 2004 recipe from our very own Seattle Times.

Red Curry Chicken Saute with Coconut and Lime

– 1 baby bok choy
– 2 green onions
– ¾ teaspoon cornstarch
– ½ cup light coconut milk
– 1/3 cup reduced-sodium and fat chicken broth
– 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
– 2 boneless and skinless chicken breast halves
– 3 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
– ½ to ¾ teaspoon red curry paste
– 1 tablespoon lime juice
– Hot, cooked rice

1. Separate the bok choy leaves, then cut both stems and leaves on the diagonal into ¼-inch-thick slices. Discard all but 2 inches of the onion greens. Slice thinly on the diagonal and set aside.

2. Put the cornstarch into a measuring cup and whisk in a couple tablespoons of coconut milk. When smooth, whisk in the remaining milk. Combine broth and fish sauce. Slice each chicken breast in half crosswise, then lengthwise into thin strips.

3. In a heavy skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium heat. When hot, put the bok choy stems into the pan and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add the leaves and cook another minute. Remove from the pan.

4. Pour the remaining 2 teaspoons oil into the pan. When hot, add chicken and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes, or until just cooked through. Remove from pan. Put the curry paste into the pan, mashing briefly with the back of a spoon. Add green onions, saving a few for garnish, and stir briefly. Remove pan from heat and slowly add coconut milk, stirring until well-blended with the curry. Put back on heat and stir in broth. Simmer a couple minutes, until thickened. Pour juices that have accumulated around chicken into the pan and simmer 30 seconds. Stir in lime juice, chicken and bok choy. Simmer a few minutes to blend, then spoon over rice. Sprinkle reserved green onions on top.

Notes

  • I was able to do this! Me! So it’s really not that difficult.
  • Toby thinks you should add more curry if you attempt this. Not a lot, but some.

The funny part about this was that we actually had a hard time finding just two chicken breasts, so we increased the recipe by half to add another breast in. Cooking for two fans claim that too many leftovers just won’t do, but I’m floored by the fact that both Toby and I will have lunch ready to go tomorrow!

This begs the question, if you live in a one- or two- person household, do you cook for two? Or do you reap the benefits of leftovers? And how much is too much when it comes to leftovers?

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Published in: on October 26, 2008 at 7:22 pm  Comments (3)  
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Chicken Sunday

My mom and dad always joke about the years when my dad would visit Grammy’s house on Sunday afternoons and join the Beltowski family for a chicken dinner.

Mom and Dad, 1972
Mom and Dad, 1972

The chicken got a bit tiresome. And so Chicken Sundays became a bit of a joke in our family.

This year, I belatedly discovered the amazing children’s author/illustrator Patricia Polacco (a fellow Michigander). Her version of Chicken Sunday is quite a bit more touching (and tasty) than ours.

Both these anecdotes are relevant because Toby and I have recently been having Chicken Sundays of our own. Our most recent version of this featured a recipe that ran in the Washington Post in 1999. It’s from an article with the headline, “First you take a chicken breast; one way to saute and 13 ways to sauce a weekday dinner favorite.”

Reporter Pam Anderson supports a pared-down approach in the art of saute:

“There’s no need to pinch, prod, poke or push around the chicken. If the oil temperature and pan size are right, the breasts should be done with one turn in about six minutes.”

She gets straight to the good stuff (at least for me, because I need such basic instruction):

Over time, I’ve learned that to saute chicken breasts properly, you must start by heating the pan before you ever touch the chicken. Since neither oil nor butter is ideal, use a combination of the two. Butter for flavor; oil to increase the smoking point. As soon as you turn on the burner to low, add the butter and oil. Slow, steady heat keeps it from wildly sizzling, spitting, smoking and burning.

This was a pretty basic recipe, from what Toby tells me.

Toby makes the meal
The cook at work.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Sauteed Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

(4 servings)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed of fat
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup flour measured into a pie plate or other shallow pan
Lemon wedges or pan sauce (see following recipes)

1. Pull the tenderloin–the flap of meat attached to a boneless, skinless chicken breast–from each breast half and saute them separately. Some brands of chicken breasts come with their tenderloins already removed.

2. Place the breasts between 2 sheets of wax paper and pound or roll until even in thickness.

3. In a 11- or 12-inch skillet over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil.

4. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts and tenderloins with salt and pepper to taste. Dredge the chicken in the flour. Set aside.

5. A couple of minutes before sauteing, increase the heat to medium- high. When the butter stops foaming, turns brown and starts to smell nutty, transfer the chicken breasts and the tenderloins to the skillet. Cook, turning only once, until the chicken breasts are golden brown, about 3 minutes per side (tenderloins will be done a little sooner). Remove the chicken from the skillet.

Orange-Dijon Pan Sauce With Rosemary

(4 servings)

1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon butter

1. To the drippings in the skillet, add the orange juice, mustard and rosemary and boil over medium-high heat until the liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup.

2. Carefully tilt the skillet so the liquid collects at 1 side of the pan.

3. Whisk in the butter until the sauce is smooth and glossy.

4. Spoon a little sauce over each sauteed breast and serve immediately.

The meal.
This week’s meal.

Notes and Modifications
• Per serving: 43 calories, trace protein, 4 gm carbohydrates, 3 gm fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 8 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber
• Toby said, “I just followed the recipe to a tee.” So apparently that’s all you need to do.
• Recipe taken from: First, You Take a Chicken Breast; One Way to Saute and 13 Ways to Sauce a Weekday Dinner Favorite. Pam Anderson. The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.:Sep 22, 1999. p. F01

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Published in: on February 24, 2008 at 6:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Yucatan Chicken with Peach-Avocado Salsa

This award-winning recipe was the talk of the town in Hilton Head, S.C., where it won the 42nd Annual National Chicken Cooking Event in 1997. I wanted a fool-proof chicken recipe for dinner tonight, because I was definitely not in a chicken breast mood.

I hoped that Teresa Hanna Smith of Santa Rosa wouldn’t let me down. When she won the 1997 competition, she was already a five-year veteran of the program. I trust people who have more experience than me.

The judge chairman that year said she noticed some trends in the 1997 finals:

This year’s recipe trends were influenced by international flavors, according to Carol Haddox, judge chairman and editor of the Chicago Tribune’s “Good Eating” section. The recipes included flavors usually associated with Thai, Greek, Moroccan, Mexican, Indian, Tuscan and Italian dishes. The creative blends of ethnic ingredients resulted in some tasty poultry dishes.

Another tendency was toward recipes with “quick, fast preparation,” says Ms. Haddox. “People want dishes that are easy to cook.”

I’m not sure if her observations would still be considered trends at this point, more than ten years later, because I think many of those ideas still drive new recipes today.

Excerpted from the Chattanooga Free Press

Chattanooga Free Press. April 16, 1997, Gwen Swiger, E1.

YUCATAN CHICKEN WITH PEACH-AVOCADO SALSA
($25,000 winning
recipe by Teresa Hanna Smith)

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon garlic pepper seasoning
1 orange, juiced
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
Peach-Avocado Salsa (
recipe follows)
Lime slices

Place chicken in shallow glass dish; rub all sides with garlic pepper seasoning. Pour orange and lime juices over chicken; drizzle with olive oil. Crush oregano with fingers and sprinkle over chicken. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes, turning once. Remove chicken from marinade and place in large nonstick fry pan over medium heat. Saute, turning, about 12 minutes or until lightly browned and fork can be inserted in chicken with ease. Serve topped with Peach-Avocado salsa; garnish with lime slices.

Peach-Avocado Salsa
In medium bowl, mix together 1 fresh peach, peeled, pitted and diced; 1 small avocado, peeled, pitted and diced; 1 tomato, peeled seeded and diced; 1 1/2 cup diced jicama; 3 tablespoons chopped red onion and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro. In small bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice and 2 teaspoons olive oil; pour into peach-avocado mixture, stirring gently.

Yucatan Chicken with Peach-Avocado Salsa
It. Was. Delicious. 

Our notes and modifications: 

• The chicken is ridiculously moist. Deliciously, ridiculously moist.
• Peaches are nowhere close to being in season in mid-January, so we debated for a while whether we should use canned peaches, nectarines, or mangoes instead. We went with the mangoes, and we were pleased with the results.
• If you’ve never peeled jicama before, here’s how.
• The chicken is buried beneath the salsa in the picture. The tortillas were fried soft corn tortillas. The beans were Top Foods store brand, and the rice was Rice-A-Roni Spanish Rice. The meal was delicious overall, but I could have done without the rice.
• If you would like to enter the National Chicken Cooking Contest, you have until August 31 to submit your application.

Finally, we chose to accompany our meal with Rising Moon, the spring ale from Blue Moon. Toby and I are both familiar with Harvest Moon, Honey Moon, and Full Moon (Blue Moon’s other tasty seasonal ales), but we’d never heard of Rising Moon. Regardless, it’s tasty. Not as delicious as Harvest Moon, but nice nonetheless.

Coors Brewing Company didn’t say whether Rising Moon was a new release, and yet we couldn’t find any images of it online, which indicates to me that it’s probably new-ish. Coors’ fact sheet (link downloads a PDF) doesn’t even have an image of it. Google Images doesn’t have one either, so here’s one I took:

Rising Moon
Rising Moon, Blue Moon’s spring ale 

Because this is a recipe introduced to the world through a food competition, I figured I should mention that I just ordered an interesting-sounding book called Cook-Off: Recipe Fever in America. I’ll let you know how it is once it arrives.

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Published in: on January 13, 2008 at 8:48 pm  Comments (3)  
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Deviled Chicken Thighs

The chicken thighs were approaching their limit to the amount of time they could spend in the refrigerator without being frozen. Given our habit to shuck food into the freezer and then forget about it (i.e. the ground beef from Sept. 2005 we just unearthed), we figured a recipe involving thighs would be a tasty place to start.

Our initial queries into chicken thigh recipes were thwarted by absurd fanciness and time-intense bean soaking. I finally stumbled upon a recipe from our hometown Seattle Post-Intelligencer that seemed feasible. After all, the headline did promote it as Quick & Simple. Wait a minute. The recipe was not crafted by P-I food gurus, nor was it a taste-test from a new outside publication. Quick & Simple is a weekly magazine owned by Hearst. The book the recipe came from, Good Housekeeping 100 Best Chicken Recipes, is published by Hearst Books. The Seattle P-I’s publisher? You guessed it, Hearst.

There’s no disclaimer in the article mentioning this potential promotion/conflict of interest. What do you think, does it need one? Does it matter that the P-I is using a book it essentially published? I get the impression that the only people who would have figured out the Hearst connection are press junkies like me or news-savvy Seattlites who are familiar with the epic Seattle Times and Seattle P-I battle royale that has been going on for four years now and made Hearst the most common its been since Newsies came out in 1992.

Pulitzer
(Even though it was actually Pulitzer and not Hearst in the movie)

Alternately, if you just see this as a media conglomerate utilizing its affiliates, it’s not a problem at all. This is no more of a big deal than one Knight Ridder paper using a story from another Knight Ridder paper. Right?

What do you think about this, Spot?

Spot!
“I say, that what you say, is what I say!”

Apart from the politics involved, it’s worth noting that many newspapers don’t come up with their own recipes very much any more. A large number of the recipes I unearth wind up being selections from newly published cookbooks. Looking at newspapers from the 1930s and ’40s, the recipes seem to be solicitations from readers or county fair prize-winners.I’m assuming the source of newspaper recipes will be a common theme in this blog, because I feel like I hav e so many questions regarding its past and present workings.But onto the recipe. You can find the original post online, but if you hate scrolling and searching as much as I do, here’s a copy of it:

Deviled Chicken Thighs (serves 4)

1/4 cup creamy mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
8 skinless chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 pounds)

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, blend together mustard and Worcestershire sauce.
3. Spread bread crumbs on a sheet of wax paper.
4. Toss chicken in mustard mixture, then roll in crumbs to coat.
5. Arrange on baking sheet.

Bake 15 minutes; turn and bake until juices run clear when thickest part of thigh is pierced with tip of knife, about 15 minutes longer. Serve with green beans.

Finished Product
Our finished product. 

It wound up being tasty and relatively painless to make. Our frozen green beans turned out miserable, so Toby replaced them with half a baked potato each. Additionally, the breading on the thighs is uneven because our baking sheet was coated with olive oil instead of shortening. It didn’t impact the taste, but if you’re a visual stickler, splurge on the butter.

Enjoying the Chicken
Christine and Toby enjoy the chicken thighs. 

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Published in: on December 1, 2007 at 8:09 am  Comments (2)  
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