Do you ever get tired of the same old shit you make for every meal?
Hell, I do. It seems like I go around and around repeating my usual meals until nobody wants to eat any of it, let alone the leftovers. Beans and rice, spaghetti and meatballs, peanut chicken, chili (which is more like goulash), wraps, and beef stroganoff. It’s not even a week’s worth of recipes. They’ve gotten old, seriously old.
So yesterday when I was at the store, I got chicken breasts and Italian sausage. I didn’t quite know what I was going to do with them. I also bought zucchini and Santa sweet tomatoes thinking maybe I’d saute them with olive oil, garlic, and oregano, that concoction I learned how to make when I lived in New Jersey with my Italian friends. That stuff tasted so healthy. I hadn’t made that in a while. We needed fresh vegetables, ones that hadn’t had the colors cooked out of them. I should have bought some Locatelli Pecorino Romano cheese to grate onto the top. That always made it so perfect. I forgot about buying any kind of Parmesan or Romano. In fact, I just remembered that secret just now.
On a whim, I bought a package that was labeled Louisiana Seasoned Crispy Chicken Fry. It’s been about forty years since I had real fried chicken, the crispy kind that so many fast food places try, unsuccessfully, to mimic. I miss fried chicken. I miss mashed potatoes with gravy on them. I do.
I’ve tried to copy what my mother used to make, but I refuse to buy Crisco and it drives me nuts to have all that grease popping and burning all over my kitchen. So, I’ve never managed to copy her fried chicken. Never.
So tonight when I got home from walking the dog and dropping of library books I would never have time to read, I pulled out all my ingredients: Santa sweet tomatoes, zucchini, Italian sausage, two chicken breasts, and the Louisiana Seasoned Crispy Chicken Fry. Then, I got out my usual acoutrements, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and olive oil.
I cut the zucchini on an angle. God, I am so predictable. Once years ago, I was served nearly raw zucchini cut on the diagonal and I’ve been doing it ever since. From the side, they look like little parallelograms. Face forward, they are ellipses. I like parallelograms and ellipses more than circles and rectangles. Don’t you? I set them aside next to the tomatoes.
Then, I heated up olive oil in a large skillet. I put a second skillet on another burner, added a touch of olive oil, and set it to simmer. I didn’t want my zucchini going gray and soggy in that thick layer of olive oil.
I cut the Italian sausage into bite-sized pieces and put them into the hot skillet. Flavor that oil, I thought.
Some people put rosemary or oregano into their olive oil to flavor it. Tonight, I was going to use sausage.
Once they were browned, I loaded them into the warmth of the secondary skillet.
I cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Then, I followed the directions to wet and dredge the chicken with the Louisiana Seasoned Crispy Chicken Fry. That didn’t take long to cook either. They looked like chicken nuggets. Damn. They tasted like chicken nuggets too. I still hadn’t found the secret of my mother’s fried chicken. It didn’t taste bad though. Who doens’t like chicken nuggets? Then, the nuggets went into the second skillet with the sausage. It smelled good.
I threw the zucchini into the second skillet, but picked it back out and sauteed it in what was left of the hot olive oil until one side blistered. Then I moved it into the second skillet and added the tomatoes.
Dinner was done. Easy as pie. Mmm. Pie.
But there was that gruesome pan full of fried batter, sausage bits, and oil. That was going to be a bitch to clean.
So, I did what some enterprising young mother once did long ago: I added the stuff I’d dredged my chicken through, stirred it into a slurry. I know there’s a fancy word for flour and oil cooked together, but for the life of me, I can’t think of it right now.
Roux. Thank you, Internet. It sounds fancy, but it wasn’t fancy when I made it.
Then, when the roux was bubbly, I added milk and scraped up all that crap that had been seriously stuck to the bottom of my pan moments before. No scrubbing tonight. Yay!
I got out a spoon. It was delicious, like having dinner at Grandma’s house.
So, in the end, I integrated my Italian zucchini into the wish for fried chicken and the reality of Grandma’s sausage gravy and served:
Salsiccia e pollo pepita (nuggets) con saltati zucchine e pomodori coperto di bianca sugo.
Did that come out right? It sounds impressive in my Internet Italian, doesn’t it?
I served the sausage gravy on the side, just in case anyone was offended by my fusion techniques. Yet, every plate came back to the kitchen scraped clean. Nick even thanked me.
He thanked me for fresh vegetables, well, and for Grandma’s sausage gravy.
Thank you for listening, jules