Tag Archives: chicken

Champagne: Chic or Chicken?

Champagne chicken sauce recipeOne man’s champagne diet.

Now that the yearly New Years service is over, it’s safe to admit.  I don’t like champagne.

That will probably get my ticket yanked with a segment of the liquor industry, the high-stepping party crew and modern romance food aficionados, but there it is.  Sure, I raised my glass and drank with everybody else.  But, it’s kind of like clapping for the neighbor’s child’s recital.  Not to be confused with actual enjoyment.

Is champagne really the right New Year’s drink in the first place?  For a hearty sendoff of one year and the fingers-crossed hopes for a new one?  Seems to me the occasion deserves a draft Guinness, or a shot of  Bushmills, a decent merlot or the like.  A touch of bitterness, followed by a moment of impossible-to-ignore fullness of flavor, and a real loosening of expectations.


I  first got suspicious when I learned champagne was actually a  wine mistake.  Centuries ago in France champagne grapes were harvested so late, winter cold would sometimes stop the wine fermenting, only to restart in the spring. This caused the yeast to go nuts and produce more gas than usual.  Bottles exploded, the wine fizzed, that kind of mess.  Until one day, as they were dumping another ruined batch, some prince or another wandered in, tasted the stuff, and offered to pay good money.  They couldn’t unload it fast enough.

Now, I’ve got nothing against the champagne industry, who’ve carried on this lucrative tradition, or folks who enjoy bubbly white wines.  I’ll just suggest my favorite way to dispose of this French mistake and its domestic cousins is over shrimp, salad, or as below, to sauce a chicken.  It’s a delicious way to dress food, one pan, man-simple cooking.  And what were you planning to do with all the half-empties anyway?

You’ll need:

Large cast iron or other heavy skillet (big enough to hold the chicken), baking dish (to keep chicken warm)


  • 4 chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/3 – 1/2 bottle of champagne
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon tarragon

How To Make:

  1. Salt and pepper the chicken breasts.
  2. Melt the butter in the skillet, and when it starts to foam, add the garlic.
  3. Add the rest of the butter and heat for one minute at medium heat.
  4. Add the chicken skin side down and brown it, then turn it over, about 5  minutes for each side
  5. Add the champagne to the skillet and cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken broth and tarragon, and cook another 15 minutes.
  7. Take the chicken out, place in a baking pan, cover and keep warm (in the oven, set to its lowest temperature would work).
  8. Add the cream to the pan, raise the heat medium high to bring the liquid to a gentle boil, and stirring, let the sauce reduce in volume by about one half. This can take 15 minutes or more, depending on how much liquid you have at this stage.
  9. Return the chicken to the sauce, coat it well and serve, pouring the extra sauce over the chicken.
Some folks like to spice this dish up with red or cayenne pepper, add sautéed mushrooms, some shallot or onion, that’s up to you.  Great with rice.
Best of the New Year to you.

Worst Gifts for Men Who Cook I Forgot

Last minute gifts we’d rather not get.

Santa’s helper has spoken to dad about the last please don’t get me this present for Christmas list and cleared up a few things, such as, why we’ve never been found in the kitchen dressed in a colorful apron.  And, do not see this in our future.

Since the last set apparently came as quite a surprise, a few more gift ideas have come to mind I thought I’d better share.   Not that we don’t like Santa’s gift ideas.  We do.  We have an entire shelf in the closet set aside as a showcase from previous years.

Let’s just say, if you see these wonderful items for men who cook, please, just leave them for somebody else.

1. Any Guy Fieri DVD I’m sure he’s an inspiration to many.  He’s an energetic guy, and all over Food Network, so he must be popular. There’s just something about him and food …. How can I put this?  I think my appetite has an allergy.  To him.

2.  Reusable Shopping Bags It’s not about being green.  It’s about getting out of the car, walking across the parking lot, around the store, going through the checkout, and back across the lot, holding one of these.  And not being exactly sure what message I’m sending.

3. Fine Food Magazines Sure, these are great for ideas, helpful tips, and fun reading. Right up to the moment the youngsters hold it up to their plate and want to know why daddy’s food doesn’t look anything like the one in the picture.

4. Food Dehydrator I’m sure there are plenty of dinner recipes that call for dried zucchini, bananas, and chicken.  And, they must be way better than using fresh.  Otherwise, why would anyone go to all the trouble of slicing up good food just to dry it out?

5.  The Sensor Fresh Now, just because some of us aren’t afraid of a little meat that’s lost its pink color, and don’t want to waste otherwise perfectly good food and have to make an extra trip to the store, doesn’t mean we have to resort to this.  90 bucks for a device that sniffs ground beef and tells me it’s too old to eat?  And when have I ever served food so old it made anyone sick?  And not just because nobody would touch it.

There’s some perfectly good ideas at Last Minute Gift List For Men Who Cook over at http://www.dadsinthekitchen.com.

Quick: What’s for Dinner?

Here’s a pretty easy and delicious all-in-one chicken recipe, for when you’re facing the hungry horde.

I’m sure I’m not the only dad with sharks for kids.  No matter where they are, as soon as they sense food, they come circling.  I step in the door and there’s a rustle and movement from the back of the house.  I notice bits of snacks and wrappers around the floor and sofa, evidence they’ve been feeding, like fish scales in the water after a frenzy.   And before my keys hit the table, they’ve gathered around my legs and want to know: what’s for dinner?

Dad knows this is a trick question.  The correct answer is, ‘What did your mom say we’re having?’  If she’s got something planned, no sense getting in the way.

‘We’re hungry now.’  ‘She said to ask you.’  ‘What’s for dinner?’ ‘Are we gonna get pizza?’

Another trick question.  They know that’s what I’m thinking.  The twins are reaching for the phone.

‘No,’ I say,’ I’ll call you when dinner’s ready.’  Pizza cheese and dough more than once a month is an experiment we don’t want the results to.

So I end up rooting in the fridge and cupboards.  That’s the toughest part about kitchen duty.  Having to come up with ideas for meals all the time without doing repeats every three days.  Some easy recipe, without a lot of work or time. And something the kids will eat.

Here’s a dish everybody inhales, and it goes together pretty simply.

You’ll need: a 13 x 9 x 2 pyrex dish, and a cast iron fry pan.  Set the oven to 350 F  / 178 C.


  • 8 or so chicken thighs
  • onion soup in the box
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cups rice
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups cranberry juice
  • 1 tsp paprika (smoked is best)
  • 2 shakes majoram
  • 2 shakes pepper
  • 2 cups water

How To:

  1. Start with the fry pan.  Chop the onion into large bits, set the skillet over medium heat, add butter.  Cook and stir til the onion starts to get transparent, then take the onion out and put aside.
  2. Now, you can skip this next step if you want, but I like to crisp the chicken skin, and think it’s worth it.  Add olive oil to the fry pan, turn up the heat to 7 or 8 (out of ten) and when it starts to sizzle a bit, put the chicken thighs in skin side down.  We’re just going to brown off the chicken so the skin gets a bit crispy, which takes four or five minutes.  Check by lifting each piece – you want to see nice golden brown crispy, not limp skin.  Keep it going longer if needed. Remember, we’re not cooking the chicken, just browning the skin.

    This is how they'll look.

  3. When browned, turn off the heat, remove the chicken.  Add 1/2 cup water to the pan. This will loosen and let you scrape up the cooked bits left in the pan.  Keep this for later.
  4. Take the pyrex dish and put in 1 and 1/2 cups of water and two cups of cranberry juice.  Add one half packet of onion dip to that and mix it in – if you like it strong, add more, but it’s pretty salty, so the whole packet is probably too much.  I usually also add a couple good shakes of paprika (smoked paprika is the best), a couple shakes of marjoram.
  5. Now add two cups of rice to the liquid, mix it in, then spread it evenly.
  6. Next, put the chicken thighs, skin up, on top of the rice, around the pan.  Add the onions in around the chicken on top of the rice.  Now, pour the water from the fry pan over the chicken and onion.
  7. Cover with foil and bake for an hour.  If you check and the chicken isn’t done through (no pink) or the rice isn’t done, pop it back in for 15 – 20 mins more.

This is one of those dishes you can add things to each time you make it (mushrooms, white wine, etc) but it’s a savory / sweet pleasure the way it is.  The rice absorbs the chicken and onion flavors with the cranberry, the chicken falls off the bone, and everything stays moist.

A funny apron for men cooking for children, " If we were having Pizza, I wouldn't be wearing this Apron"

Dad's Apron Shop

This recipe works for kids because it’s one of the “Real Food Groups“, which you can check for more ideas.

Dad’s Diet Crises

Dad's cure for snack food dietQue sera, quesadilla.

It’s swimsuit weather, the kids are all summering, and I learned I’ve been letting the family down in the diet department.  The children lined up to bring this to my attention.  Apparently, there is NO FOOD in the house.  They are united on this point, and vocal, and the neighbors are now convinced we are starving them on purpose.

This comes as something of a surprise.  Our grocery bills haven’t gone down, and you have to put a shoulder to the door of the fridge to get it shut.  True, I haven’t got round to cleaning it out recently.  It’s on my list.  After ‘learn power napping’, and ‘schedule in-home insurance check-up’  I think.

But anyway, I quickly discover the problem.  Dad has NO CLUE what EVERYBODY knows, namely, what ALL OTHER children ALL get to eat ALL THE TIME, except at OUR house.

They take me to the kitchen to look into it.

And what I discover is, our home has become dangerously low on a whole cornucopia of sweet, salty, fat filled, factory processed munch that is essential to the development of modern preteens and adolescents.

The pantry has no frosted or creme filled anything.  Apart from a packet of stale ginger crisps, cookie stockpiles have gone to zero.  One half bag of white corn tortilla chips sits alone, as if potato chips had never been invented. And there’s no sign of any kind of ” -itos” whatsoever.  No candies, no frozen pops, chocolate, sweet rolls, toaster whatsits, mini cakes, sodas, or bags of sugar coated anything. It’s a crises.  We need to get to the bottom of this.

I blame my wife.

‘The house is full of food’, she says when I call.  Eggs, she tells me, and I repeat it to the kids.  They shake their heads.  Salad, rice cakes, popcorn, cheese, turkey, tuna, tortillas, carrots, tomatoes, avocado, fruits, whole wheat crackers, chicken, nuts.

‘Nuts!?’ they shout.

I try to reason with their mother.  ‘They’re not buying it’, I say.

‘There’s plenty of food’, she says, ‘and when they really get hungry they’ll eat it.  They just figure you’re a pushover and will go buy them junk.’

‘Your mother thinks you’re fat’, I tell them.  Not the thing to say to three girls, but I realize it a split second too late.  My son’s so skinny he knows I’m just blowing smoke.

‘You have to go to the store, NOW!’   They’re starting to get that wide-eyed ‘remember the time you left the sliding door open and Herby the hamster got out, permanently’ look.

‘I tell you what’, I say. ‘I’ll make you all a quesadilla’.

‘OK,’ they say, like maybe that was really the plan all along.

I fry up some onion til it’s just starting to get transparent, still crunchy. Then I melt a little butter in a pan, coat one side of a wide flour tortilla, and set it aside on a plate.  A little more butter, low medium heat, melted and the second tortilla goes in.  Spread on a layer of cheese, some chopped tomato, the onion, a little shake of cumin spice, some chopped up chicken, and the second tortilla goes on top, fast as I can.  I put a lid on, and lift it every minute or two to check the underside of the bottom tortilla. It needs to get light brown and flaky crisp, which it does just shy of four minutes. Then,  big spatula, hand on top, flip the whole thing in one smooth motion, cook the other side til it’s light brown, flaky crisp.  Hot and melted inside, done.

It takes two, but they polish them off and are gone.

Later I check again whether there’s any missed sweets,  behind the vases in the top cupboard.  Just to be sure.  Nada.  Well, that spared me having to get rid of them.  For the good of the kids, of course.

So, This is Foreplay?

Over dinner, I mentioned to my wife what Harris, the poll people, found in a survey earlier this year. Nearly 65 % of women admitted, they found it sexy when a partner cooked for them.  Harris didn’t say, but I suspect, the other 35% would have admitted it too, only they didn’t want to encourage their already amorous partners in any way.  My wife’s excuse is she does not consider what I do cooking.

Now, I don’t imagine the Iron Chefs are looking over their shoulders, but I make a mean chicken gravy.  More on that later, with the recipe.  The point here is, I see no reason why all the encouragement to get me to help more in the kitchen can’t be, well, more encouraging. If you follow my drift.

It’s not as if we men aren’t helping more.   Our Grandfathers probably never even set foot in the kitchen, unless it was late at night, or to look for Grandma.  Since Adam, it’s been women who mostly ruled the kitchen, except in Italy, where they figured out that sexy thing early.  Even today, couples come over, it’s the hens who drift off to protect the stove against invasion.

Now, given how men tend to be motivated by a pretty small set of things, being game day, food, sex, friends, fishing and family, not necessarily in that order, there should be a pretty simple process to get more help in the kitchen.  I’m just saying.  And thanks to some folks over at Harris sitting around wondering what kind of questions we really need answers to, we now know at least part of that equation is stimulated by men cooking in the first place.

I’ll admit, even I never considered cooking foreplay. But, out of the mouths of babes….

That chicken gravy only takes a few steps, and it’s worth every one.

1.  Gather up two cups of low salt chicken stock, and set it aside. Take one medium lemon, some dry, powder chicken stock, dry onion soup mix or stock, garlic powder, and tarragon spice. You can also put in other spices you like with chicken, that’s up to you.  Mix 4 tablespoons dry chicken stock, 2 tablespoons of the dry onion, a half teaspoon garlic, and a couple shakes of spice in a bowl and mix together.

2. Take a whole raw chicken, which you’ve rinsed under cold water. If you start at the butt end you’ll notice you can slip your fingers under the skin, and between the skin and the meat of the breast of the chicken.  Go ahead and gently, carefully, do that all the way to the front of the bird, separating the skin from the bird as you go, and over to the legs too.  Now, carefully means, don’t tear the skin if you  can help it, because you want the skin back over the whole chicken.  If your mitts are too big to do this, use a wooden spoon.

3.   Push a thin layer of the stock powder mix under the skin of the bird, spread everywhere you can reach, making sure to spread it evenly as best you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it will clump up, but spread it around.

4.  Cut the lemon in half and put it inside the bird.

5.  Roast the bird.  At an oven temp of 375 F, that will be about 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes (for a 2 1/2 to 3 pound bird), or 1 hour 45 to 2 hours 15 minutes (for a 3 to 4 pounder).   To tell when it’s done, watch the skin brown,  look for the legs to start to pull away from the body.  Use a thermometer placed into the middle of a thigh, away from bone. It should be at least 165 F.

6.  When the bird is done, take it out of the oven and let it rest, while you make a roux.  If you don’t know how, you have one hand tied behind your back in the gravy department.  It thickens and flavors. Here’s how to do it. (And, in Louisiana, it’s pronounced “roo”.)

Take two tablespoons butter or margarine and two tablespoons flour, put the butter in a nice heavy pan – cast iron’s best.  Avoid the thin pans cause they’ll burn way too fast.

Put this on a low to medium low heat and as the butter melts,  stir in the flour to make like a paste.  Now, if you set back and jabber, that roux will burn, so don’t. Keep your eyes on it. What you’re doing is toasting the flour. It will start to foam, and cook. Keep it together in the middle of the pan, and keep mixing it round so it cooks evenly. You’ll see it will start to change color – that’s what you want.  When it gets a rich medium yellow brown to tan, you’re done, get it off the heat. Actually, you can take it darker, to caramel or true brown if you want, but only if you have the hang of it: it turns to black really fast, so watch out.

7.  Pour everything from the chicken roasting pan into a medium pot. Add the two cups of stock from the can.  Bring it to a rolling boil.  When it’s boiling, add about a half cup of that liquid to the roux in the pan, and stir it up, to melt the roux, and thin it down.  No lumps. Start to add this back to the boiling stock pot by small spoonfuls, stirring to mix well with each addition.  You’ll see it start to thicken.  You can stop adding roux whenever it gets to a thickness you like, but take it a bit further, because we’re going to add some liquid.

8.  Turn the heat under the gravy all the way down to simmer.  Add about one third cup of nice dry white wine, or red if that’s all you have.  Give it a good stir, a couple minutes on simmer, and you’re done.

You’ll notice the chicken has taken in the flavors you used.  It’s a good trick, even without the gravy.

Now, if you want to cut calories and fat you’ll want to skim off a fair amount of chicken fat from the roasting pan before you use the drippings.  Since the chicken fat is what gives it flavor, I suggest you put it all into the gravy, and then just eat less gravy.  If you can. And you can use more water than directed if you find it too salty, which is why we used low salt chicken stock to begin with.

When you put that on the plate for your wife might be the right moment to mention Harris. And how with a little encouragement, you might just be spending more time helping in the kitchen.

My wife has let me know she thinks my doing dishes is sexy, but I have yet to see any sign this is true. I’ll keep you posted.