Every now and then I search for meal inspiration in my old green recipe box. In the pre-internet days I was an avid collector of recipes which I clipped and glued on index cards, or I hand-wrote the recipe onto the cards. I have several hundred recipes, most of which I don’t make. But all of them sound good in some way. Sometimes I try to cook faithfully what’s on a card and the rest I keep not to cook from per se, but just to use for inspiration.
Chicken with Roasted Garlic Mushrooms and Spinach
Copied from Bon Appetit, June 1993
When I accidentally keep buying garlic because I can’t see what’s behind the apples on my counter (Hint: 1 1/2 heads of garlic), I “punish” myself by eating as much garlic as possible, as soon as possible. Sometimes I roast a head of garlic to use in roasted garlic hummus. Sometimes I make a rendition of chicken with 40 cloves of garlic (Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic is a real thing. Why 40? a brief internet search yielded no results. But, 40 cloves is the traditional number.)
This time, looking at 2 1/2 heads of garlic…the new one I bought plus the 1 1/2 I just found, I went traipsing through the Green Recipe Box. The card I found had garlic in the title (a good sign for my purpose) and it was dirty, so I know I’ve made this recipe before. I can’t remember when I made it though, so it’s time to give it another go.
I cooked this on Sunday to have for lunch four times during the week. Looking over the ingredients I saw I was going to take care of my need to use garlic and to create a healthful meal with vegetables, well mushrooms, cooked right in. I decided to use nearly a pound of mushrooms, doubling the recipe on this ingredient, because I think 1/2 a pound of mushroom is not enough.
Another key ingredient is a cup of white wine. Geez, bottle of wine hold way more than a cupful so this is an ingredient practically begging for me to open a bottle of “everyday wine” which I did. Here’s how I made that ingredient really work for me: I put a head of garlic in the oven to roast for about 45 minutes and sat down to have a glass of wine. Sunday cooking is the best.
I did take some time to buy and wash fresh spinach. A pound of fresh spinach that comes in a bunch costs about $1.50. A pound of pre-washed fresh spinach in a plastic container costs just under five bucks, and the container it comes in lives in the land fill for years. I don’t think my personal healthful eating should have such a big impact on the planet. P.S.: I am lucky enough to have time in my life to make such high-falutin’ ideals part of my daily process.
For the chicken, the bone-in chicken breasts I get at Findlay Market from Busch’s are usually huge. This week I bought one whole breast and it was just over 1 1/2 pounds…plenty for four servings. I took the chicken off the bone and dropped the bones and skin in a sauce pan to make a quick broth for future use. [In my head I have a planned blog post about broth. Stay tuned for that fascinating installment.] I pounded the chicken breasts to an even thickness and seasoned them with salt and pepper.
I sauteed the chicken and set it aside to rest. Then I threw some diced onion in the hot pan and…whoa, this recipe doesn’t call for onions. I just did it out of habit. No big deal. I took a swig of wine and kept on. I cooked the pound of sliced mushrooms way down till the pan was almost dry. Then I added the wine and reduced it by about half.
I decided not to use tomatoes as the recipe calls for because I didn’t want to add too much volume and end up having to throw food away at the end of the week. I used all the spinach (I didn’t chop it, but I wish I would have given it a rough chop), and threw in the roasted garlic cloves. I adjusted the seasoning, adding the dried rosemary, salt and pepper. By this time, I wasn’t following the recipe at all. The chicken went back in the pot because that’s how I cook. I strive for less pots during cooking, and an easy-to-pack lunch when it’s time to eat.
Another good inspiration from the Green Recipe Box.