Monday, March 21, 2011

The Top 10 Signs You’re Becoming a Better Cook, Plus Easy Chicken Pan Gravy

You guys? I was making Easy Chicken Pan Gravy last week when something hit me. Over the years, I've become a pretty decent cook. Not a good cook, per se, but a decent one. I'm fairly confident no one will die / vomit / write heartbreaking soliloquies after they eat my food.

Upon the realization, I started brainstorming some benchmarks - noticeable and definitive signs that you've come a long way, culinarily speaking. Here's what I came up with:

  1. You eyeball ingredient measurements.

  2. You substitute ably and with abandon.

  3. You regularly improve on recipes written by professionals.

  4. You search for physical indications (browning, thickness, scent, etc.) that a recipe is done, rather than use times.

  5. You have an ever-expanding repertoire of dishes you know by heart, and can easily go a week without consulting a recipe.

  6. You bring lunch to work not because you want to save money or watch your waistline, but because  your leftovers are fantastic.

  7. You don’t choose certain restaurant dishes because you can make it just as well – or even better – by yourself at home.

  8. Your pickiest friend will eat your food without complaint.

  9. Your foodie-est friend will eat your food with glee.

  10. Your parents entrust you with Thanksgiving.
Readers, how about you? What are some signs you're becoming / have become better cooks? Is it  something you can measure with milestones, even?

Also, this gravy is good and you should eat it.


Mmm … sauce. If this looks all nice and stuff, you will surely enjoy:

Easy Chicken Pan Gravy (With Chicken)
Serves 4

16 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into thin (1/2-inch or so) filets
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1) Pat chicken dry and season one side liberally with salt and pepper. Pour half can of chicken broth into measuring cup and whisk flour in thoroughly. (There should be no lumps.) Keep other half in the can and set aside.

2) In a large pan, heat oil over high heat. With tongs, carefully place chicken seasoned-side down in pan. Cook until browned, about 3 to 6 minutes. While cooking, season exposed side with salt and pepper. Flip, and cook another 3 to 6 minutes, until second side is browned. Remove to a plate and keep warm. (Tent with tin foil, if you like.)

3) Pour broth in can into hot pan, scraping up browned bits with wooden spoon. Cook on high until broth is reduced by about half.

4) Give the flour/broth mixture one more quick whisk, and pour into pan, stirring constantly. Reduce heat a little, to medium or medium-high. Cook, stirring often, until sauce is thick and gravy-like. This could take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, so keep an eye on it.

5) When gravy hits the desired consistency, season with salt and pepper. If necessary (i.e. lumps), strain into your fancy serving vessel (measuring glass, gravy bowl, etc.). Otherwise, just pour it in. Then, dollop over chicken and/or potatoes and serve.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
151 calories, 3.3 g fat, 0 fiber, 26.8 g fiber, $0.72

NOTE: I used College Inn chicken broth from CostCo for my calculations.

16 ounces chicken breast, sliced into thin (1/2-inch or so) filets: 497 calories, 5.4 g fat, 0 g fiber, 104.4 g protein, $2.14
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.02
1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth: 20 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g fiber, 2 g protein, $0.64
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour: 26 calories, 0 g fat, 0.2 g fiber, 0.7 g protein, $0.01
1/2 tablespoon olive oil: 60 calories, 6.7 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.05
TOTALS: 603 calories, 13.1 g fat, 0.2 g fiber, 107.1 g fiber, $2.86
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 151 calories, 3.3 g fat, 0 fiber, 26.8 g fiber, $0.72

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