I'm going to be erratically posting on the topic of Cooking for Dudes. Because I have learned a great truth. Having this blog and posting cooking stuff on Facebook and, maybe most relevant, having been married to Jill, I've learned something that all my male brethren need to internalize...girls like it when you cook for them. And by cook, I mean, NOT GRILLING. I know, I know. We're guys. We like fire. We get all caveman and science geek when we get outside with a hunk of meat and some flame. We drink beer and fart and hang out with other guys while turning a perfectly good hunk of meat into charcoal and then we douse it with some off the shelf sauce and we call it cooking.
Here's the thing...your wife, your girlfriend, your significant other...she knows you're doing that for you but you just happened to buy so much meat that you can't help but have some leftover for her and the kids. She pretends not to know that. Because she loves you. And that makes her awesome and is why you should stay with her forever.
So...you want to do something for her, even cook something for her, but if it's on a stove and not in front of the biggest damn grill you could afford, you're lost. You don't want anything too hard. You don't want anything that takes forever to cook. You don't want anything involving 74 measuring cups and multiple bowls and 162 ingredients because: a.) you'll forget to put half of them in; b.) you'll get distracted reading the recipe and burn the beejeesus out of it filling the house with smoke, sending the smoke alarms into a frenzy, and possibly resulting in a vigilant and concerned neighbor seeing smoke billowing from your house and calling the fire department (this is not a theory, this has happened...to me...more than once), and; c.) the more implements you use, the more likely the kitchen will look like a bomb hit it and the prodigious mess you make will offset any points you get for cooking her something delicious.
As a result, we have a few rules...
1.) Nothing that takes more than 30 minutes of effort, with effort being the operative word
2.) No more than 10 ingredients
3.) No more than 4 steps
I give you, Chipotle-Lime Chicken Cutlets with a Red Wine Pan Sauce.
First, an important note - you don't really need the pan sauce. It does make it tastier, but you'd be fine without it. It's just so damn...refined. And it's easy. So, shut up and do it.
Second, a trivial note - I didn't take a picture of this. Which was stupid. I'll add one later.
2 boneless-skinless chicken breasts, halved into cutlets (or just buy 4 cutlets at the store)
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 serrano chile, chopped, seeds still in
2 tsp chipotle powder
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup red wine
2 tbsp butter (unsalted)
cilantro, for garnish
Right out of the gate, I've failed you. This has 11 ingredients. This is a valuable lesson for you. When cooking, don't get hung up on rules, Taste stuff. Screw around. Leave stuff out, throw something in 'cause you can. Remember that no matter how badly you screw it up, pizza is 30 minutes away. Ain't no one going hungry.
1 gallon ziploc bag
1 (maybe 2) cutting board(s)
1 big ass knife (aka Chef's Knife)
1 little ass knife (aka Paring Knife - and it's optional)
1 1/4 cup measuring cup
1 10" skillet (non-stick or otherwise...it don't matter)
1 set of tongs
1 microplane or multi-sided grater
This is gonna read like it should take a long time. It shouldn't take you more than 10 minutes to make the marinade. But I'm giving you all the info you need to do it so it's a little long.
On the matter of cutlets...sometimes in the store you can find something called a Chicken Cutlet. That's just a chicken breast cut in half so you have two relatively thin pieces of meat. If you can't find those in the store, get two regular chicken breasts. Place one flat on a cutting board, and from the side, gently cut it open so you can "unfold" the breast like you're opening a book. Cut all the way through...voila! Cutlets. Repeat on the other one.
While you got the meat on the cutting board, lightly salt and pepper both sides. Throw the meat into the ziplock bag.
You're on fire. Now for a little more work. If you have a garlic press, it's totally cool to cheat instead of taking time to mince it. Besides, I worry about your knife skills so it's probably a good idea to use the press. Since there's a good chance you have no idea what a garlic press looks like but it's very likely you (or your significant other) have one in a drawer somewhere, below is picture. Holding it over the freezer bag, just put a clove in, press, and bang off any that's sticking into the bag. You don't even have to peel the garlic but you'll probably want to clean out the garlic paper between cloves, just so's it goes a bit smoother.
Grab the Serrano. You can use a jalapeño, but the Serrano has a little more heat and underneath the heat, a fruitier flavor, which works well in this dish. By marinating it with the lime juice (we're coming to that) it's going to mellow the heat a bit and bring out that nice tart quality. Cut the stem end off the chili pepper, and then split it lengthwise down the middle. Now, you gotta choice to make. If the person your coooking this for likes spicy food, just chop it up and throw it in the bag. If she likes things a bit milder, we gotta get the seeds out of there. That's where all the heat lives.
With the seed side facing up, put your thumb and forefinger on either side, right along the cut edges. Push down, flattening it out. Holding your knife (Paring Knife if you got one) parallel to the cutting board, slide it under the edge of the rib (the white part) and scrape it forward, removing the ribs and seeds. Repeat on the other half, chop, and throw in the bag.
Almost there. Measure out the chipotle powder and paprika and throw that in the bag.
Grab the lime. We're going to zest it first, and then juice it. To juice it you gotta cut it in half and that makes zesting really, really hard. And comical to watch. If you have a microplane of some sort use that. Hold it over the bag, scrape the lime across it all the way around using short, shallow strokes.
Now, cut the lime in half and man up. Limes are hard to squeeze. Hold it just inside the bag and squeeze like you're afraid of flying, the plane is taking off, and you think if you clamp down on the armrest hard enough you'll help the plane fly. Do it again with the other half. Add in the olive oil, squeeze the air out of the bag, zip it shut and shake the hell out of it so everything gets mixed up. Throw it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Good job. Pour you and your spouse a glass of wine and chill out for the next 20 minutes.
20 minutes up? Cool. Get back to work. Grab the chicken out of the fridge, set it on the counter. Don't open the bag yet. Grab your skillet and put in on over medium heat. We want to give it time to get hot.
At this point, you either gotta wash down your cutting board or get a second one. You don't want to do the rest of this on a poultry contaminated board.
While the pan heats, grab the cilantro. You want about 1/4 of the standard sized bunch you get at the store. Chop off the stems. Don't get overly committed to this. The stems are edible but can be a little tough toward the bottom. Roughly chop the part you're using. Don't overdo it. Put them in a bowl. Measure out the wine. Usually you're gonna use white wine with chicken. For some reason, maybe it's the lime or the chile...I don't really know...this dish tastes better with a red. Any kind you have that you like to drink will work. And if you don't have any red, use a white. It'll still taste good. Get the butter out and divide each tbsp in half.
By this point, your pan should be hot, throw a glug of olive oil in. Remove the chicken, shake it off a little, and slap each piece down on the skillet. You should hear a nice sizzle. DO NOT FUSS WITH IT. Just let it cook for five minutes. At the five minute mark, turn it over. Same thing, leave it alone. After five minutes, remove it to the cutting board and let it rest. If you cut into it now, all the juices, which are close to the surface, run out and you get dry meat. Letting it rest let's the juices redistribute evenly. About 5-7 minutes should do it.
Reduce the heat to medium low. Pour in the wine. It'll sizzle and spit...which is good. While it's doing that, grab a wooden spoon or a spatula and scrape all the brown bits up off the bottom of the pan. Reduce it by half, which takes a couple of minutes. Turn the heat off and pick up the skillet. Drop the pieces of butter in one at a time and shake and swirl the pan so they melt. As one piece is about done, add the next one. That's it...you got you a tasty pan sauce.
Grab a couple of plates. This will taste just fine on its own but if you want to fill out the plate I'd throw down some green or red leaf lettuce and give a little drizzle of some lime and a little drizzle of olive oil.
Slice the chicken "on the bias"...which just means on a slight diagonal. I don't know why but all the Chef types tell you to do this. It's classy or something. Place it on the plate (or the greens) and put a couple small spoonfuls of the pan sauce over the meat and then sprinkle some cilantro over the top.
The meat has a little sour from the lime, some body from the wine and butter, some heat from the Serrano and chipotle, and just a little sweet and earthiness from the paprika.
And I'm pretty sure she'll think you're awesome for making it.