Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Walkabout Among Kissimmee Architecture - Creamy Pine Nut Chicken

Today is still Labor Day and I'm playing catch up with the blog posts.  I'm also trying to work my way through tasks on my list, and while I've made good progress on the cooking projects, the cleaning projects are another matter.  I feel like I am a full half day behind myself, and that is resulting in a small but definite panic attack.

In yesterday's blog post I made a brief trip past Lawrence High School in Cedarhurst, my educational home for four mostly happy years.  While doing a bit of googling on my old stomping grounds, I discovered that my alma mater has a school motto.  I don't remember a school motto, so it must be a more recent innovation, but when I read it, it gave me definite pause: "Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum" literally, "I never retrace my steps" or "No Stepping Back". Ha! The course of my entire life might have been different if it had been subject to that train of thought, said the woman who remarried her first husband. (Unlike Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis, I've been married only twice, and both times to the same husband.)

Less specifically, I take it to mean "don't dwell on the past", or maybe "don't make the same stupid mistakes."  Certainly my remarriage was the farthest thing from a stupid mistake.  But I do tend to dwell on the past, excessively, obsessively, and that leads to panic attacks and getting stuck on stupid - I should say stuck on "Stop".  Sometimes I get so wrapped up in what I haven't accomplished in the proper linear order that I can only look backwards, which just compounds the problem. That's what I am trying to avoid today, this Labor Day.  Move forward and keep moving.

I set one task for myself for today, which was to clean and set up the upstairs hallway.  As soon as I came downstairs, I realized there were two or three important things ahead of it, which meant I might not get to it, which sent me spiraling into an anxiety attack.  Crap. 

But I take heart from the completion of those other tasks which were just as important, and much more immediate, and that thought helps me beat the panic back down where it belongs. And there's always tomorrow; it's not like the upstairs hallway is going to disappear by falling into the time-space continuum. Besides, Cory made progress on moving a few things from the hallway, which makes my job much easier.

Whatever you do, DON'T BLINK!

So as the afternoon shadows grew long and my energy level grew short, I gave up on the hallway and went on a walkabout. My daily walk is critical to my health - I get up, I get out, I breathe reasonably clean air. I listen to music, I admire the landscape and architecture, and I think. Bipedal meditation. I have to use my cane, and my speed walking days are over, but that little bit of exercise is officially my daily cardio.  It's all I can do and I'm doing it.

The Weeping Angel of Kissimmee

I altered my route slightly and got photos of some of my favorite places. These buildings, which are behind the new courthouse, are off the beaten path and if you don't know they are there, you will miss them altogether.  Prior to 2000, there was nothing but a badly-paved parking lot with enormous trees where the courthouse now stands, and the objects of my architectural affection were easily visible, but now, tucked between the back of the courthouse and the railroad tracks they are the purview of seekers of the arcane. Like me.

The Weeping Angel spends her days in front of this absolutely fabulous building on Vernon Avenue -

- which happens to be a lovingly restored home turned into a law office.

A goodly number of the homes in the area, including mine, have housed law firms at one time or another, although I'm not sure of the ratio of law office to private home.

Many private homes are well-maintained -

- some not so much, although this house is architecturally incredible -

- or not at all, although this may be a forgotten victim of Hurricane Charley.

This one was a law office when I first saw it; now it is a residence. To its left is a law office. Across the street is the Weeping Angel law office. We are nothing if not "mixed use" zoning in Historic Downtown Kissimmee, which in my opinion is one of the things that makes this area so charming.

This fantastic wreck - literally on the wrong side of the tracks on Vernon Avenue - has a twin that is a law office. Although the beautifully restored and maintained twin building fronts on Emmett Street, it sits on the corner of - you guessed it - Vernon Avenue. It's no mistake that before the new courthouse was built and Courthouse Square created, the old courthouse address was 12 South Vernon Avenue.

And we could park, in precious 1-hour spots, right in front of the courthouse.

One of these days, I'm going to get brave enough to cross Emmett Street on one of my walks, to check out the great buildings on that side.  But, that is another blog post. I hope you enjoyed this walkabout.

This recipe is inspired by James Nair's Creamy Almond Chicken recipe, from his cookbook called, appropriately, Chicken. I don't remember the year of publication, but I do remember typing the recipe into my personal collection in 1990. It's a neat little book.

Mr. McNair's recipe called for 12 oz. of fettuccine, cooked, and some pesto sauce and/or spaghetti sauce for serving.  I love pasta, but it always soaks up way too much of whatever sauce I've prepared, so I tried this with a layer of some of my favorite vegetables instead.

Creamy Pine Nut Chicken

1 stick butter, melted
2 teaspoons celery salt
1 1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
kosher salt
ground black pepper
2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (3 large breasts)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sherry

Cut the chicken in half, horizontally, to make 6 thinner cutlets. Combine the butter, celery salt, oregano, paprika and curry powder, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.  Dredge the chicken in flour, then roll in the flavored butter.  Arrange the chicken pieces in a baking pan. Scatter the pine nuts over the chicken, and then pour the half and half over the top.  Cover the pan with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes.

Arrange the cooked chicken on top of the vegetables.  Add the sour cream and sherry to all of the cooking liquid from the chicken and whisk together until smooth. Pour this mixture over the chicken (try not to dislodge the pine nuts) and bake uncovered until tender, 15 to 30 minutes more.  Baste the chicken once during this time.  Serve with the vegetables.  If you have extra sauce, you can ladle it over a small side of pasta or rice.  Or egg noodles which go great with a creamy sauce.

Vegetable Layer - Prepare this before the chicken:
1 - 10 oz. package frozen broccoli spears, defrosted and partially cooked (about 4-5 minutes in the microwave is more than enough)
1 Japanese eggplant, sliced thin
1 yellow bell pepper cut into strips
1 shallot, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound white button mushrooms, sliced

In a deep baking dish arrange the broccoli spears, then sprinkle with some kosher salt and black pepper. In a skillet, heat a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.  Add the eggplant in a single layer and fry over medium-high heat until just a bit brown and crispy on both sides.  With a slotted spoon, remove from the skillet and spread over the broccoli.  Add the peppers to the skillet and cook for a minute or two.  Add the shallot and garlic and cook another few minutes, just until the garlic is fragrant. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

Lower the burner heat to medium.  Add the butter to the skillet, and then add the sliced mushrooms. Cook for 10 minutes or until the liquid released by the mushrooms has evaporated and the butter is mostly absorbed.  Spoon the cooked mushrooms over the other vegetables, and then set aside this baking pan.

The finished dish, combining vegetable with chicken

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