Monday, October 5, 2015

A Walk Through My Garden - Mushroom-Lover's Chicken Lombardy

Saturday - The sun is out and about, and I would like to enjoy it before the monsoon sweeps back in. First, I have avocado pits I want to plant in the flower boxes in the front of my house.  I usually start avocado plants by dangling the hind end of a denuded pit in water, but success is hit or miss so I'm going to try to bury them alive instead.  The other task I've set for myself, weather permitting, is to start pulling the weeds in my garden so that we can ready it for the fall planting.  All of this hinges on my level of pain which is simmering at a slow boil.

Last week Robert and I checked out the garden department at Lowe's, to get a good idea of what vegetable plants were going to be available.  Because my memory sucks, I took pictures.  I also took pictures of the seed packets - first time we had seen that at Lowe's - although, truth be known, I don't think I'm well-suited to start from seeds.  For starters, I just don't have sufficient planting area to accommodate all of the seedlings, assuming I want to do more than grow one or two types. I do better with the ready-to-plant pots, which let me choose a variety.      

After I planted the avocado pits, Rob and I went out to check on the ready-to-plant section at Home Depot in St. Cloud. OMG! I know where I am going to buy my plants. I also know that I am not going to pull weeds today. My road trip to Home Depot wore me out.                        

I have a bunch more pictures to help me remember everything Home Depot has available for planting, but these in particular captured the plants I did not expect to see, and now would love to fit into my garden. So that brings me to today, Sunday, and I'm all about measuring the available planting space. Last night I did some research on garden plans and on the vegetables themselves.  Did you know peppers do not like too much nitrogen?  And certain other plants do not like to have their roots disturbed at all, so transplanting is a no-no? Also that "intensive" planting is better than "row" planting for those of us with relatively small gardens?

Obviously, I want to grow what I know my family will eat. I also want to maximize chances for my peppers to flourish, and that means planting some brightly colored marigold in their vicinity. (Peppers need bees, and bees are drawn to bright flowers.) Also last season I planted herbs that I never use, like Thai basil and two different kinds of mint.  So I want to keep all of this in mind before I start piling plants into my cart at Home Depot.    

Having managed some weeding late yesterday once it had cooled down, I did a bit more, and made a proper go at measuring.  Once I get some graph paper I can plot it out,  but generally speaking I have 184 square feet, less the space taken up by the blueberry bushes, the chimney, and the area for access underneath the house. That's still a lot of herbs and vegetables.  Next year, James has proposed clearing out a whole line of shrubs across the back of our patio (I mean parking lot) to free up more gardening space. Imagine, a whole line of okra plants ...

Mushroom-Lover's Chicken Lombardy

The recipe for Chicken Lombardy has been around forever. It keeps showing up in regional and community cookbooks, which I collect, as well as some southern-type cookbooks.  This version happens to be how I made it today.   I've never made it this way before and I may never make it this way again.  But it turned out awfully good and tasty.  I know my boys will scarf it up or down or whatever direction in which you do your scarfing. I also want to pack up some for Mom and Dad, who don't scarrf, but will enjoy it, I'm sure.

4 very large skinless and boneless chicken breasts                      
Montreal Chicken Seasoning
Wondra flour
10 tablespoons of butter
24 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
Emeril's Essence
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 Knorr chicken bouillon cube
1 cup water
1 1/2 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon tomato paste (from a tube; I use Cento brand)
1/2 cup heavy cream, more as needed
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Quarter each chicken breast, by separating the tender section, cutting the thickest part in half horizontally, and cutting the largest piece in half.  Place each piece in a freezer bag and pound them on both side with a wooden meat mallet, until flattened to about 1/8th inch thickness.  Season both sides of each piece with the Montreal chicken seasoning, stack up the pieces in an aluminum baking dish, cover and place in the refrigerator for a few hours.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Sprinkle Wondra flour on both sides of four of the pieces and panfry in the butter until golden brown on each side.  Repeat for the remaining pieces, adding 2 tablespoons of butter each time. As they are cooked, place them in a clean baking dish, overlapping them to fit.  Set aside.

In the same skillet, add any remaining butter and all of the mushrooms. Sprinkle with Emerils' Essence. Let the mushrooms cook without stirring for about 5 minutes.  Add the onion to the skillet and stir. Continue cooking until the mushrooms and the onions are very tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms and onions from the skillet and spread over the chicken.

Now the sauce: to the liquid in the skillet add the Knorr cube, the water, and the sherry. Bring up the heat and let the sauce reduce by half, adding the tomato paste about halfway through. When the sauce is reduced, take off the heat and stir in the cream.

Spoon the sauce over and around the mushroom-topped chicken,  Combine the cheeses and sprinkle on top of the entire dish. Bake in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and lightly browned in spots. Serves 8, maybe more.

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