are you eating at Scarborough Fair….

It all started with the rosemary. One of the hazards of working at a garden center, as I learned today, is that on occasion you have to work with plants that smell really good. Today, I had to both ring up and label several containers of rosemary, which kept my stomach growling for the better part of the day and made me seriously contemplate buying a plant so I could take it home and eat it. I managed to resist, but fortunately I found out upon getting home that rosemary is actually one of the herbs that my mom is growing fresh in her little potted herb garden on the deck.

Today was one of the rare weekdays where, due to student cancellations, I had time to do more “cooking” than usual. (The norm is “thaw out whatver frozen leftovers I can dredge out of the freezer”, or “cook the frozen Trader Joe’s Chinese dumplings while nuking the ready-in-two-minutes box of Asian noodles”, or in a pinch, “eat a bowl of cereal.”) Now, let me just say, besides the time restrictions, cooking as a single woman is hard. Most recipes are designed for 4-6 servings, which means that either I need to make sure whatever I’m cooking is freezer-friendly, or I’ll be eating leftovers for the next few days. And I know I don’t live alone, but my mom has food allergy issues, my dad always eats salads for dinner, my rarely-home brother thinks that the four major food groups are pizza, boxed noodles, buffalo chicken and Mountain Dew, and by the time I got done teaching, I was still the only one left who had to eat. So while I love trying new recipes, one of my main cooking goals is to learn to improvise so that I can quickly throw together healthy meals for just myself. (Which will also be useful if I can ever afford that place of my own, in case I don’t end up with a hubby to cook for!)

I’d picked up this cookbook awhile back (my very first cookbook, awwww)–besides gearing towards healthy and fresh ingredients, my main draw was that it gives basic technique guidelines and how to improvise with them. So with fresh rosemary and chicken in mind, I decided to try her guideline for seared poultry sauced with broth. And this is what I ended up with…

I didn’t have any “rich” broth, so I had to go with the chicken broth that was already in the fridge. I also decided to throw in a chopped-up carrot, to add some color and veggie, and the leftover rice from a few days ago. (Please ignore the drying grill rack and the bowl of stuff-that-needs-to-go-in-the-compost.)
Pounding meat is the best cooking thing ever. Besides making it cook faster, it’s great stress relief! I just used an empty can that was waiting to be recycled.
I threw the carrots and some of the fresh rosemary in with the broth and let it simmer a bit, until the carrots were starting to get soft.
Then I took the carrots out and added some olive oil and the chicken, which I’d sprinkled on both sides with some freshly-ground sea salt, as well as some dried parsley, sage and thyme. (Get it? 😉 Later on, after the chicken was mostly cooked, I added the carrots back in as well as the rest of the rosemary. And then I put it on the reheated rice.
And this was the final result. It wasn’t perfect. The chicken didn’t really sear (I guess I didn’t have the heat high enough), and the carrots could have cooked a bit longer (they weren’t raw-tasting, but I think I would have liked them a bit softer). It also tastes like it needs some more flavor– maybe some olives, or some mushrooms and white wine (though that might be too earthy to contrast well with the carrots.) Or maybe just some more salt. But the herb mix was good, and the chicken wasn’t too dry– I guess the broth helped there. So I think my “Scarborough Fair” chicken might be worth tweaking for future fast meals. (And I’m definitely open to suggestions!)
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