I love to read. It’s actually somewhat of a problem.
Whenever I read fiction or a memoir, one of two things happens. I either put the book down because I can’t get into it, or I’m so into it that I can’t think about anything else, and end up reading the whole thing within a day or two. The latter happens much more frequently than the former, and everything else I’m supposed to be doing falls by the wayside. I fall into reading rabbit holes so easily that I usually don’t allow myself to read anything other than my school textbooks during the semester itself. (Of course, I’m very interested in speech and language pathology, but books with titles like Understanding Voice Problems and Preclinical Speech Science never really end up being page-turners. Instead of keeping me up all night like a suspenseful novel, they’re uniquely capable of sending me into a sudden nap if I read them anytime after the sun sets.)
This summer, I had a bit of time to read for fun, and I got into a series of food memoirs. I started with Mimi Sheraton’s Eating My Words, and liked it because of Sheraton’s wry sense of humor and the great sense the book gave me of life in New York City in the forties and fifties. Next up was Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone, which I also loved, because it focuses on her childhood, reads even more like a novel, and includes recipes.
In her second memoir, Comfort Me with Apples, Reichl describes her first taste of balsamic vinegar, back when it still wasn’t available to buy in the U.S. Darrell Corti served a small bowl of balsamic with asparagus spears for dipping, and Reichl loved it but had no idea what it was. Corti told her about the long and arduous process of making aceto balsamico, and described how precious it was to Italian families in Modena. He told her that “when the Americans arrived at the end of the war, each family fled with its barrel of finished balsamic. They simply could not imagine life without it.”
I agree that balsamic vinegar is pretty special. When I was browsing recipes over at Baking and Creating with Avril for this month’s Secret Recipe Club assignment, I had balsamic on the brain and this recipe for chicken with balsamic mushroom sauce jumped out at me. Avril is a great baker, and I was tempted by many of her awesome breakfast and dessert recipes (especially the brown butter blueberry white chocolate muffins, apple pie cheesecake, and soft molasses cookies), but in the end I went with this easy chicken dinner. It’s part of her weeknight meal series, which is just the kind of thing I need with my busy schedule this fall.
This chicken was quick, simple to make, and really flavorful thanks to the balsamic and mushrooms. When I heated up some leftovers for lunch the next day it was even more delicious, so this dish is also a good one to make ahead. Thanks, Avril, for the great recipe–I’ll definitely make this again!
Do you have any favorite food memoirs, great recipes with balsamic vinegar, or easy weeknight dinner suggestions? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Balsamic Chicken with Mushrooms
Yield: 3-4 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Ingredients (adapted from Baking and Creating with Avril):
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2-2 pounds)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1 tablespoon ghee
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I used half white button mushrooms and half baby bellas)
1/2 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon fresh)
Pound the chicken breasts until they are as thin as you can get them, and season both sides with salt and pepper. Place the tapioca flour on a plate and dip the pieces of chicken in it, pressing a bit to coat both sides.
Heat the ghee in a large skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown and cooked through, 5-7 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Add the mushrooms, onion, and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a plate.
Add the chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, and thyme to the skillet and bring to a boil. Let the sauce reduce for 5-7 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the vegetables and chicken back to the pan, turning the chicken to coat it with sauce, and cook for 2-3 more minutes.