Sun 15 Sep 2013
It seems that in every second blog post of late, I promise to blog more often. These days I just can’t seem get a handle on my writing schedule so I’ll omit the usual promise and simply do the best I can to post more frequently.
The last few months have been tough for Mountaineering Man and me; his mother is ill and we’re spending every weekend at his parents’ home, which is about two hours away from Dublin. In order to protect the family’s privacy I won’t go into too much detail here, but suffice to say the illness came rather suddenly. It has been an incredibly difficult time for the whole family.
But even during this dark time, there are a few glimmers of light. It’s nice to spend some quality time with the family, who before this we’d see every third or fourth week. It’s been a real treat to see my little one-and-a-half-year-old niece, who – totally unbeknownst to her – has been our comic relief and welcome distraction with her funny antics and ever-developing personality.
I feel lucky to be able to see her every weekend, and am grateful that she is getting to know me too. She is a smart little girl, always up for a dance (last weekend her daddy put on some serious ‘70s disco music and away she went!) and loves for us to read to her from her many books. Mind you, we don’t always agree; she loves her mom’s old Judy doll, which regularly scares the crap out of me with her blank-yet-piercing stare - she reminds me too much of the Talking Tina doll from the Twilight Zone. And since my niece leaves her all around the house, Judy seems to pop up at every turn (particularly in my nightmares).
We also have at least one dinner with MM’s dad, sister and her family every weekend, sometimes two if we don’t have to rush back to Dublin for work. I’ve become the cook along with my brother-in-law; he’s the fry-up expert and will make the mid-day eggs, sausages, rashers, potato waffle, beans and tomato plate for anyone who is hungry. It looks so tempting I think I’m going to have to ask him to do one up for me next weekend. I usually cook the Saturday dinners and Sunday lunches, and despite my father-in-law’s protests that it’s too much work, I genuinely enjoy it.
We usually have some sort of meat (roast chicken, pork loin or steak), carrots and maybe peas and of course, potatoes. So lately I’ve been experimenting with different potato side dishes and am finding myself gravitating toward those really down-home comfort dishes like baked cheesy mash with a crunchy topping or potatoes gratin. Sometimes I’ll go totally off the regular menu and do something like a lasagna, which I made last week with some potato wedges and a salad. Yesterday we had Oven-Fried Cornflake Chicken, a real throw-back to my childhood as I used to make a similar dish when I was a kid (from a recipe in my Better Homes & Gardens New Junior Cookbook).
On the one hand, food and eating almost seem trivial in the context of what everyone is going through. But everyone has to eat, and after a long day of visiting and talking with nurses and dealing with a heap of emotions, they should eat something hearty and comforting. As Ina Garten once said, “Food is not about impressing people. It’s about making them feel comfortable.”
Oven-fried Cornflake Chicken
This is a great way to get the taste and texture of fried chicken, without all the fat and oil. The yogurt coating keeps the chicken really juicy and tender, while the Cornflakes create a super-crispy coating. Mind you, I do work at Kellogg’s so this is a bit of a product plug, but to be fair I grew up on Cornflakes and used to make a similar version of this chicken when I was a child. Trust me, you’ll fall in love with it!
2 cups of Cornflakes
2 teaspoons sea salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoons ground black pepper
150 ml greek-style natural yogurt
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
5 chicken breasts, on the bone (skin removed)
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 225 C.
Put the Cornflakes into a large, Ziplock freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin or other heavy kitchen utensil until they are thoroughly crushed. You don’t want it like a fine powder – just bashed into small bits.
Into the bag, add in the garlic powder and salt and pepper, then close the bag and mix thoroughly. Now add in the olive oil, close the bag again and shake until the oil is coating the bits of crushed Cornflakes. Set aside.
In a large dish or bowl, mix together the yogurt and dijon mustard.
Add a bit of salt and pepper to the chicken breasts. Now coat each chicken breast with the yogurt/mustard mixture – I just dipped them into the mixture and brushed off the excess with my fingers, which was the easiest for me. Put two chicken breasts into the bag of cornflakes and shake until completely coated. Repeat with the remaining breasts until all are coated.
Place the chicken on a wire rack that has been sprayed with oil spray (or you can just brush it with oil) and place the rack onto a baking pan/tray. Bake in oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the juice of the chicken runs clear (just pierce it with a sharp knife to check).
Cheesy Mash with a Crunchy Topping
There’s really no recipe for this, but here’s what I do: I make a mash of potatoes, warm milk, a bit of butter and some grated mozzarella cheese. I then top it with bashed-up Cornflakes or crackers mixed with some melted butter. Scoop the mash into a baking dish and cover with the Cornflakes or crackers, and bake at 180C for 35 minutes.