Is summer over yet? I know there is a full month still until Fall is officially here, but today is the first day of school in our area and I know many of your children have been back for weeks now. This time of year is a giddy one for me. My sadness at saying good bye to the long, slow days of summer is completely drowned out by the excitement of a new school year. It means cooler temperatures and warmer drinks, sweaters and baking, and caramel apples and pumpkins, and crunchy leaves underfoot, and roasts and stews and heavy dishes and Christmas cookies, and so much more. By the end of August, I am ready for Summer to quietly slip away and for Fall to start happening with noisy exuberance.
Fall means starting fresh and getting organized. After school snacks and dinners at the table and time for practices and homework-it’s all coming and it’ll be here before you know it. So how do you get ready for Fall? I use these tools to plan my menus (and who knows I might actually get organized enough to post a menu soon). As hurricane season draws to a close I feel comfortable stocking my freezer and cook larger batches of meals and snacks to freeze. I have plans to do several posts on freezing meals this fall so let me know if you are interested.
The real key to staying organized for me is simplicity. Simplicity with my meals doesn’t mean one-note or bland or boring, it just means to keep it simple: protein, starch, vegetables. One of the simplest meals you can make is a quickly seared protein, accompanied by a starch and a few easy vegetables.
Take this Lemony Sauced Chicken over Truffled Mushroom Risotto with Lemon Butter Broccoli. The basic components are simple: sear a chicken breast, make some rice, steam some broccoli. It is the extra flourish of lemon zest over the broccoli florets, the fast yet velvety pan sauce, the creaminess of the risotto style rice with a drizzle of truffle oil, and the fresh chopped herbs sprinkled over that make the meal great. The best part is that these extra accents take very little extra time yet make the meal feel far more luxurious.
Lemony Sauced Chicken Breastsserves 4, prep 10 min, cook 15 min
- 2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp dry white wine
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- Trim all visible fat from the chicken breasts.
- Place one breast in a large zip-top plastic blag and use a flat mallet or heavy bottle to pound it to an even thinness, the breast should be fairly large and flat.
- Remove the breast from the bag and cut into two equally sized portions. Repeat with the other breast so you have four chicken breast paillards.
- Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, then when hot, add the butter and oil.
- Once butter is melted, season chicken with salt and pepper then place in the pan. Cook undisturbed until chicken has turned white about halfway up on the sides, about 5 minutes.
- Flip chicken with tongs and finish cooking, about 5 more minutes. Remove chicken to a serving plate and keep warm in an oven or under foil.
- Add lemon juice and white wine to the pan, scraping up all of the browned bits in the bottom of the pan. Add chicken broth and boil until reduced by about half and sauce is slightly thick.
- Serve chicken drizzled with about 1 to 2 tbsp of sauce.
The base of this dish is a very, very basic mushroom risotto. There is almost no prep work required (tell me you have an egg slicer for slicing your mushrooms) and the stirring can be done while working on your other dishes. Just get it started and then it cooks itself while you make the chicken and pan sauce.
Basic Mushroom Risottoserves 6, prep 10 min, cook 20 min
- 5 cups chicken broth
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 8 oz fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced or chopped
- 1 cup arborio or long grain rice
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper
- truffle oil or truffle salt (optional)
- Boil chicken broth then turn down to a simmer.
- Heat a pan to medium and add oil and butter. Once butter is melted add mushrooms and saute until beginning to brown.
- When mushrooms are starting to turn golden, add rice and stir. Toast rice, stirring, until it turns golden.
- Ladle one cup of hot broth into rice and mushrooms and stir to combine. You do not have to stir constantly but just come back to it as you work on your dishes and give it a good stir every now and then.
- When most of the liquid is absorbed and the pan is beginning to get dry, stir in another cup of liquid. Continue stirring in hot liquid as it is absorbed until rice is tender and creamy.
- When rice is done, remove from the heat and stir in parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
- Drizzle individual servings with a small amount of truffle oil of a pinch of truffle salt if desired.
Steamed frozen vegetables are my favorite side. They are healthy, convenient, and take very little time and effort to make. Simply place frozen vegetables in a lidded casserole and microwave them for five to seven minutes while the table is being set. To play off the lemon in the pan sauce I added a little melted butter, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of salt. To serve, I plated a spoonful of risotto, drizzled it lightly with truffle oil, placed a chicken paillard on top, drizzled it with pan sauce, set a spoonful of broccoli on the side and then grated lemon zest over all of it. I chopped a few tablespoons of fresh parsley and sprinkled a bit over the whole dish.