Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ramen? Rather Not. College Cooking 101

I've been asked by my step-daughter and her roommates to pay particular attention to the cash-strapped, health conscious, college student -- the ones who just raided their homes for outdated colanders, cutting boards and cook pots to outfit apartment kitchens. Who would eat Ramen, but rather not. Who need recipes that are cheap, easy and good. I am assuming that although these are not vain women, food that will not necessitate buying another wardrobe or wearing a tent would be another key feature.

Here goes.

First we stocked her spice cabinet --- good salt, fresh pepper, cinnamon, curry, cumin and ground thyme a must -- and bought good knives and real wine glasses (don't worry, they're 21. And you can never learn too early that cheap wine tastes better out of a glass that sits in your hand in a satisfying manner.) She purchased penne and canned vodka sauce, Nutella, olive oil, Balsamic vinegar and good tea (another treat that doesn't break the bank).

And now she wants to cook. And she's ready.

Rock this recipe, Boo.

Chicken Balsamic

Chicken thighs, 2 per person
balsamic vinegar
garlic, peeled and sliced thin, or mushrooms if desired 
spray oil

Spray a skillet large enough to fit in all your chicken thighs. Spray generously with oil, or use about a tablespoon of olive oil and swirl to coat pan.

If using garlic, sprinkle in bottom of pan with a pinch of sea salt (the thick one) and let cook for a few minutes, or until golden. Flip and add chicken thighs. Cook 5 minutes more, until chicken thigh is browned, then flip chicken. 

Have the top of the pan at the ready. Sprinkle with balsamic (I use about 1/3 cup for 8 thighs for 3 people  and plenty of leftovers.) If using mushrooms, sprinkle over the top and cover fast. Steam will rise when the balsamic hits the pan and you want to capture it to steam the chicken -- this accounts for the moistness of the dish.

Cook until the chicken reaches at least 160 degrees, turning again to coat the chicken. The vinegar will form a nice thick glaze. (This will be about 5-10 more minutes, depending on how many thighs you've got in there. ( We didn't buy you a meat thermometer? Rats. Sorry. Christmas.)

In this picture it looks pretty brown. I assure you it is food alchemy to turn thighs to prize. I love to serve it on a chilly night with cauliflower puree and cranberry sauce. Those are not included in College Cooking 101, but go for it if you want to rock Riverside.

Astound your friends. Befuddle your enemies. Above all, eat good food.


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