An Ode to Dad, in Macaroni…

“I am so glad that there are Dads

To hug and kiss me better.

I am so glad YOU are my Dad

That’s why I wrote this letter…”

Impressive, huh? What, you need a visual? Ok, imagine these pearls of poetic wisdom composed in blue crayon on a piece of red construction paper, tiny fingerprints in the corners from a recently consumed peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and surrounded by a heart, carefully constructed from elbow macaroni affixed with globs of Elmer’s glue. NOW you’re impressed, aren’t you! Yes, dear friends, as early as age seven I showed a predilection for writing witty bon mots about, or in this case with food. And by now you’ve guessed that this week’s post is in honor of Father’s Day.

Hopefully for better, and sometimes for worse, we all have a father somewhere in the mix. He’s the first person we use to threaten physical harm to the other kids on the playground (“Oh yeah? Well my dad can beat up your dad”), the biggest person we know when on the other end of his hand looking up from a four-year-old’s view, and likely the only man a woman wouldn’t mind calling her a ‘girl’, regardless of her age. Seriously, who but your dad would you want using the phrase “atta girl” when you did something ballsy or brave? Though some may have been ‘fathered’ by surrogates of a kind, a grandfather, uncle, big brother, neighbor, teacher or friend, the wisdom and guidance was there to teach you, support you, buck you up when you were down, and have your back when you needed it most (even if you were all grown up.)

My dad left this world over 20 years ago, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still there for me. His stories and theories and unique view of life are interwoven in me. I know how to catch a rabbit because of him: “Sprinkle pepper on a rock, and when the rabbit sniffs it he sneezes, hitting his head on the rock and knocking himself out.” His concept of a perfume that would attract men was brilliant: “Why do women think smelling like flowers would attract a man? Dab a little bacon behind each ear and they’ll come running!” And whenever rain interferes with my outdoor plans, I think of his gray-weather optimism as he’d say “Yup…the sun’s coming out in half an hour!” I cook something he’d love, touch a piece of wood he honed smooth, or get a whiff of sawdust or Aqua Velva and he’s right here again, holding my tiny hand in his giant paw and calling me sweet girl in his hometown language. So to all you fathers out there, and the grandpas, brothers, uncles, coaches, teachers and friends, here’s to a VERY Happy Father’s Day. And in case I didn’t say it before, thank you.

My dad’s favorite kind of meal was something he’d have called an “eintopf” or one-pot meal. A favorite was one created out of necessity, economy, and a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup. Originally developed on a camping trip over a coleman stove, Mom would sauté some chicken breasts and onions, toss in a can of the beige savory mushroom studded goo, a squeeze of lemon, a spoon of sour cream or mayonnaise, and the result was the famous (and quite delicious) “Chicken Thing”. I believe its name came from my brother, who upon asking what was in the pot and hearing mom list the ingredients replied, “oh… chicken thing.”

Now I don’t consider myself a food snob (I did write a whole blog in praise of canned beans), but I am admittedly hesitant to use condensed cream of anything (what is REALLY in there anyway…) So when recreating this recipe, I tried to adapt it to a less processed-food centric world. I think I succeeded, and have a feeling Dad would be okay with this new ‘Thing’. Who knows, there may even be a celestial “atta girl” in it for me!

Chicken Thing 2012 Makes 3-4 servings

A new take on an old classic, sans the condensed cream of mushroom goo.

The chicken part:

  • 1 lb skinless boneless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ TBSP butter
  • ½ TBSP olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced onions
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 TBSP dry white wine or dry white vermouth
  • 1-cup low sodium chicken broth (if you use regular, decrease the salt and pepper above by half)
  • 2 ounces herb garlic goat cheese
  • 2 TBSP heavy cream
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice, plus another 2 tsp to add in at the end

The mushroom part:

  • 1 ½ cups sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 tsp butter
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

To thicken the sauce

  • 1 TBSP room temperature sour cream
  • 1 TBSP cornstarch
  • 2 TBSP cool/cold water

Heat the ½ TBSP butter and oil over medium high heat in a deep sauté pan. Mix the salt and pepper together and sprinkle over both sides of the chicken. Brown chicken thighs well on both sides and remove to a bowl. Drain all but 1 TBSP fat from the pan, set over medium-low heat and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté until just soft, about 5 minutes. Add in rosemary and cook another 3 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Add vermouth or wine, turn up heat and scrape the browned bits up as the liquid boils for a minute (in other words, deglaze the pan.) Add back in the chicken and any accumulated juices, the chicken broth, lemon zest, a tablespoon lemon juice, goat cheese and cream, stirring until the cheese is melted and incorporated into the sauce. Bring liquid to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cover. Cook for about 25 minutes.

At about the 20-minute mark, melt a teaspoon of butter in a small nonstick pan. Add in the sliced mushrooms, a pinch of salt and sauté over medium high heat until the mushrooms are soft and a little browned, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms to chicken.

Mix together the cornstarch, sour cream and water. After the chicken has cooked 25 minutes, remove cover, add the sour cream mixture and bring chicken and sauce to a slow boil for 1-2 minutes, stirring well. The sauce will thicken quickly. Remove from heat; add in the remaining 2 teaspoons of lemon juice.

Serve over noodles, rice, or my favorite, steamed sugar snap peas or asparagus. Calories: about 385 per serving (3), 290 per serving (4).


4 thoughts on “An Ode to Dad, in Macaroni…

  1. Your poem was even better than that, Sweet Girl… read:
    When I am sad, I run to Dad, to hug and kiss me better.
    I am so glad I have my Dad,
    That’s why I wrote this letter💝
    Love, Mom

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