Adventures in Dinnertime: Chicken Surprise

The Domestic Goddess has been quiet for a while.

Perhaps it’s because she is exhausted; from mid-November to mid-January, there is a LOT going on, food- and mommying-wise.

These goings on include, but are not limited to: the ramp-up to Christmas season, the 3rd Huffling’s birthday, the countdown to Christmas, that fun space between Christmas and New Year’s Eve when you have to spend every day with your children  (remember? you love them), to the 1st Huffling’s birthday. All of this involves a lot of baking and planning and grooming and cleaning up (before and afterwards). It’s exhausting.

So, last night at 5:30 pm, the DG realized that, not only had she not planned dinner, she hadn’t even taken anything out of the freezer to thaw. And the fridge was pretty empty of anything that could be eaten for dinner. This, of course, is different from “the fridge was pretty empty”. No, our fridge still looks full, but it’s full of condiments, wine and yogurt, while containing no actual food. See Figure 1.

Fig. 1. Fridge full of not food. (Image: author’s own)

I pulled some frozen chicken thighs from the freezer (the DG is suddenly too tired to refer to herself in the third person), and popped them into a nice warm-water bath in the sink. While that was thawing (sort of), I chopped an onion, three past-their-prime carrots, and some very wan, floppy celery, and sauted them with a bit of oil.*

At this point, the chicken was (sort of) unfrozen, and easily hacked chopped into bitish-size pieces, sprinkled with mixed dried herbs and S&P, then added to the mirepoix** to brown. Once the meat was sealed, I added about a tablespoon of Hidden Valley ranch dressing mix and glooped in about 1/2 cup of salsa, and covered to let simmer for about fifteen minutes. Et voila.

I gave each kid a scoop of egg-fried rice (leftovers that Chris made from his new cookbook) and topped it with this concoction.

The kids peered into their bowls, suspicious.

“What is it?” they asked.

“Chicken Surprise,” I responded.

Tamsin blew on hers and ventured a small bite. She sat up taller and shot me a thumbs-up.

“It’s really good,” she said. The other two agreed.

I did jazz hands. “Surprise!”

* Fun British Fact: Canola Oil, as it is known in Canada, was actually rebranded from the British Rapeseed Oil. Same oil, different name. (I assume there was a focus group.)

** Fun French Fact, taken word-for-word from Wikipedia: “Though the cooking technique is probably older, the word mirepoix dates from the 18th century and derives, as do many other appellations in French cuisine, from the aristocratic employer of the cook credited with establishing and stabilizing it: in this case, Charles-Pierre-Gaston François de Lévis, duc de Lévis-Mirepoix (1699–1757), French field marshal and ambassador and a member of the noble family of Lévis, lords of Mirepoix, Ariège, in Languedoc since the 11th century. According to Pierre Larousse (quoted in The Oxford Companion to Food), the unfortunate Duke of Mirepoix was “an incompetent and mediocre individual … who owed his vast fortune to the affection Louis XV felt toward his wife and who had but one claim to fame: he gave his name to a sauce made of all kinds of meat and a variety of seasonings.””

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