The little chicken that could

When I’m nervous, I try to stick to cooking things that I really know. Life can feel so uncertain sometimes, and if you know you have a good piece of meat and you know you can sear it the way it should be seared, it’s something to hold onto.

Beside that, it is the season of assembling meals instead of cooking them, so it’s important to go over searing. I know a lot of people have grills, but I don’t, so instead grilling things to throw over a salad, I sear them. I have started ordering my groceries on line, and I resisted for a long long time, but they made me a deal I couldn’t refuse. If I order on line, I don’t have to take Ferdinand to the grocery store. It’s been good so far, everything incredibly fresh, but I got a chicken breast the size of a small ham yesterday. If you try and cook that in the pan from start to finish, it’s going to be dry as a bone. You could always braise it, but a quicker alternative is to take it off the bone, get rid of the skin, and then cut each breast horizontally into three pieces. Skinny stuff like that can be cooked in minutes. Once it’s done, here’s what you could do:

a salad with romaine, fresh corn, blue cheese, avocado, chive and chicken

fresh figs, spicy basil, finely sliced shallot, small dallops of mascarpone, arugula and chicken

a tossed warm salad of chicken, string beans, tiny diced potatoes and pesto (very nice with a tomato salad with olive oil and balsamic)

The secret to your key ingredient: get a heavy frying pan hot and then add a delicious olive oil. Add a few cloves of whole garlic. Season the chicken with salt, and lay the filets in the pan a few at a time, so they aren’t too crowded. When they are a gorgeous chestnut color on the one side (and don’t go flipping them before they are ready), FLIP. This is when you add your sprig of rosemary if you want to. Cook them on the other side, JUST until they are cooked through. If they are a teeny bit pink inside, it’s OK unless you are pregnant or super old. They will finish cooking after they come off the heat. Dried up chicken is not nice. When they come out of the pan, drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil and a spritz of lemon if you like, and then assemble and dress your salad. If you are one of the lucky gals who came with me for a food tour of Florence this Spring, now is your time to use that reduced balsamic you bought. Little drops of it are beautiful on a fig salad.

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