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company for dinner

“Company for dinner? What flavor? Will they go well with a white sauce?”

I hope he goes well with a white sauce, because that’s what we are having when Max comes this Thursday for dinner. fettucine Alfredo with chicken, broccoli and crusty bread purchased from the local grocery store bakery. It will be served with a leafy mixed greens salad and homemade lemon-aide.

Max is one of Alex’s high-school pals and the second of his ‘single’ friends to come for dinner. He’s an ice climber and a lacrosse coach. Oh my. Will he like pasta? Does he like broccoli -or will we have another Orange Pepper Incident on our hands? **The first fellow we had over, a hilarious and lanky 21-year-old who went through the police academy with Alex, was horrified at the lovely orange pepper slices I used to garnish the salad and very dramatically picked them all out. He soon forgave me, however, and after he got used to the idea that Alex was now permanently attached to this pepper-obsessed female, he seemed to even think that the whole marriage thing wasn’t a half-bad idea after all. By the end of the evening we were trying to set him up with available young women…. to be continued.**

Max will be the first person to eat at our place since we’ve acquired serving dishes and utensils- I am very excited to test them out on him.

Company Coming Chicken and Broccoli  Alfredo Sauce

2 chicken breasts, skinned, boned and cubed

1 medium-sized crown of broccoli cut into bite-sized florets

2 cups whole milk (I supposed you should use 1 cup of cream,

but I never have any, so I use creamy milk and cook it for a while so that it gets thick….)

1/2 cup white wine

salt and pepper

1 clove garlic, sliced

2 Tbsp flour (I used this to help thicken the sauce, if you’re using cream you won’t need it.)

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

olive oil for frying

I must say right now that I have utterly and unabashedly stolen the *method* of making this from that creative culinary genius, Sheri (of Sheri’s Diner fame…). She so effortlessly mixes up these incredibly gorgeous dishes while she visits with me, and I am studying her every move, memorizing the methods because once you have the method- you can mix and match your own flavors and come up with something entirely different. True? True. That, and I am fascinated by the idea of cooking with wine. The first time I tried it, I somehow curdled the milk and made a horrible mess. Horrible Mess.

Olive oil- in a big frying pan. Here I will repeat the saying that my mama (the first and foremost culinary expert in my life) taught me, “Hot pan, cool oil- Food Won’t Stick.” Get your pan hot, then add your oil. It works, believe me. Add the sliced garlic and let it swim around and scent the oil. It should brown, then be scooped out so that it doesn’t burn while you cook the chicken. Don’t worry, it isn’t being just used and then discarded, it can be added again later- I’ll tell you when it’s safe….

Now the chicken can go in. I like my cubes to be bite-sized; of all things, I deplore large chunks of *things*, I have a compulsion to have everything in small enough pieces to be eaten nicely. Nicely. I know, weird- we’ll move on. At this point I season the chicken with my salt and lots of pepper (Alex loves pepper, and I am learning to love it too. I find I can admire the spice much more when it is freshly ground, it’s completely different from the dry ashes contained in most table-top shakers) and stir it so that it cooks evenly. When it is just about done, add the broccoli florets.

Now, a word about broccoli- who can *not* like a food that comes in ‘florets’? Honestly, a floret of broccoli, when it has been tastefully cooked is just about the best vegetable there is. I like broccoli cooked just until it ‘wakes up’. You will know exactly what I mean if you watch closely the next time you cook some. It goes into the pot looking dark green and almost waxy, then after a couple of minutes of being steamed or sautéed, suddenly the color comes alive and intensifies, electrifies, the broccoli is still crisp and the flavor is very -real. I feel bad for people who have only ever had broccoli that has died in the pan as avocado green mush, then buried in a Velveeta cheese-food grave. I used to like my broccoli cooked like this, with cheese. Oh my. Thank God I wasn’t given up on. Anyway. The broccoli goes into the pot with the chicken to be briefly sautéed, until it’s woken up. Then, brighten it with the wine (very much like you would splash your face with cold water upon waking) and add the garlic back in if you’ve saved it (remember, I asked you to earlier?). This is going to be a fragrant and enticing moment, enjoy it. I was absolutely hypnotized.

This is going to cook for just a minute or two. At this point, I add the cheese and then the flour and stir them in well. Next comes the milk/cream. All of this is allowed to simmer while the finishing touches are being made to the meal. I wouldn’t let it cook for too long lest you destroy the broccoli….

Please, I beg you, if you forget the bread or serve it with frozen butter, undercook the noodles, cut the chicken into big, inedible hunks or even burn the garlic- just Don’t Destroy The Broccoli. Please.

Thank you. We all will thank you….

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"The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook." Julia Child

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