Tonight's dinner was a snap decision. I was looking at a single quick-thaw chicken breast, onions and garlic, some bacon, leftover spaghetti noodles, some mushrooms and a can of artichoke hearts. I knew there was a good dinner here, I just needed to find it.
When in doubt, fry bacon. I put three strips in the pan. My oldest wandered up and said, "Mommy can you not cut up my bacon? I want a slice all for my own." I love this kid. I told her the chopped bacon would be in everyone's dinner. She then asked for a slice of bacon for dessert! I took the bacon out and put it on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain. I added the chopped onions and garlic to the sizzling bacon fat. The kitchen was starting to smell really good now. I suddenly remembered the quickly decomposing half a lemon I had in the back of the fridge and I ran to get it. Ducking into the fridge I spotted the lemon and an open bottle of white wine. Grabbing these I ran back and deglazed the pan with lemon juice and a dash of the wine. To this I added my chopped mushrooms and then the opened, drained can of artichoke hearts. I threw in the leftover spaghetti and fearing a lack of fat I added a tablespoon or so of butter as I sauteed. By now the chicken breast was thawed, I seasoned it all over with lemon pepper and placed it in a hot pan with olive oil. When it was cooking I added some more lemon juice from my now husk of a lemon rind. I removed the chicken to plate, cut into bite size pieces and added it to the other pan with all my now yummy sauteed ingredients I heated them all together till I was positive the chicken was cooked through. I cut up my bacon strips with kitchen shears and added them in at this point. At the last moment I covered it all in salt and pepper and a generous helping of parmesan cheese.
When I first started cooking on my own, I read a lot of recipes, and I still do. However I was never afraid of using a recipe as a jumping off point, or trying an "experiment" just to see how things came out. At this point after cooking for my family for 9 years I trust myself and my ability to match flavors. This has actually made me enjoy cooking more, as it frees me from the burden of much measuring or studious gathering and sourcing of ingredients. I see what I have on hand and start from there. I waste less food this way (see my lemon carcass above) and I make fewer trips to the store for a single ingredient. I do rely on recipes for a number of things; I am not baker enough to whip up my own improvised bread dough for instance. But I hope some day I could be!
So how did this crazy mess come out? Wel,l I did use three different kinds of fat, for those of you keeping score at home, that had to improve my odds. Frankly, this might have been the yummiest thing I have ever made for myself. After the first bite I was secretly hoping the kids would decide it was "yucky" and let me eat theirs while I made them hotdogs; but it was not to be. These ingredients made exactly 4 bowlfuls, parcelled out three bears style, with the baby getting a tiny bowl, Sarah getting a small bowl, Mama getting a medium bowl and Daddy getting a big bowl. And it was all juuuuusssst right!