Cooking is easy. I believe that anyone can make a delicious meal. Like anything in life, it’s a matter of desire. Clearly, I have no problem committing an entire day to ingredient sourcing, chopping, mincing, searing and slicing. It’s fun for me. I understand that it’s not for everyone. And even I have days when I really wish that a home cooked meal would magically appear on my plate. But even though we all differ in our cooking desires and abilities, one common thread remains; we all need to eat. And as far as I know, we would all prefer what we eat to be delicious.
But why does cooking have to be so polarizing? It seems that people are defined as those who cook and those who don’t. There must be some happy medium, some comfortable place halfway in between slaving over David Chang’s braised pork butt and simply running to the neighborhood ramen restaurant for takeout. My column Perfect Pantry was created to tackle this problem. How to cook when you don’t feel like going to the store. But along with ingredients, we need recipes.
The most challenging of these I-don’t-feel-like-cooking times are the nights alone. We’ve all been there. You are in your kitchen, hungry glancing back and forth from your phone to your fridge. The only thing in your freezer is gin. Because if you’re like me, you’re not a frozen-dinner kind-of-person. Is it worth making a mess if it’s just for me? Is there anything here to make? A steamed pork bun just sounds so good right now…Okay, maybe that’s just me. But recently I was in this position. My husband, a musician, has been on tour for most of the summer. So when my favorite person to cook for is away, I can’t help but feel uninspired.
But then I got to thinking about how this whole cooking obsession began in the first place. And I see a single twenty-something girl in her East Village apartment, blasting Belle and Sebastian songs on her stereo and cracking open a bottle of Pinot Noir while she comes up with a purpose for the treasures she rounded up at the Union Square Farmer’s market that day. A girl who cured her own loneliness by regularly throwing herself a one-woman dinner party and in the process, learned how to cook. So eight years later, I decided to channel that inner single girl. And on a hot summer night in Los Angeles, made myself a Bee’s Knees cocktail with the aforementioned gin and started cooking.
Lonely Girl Chicken with Quick Almond-Cherry Couscous and Parsley Garlic Sauce
Note: For a faster and simpler version, this dish may be served without the parsley garlic sauce.
Serves 2 (You’ll have leftovers. That’s a good thing.)
- 1lb skinless boneless chicken thighs
- 1/2 cup Israeli couscous
- 1/4 cup raw almonds
- 1/4 cup dried cherries
- 1 handful fresh arugula leaves (or other greens such as spinach or kale)
- kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
For Parsley Garlic Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon sliced garlic
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the almonds on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, about ten minutes. Let cool and chop. Set aside.
Place the chicken thighs in between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound to 1/2 inch thickness.
In a small sauce pan bring 3/4 cup water to a boil. Add the couscous, cherries, salt and pepper. Cover the pan and remove from heat. Let stand for 15 minutes or until couscous is cooked. Fluff with a fork and add the almonds.
In a large cast-iron skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium high heat. Sprinkle the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Using tongs, add the chicken to the skillet and cook until golden brown about 8 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
To make the sauce: Increase the heat to high, add the wine and simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom, until reduced by half, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and parsley to the skillet and cook over medium high heat for about 6 minutes. Cut the remaining 1 tablespoons of butter into two small pieces and whisk them into the sauce one at a time. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
Place a spoonful of the couscous on the center of a plate. Place the handful of fresh arugula on top of the couscous. Place the chicken thighs on top of the arugula. Drizzle the sauce over the chicken and serve.