December has been rough. Holidays in the face of waning bank accounts, complicated families, and confusing relationships. Not to mention a lull in work, freezing weather, un-insulated apartments, and the flu. Oy.
I have been spending time in the kitchen and do have a fat handful of recipes I want to share. Coq au vin, lemon meringue pie, and a crispy potato galette to name a few. But to begin: something simple.
On Monday night, as the blizzard rattled against the apartment windows, I opened Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cookbook. It’s a wonderful tome of a cookbook. I had already spent an hour or so reading it that morning in bed. This book, a compendium of recipes published in the New York Times from 1850 to today, is a history lesson, a culture collection, a series of personal stories. To write it, Hesser began by asking for feedback from the public: “Readers wrote me about recipes that had held together their marriages, reminded them of lost youth, given them the cooking bug, and symbolized their annual family gatherings,” she says in the introduction.
I had trundled out in the snow that afternoon to buy the few ingredients I would need for a chicken dish—the one that Hesser’s husband served the first time he cooked for her, she writes. It felt like weeks since I was last at home, cooking dinner for just two, and I wanted an easy, quick meal: Chicken Roasted with Sour Cream, Lemon Juice, and Mango Chutney.
That night, wearing slippers, wool socks, and two sweaters to combat the frustrating cold of a not-properly-winterized apartment, I mixed the sour cream, mayonnaise, curry powder, and mango chutney in a bowl, squeezing in lemon juice to taste. It created a silky sauce, which I poured over the chicken breasts that I had sliced in half and lined up in a baking dish. Into the oven: 450 degrees.
As dinner cooked, Matt and I sat on the couch with tumblers of whisky, a blanket over our legs, seeking warmth in our cold apartment on a stormy night. We began watching a movie about the end of the world, a silly-bad one, the kind with subpar special effects and acting so hokey we had to laugh. It’s been a rough month, and it felt good to laugh again.
We ate dinner at the kitchen table, near the space heater, the room filled with the booming sounds of a Hollywood apocalypse. The chicken was moist, and its sauce tangy and sweet. I served it alongside rosemary-roasted potatoes and green beans sautéed in butter. Recently it’s felt like everything in life is confusing and complicated. But not this. This dinner was simple. It was good. “This is delicious,” said Matt, and I agreed.
Chicken Roasted with Sour Cream, Lemon Juice, and Mango Chutney
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half
½ cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons Major Grey’s mango chutney
1 teaspoon curry powder
Juice of one lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay the chicken in a medium-sized baking dish.
Whisk together the mayonnaise and sour cream in a bowl. Add the chutney and curry powder and whisk until smooth. Add the lemon juice a bit at a time, tasting as you go. It should be tangy.
Pour the sauce over the chicken. Bake until chicken is just cooked through, about 15 minutes. Season with pepper. Serve.