Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's Lent Chez Wiles. No Sodas, Sweets or Starbucks. Game On.

Life is a tad bit competitive Chez Wiles. 

Not when it comes to anything life-affirming or character-building, mind you.  We’re not into competing for good grades or good health or good deeds.  We’re more into racing for control over the car radio.   “Who would be a better driver” is another ongoing debate.  OK.  “Debate” is probably too civilized a word.  What I’m looking for is a word that describes a competition where the loudest and most persistent person wins.  “Argument” comes to mind.

“Name that artist” (musical artist, that is -- we’re not all that aesthetically informed) is another favorite and is in play 24/7.  To get the game rolling, all any one of us has to do – whether we’re in Starbucks, or the car, or a restaurant with a half dozen uninitiated friends – is blurt out “REO Speedwagon,” and we’re off to the races.

So you can imagine how we treat the holy season of Lent.  Last night, as we feasted on the traditional Shrove Tuesday dinner of pancakes and sausage and bacon and then, because it was so very good, more sausage, we boasted about what we intended to “give up” for Lent.  (Of course I’ve got a great pancake recipe.  Click here.)

Although I’m pretty sure the Church wouldn’t approve of our attitude, I ventured forth first, boldly vowing to set aside my beloved venti-nonfat-no-foam-chai-tea-latte for 40 days.  Which is all to say that if you hold any Starbucks stock, be forewarned that the next few weeks could be a little bleak as my considerable support is withheld.

As expected, Darling Daughter upped the ante.  Not only is she giving up a lifelong habit of nail-gnawing, she and a girlfriend have also decided to give up sweets.  Believe me, of the three of us Chez Wiles, she is taking the toughest route.  And is also most likely to succeed.

After some thought, and -- to be honest – after itemizing all of the habits he would never abandon, Son decided to forego soft drinks.  I don’t mean to be a doubter, but suffice to say I am considering purchasing a chain and padlock to assist in his efforts.  And, perhaps, a taser.

Darling Daughter, however, had no qualms about voicing her doubts about me.  There was no way, she insisted, I could go without chai.

Oh really?  OH REALLY?  Well how about no chai AND no alcoholic beverages? 

Dang.  Did I say that out loud?  'Cause what I meant, of course, was no wine.  Um.  No red wine.  On weeknights.  Unless I’m out with friends.  Or at home.  With clean glasses.

Sigh.  Let’s give it a shot.  Last Lenten season, I used the dregs of a bottle of white wine to make a wonderfully savory pan roasted chicken with pancetta.  Tonight, I poured out the last of a bottle of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc to create a new chicken dish.  And it was really tasty (two thumbs up from the kids) – with red bell peppers and mushrooms (which neither kid touched).

I think I’ll try it again soon – and next time, in the slow cooker. 

There’s only one other thing that might make it a little better – a lovely chilled glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  I’ll have to let you know.

After Easter.

Drunken Chicken With Peppers, Potatoes and Mushrooms

8 chicken thighs, well-seasoned with kosher salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced in strips, strips then halved
4 large shallots, peeled and sliced thin
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 lbs small red potatoes

1 1/2 cups (more or less) dry white wine
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

In a large, lidded, nonstick skillet, quickly brown chicken over high heat (3-4 minutes each side).  Remove chicken.  Reduce heat to medium high and stir in olive oil.  When heated through, sauté bell pepper, shallots and mushrooms until slightly soft and browned on the edges.  Stir in potatoes (cut in half, if too large).  Pour in wine, balsamic vinegar, mustard and thyme.  Heat to boiling.  Return chicken to pan.  Season with salt and pepper, place lid on, lower heat to low, and simmer until chicken is very tender – about one hour.
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