This is for my dear brother. He is an intuitive cook but of late with the passing of our parents we are seeking childhood food memories.
I remembered one specifically. No, my brother is not lazy by any means. It was our mother’s “lazy chicken.” I’ve no idea where she got it from, perhaps her gift subscription to Gourmet magazine. The fifties and sixties were mostly canned sauces like cream of celery, or cream of mushroom, then she got a gift of Gourmet for the remainder of her life (thanks, J).
It’s an old Romanian recipe called Lazy Chicken, and tasty it is. Unfortunately I cannot fire my oven to 450 else smoke detectors will go off. Small baking dish to contain the meal. I’m cooking for two, here and making it up as I go along as Mom never left the recipe. Two chicken breasts on the bone, three carrots and an onion, plus diagonally cut potatoes, veg cut to stick up and char a bit at the ends. I add a bit of butter, salt, pepper, thyme, chicken broth and a splash of white wine. Place in a hot oven for up to an hour, basting every 20 minutes. Voila! Lazy Chicken. Multiply for larger dinner parties.
When K was younger I gave him this recipe and he said “there’s nothing lazy about it at all! You know I never use more than five ingredients!” Honey, you’ve got no pots and pans to wash, have just cooked dinner a deux in one baking dish and no last-minute work if you’re entertaining except to baste one last time while your guests have a glass of wine and chat. Dinner is served.
It’s early in the morning. I’ll call him later. Within the past weeks we both made Mom’s orange chicken that she used to make with juice concentrate and I use fresh oranges or juice as available. We have yet to compare our approaches to that dish, which is usually served over rice. Or stuffed peppers that I do not boil first as our mother did, I like to keep in the nutrients from red bell peppers and use turkey, Israeli couscous and Italian sun-dried tomatoes. We were not offered, in our small town, any of these ingredients when we were kids.
We both enjoy lives with significant others (married 15 years last week) who have their own peccadillos as my husband cannot even look at anything that survives under water but I like the fact that my brother and I have tactile memories of our childhood that include scent and taste. We just make our own riffs on it.
I was working a few hours away, and visited when K was finishing high school. He and my youngest sister had a Collie named Nike, no, not after the shoe. It was a weekend and I think Dad made breakfast for all.
Helping out, I saw a small, plastic yellow bowl divided into two sections. It was for the dog, for weekends only. On on the left went two perfectly poached eggs over a piece of toast, and on the right, two milk bone treats. Exactly the same, every weekend. OK, I can help with that while you make the pancakes, Dad.
I made Nike her eggs and toast and her biscuits in the correct receptacle and served it to Her Highness, the Greek goddess. She wouldn’t eat it. My brother asked if I’d buttered the toast. I replied, “she’s a dog.” I buttered the toast and she loved it.
Attention to detail, drive, spirit, meticulousness, the urge to change lives and institutions, love of life and those in it are characteristics of the man I married 15 years ago. They can also be attributed to me, my late father, and to my brother. On my bucket list is to create a menu with my brother and cook it together.
Oh, I didn’t have a bucket list until now. Change is always possible. The meal will be more involved than Lazy Chicken, perhaps even Cassoulet. When I made it for him after cooking school Dad said that was the best meal he ever ate. Good thing is that K will have to be wherever for at least a weekend and perhaps we can see some art! Yes, I’m sneaky. While we’re awaiting the cassoulet I might teach him true Texas chili, Dee-style.
The Lazy Chicken will be saved for ourselves and you, of course. Be well, cheers! Dee
ps Dog lovers, I am one. Mine is 14 this week and has no hips. She has her food preferences as well and I listen. I spent years working with shelter dogs (adopted two) and cats (two as well). We met our Zoe at a shelter at 5 weeks of age and adopted her a day later when she turned six weeks. Fourteen years tomorrow, I don’t know what I’d do without her. D
pps K, we’re going for the 30th for Zoe’s birthday, it lines up and also makes fun of the federal government for treating Mom so badly by having so many federal agencies debate her date of birth. We are not allowed to have a party with a dog in attendance anywhere. I’ll do it anyway. We live here, what’s to keep us from handing out dog treats. I don’t expect you to fly in for the occasion but have other ideas afoot.