• Stir It Up: Time for a New Year’s reality check
     | January 04,2013

    Chicken With Mushroom Sauce is easy to make, freezes beautifully and can help ease you into post-holiday reality. The photo and recipe are from “Southern Living Fix It & Freeze It, Heat It & Eat It.”

    Once the holidays are over, life loses a bit of its glow. The decorations come down (or hang around and seem depressing). You miss hearing those carols that you thought were so annoying. Every meal no longer seems like a party.

    It’s time for a reality check — time to roll up your sleeves and get back to the routine of cooking regular meals.

    The editors of Southern Living magazine offer up “Southern Living Fix It & Freeze It, Heat It & Eat It” (Oxmoor House, 2012), a cookbook that is all about ease and planning. The idea is to cook ahead of time and free up daily life for the rest of “reality.”

    The book includes some valuable hints about freezing foods:

    n Casseroles, soups, stews, chili and meatloaf freeze well, as do many baked goods.

    n Cool dishes quickly before freezing by placing them, uncovered, in the fridge. Bowls of hot stews and soups can be placed in larger bowls of ice water and stirred.

    n Choose the right container. Check all plastic wraps, bags and containers for guidelines on freezing and reheating.

    n Avoid freezer burn by removing air from bags before sealing. Store soups and stews in freezer bags, which can be placed flat and frozen quickly. Store foods in small servings (no more than one quart).

    n No matter how positive you are that you can identify a food after you freeze it, LABEL it. Use a permanent marker to write down the name of the dish and the date it was made. Note: It’s easier to write on plastic bags before you freeze them.

    n The more quickly food freezes, the better its quality will be when thawed. Allow enough room for air to circulate so that food freezes rapidly. Slowly frozen food forms large ice crystals that can turn the food mushy. Use a freezer thermometer to ensure that your unit remains at zero degrees or lower.

    n If your freezer doesn’t have built-in organizational features, create your own with plastic storage containers. Label the bins. If there is no rack, add plastic-coated, freestanding wire shelves to increase storage space.

    The chicken dish below can help you ease into the new year. It is easily cooked and frozen, but it still seems like a party. Hum some carols while you make it.

    Chicken With Mushroom Sauce

    Yield: 4 servings

    4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

    1½ teaspoons salt

    ¼ cup all-purpose flour

    ¼ teaspoon black pepper

    ½ cup milk

    1 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs

    Olive oil

    1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

    12 fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

    4 scallions, trimmed and chopped

    3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

    2 tablespoons capers

    ½ cup chicken broth or water

    ½ cup Marsala or white wine

    2 tablespoons lemon juice

    2 lemons, sliced

    Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet or rolling pin, pound and flatten chicken to ½-inch thickness. Sprinkle chicken evenly with ½ teaspoon salt.

    Combine flour, pepper and another ½ teaspoon salt in a shallow dish. Pour milk in a shallow bowl. Put bread crumbs in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Dip chicken in milk and dredge in bread crumbs.

    Line a platter with paper towels and set aside. Pour olive oil to a depth of ¼ inch in a large skillet and heat over medium-high. Working in batches, fry chicken 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Remove from skillet and drain on the lined platter. Discard oil and drippings, reserving 2 tablespoons in the pan.

    Saute garlic in hot drippings 20 seconds over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and saute 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add scallions, parsley and capers; saute 1 minute. Stir in broth (or water), wine, lemon juice and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Serve mushroom sauce over chicken, with lemon slices on the side.

    TO FREEZE CHICKEN: Fry chicken as directed until almost done. Cool quickly. Freeze on baking sheets, then place in labeled zip-top plastic freezer bags and freeze up to 4 months. To reheat, thaw in refrigerator overnight. Place in a shallow pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until temperature reaches 165 degrees.

    TO FREEZE MUSHROOM SAUCE: Ladle room-temperature sauce into zip-top plastic freezer bags. Seal and freeze up to 4 months. To reheat, thaw in refrigerator overnight. Reheat in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

    Recipe from “Southern Living Fix It & Freeze It, Heat It & Eat It” (Oxmoor House, 2012).

    Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.

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