This is a very simple and easy recipe that I make a couple of times a year. It’s a little retro but not ridiculously so, not like whipping up a Beef Wellington. I came across this a few months ago on Becky Hardin’s The Cookie Rookie website (I subscribe so I get about an email a day) and I’m going to attribute this mostly to her, because she provided measurements, but believe me, this has been around since before she and I were born.
I cannot just drop this without sharing a story of domestic mirth chez Cousin Matthieu. I made this last night and I presented a check for $600 to Life’s Helpmeet. “Here. My stimulus check came through and I want you to have it. I haven’t exactly been pulling my weight around here financially for quite some time—“ “Years—“ “so you take it, since you don’t qualify. What are you going to spend it on? Something for me I hope. I have my eye on a new Churchill biography that deals with wartime London—“ “The dog’s Dasuquin medication. That alone runs $600 a year.” “Oh. Well, enjoy.”
Four chicken breasts. Try to guess how much you would like to eat, but this makes excellent leftovers if you make too much
1 cup creamy, decidedly not low-fat, Caesar salad dressing.
1/2 cup sour cream
OR, instead of the Caesar salad dressing and the sour cream:
1 can of the best, creamiest, richest cream of mushroom soup you can find. Not Campbell’s. Try to find something organic maybe, or small batch. You’ll need at least 10 oz. and these kinds of soups come in odd sizes.
1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese. (I’m pretty sure I use more but this seems like a good guideline.) For this you can actually use the Kraft stuff that comes in those cardboard canisters. In fact here I recommend it. I think you’ll see why.
You want your chicken breasts to be of uniform thickness, so if they’re not you need to pound/press them so that they’re no thicker than 1 inch. Becky says do this by placing them in a Zip-Loc bag, which is an excellent suggestion. I do the two sheets of plastic wrap method.
Take them out and on a plate sprinkle on both sides with some of your parmesan cheese but not too much. If you use the Kraft(-ish) stuff you don’t need to salt the chicken. If you’ve grated your own parmesan, also salt and pepper the breasts. Using your TONGS place them in a baking dish that will hold them, probably 8 X 11, maybe 8 X 8. Don’t butter the baking dish beforehand. If it’s not non-stick, spray it with PAM or something similar.
Now, whisk the Caesar salad dressing and the sour cream in a bowl. If using the mushroom soup, pour that in a bowl and look at it. Does it look creamy and mushroom-y enough for you? If not, slice a little more mushrooms, add some heavy cream, mix in a little flour, whatever you think it might lack.
Pour the salad dressing combo or the mushroom soup/sauce over the breasts and smear it around so it forms a layer. Add the rest of the parmesan cheese on top in an even layer.
Pop it into a preheated oven set at 375 degrees uncovered for 30 minutes. Because the chicken is probably not quite done yet and you have the cheesy top, now set the oven to broil for a few minutes but not for long, 5 minutes max. Keep an eye on it so the cheese doesn’t burn, especially if you’ve grated your own.
Pull it out and let it sit, tented in foil, on the stovetop. This allows it to cool down and the sauce to thicken. Because we can never get enough carbs I serve this quartered over pasta. I use whatever long pasta, like spaghetti or linguine, I have on hand, which I have timed so that it’s cooked and drained, and then plated while the chicken is resting. Scoop out some of the sauce and try to mix it in with the pasta on the plates with a fork. Quarter the chicken in the baking dish, top the pasta, and then spoon on more sauce. You can garnish with parsley but parsley doesn’t do much for me, even though I have tons available for free thanks to the communal garden. You can also serve the chicken by itself alongside rice (this is what Becky does) or some kind of potato. When I do this I just boil some baby baby potatoes and butter them. A simple garden salad would not be the worst accompaniment, if you’re into things like greens and vitamins. You can also steam some asparagus and/or broccoli and top with some of the sauce. A warmed loaf of crusty baguette is also handy for mopping up the sauce, if you want.
For dessert (because we are total gluttons) The Better Half said, ”I picked up something I thought you’d like.” He produced a box from my favorite supermarket. “Are these those Italian cookies I like so much?” “Oh no, much better. Open it.” Inside was a birthday cake that was inscribed, in frosting, “Happy Brithday Jonajhona” and a cellphone number. “What is this?” “Well, I stopped by the bakery department and got chatting with your buddy X and she told me that the guy they asked to do the icing was drunk or high or something, read the note wrong, so they fired him. They were going to throw it out but she offered it to me for $1. Apparently they can’t just give food away and they have to charge something. She swears it’s perfectly fine, the guy only did the writing, so let’s try it!” “Why didn’t they keep it for themselves?” “Imagine working at McDonald’s or Dunkin Donuts. Would you ever eat a Big Mac or a donut ever again?” Mmmm, probably not.” It was amazing. So happy “brithday” “Johnajhona”! Maybe I’ll call your parents and thank them for the cake.