What’s for dinner? Crispy Chicken and Garlicky Collards

About a week ago I texted  my friend Greg, who is teaching music at a university in Louisiana, to tell him I had just purchased Luzianne brand iced tea. “Am I Suh-thuhn now?” I said, jokingly.

“That depends: Did you dump half a pound of sugar into it to make sweet tea?” he replied.

I have a love-hate affair with Southern food. My first (and, thus far, only) boyfriend was from North Carolina and one day I decided to surprise him with an entire Southern meal — fried chicken, hush puppies, collard greens and grits.

Four days later the apartment still smelled like oil. It still makes me shudder today. (So does he, but that’s another story for another blog.)

Crispy Chicken and Garlicky Collards, from Real Simple, February 2009

Crispy Chicken and Garlicky Collards, from Real Simple, February 2009

I do like grits, though. And collard greens — or mustard greens, or any greens with an added “bite.” So I was excited about the vegetable component in tonight’s meal.

Cost of ingredients: $5.28 plus tax. Deceptive pricing alert: I had chicken in the freezer, and already had the Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic on hand. I did have to buy a box of cereal (see below).

Substitutions: I used two boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of a whole chicken. (There are only two of us here, and neither of us likes dark meat.) I also had to use a wheat-free cereal — whole grain cereal includes wheat! — so I opted for a store brand version of Corn Chex, because I thought the flavor of rice cereal would be a little too delicate.

As easy as they said? Another foil-lined pan, another 400-degree oven, another pot. I even simplified it further — they suggested the final step in a skillet, and I thought, “I’m not going to wash a damn skillet” so I just threw the pot right back on the stove and sauteed the garlic and greens in that instead. The chicken takes way longer to cook than last night’s fish, so it’s a little more time-consuming, but the hands-on time is just as minimal.

How’d THAT go over? “It was good, but it was … just … chicken and collard greens,” says Mr. Brooks. “But I really liked the Corn Chex.” In fact, he rated the flavor higher than last night’s breadcrumbs. I may disagree about the flavor of the “breading” — I am a bigger fan of rosemary than Mr. Brooks — but otherwise I tend to agree: A good basic meal, but nothing to blow us out of the water. As an aside, I’d like to point out that the two of us ate “four servings” worth of collards, which by the time they cooked down were about the serving size pictured above.

Would I make it again? I think I will incorporate the mustard-and-cereal idea into something, yes. And the greens, too — although I do enjoy greens with balsamic vinegar, the lemon juice added a brighter flavor to the mix, especially when you get to squeeze the wedges fresh at the table. (And then you can grind them up in the garbage disposal for a fresh sink, too. I’m channeling Heloise, people!)

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