The Murphy’s Law of Weeknight Meals

On any given weeknight, my dinner plans sometimes go horribly wrong. Usually, I realize I have forgotten to purchase some crucial ingredient, or have assumed I had something hiding in the refrigerator that, in reality, disappeared days ago. At least once a week, I have a dinner that goes way off course due to my selective amnesia regarding my grocery situation. It’s times like these that necessity becomes the mother of invention, because plan or no plan, I have two yahoo children hovering in orbit around the dinner table.

The other night, I had an unexpected after-work dinner disaster, but I actually managed to salvage it into something pretty tasty. Realizing that, yet again, I was missing a huge component of the meal I had planned for, I turned to my pantry for a bit of last-minute improvisation. First, let’s look at the players:

So, I assessed what I had on hand, which was basically a few staples and some leftover Gouda from the weekend.

The all important Step One:

Pour yourself a glass of wine Cupcake, you’ve earned it.

With that mission accomplished, let’s turn toward the food. First, I seasoned the chicken breasts with a little bit of salt and pepper:

Then I browned them on both sides in my cast iron skillet in a mixture of butter and olive oil (so I could get some butter flavor without burning it to a crisp):

While that was cooking, I diced two shallots, for no other reason than I had bought those shallots, and since forgotten why I had bought them:

Once the chicken was brown and happy on both sides, I removed it from the pan, and added the shallots for a quick sauté:

I then added the undrained can of tomatoes:

Followed by the soup, thyme and some salt and pepper to taste:

I finally added the chicken back into the pan, and popped it into a 375 degree oven to finish cooking, as I needed the burner space on the stovetop. I probably baked it about 20 minutes, poured myself another drink, and then topped the chicken with the grated Gouda:

You can never go wrong with more Gouda…

Anyway, I whipped up some rice and squash, and the finished meal looked like this:

It may not be pretty, but it utilized everything I had on hand, and was dang tasty to boot. Dinner was saved, and the heathens were fed. Want to try my pantry experiment? Here’s the recipe (as best I can remember):

  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 4 whole Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breasts
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 can (14 1/2 Oz. Can) Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes, Undrained
  • 1 teaspoon Dried Thyme Leaves
  • 1 can (10.5 Oz. Can) Condensed French Onion Soup
  • 1 cup Shredded Gouda Cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a 12-inch oven-proof skillet, melt butter in olive oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken breasts with half of the salt and pepper, reserving the rest of the salt and pepper for the sauce. Pan-fry the chicken until both sides are golden, but chicken is not cooked through.
Remove chicken from skillet; set aside.

Add shallots to the skillet; cook and stir until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes, soup, thyme and remaining salt and pepper; cook until bubbly.

Return the chicken to the skillet. Place in the preheated oven and bake, uncovered, for 15-18 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove pan from oven; sprinkle chicken with Gouda. Return to the oven and bake until cheese is melted, about 3-5 minutes more.

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