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Friday, August 12, 2011

*zuke accidents.

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You're looking at two of my new favorite loves, there: panko and hiding vegetables in interesting ways. (Namely, under cheese.)



When I cook dinner for people, I do it because I absolutely love it—it's far more an exercise in K Having Fun than it ever is a chore. I'm grateful to them, my faithful audience, for letting me dirty their kitchens and use them as guinea pigs. There are only three rules for having a Woodside meal in your own home:

1. Heap lavish praise on the cook.
2. Wash the dishes.
3. Don't ask what's for dinner.

Come to think of it, that sounds awfully bossy.

At any rate, my brother-in-law breaks rule No. 3 at every available opportunity. And by that I mean, every. single. time. "What are we having? What are you cooking? What are you making? What's that—asparagus?"

That last question was asked about Brussels sprouts.

There are several reasons I suspect he wants to know: He's hungry, he's nosy, he's giving me a hard time. (The answer is always "nunya.") But I also think he's suspicious that I might try to hide some evil vegetable in a place where he least expects it; that he will take a bite of his beloved gravy, say, and find horrible green stuff in there.

But! I have successfully converted him to both the aforementioned sprouts and to collard greens, and I knew I could sneak something new under his unsuspecting nose.

Because that's just the kind of family we are.

In this case I chose zucchini, which is also, as it happens, not my particular favorite. But I was desperate to use something that felt a little more like summer, being as it is also true that I tend to prefer the heartier, winterier veg to the bright, light stuff. The solution? Cream cheese. Yessirreebob.

I'm also completely (and possibly unhealthily) devoted to panko now. I was introduced to it almost a decade ago, when I first started editing recipes; then, it always ran with an explanation: "panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)." Now it's a household name, but I hadn't used it much until recently. When you want a crunchy coating on a piece of meat that no amount of cooking can de-crispify, you want panko. Trust. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that chicken tenderloins are a pain in the tenderloins. Trimming them is a tedious and thankless job, and if the market had had them, I'd definitely have chosen cutlets. I will pay more to keep from having to dig out that stringy white bit from endless tenders.

The potatoes are just leftover Yukon golds that I small-chopped, tossed with canola oil/salt/pepper/paprika and roasted at 425 until they browned. I haven't perfected them yet—they were right tasty, but I can't figure out how to keep them from sticking to the aluminum foil. It might be that I need to lower the oven temperature and take the low-and-slow approach (which doesn't really sound like my style). They might need more oil, though I really don't want to drown them. Or I might just need to forgo the foil and put them straight on the pan, but I'd hate to make the brother-in-law have to do more dishes.

He just survived zucchini, after all.

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Panko-crusted Dijon Chicken Tenders
All-purpose flour
Salt
Pepper
Panko
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 pound chicken tenderloins, trimmed
Canola oil

1. Pour flour in a shallow dish, and season with salt and pepper. Place panko in another shallow dish. Lightly beat eggs with mustard in a bowl until well combined.

2. Dredge chicken in flour; dip in egg mixture, and coat in panko. Set aside on a wax paper–covered baking sheet until ready to cook.

3. Add enough oil to coat bottom of a large, deep skillet; heat over medium heat, and add half of the prepared chicken tenders. Cook until golden-brown on one side; flip, and cook until golden brown on the other. Repeat with remaining chicken tenders. Makes 4 servings.

Creamy Succotash with Corn, Zucchini, and Tomatoes
16 ounces frozen sweet corn
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup heavy cream
4 ounces low-fat cream cheese or Neufch√Ętel cheese
2 small zucchini, diced
2 large tomatoes, chopped
Salt
Pepper

1. Place first 4 ingredients in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter and cream cheese are melted and corn is heated through.

2. Stir in zucchini, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until zucchini are tender and heated through, about 10 minutes.

3. Just before serving, stir in tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Makes 6 servings.

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I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.

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