Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Worst Valentine's Day Gift Ever.

Whenever I do cooking demonstrations, someone always asks if own a restaurant.

"No", I reply.

The restaurant business is tough when you have a family. Long hours. Working the holidays. You get the drift. And although I now love to cook, I never was inspired to do so when I was younger. In fact, the impetus for me to cook came about through what might be described as the worst Valentine's gift ever.

My wife and I had been married for a number of years when one of my young daughters called me at work to ask what I had gotten Mom for Valentine's Day. I froze. I had forgotten. "Something nice," I reassured her. Then I hung up the phone and raced to the mall.

Okay. I was in a panic. I wasn't thinking straight when I stumbled into the Waldenbooks store and frantically scanned the shelves. My eyes fell on a gourmet cookbook. That's it! I smiled and snatched it off the shelf. I even had the clerk gift wrap it for me.

At home, after dinner and when the kids had all presented their homemade Valentine's Day cards to my wife and me, Sherry handed me my gift, an envelope. I opened it and found a gift certificate for a free massage at a local spa. "Because", she said," You work so hard."

I gulped.

Then handed her my gift.

She felt the heft and I'm sure she thought it was some serious jewelry. She gingerly unwrapped it and held the cookbook in her hands. Time seemed to stop.

"A cookbook?" she asked without looking up.

I knew I was screwed. I woulda been better off buying her an iron or a vacuum cleaner.

"Do you like it?" I asked. "It's gourmet."

She glanced up and said, "You're lucky to get what I make with all these kids pining for my attention, Buster."

I gulped again. My mind raced. Then I blurted out, "The cookbook's not for you. It's for me!"

Her eyebrows scrunched up into "please-explain-mode".

"See," I continued. "I'm going to cook you a gourmet meal this Friday. We'll put the kids to bed, open a bottle of wine and feast on a meal that will be fit for the gods."

At that, tears filled her eyes and she hugged me like there was no tomorrow. She smothered me in kisses and later that night we made passionate love. My only regret? I wish I had bought her a cookbook years ago.

So that Friday, I cracked open the book and cooked up a meal. It came out great. And I enjoyed the process.

So I began cooking out of the book every Friday night. Then I bought some more books and began cooking every Thursday and Friday night. Soon I was cooking every night of the week.

I'd like to say it was all altruistic but the truth was, I was doing inner-city youth work at the time and some days were pretty intense. So coming home and pouring a glass of wine while I labored over a delicious meal was actually relaxing for me.

So yes, it was good all around. That was 25 years ago and I haven't looked back since.

This Chicken Diane recipe is one from those early days. It was originally very rich but I've since tweaked it to make it a little bit easier on my arteries. But it is still sinfully delicious. And in keeping with our cooking outside the lines theme, we're gonna toss this with a little pasta.

CHICKEN DIANE

PREP: 10 minutes        COOK: 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS



6 ounces linguine
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 teaspoon

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into strips
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup finely chopped onions 

1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

3 tablespoons brandy

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sause
1/4 cup half-and-half

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley


DIRECTIONS

1. Cook pasta according to directions to al dente. Drain and rinse with hot water to wash off the starch, then rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Place pasta in a bowl and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil to prevent sticking.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over high heat. Add chicken breasts and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm.

3. Lower heat to medium-high and add butter. When butter melts, add the onions and sauté until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes.

4. Remove pan from heat and add brandy. Turn heat to high and return pan to stove. Heat brandy to boiling for 1 minute, scraping up any brown bits. Whisk in the mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in half-and-half and parsley.

5. Return chicken to pan and add pasta. Stir to reheat. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

60 comments:

  1. Ahhh! So that's how it happened. I didn't remember you as much of a Foodie back in the day. I thought that in the summer apartment I was the one doing most of the cooking.

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    1. @emmy. See! You should've stuck around a little bit longer, lol!

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  2. What a great story! I too am 25+ year lucky with a man who loves to cook. Ain't love grand?

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    1. @true indigo. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed! Now...what's the hubs whipping up tonite? :-)

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  3. What a great save, Warren! And very cool that this one little "mistake" marked the beginning of a long and wonderful love of cooking.

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    1. @Sarah. Funny, isn't it. Sometimes one just has to let serendipity unfold and walk thru doors as they open. I'm sure glad I walked thru this one (and I didn't even wipe my feet! lol).

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  4. This might be one of my favorite blog posts from you ever!

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    1. @Dorina. Thanks! And happy Valentine's Day! :-)

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  5. Oh, great story! And a good save there, too. LOL. "I'm going to cook for you." Ha! Pretty slick there.

    Even though I worked my way through college as a Captain in a fancy restaurant, I always liked to eat but to cook, not so much. To me it was kind of the same thing at first -- cooking with a glass of wine relaxed me. So there you go. It's interesting how people get started doing what they do.

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    1. @ Just for Cooking. Thanks, Mary Kay! Here's to a glass of wine, a warm stove, and a little relaxation! :-)

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  6. I love this story. Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. @Parinita Salian. Glad you enjoyed! Feel free to drop by often...there's always room around this table. :-)

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  7. Disaster turned blessing in disguise!

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  8. wow. a new career born out of a massive cya moment. better to be lucky than good!

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    1. @Greg. You sure got that, right, Greg. Too bad all my CYA moments don't turn out as good! lol

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  9. You are obviously quick on your feet! I guess it doesn't matter how it happens as long as the outcome is good.

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    1. @Rhonda. Quick on my feet? You bet! It was either that or knocked flat on my butt, lol!

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  10. Nice save, Buster! Are you sure you wanna publish this or has your wife found out your deep dark secret already? Something good came out of it, yes?

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    1. @ping. LOL! I guess my deep dark secret is out! Oh, and by the way...we all wuv you, too. Or is that too mushy... :-D

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    2. oh yes, ping, I know his secret. I knew the moment he blurted it out. I mean, a man that bought Kentucky Fried and boil-in-the-bag veggies when I was sick and could barely boil water? Oh, yes I knew...and I enjoyed letting him hem and haw and cover his butt....Glad I did!

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    3. Oh maaaannnnn ... hilarious!!! Where's the like button for this thing??!!!

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  11. Replies
    1. @Deliciously Delilah. Glad you enjoyed it! BTW, how's the weather up in TN. I miss my days in Chattanooga sometimes. Especially when it snowed. Which wasn't often...

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  12. Waoh... best v-day present ever! Extremely sweet and heart warming. I didn't get any present from my bf.

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    1. @Smitten By Food. Thanks for the complement. I'm so glad you came by! Granted, it's not the Yi Len at the Ritz, but we do serve up plenty of wine and fun. So feel free to drop by often! :-D

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  13. Haha! Clever. That's some thinking on your feet!

    And the chicken recipe sounds delicious. Must give that a try sometime.

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    1. @ Stephie. Thanks for dropping by! And, yes, the chicken recipe is delish. Especially when the temps are dropping outside of Chi-town! :-)

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  14. What a great story! Nice recovery of a potential disaster!

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    1. @ Elly McCausland. Thanks, Elly! Just found you on Facebook and am now a follower :-)

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  15. Well Warren, as you know, our weather is so unpredictable. Now it is sort of cloudy and a little cool, not bad for Feb. Last week it was mid to upper 60's. Who knows what next week will bring! Already seeing forsythias blooming and pretty soon daffodils, so better weather is just around the corner! For now, I will just wear layers and be prepared for our temperamental weather. Who knows, by afternoon I may only need short sleeves.

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    1. @Deliciously Delilah. Boy, do I remember winter's like that! :-) Of course, in NE FL the weather can fluctuate from the low 40's one day to a delightful mid-70's the next. But I won't complain, as long as I don't have to break out the old heavy winter clothes, lol.

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  16. awww Warren, its such a beautiful story.For a second I thought youre talking about us:) I always know whenever my husband is trying to cover up a blunder but you men are just so smart to make us love you even more for the mistakes that you do:P

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    1. @SChee. I'm glad you enjoyed the story and I love your perspective! :-)

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  17. That is such a great story. There is nothing more romantic than having a man cook for you. I've sent your post to my husband :) Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Denise. Here's hoping he'll get the hint, lol. Hope you two had a wonderful balentimes day! :-D

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  18. What a great story! And thank you for reminding me how much I love chicken Diane - I haven't had it in decades!

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    1. Thanks, Christine. I've always love chicken Diane as well, but this version over pasta really rocks. Enjoy!

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  19. Opened my email this morning to see you had a new post and I was ready for a great laugh, as you always have something witty to say. Though I do love your sense of humor and look forward to laughing along with you, this sweet and romantic story was just as delightful to read. Thank you for sharing it with us! :)

    Oh yeah, great recipe too!!

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    1. Glad it finally made it to your inbox, Becky. It seems delivery was slow when I posted it yesterday. Anyway, glad you enjoyed it - always love to see you around. Have a wonderful day!

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  20. What a beautiful story! Who knew that gift would turn out to bless you both so much?!

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    1. Thanks, Chellie. Indeed it turned out great for the whole fam. :-)

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  21. Awwwwwwwh, great story and a win-win for both of you! I think I'll email this post over to my husband! :o)

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    1. Here's hoping he will cook one Friday night soon! Who knows, he just may catch the bug as well, lol.

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  22. great story and good save ;) My love for cooking also developed from my other half- a bit earlier but- when we actually moved in together and actually had to eat something other than frozen chicken cutlets and microwaved veggies :) Been growing culinary ever since!

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    1. Thanks, Brianne. I remember those chicken cutlet/microwave veggie days as well, lol. And if the pics of your recent Asian Chicken Burgers with Stir Fried Veggies is any indication, I'd say you were moving along just fine! :-D

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  23. The cookbook you purchased was destiny. A sign of the future. Awesome.

    Velva

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    1. You're right, Velva. It's funny, but I think signs pop up every day in our lives. It's just that we're too busy to see them. Least I know I usually am. Glad I saw this one! :-) PS. You got any of those Metropolitans left over? ;-)

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  24. You snagged a lifelong passion out of the jaws of a horrifyingly awful lapse of judgment.

    Well done!!!

    (You are soooooooooo lucky she didn't clean your clock, and that she bought your story. She must love you a lot! That's GOOD.)

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    1. Love that line: "You snagged a lifelong passion..."! (And when it comes to cleaning my clock, Susan, she's had many opportunities to do so, lol. So yes, I believe the love is strong!)

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  25. @Mumsfilibaba. Glad you enjoyed it! I try to post weekly so please drop by often (and bring some of those buttermilk pancakes while you're at it. I'll have some salmon and soft cheese on hand, lol)

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  26. I make something similar with pork. I don't call it 'Pork Diane' though, that sounds a little, er... let's use the word 'odd'. Anyway, we call it 'grey dinner' because with the cream and the mushroom and the pale pork, it is rather, well, 'grey'. My BB made me a lovely sirloin steak for me and little CC for Valentine's Day and afterwards CC said 'Daddy, that was so nice, can you always cook when we have this please?'. BB looked at me with a mini smile of triumph, and I gave an inner cheer, whilst simultaneously faking 'mock' woundedness.

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    1. Once again you brought a huge smile to my face. "Pork Diane?" "Mock Woundedness?" You kill me!

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  27. Awesome story, Warren. And I love what you did to update this recipe!

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    1. Hey Abbey! Good to see you again. Love the profile pic - also love the pizza recipe you just posted. Need to give it a go. Hmmm. Perhaps this weekend? :-)

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  28. FABULOUS post. I love your response and quick thinking. Plus, cooking her a meal with the kids in bed is super romantic. I love it :)

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    1. Thanks, Jackie! And trust me, we've had many a "date nite" over the years where we put the kids to bed, lit some candles, and dined into the night. :-) BTW, I gotta try your "Chipotle Stout Braised Beef Tacos". What a great twist!

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  29. Ok now you need to write a "Companions Guide for Two" and teach us all how to think on the fly like that! haha :)

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    1. Hmmm. Interesting idea, Soni! I find myself thinking on the fly more often than I should. So perhaps I should be jotting these things down, lol!

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