Foodie’s Five Challenge

It’s after 7:00 on a Monday night, and after a long day at the office, I’m scrambling home from yoga in a mad dash to start dinner before Hubby has to go back to studio. In the car ride home, I’m putting my game face on, planning my attack on the task ahead: preheat oven, change clothes, season roast, peel and chop squash, chop garlic, wipe forehead, season squash, throw squash and roast in a baking dish, answer ringing phone, assemble salad, make dressing, let dogs out, toss roasting squash, rinse bowl, let dogs in, pour a glass of wine, check on the roast – PHEW! As much as I love cooking, there are some nights when it’s awfully tempting to throw in the towel and Make a Run for the Border.

Brown Butter Flavors

Welcome to my world of weeknight dinners: a carefully planned menu is drawn up on Saturday morning, when I’m feeling fresh, relaxed and creative. Unfortunately, Saturday morning’s inspired bliss does not transfer well to Monday night’s frenzied haste. I often found myself cutting corners and modifying the menu last minute to quell my angst – that is, until recently.

In an effort to ease my burden and muzzle any further kvetching, I began redesigning my weekly menus to reflect simplicity and ease, throwing out the convoluted 15+ ingredient recipes and adopting a more manageable, casual and time-friendly perspective. I mean, I’m sorry, but 9:00 on a Tuesday night is not the time for me to be experimenting with Beef Bourguignon – I have better things to do, like, um… watch Millionaire Matchmaker.

So I made myself a challenge last week – make a meal with no more than five ingredients. That’s right, five. Fünf. Cinco. Taking into consideration how much I love to overcomplicate things and agonize over minutiae, this was no small feat for me. Granted, I didn’t include my fats (like olive oil and butter) or my seasonings (salt and pepper) in my count because, come on, they’re kitchen staples – everyone has those lying around. And sure enough, I pulled it off.

Caulflower & Sweet Potato

Hubby had been pestering me for weeks about having cauliflower with dinner one night. I think my response to his odd request was something along the lines of, “…Cauliflower?! You are telling me you’ve been actively craving cauliflower?” Even though I’ve never been much of a fan, cauliflower it was. Inspired by an easy weeknight meal I saw in my latest Everyday Food, I combined cauliflower and sweet potatoes to roast in the oven, while I prepared simple skillet-cooked chicken, being sure to take advantage of all those yummy brown bits on the bottom by making a classic brown butter sauce.

In less than an hour, dinner was on the table, music was on the stereo, wine was in hand – and I didn’t look like I had been through a Williams-Sonoma-meets-Hot-Yoga tornado. Calm, cool and collected, I thoroughly enjoyed my effortless weeknight meal. The flavors were simple, earthy and satisfying – and who’d say no to a little garlic brown butter alongside? This meal is sure to have you going from warp speed to idle in no time. Enjoy!

Herbed Brown Butter Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

(serves 2)

1 small head of cauliflower, chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, roughly chopped
1 Tbs. garlic, finely chopped
(butter, olive oil, and salt and pepper)

Preheat the oven to 450°. On a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, toss the cauliflower and sweet potato with a liberal drizzle of olive oil and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes, or until browned and softened.

Ready for Roasting

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat a few swirls of olive oil over medium heat. Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides and add to the pan, lowering the heat to medium-low and cooking until browned, flipping once, about 20 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pan and place on a plate, tenting with aluminum foil to rest. Turn the heat to low. Add 2 Tbs. butter to the pan, scraping the bottom to lift all the brown bits. Keep a close eye on the butter. Once the butter is a light brown color, add the garlic and thyme, and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.

Serve the brown butter sauce over the chicken, with the roasted vegetables alongside.

If the above slide show doesn’t load, please visit the entire set at Flickr.

Laura Hobbs is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She was born and raised in Fayetteville. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more of Laura’s contributions, visit her author page.