Our V-Day Dinner at Home

When you have a baby, especially one who turns in at 7:30 each night, going out to dinner is not an option. The baby doesn't care if it's your birthday or Valentine's Day. Babysitter, you say? Well, the last time Grammy and Gramps drove an hour up to Carmel to babysit so Jeff and I could go on a date, she screamed bloody murder the second we left. We gave up our steakhouse dinner for Chick Fil A and headed home to relieve our exhausted parents.

So rather than risk a repeat date cut short, I cooked up some chicken of my own at home. We dined, put the babe to bed, and sipped Scotch until the wee hour of 10 pm. This was the first night I tried this recipe. I found it on Fine Cooking's website and Jeff and I agree that aside from the chicken being a tiny-bit overcooked (this is normal for me, I have a crippling undercooked chicken phobia) it was a success! I served it with a version of a roasted broccoli recipe that we've been enjoying for a few weeks.

I hope you find that most of my recipes, while they may (hopefully) appear and taste deliciously gourmet, actually consist of pretty everyday ingredients. Over the years of living on my own I've stocked a pretty extensive pantry and spice cabinet, but I still refuse to go out and buy some obscure ingredient that will only be used in one meal. Not my thing. So here it is, enjoy!

Sear-roasted Chicken with Tomato & Red Wine Sauce

For the Chicken
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (I just used 2 halves or 1 whole breast)
kosher salt & ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil or canola oil (I used olive oil)

For the Sauce
1/2 cup of Red Wine (I'm sure it tastes better if you use table wine, but I always just use the cooking wine you find at the supermarket for any of the wine in my cooking)
14 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes with juices*
2 Tbsp. of chopped fresh oregano (I used 1 tsp. of dried oregano)
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
kosher salt & ground black pepper

*Whenever canned tomatoes take a starring role in a recipe, as they do in this one, I always "splurge" and buy the best canned tomatoes the store has to offer. Now this isn't much of a splurge, it's mostly just the difference between $1.99 and $2.99 for a can. No biggie. I prefer Muir Glen brand. I've found that cheaper tomatoes have too much of a tomatoey taste, not a fresh taste.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Make sure chicken is very dry by blotting with a paper towel. Salt and pepper both sides of the breasts generously. I also pounded down the thicker side of the breast a little so it was more uniform in thickness and would cook more evenly. Heat an oven-proof skillet over medium high heat for one minute. Add the oil and swirl around the pan. Then place the breasts in the pan presentation side down. Leave untouched for 2 minutes. Using tongs, check the chicken to see if it's browned, if not, leave for 1-2 more minutes before flipping to other side. Cook the second side for 1 minute and then transfer pan to the oven and continue to cook the chicken for 5-8 minutes. I had the chicken in the oven for about 9 minutes. Keep in mind I had 2 breasts, and they were just a little dry according to Jeff (I thought they were perfect). If you are cooking 4 breasts, I would suggest around 9-10 minutes, with just 2, perhaps stick to 6-8 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and place on a separate plate. Tent with foil to keep warm.

To make the sauce, discard any leftover fat in the pan and heat the pan over high heat. Add the red wine and scrape up any of the brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Let the wine reduce for 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium high and add the can of tomatoes and the red pepper flakes. If you're using dried oregano, add that now as well, if using fresh, add last. Let the tomato juices reduce for about 3 minutes. Stir in cheese and season with salt and pepper. Spoon over seared chicken.

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