After dining at one of the nicest restaurants in town, I had a chance to taste one of the best chicken dishes of my life. After reviewing the menu description of the dish, I politely asked the waiter to explain how the chicken is prepared. Basically, the chicken is seared on top and bottom at the same time with a hot iron skillet placed on top, then finished cooking in the oven. I felt it was a brilliant way to sear both sides without drying out the external meat. My husband was nuts over the dish, so I wanted to (sort of) replicate the dish at home. I purchased two large (unknowingly just how large) chicken breasts, rinsed, dried and seasoned them just before cooking. I heated a large stainless steel skillet with olive oil and butter (very hot, but not smoking) and added the chicken presentation side down. I did not have a decent skillet at hand to place on top and would like to try that technique with a hot brick wrapped in aluminum foil and heated to temp in the oven, but this particular dish was moist, tasty and exactly what I wanted. Anyway, I allowed to chicken to sear, shaking the skillet from time to time, but allowing the skin to become dark and crusty then changed sides allowing all three surfaces to fully brown. Each side took about 8 minutes in all. I removed the chicken and deglazed the pan with chicken broth, scraping all the tasty fond from the bottom and added some seasoning, minced garlic and diced tomatoes. I added the chicken back to the pan and put in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and allowed to cook to temp (about 155 to 160 degrees), checking periodically with a stem thermometer. I served the moist and tasty chicken with the stewed tomatoes in the pan, baked potatoes and green beans. The meal was perfect and my husband raved about the chicken. I think this is a testament to my growing comfort with cooking and learning to experiment with food, which I had been otherwise frightened by in the past. I’m finally growing into the techniques I’ve learned and each successful meal I create is special to me. (I threw a personal high five to myself for this triumph.)

In other news, this year is coming to a close with Christmas in only 4 days, and I have so much to be thankful for from the passing year. Culinary school has changed my life and I have even surprised myself by some accomplishments, such as silver medaling at a culinary team competition, a scholarship award, two consecutive semesters of straight ‘A’s (1st sem. GPA: 1.9, 3rd sem. GPA: 3.21!!) and overall personal growth. This has been one of my best years ever and I can’t wait to see what 2011 has in store for us. Even as I type these things, I can’t believe it’s really happening to me. 🙂 A stark lesson 2010 has taught me: do what ever it is that makes your heart glow, follow your passion, try new things and learn something every single day. Take away something special from each day, even if you think you’re having the worst day ever try to see something positive about that day. Taking a more positive approach will most certainly brighten your life… it has brightened mine.

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