I recently had dinner at my dad’s house. He and my stepmom live in Des Moines and, knowing I’d be there for the Iowa State Fair, I called to see if they’d like to meet after my judging duties were finished. We settled on a restaurant and I hung up the phone, only to have it ring a minute later.
“Hey, Mere, it’s your dad.”
“Did you get a better offer?”
Instead of eating out, Dad suggested a homemade meal at his house; something I haven’t enjoyed for years.
My parents divorced when I was a baby. Second marriages and extended families make me the second oldest of six in one family and the baby in the other — not that Dad ever treated me differently from my older sister. I did whatever he and my sister did during our weekend adventures.
What I remember most about my visits with Dad, though, is that he listened. I’d talk the entire drive from Mom’s house to his; catching him up on everything I did, thought or saw since my last visit. If I still had things to say while he made dinner, I’d follow him around the kitchen, barely taking a breath.
Sitting in his kitchen, I realized I still do that — and he still listens.
There are several foods that remind me of my dad, but grilled chicken tops the list. I’ve yet to meet someone who makes grilled chicken as well as him. The recipe below is one of my many attempts to duplicate his skills. I’m getting better, but maybe it’s one of those things I’m destined to like better when he makes it. After all, he’s my dad.
GRILLED BONELESS CHICKEN BREASTS
Butterfly the chicken breasts by slitting each horizontally down the center, but not all the way through, so that each piece opens like a book. Place the chicken pieces in a shallow casserole. In a bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, wine, olive oil, honey, pepper flakes, and salt. Pour it over the chicken. Turn and rub the mixture into the chicken to coat. Let it stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the grill to very hot.
Lay the chicken on the hot grill. Cook covered for 5 minutes. Turn, cover and cook 4 to 5 minutes longer, or until just cooked through.
To serve, place the hot grilled chicken on a platter. Cut tarragon-mustard butter into 1/3-inch slices and ley these over the chicken, allowing the butter to melt into a flavorful sauce. Makes 4 servings.
To make the tarragon-mustard butter, combine the butter, lemon juice, mustard, hot sauce, salt, and tarragon in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Place a piece of plastic wrap on your work surface. Scrape the butter on it and roll to shape into a short roll. Twist each end of plastic wrap to seal it. Refrigerate overnight, if possible.
Source: “Summer on a Plate” by Anna Pump and Gen LeRoy (Simon & Schuster; June 17, 2008)
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