Sunday Night Special: Saffron Chicken Breasts with Pea Shoots and Mint
Hmm, I don't write much about cooking because it's boring. Coming from me at least. It's already asking a lot of strangers to read about what I eat in restaurants. That's why I'm always amazed at the wild popularity of recipe-driven blogs where comments can reach triple digits and book deals abound. Odd.
But I feel compelled to share the edible results of my Opposite Day experiment with greenmarket ingredients. I'm not spontaneous so the concept of picking up what's fresh on a whim and creating a meal is counter-intuitive. Plus, I don't tend to cook New American fare, which is what seems logical when confined to seasonal and local raw materials. I mean, coconuts and limes don't grow here. Chiles would be manageable, though.
I thought I could come up with something using the chicken, snap peas, pea shoots and mint I'd picked up. Needing guidance, I found Saffron Chicken Breasts with English Pea Purée, Pea Shoots and Mint and instead of making a bed of mashed peas, I tweaked Sugar Snap Peas with Mint and Orange to use lemon as the citrus. But if I had known this was what I was going to make I would've bought parsley and green onions at the farmer's market, too.
After Grand Army Plaza, we just ended up going to our cheap no-frills stand by, Western Beef, anyway. It's a weird place, great for basics as well as Latino and Eastern European obscurities, but you won't find things like tarragon, Colman's mustard powder (on our shopping list), Fage yogurt or non-utilitarian cheese. I guess that's what Fairway is good for.
While inside the sizable walk-in meat locker, I decided to buy $1.59 per pound skin on bone-in chicken breasts in plastic-wrapped Styrofoam to compare with the $5 per pound chicken piece (breast, wing and drumstick) I got at the greenmarket. That's not just a little more expensive, it’s leaps and bounds beyond. Three times more. Would I be able to taste the difference?
Side by side, the conventional chicken breast on the left was bigger, fattier and more yellow than the pinker, more petite fresh one on the right. Once cooked, though, these plus the other two regular breasts I sautéed, all started looking the same. James is dismissive of boutiquey meat so I gave him a standard breast and took the organic for myself.
I thought mine was more tender and super juicy, though I did miss the larger amount of crispy skin (partially my own doing, I’m not much of a butcher and mangled the skin when separating the breast from the leg). But then, I tasted James' and it was also moist and had good texture. Argh, we kept tasting mine hoping for a revelation but both conceded there wasn't a major discernable difference.
For me, flavor is prime. Of course, there's also something to be said for simply avoiding meat filled with antibiotics and chemicals, the product of an animal's miserable life. I'm just not ready to pay three times as much for that yet.
It is a luxury and a matter of priorities. I prefer spending my money on restaurant dining. It reminds me a bit of my mom’s perception of therapy (which to my knowledge, no one in my family including myself have ever really participated in, not that they/I couldn’t use it). She once mentioned almost wistfully, “that would be fun,” meaning paying for self-discovery and analysis is something self-indulgent that rich people do. In the same way, I view organic meat as being for other people.