Food Schmooze: Faith's BLT Chicken with Grilled Buttered Cornbread
by Faith Middleton
Celebrate the end of summer with one of your last meals from the grill. This one's fresh and memorable, so savor every bite. I came up with what I call BLT Chicken by making a salad and adding flavors I love together—chicken, fresh corn, tomatoes and, I thought, why not? Let's butter and grill the cornbread. It has a little crispy edge that makes me swoon, caramelized and buttery on the tongue.
Listen, you're free to make the cornbread on a weekend, when there's time to do it from scratch, but feel free to use the supermarket as your prep chef. That's what my pal Jacques Pepin does; he buys supermarket stuff pre-chopped to save time. So you can buy the cornbread made, use a packaged mix, or use that time-honored family recipe. In fact, you can do so much of this on a Sunday night for Monday supper, including wash the greens, dice the scallions, make the dressing, make the corn and slice off the kernels, and cut the cherry tomatoes in half.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 strips crispy bacon
Cornbread for 4, homemade or store-bought
Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch of diced scallions or 1 red onion, diced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped, stems and all
1-2 diced avocados
Lettuce for 4
1 stick softened butter
Any other salad ingredients you like
Make a salad of your favorite lettuce and ingredients. I add a full bunch of chopped fresh cilantro, fresh corn kernels, diced avocado, cherry tomatoes cut in half, and diced scallions. Toss salad with a vinaigrette. I mix together Ariston Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Greece, balsalmic vinegar, and the juice of a whole lime or two. A little salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste it and see. Set the bowl aside.
Grill the chicken breasts and four slices of bacon, cooking bacon until it is crisp. Set the bacon aside to cool. When the breasts have been cooked on both sides, remove.
Homemade or Store-Bought
- Slice the cornbread in half horizontally so that it is about a half-inch thick.
- Lightly butter both sides of each slice.
- Grill one side of the slices, moving them a little so they have nice grill marks and are deep golden and a little crispy. Flip the pieces and grill the reverse side similarly.
- Serve two pieces per person alongside BLT Chicken.
Place the chicken breast on a plate, top with dressed salad greens and crumble a sliced of bacon on top. Put two slices of grilled cornbread on the side, or bring them out on a platter, and let guests help themselves.
Seriously, I'd make double the cornbread. It's freaky delicious.
Faith's End of Summer Gin & Tonic
Rose's Lime Juice
1 bottle of tonic water
1 bottle of gin or vodka
In tall glasses mix 1 part gin (or vodka), and three parts tonic. (My favorite is Fever Tree brand.) Add ½ ounce Rose's Lime Juice. Stir lightly. Serve on the rocks with a slice of fresh lime. (Feel free to cut back or increase the Rose's Lime Juice to taste. I love the way it softens the quinine.)
Best Chocolate Cookies in a Package
Korova Sable with Sea Salt
East Hampton & Amagansett, Long Island
To have them shipped, call the store at 631 267-8796.
Best Chocolate Sorbet with Toasted Walnuts
Faith's Wine Pick
Alsace Gentil "Hugel"
$10 – $13
Distributor: Frederick Wildman & Sons
If this wine is not in stock, simply tell your store the name of the distributor.
Well-FED: Fast, Easy, Delicious!
Best Pasta Sauce in a Jar to Make Toasted Walnut Eggplant
Two weeks into my vacation in farm country, glorious Orient Point on The East End of Long Island, I stopped at one of the region's many farm stands overlooking Peconic Bay, and left with a deep purple eggplant in hand. While I've read encouraging news about the eggplant's cancer-preventing antioxidants, I chose it mostly because it looked beautiful and inspiring, the way ravishing things do.
Not wanting to spend hours preparing, I thought, time for some relaxed pantry cooking. Anyone can be a pantry cook—all you do is roam the kitchen food cabinets with a sense of discovery. Inside mine, I found walnuts and what I think is one of the best pasta sauce's in a jar—Lidia's Tomato Basil, created by one of my cooking buddies, Lidia Bastianich.
I never bother salting and draining the slight bitterness out of eggplant; I think that's part of its gorgeous flavor when mixed with great stuff. What I did do was preheat the oven to 350°; slice the eggplant as thin as I could, then slathered some of my favorite, affordable olive oil, Ariston, on the bottom of a cast iron baking dish. (You can use an oven-safe glass dish.) Then I started layering… first, a splash of Lidia's jarred sauce on the bottom; then I overlapped the first layer of eggplant slices… I splashed sauce on top of that layer, and arranged another one. I continued, saving a healthy dose of sauce to top it all off. I sprinkled just a little freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano across the top, and popped it in the oven for about an hour. (If you want more protein, you can add a layer of sliced tofu or crumbled sausage, but since my guest was careful about cholesterol, while the eggplant was baking, I toasted some walnuts in the small toaster oven, and set them aside.)
Because the weather is still warm, I let the eggplant come to room temperature before serving each piece, sprinkled with some toasted walnuts. If you're in a rush, serve away! Try not to swoon from the bubbling aroma as it enchantingly emerges from the oven.
Lidia's sauce tastes fresh because it's gluten-free, and consists of Cento Italian Crushed Canned Tomatoes, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Fresh Carrots, Fresh Basil, Fresh Garlic, Honey and Sea Salt. (No preservatives of any kind.) But feel free to use any jarred red sauce you like, and add whatever you like… anchovies melted in a little olive oil… olives… meat… broccoli rabe… crushed red pepper.
This is weeknight cooking at its best, as a main for two, or a side dish for four. I serve it to company year round. Enjoy!
1 or 2 eggplants
1 large jar red pasta sauce
1 cup toasted walnuts
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
- Chris Prosperi - senior contributor and chef/owner, Metro Bis, Simsbury