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Dinner with Friends

One of my love languages is food. I absolutely love to cook for people. I believe that if you can’t capture someone with food, they can never be caught. These elusive types you must reserve yourself to simply admire from a distance. I figure, if I can trick  you with my food to like me, that’s magic. I’ll gain some new friends, and you’ll eat some good food.

After all, this is how I tricked Chesh into proposing to me in the first place.

Last week I invited two of the coolest people over for dinner, and they said yes. I knew them from college theater, and had interacted (sort of) with each other over the past four years in some capacity. In the tiny theater program at CIU, they had always been the “cool kids”. They were talented on stage, got amazing roles, sang obscure Broadway shows I’d never heard of, and always seemed to be having the most fun whether they were backstage, on stage, directing, or slapping on makeup in the green room. It had been my lifelong dream to be friends with them, and here I was, an adult, inviting two other popular adults over for dinner.

I decided to try making something I had never tried before. A fellow blogger had posted something about re-creating a french meal and had made duchess potatoes to complete her meal. As I read through her post, I found myself drooling. If you don’t know, duchess potatoes are mashed potatoes that are piped onto parchment paper and backed in the oven. It gives them a crisp golden exterior and soft melt-in-your-mouth center. I had never tried making them before, but I like a challenge. In the end the hardest part was trying to pipe the things… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Because I don’t get home from work until 5:30, I prepped. I was so proud of myself. I cooked a bunch of stuff the night before. I lacked a peeler (which I realize in retrospect is something I should probably own in my kitchen), so I used a knife. I grew up in Sarajevo, and no real woman uses a peeler there. The inner Bosnian woman in me was very proud that I not only peeled all my potatoes without cutting myself, but also did it pretty quickly.

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I tried to make sure all the pieces were approximately the same size, and stuck them all in a pot of boiling water with some Himalayan pink salt. I freaking LOVE Himalayan pink salt! I like the flavor so much better than table salt and it’s my go to every time I’m cooking. The only bad bit about using pink salt with potatoes, is that potatoes suck up salt, and so you’ll need a decent amount. How much is a decent amount, you ask? I have no clue.

Once the potatoes were nice and soft, I added butter, sour cream, garlic, more salt and pepper to taste, parmesan , feta, and milk, before mashing it all together into one creamy (and yummy) mashed potato mess.

SIDENOTE: I realized later that I should have added egg. I think it might help with the firmness when you bake it, because mine were not as crispy as I would have liked.

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I then cut up all my broccoli and put it aside. Because broccoli cooks relatively quickly in comparison with the rest of my menu, I knew I could wait until the next night to cook it. Also took six chicken breasts and sliced them so they would open like a hot dog bun, leaving one side still attached like a hinge. I put all the chicken in a giant zip lock back and stuck in my fridge. The rest I would do tomorrow. Now it was time for the sauce.  This is my favorite part of cooking chicken, and since I had a jar of sun-dried tomatoes on hand, I decided on a sun-dried tomato & spinach feta cream sauce. The mix in the picture looks a lot runnier, but it was actually a lot thicker with plenty of spinach and cheese.

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When I got home from work on Wednesday night, I melted half a stick of butter in the microwave and then poured it into the ziplock with the chicken. Then I added a bunch of breadcrumbs in and shook up the bag. This got all the chicken covered in butter first, and then coated with Italian breadcrumbs (I had half a container of Panko breadcrumbs in my pantry and used that).

COOKING TIP: If you ever have a recipe that calls for breadcrumbs, but none can be found, use Ritz crackers to do the job. Especially the vegetable or herb ones. Just crumble them up, and you’re good as gold.

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I put down foil in my pans and then laid the butter smothered-breadcrumb covered chicken in the pans. As you can see in the picture, I have more than six chicken breasts. This is because some of the pieces were huge and I cut them in halves or thirds. I spooned my sauce into each breast and then place a half a slice of mozzarella cheese on top of each one. Once it was popped in the open, I piped my potatoes, boiled my broccoli and Voila!

Cheshire showed up at 6 and our guests popped by around 7. With an hour and a half, I should have had plenty of time to cook everything. We ate around 7:30, and everything was scrumptious! I do regret that I didn’t take a picture of the finished product.

After dinner I started on the cobbler, and since we had all resolved to just enjoy the time together, the dinner party lasted until about 10:30. This gave me plenty of time to whip up my favorite cobbler recipe and pop it in the oven. If you’re interested, I found it through Pinterest on The Charm of Home blog, and is a recipe I’ve used many many times. Paired together with some vanilla ice cream and a bottle of Stella Rosa Black, the four of us polished off almost the entire pan. Needless to say, we were all stuffed and happy by the time the night ended.

If having people over means I get to cook more, I’m happy. Good food, good people, good time.

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