Mary Beth Johnson is a wife and mum to four schooners, as she’s dubbed her children. On a normal afternoon, you would find her in moccasins, skinny jeans and a comfortable tee, camera in hand. Recently moving to the suburbs of Atlanta, Mary Beth spends her days homeschooling, sneaking away to the bookstore, trying to act the part of a southerner, and sifting through recipes in The Vegetarian Times. Food is her love language.
We spent spring break on the coast of Florida this year. I drove with my sister and all of our five kids and barely made it one piece after I forgot to fill up with gas and we were on the longest stretch of the turnpike. We got there and it took me a few days to get into relaxation mode, but slowly the new pace and the lack of responsibility sunk in and we found a calmer rhythm.
We went swimming at night after the baby went to bed and ordered pizza with thick crust and extra sauce and never counted calories. My husband flew in for a blissful 14 hours and we stole away to a hotel all by ourselves. We ate dinner so late into the night that they turned off the bistro lights on the patio so the sea turtles wouldn’t get confused and head the wrong direction. We took our time and ordered in waves…crab-stuffed avocado with grapefruit vinaigrette…fries loaded with herbs and melted parmesan…warm chocolate cake with salted caramel and cornflake crunch.
I woke up early the next morning to watch the sunrise over the ocean and then we ate fresh fruit, loaded Belgian waffles, and huevos rancheros (my favorite).
I can’t stop thinking about that trip.
I usually bring a stack of books to read on vacation and something about the combination of a different location with an equally different perspective, changes me deeply. I always come back wanting to implement changes to our routine and after reading Padma Lakshmi’s memoir on food and love and loss I came home wanting to give my children the gift of rich memories. As hard as it is to stay inspired in the kitchen with little ones, I didn’t want them to only know peanut butter and jelly for lunch or hot dogs for dinner. When they’re old (and it’s hard to think that far ahead!) I want them to remember my hands smelling of garlic, the scar on my wrist from a kitchen burn that won’t go away, and the familiar crackle of oil cooking on the skillet when it’s close to dinnertime. I want them to know good food and for them to call me from their corner of their world one day to say, “Mom. Let me tell you about the incredible dinner I just had…”
//CHICKEN WITH MUSTARD CREAM SAUCE
- 4 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 3 whole Garlic Cloves, Minced
- 1 cup Brandy (or White Wine If Preferred)
- 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Dijon Mustard
- 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Grainy Mustard
- 1/4 cup (to 1/2) Heavy Cream
- 1/4 cup (to 1/2) Chicken Broth
- Salt And Pepper, to taste
Cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise so that you have eight smaller, thinner chicken cutlets. Salt and pepper both sides.
Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook cutlets on both sides until nice and golden brown and cooked through. Remove chicken from the skillet and keep on a plate.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic to the pan and saute it for a minute, stirring to make sure it won’t burn. Next pour in the brandy (or wine if using) being careful if cooking over an open flame. Then just let the booze bubble up and cook until it’s reduced by half.
Throw in the mustards and stir to combine, then pour in the cream. Stir in chicken broth, adding more if the sauce seems too thick. Taste sauce and adjust whatever you think it needs. Add chicken breasts back to the pan, nestling them into the sauce. Allow sauce to cook for another few minutes, shaking the pan if needed to move things around.
Serve chicken with something light and green on the side, spooning the sauce over the top.