Sunday, February 23, 2014

winner chicken dinner & breaking bad

winner, winner, chicken dinner!

There are such perfect days for all sorts of reasons.  But yesterday was probably one of the best—because my son was so happy.  He got to see his best friend from home, for the first time in 2 years.  And after such a buildup, I got the camera ready for the epic reunion…but in true guy fashion, they looked at each other and basically said, “S’up?”  Anyway, exhausted, hours later from an amusement park, the last thing I wanted to do was cook. 

Oh, how I wanted to order in.  A thousand prepared meals ran through my brain like snapshots on a menu.  But it isn’t in the budget.  It’s just not.  So, I did the next best thing, I made something quick with what I had.  I had cherry tomatoes, I always have garlic—but I had nothing thawed.  So John grabbed some chicken breasts from the store and here we have the easiest chicken dinner for two you’ll make.  And it costs about $10 total.

Basic ingredients: 1 lb boneless chicken breast, balsamic vinegar, cherry tomatoes, unsalted butter, 3 garlic cloves peeled, olive oil, kosher salt, and ground black pepper.

Step 1: using a mallet or something heavy, pound the chicken as thin as you can.  (About ½ in.)  On another cutting board, slice the garlic thinly, place in a bowl.  Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.

 Step 2: Rinse and slice grape tomatoes in half.  You will also need about a TB of unsalted butter.

Step 3: Using a large (12 in shown here) nonstick skillet, pour about 2 TB olive oil and add 1 TB butter on medium high heat until melted.  

(ç It’ll look like this.)

Step 4: Sauté the chicken on medium heat for about 4 minutes a side.

Step 5:  Once the chicken is finished, remove to a small plate and pour out all but 1 Tb of oil.  Add garlic and sauté moving quickly so the garlic doesn’t burn.  About 1 minute.  Then add tomatoes. 

  Step 6: Sauté garlic and tomatoes together, moving quickly.  Add a tsp. butter to the sauce in the pan.  Then add about 3 TB balsamic vinegar. Combine.

Step 7: Add chicken back in to pan, with any juices.  Stir.  Then, take off heat, spoon balsamic reduction over the chicken by tilting the pan.  Add tsp. sea salt or more to taste.

Step 8:  Plate with some salad and you’re all done!  Super easy, super quick and super duper inexpensive. 

 Breaking (into) Bad

So we’re just at the beginning of the Breaking Bad phenomenon.  Just started the journey with Walter White, and I’m just…gobsmacked.  I could understand the beginning, the everyman, the sad everyman Walter was.  Down on his luck, his life anything but what he wanted or intended, but seemingly honorable.  Child on the way, child with special needs, a wife that ruled the house.  I got it.  I understood that.  But within the first season, you can see him emerge from a sleep so deep and dead that I don’t think this is a transformation.  I think this is a guy who was placed in suspended animation for a long, long time.  Whatever catalyst it is—and I don’t think it’s the cancer.  I think it’s the cooking.  Chemistry, complex reactions, almost Jekyll-like in their restorative power, are what wake Walter up to what he was and what he can be. 

It’s shocking.  The subtlety that Bryan Cranston brings to this role.  I don’t think this is a journey the character takes, it seems it was the road that was always inside him.  A demon that was waiting to wake up.  And it’s scary.  He shows little affection for his loyal sidekick, played heart achingly by Aaron Paul, and I don’t think that’s an accident either.  I don’t think Walter has much in him, his lost possibilities are forced so way down deep inside with such rage that it literally eats him alive, the hatred of it all.  The effects of it had me reeling.  Because while you can see and understand the lost nature of Jessie, the lost nature of Walter is far more corrosive and sinister because it speaks to dreams unrealized and unspoken.  Of a life lived with rage on the sidelines, and that explodes in really, really horrible ways.  Just as easily he could have been awoken by a movement that was wrong in nature, in him is a hurt he needs to unleash.  And there are a lot of unwitting victims in the way.

It really reminds me of what I read about the Unabomber once.  There was a history of a 3 foot trench being dug around his house.  In the middle of the night.  When it was cold.  But it wasn’t the Unabomber.  It was his brother.  The one who grew up healthy.  And I wonder, what was the difference?  What made one go one way and one another?   Where is pain located in these people who were kids once who also hurt, maybe even worse?  When was the switch pulled that a lack of realization of dreams meant that everyone had to be forced to participate in the shockwave aftermath?  So much misery because of such pain. 

If there is anything redemptive in such a portrayal, I think it is this realization.  That there is a way to locate and stop the pain before the hurts sink deep into the skin, past the tissue onto the actual physical makeup of the person.  Does Walter White find it?  Does he even want to?  That’s going to be an interesting set of questions to unravel, indeed.

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