Friday, December 18, 2009

Cleanup Frenzy is Productive

Got to tidy up
Too much cabinet clutter
Making me crazy.

Must clean out the fridge.
Gravy is taking up space -
Or can it be soup?

I am a happy woman if the house is neat and tidy to all appearances. "Find it a home!"I tell my third-grade daughter when she brings in another precious object. My desk is orderly. In the kitchen and bathroom, residence is conditional: if we use it daily, it can stay on the counter. If not, underneath it goes. Messes, stacks, and stashes are stored within the confines of spaces behind doors; i.e., cabinets, closets, and the basement.

Out of sight, out of mind. Otherwise, the clutter drives me insane.

I don't think about what I can't see, including cans and jars of food that are hidden in the back recesses of cabinets and the pantry -- until I unpack groceries and I have to make them fit. Sometimes I stuff them in. But other times, I have the patience to get rid of the old and make way for the new.

So in a recent fit of impatient (read: furious) weeding out after a grocery run, when I didn't have the time to do it, I was in a mood to throw out everything that didn't appeal to me at the moment. I hesitated over a jar of gravy. How in the world did it get there? More than likely, I acquired it with my recent marriage and subsequent household merger. As I considered its source, benevolence overtook me. An "aha" moment told me how to use its convenience properties to advantage.

The gravy turned out to be perfectly delicious in this casserole. When I added sautéed mushrooms and vermouth, it had all the richness of a veloute sauce (homemade broth thickened with a blond roux). I may hoard a few more jars on purpose now.

Quick Cassoulet

6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into thirds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
About 1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups sliced fresh baby bella mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
1 (12-ounce) jar chicken gravy
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can navy beans, drained
1 or 2 tablespoons dry vermouth
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle chicken thighs with salt and pepper; dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat; add 2 tablespoons oil to skillet and heat until hot but not smoking. Add chicken; cook until browned and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Place in a 1 1/2-quart baking dish, and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium and heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet. Add mushrooms, garlic, and rosemary; sauté until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in gravy, broth, beans, and vermouth; pour over chicken. Combine Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs; sprinkle evenly on top.

Bake until topping is golden brown and casserole is bubbly, about 30 minutes.

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