Fridge "Mystery Box" #1

I dare anyone reading this blog NOT to raise their hand (or a glass...I'm just sayin') in agreement to any of the following statements:
  • I am a culprit of buying a whole bunch of produce and it is now a week old in my fridge and I still haven't used it, and it has gone bad.
  • I bought too much chicken, pork, meat, fish - and I was going to use it "yesterday" but now it's gone bad.
  • I really was going to eat those leftovers, but ordered take out instead.
  • I was at the market today, bought, let's say, a huge bag of "potatoes" (because they were on sale), and now they are sitting on my counter, sprouting, because I just didn't get around to using them.
  • I have a whole bunch of random crap in my fridge, but I just don't know what to do with it.
  • I want to cook at home more, but I just don't know how to make it come all together.
You get where I am going. Well, at least I hope so. And if you didn't raise your hand (or a glass...) then I am speechless.

I feel that we all, at some point, have the same reaction in a supermarket, farmers market, specialty store, where we are like, "Ooh! Look at that! I can cook that tonight/tomorrow/Wednesday/for this weekend's dinner guests...", but sometimes our shelf-life-challenged produce and proteins and other ingredients go to waste. Even the ones we keep on hand as our staples (I always have a lemon and heavy cream in my fridge). It doesn't have to be some exotic ingredient, I mean, for me, it can be as simple as a chicken breast or some asparagus.

Hey, it happens. I am surprised living by myself that it doesn't happen more often. Only because I am such a foodie and a wino. But, NO wine goes spoiled in my apartment.

But I cook a lot at home, more so than the average single-living girl. So the other night, I tentatively opened my fridge, knowing that I was at the brink of needing to get rid of a few items, and here is what I pulled from my fridge:

Brown Mushrooms, Baby Spinach, Parmesan Cheese, Lemon, 1/2 a Shallot, Prosciutto, and Roasted Garlic.

Yes. I DO keep most of these things around as staples.

I decided in that moment to treat all of these ingredients like "Mystery Box" ingredients and see what I cold come up with.

I needed a protein, so I went to the supermarket and bought some chicken breasts. Looking at my Mystery Box ingredients, I decided on this menu:

Panko-Parmesan Crusted Chicken Paillard/White Wine, Lemon, Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce/Sauteed Baby Spinach with Mushrooms and Crispy Prosciutto.

(Remember, I still think like a chef, making menu items, when I cook). (Oh, and "Paillard" means "
a slice of veal, chicken, or beef that is pounded until very thin and cooked quickly" for those who were wondering why I was using fancy "French". Ha ha).

And, this dish only took me 30 minutes (take that, Rachel Ray). And, really, it is NOT difficult.

I usually eyeball all of my measurements, but here is as accurate I can get if you wanted to try this at home:

1 chicken breast, sliced evenly horizontally
1 egg, whisked
3 tbsb panko bread crumbs
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
3 brown muchrooms, sliced
3 oz baby spinach (large handful)
2 slices prosciutto
1/2 challot, choppped
1/2 C white wine
2 cl roasted garlic
1/4 C heavy cream
1 small wedge of lemon

So, I set out to slice my chicken breast in half, in order to pound it out.

Yes, one is bigger than the other, but I used the smaller for my lunch the next day:

Put a piece of chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap:

Took this b/c soooo many people think they have to use the spiked end of a mallet. No, folks, use the FLAT end to pound your chicken:

It might not look that big, but this chicken breast went from 1/2" thick to 1/4" thick:

So then I cooked the prosciutto, now that my oven was set at 375F:

Cover a cookie sheet with parchment or foil and place two slices (one to snack on) of prosciutto on the parchment:

Bake at 375F for 5-10 minutes, until the prosciutto is crisp:

Meanwhile, slice the mushrooms (I did only three) and saute in some melted olive oil or butter:

About 7 minutes later:

Then, I dredge my chicken breast through a whisked egg (I was randomly out of flour), and then pat it in my mixture of panko bread crumbs and parmesan:

Panko and parmesan cheese - 3 tbsp panko to 1 tbsp grated parmesan per piece:

Heat some olive oil over Med High (yes, I use lots to create a really nice crust, but then discard of most of it later to make the sauce) and when the oil is really hot, add the chicken:

5 minutes til brown. Flip!

5 more minutes and remove from pan to rest:

Add the white wine to deglaze the pan; reduce by half; add the smashed roasted garlic, lemon juice, and heavy cream, and reduce til sauce coats back of a spoon:

While the sauce reduces, finish the spinach; return the heat of the pan of mushrooms to High and add the baby spinach:

Continue to saute on High heat using tongs, constantly turning the spinach to wilt it. Once wilted, remove and plate and crumble crispy prosciutto on top:

Once the sauce has reduced, remove from heat and plate:

And that, my friends, is cleaning out my refrigerator with leftover things. It's a fun challenge, and it's not that hard to do. And, damn, it was tasty. The tartness of the lemon in the sauce balanced well with the parmesan and panko crust on the chicken, and the saltiness of the prosciutto went very well with the subtle earthiness of the spinach and mushrooms.

After taking pictures of my cookings, I thought that I would make this a weekly entry of cleaning out the fridge. I hope that there is more inspiration to come from any and all ingredients.