White Wine-Braised Chicken Thighs

I've been kind of a jerk lately. Josh has put up with a lot while I've been kind of a jerk. After spending a Sunday afternoon alone, in attendance at the maudlin movie "The Vow," once I regained control of my emotions I decided to stop being a jerk. And since I don't know how to apologize/celebrate/function socially without food, I also decided to make Josh a comforting, hearty meal to apologize with.

Front and center was this braised chicken, cooked in white wine and a mirepoix with a few other winter vegetables thrown in. The resulting sauce was a rich and lovely apology for this girlfriend's bad behavior.

I'm not suggesting you screw up as an excuse to make this chicken, but if you already have, this may be a good way to wipe the slate clean.

You will need:

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for sauteeing chicken
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 leek, sliced into rings
4 cloves garlic, whole
Small handful Italian (flat leaf) parsley, roughly chopped
1/8 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/8 teaspoon thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 cup white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
Enough chicken broth to cover chicken (about 1/2 cup)
Splash heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Have a 3-quart Dutch oven waiting on a burner over low heat. Heat butter and oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Once butter has melted, increase heat to medium-high and cook garlic cloves until browned. Add carrots, celery, onions and leeks and stir, seasoning with salt and pepper. Once the vegetables have softened slightly and have started to brown, add Herbes de Provence, thyme and cayenne, stir well. Transfer vegetables from skillet into Dutch oven. Add parsley to Dutch oven.

Add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the skillet. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, then sear quickly (2-3 minutes on each side). Once chicken is well-browned, transfer to Dutch oven. Wipe out the skillet of any excess oil with a paper towel, and reduce heat to low. Deglaze skillet with white wine, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, and pour into Dutch oven. Pour enough chicken broth to cover the chicken about 2/3 of the way up. Add in a splash of heavy cream and stir to combine.

Cook over medium-low heat for 60-90 minutes. Add more cream and/or seasonings if necessary at the end of the cooking time.

Oven-Fried Shrimp with Chipotle Dipping Sauce

Often, when I'm lacking inspiration for a weekend meal when we have Alyssa, I play to her nine-year-old sensibilities and ask her what she would like for dinner. I try to acquiesce her requests when reasonable, yet I always brace myself for "pizza." Lately as she's gotten older, however, her responses have been surprising me.

"Fried shrimp, broccoli and white rice."

After my momentary shock wore off, I got to work dreaming up a recipe and made a trip to Sam's Club, where we found the biggest shrimp I've ever seen in a freezer case. I waffled on whether to lug out the deep fryer or bake the shrimp in the oven, and I'm so glad I ultimately decided (at the last minute) to bake them. They were exceptionally crunchy thanks to their panko coating, and I didn't destroy my kitchen or ingest an additional 500 calories by frying them. Alyssa didn't seem heartbroken over the fact that I wasn't actually frying the shrimp, either.

I'll warn you, the prep time on these is a little steep if you don't buy your shrimp deveined. My shrimp were not deveined (and repulsively veined due to their size) and I probably spent 30 minutes at the sink, peeling, carving, disposing of the vein and rinsing them clean.

I couldn't fathom eating "fried" shrimp without a bit of dipping sauce, so I whipped up a quick dip using canned chipotles (look for these in the international or Mexican aisle of your grocery store), mayonnaise and a few of the same seasonings from the shrimp.

You will need:

2 pounds jumbo (16/20) shrimp, peeled, deveined and rinsed
1 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 teaspoon pepper, divided
1 teaspoon garlic powder, divided
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, divided
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
2 cups panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Set out 3 medium bowls. In one, add flour. In another, add eggs, milk, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne and 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese. Whisk to combine. Add panko breadcrumbs to the third bowl and season with remaining salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne.

Dredge shrimp in flour and when coated, move into the egg mixture with a fork. Coat shrimp in egg mixture then dip in panko, ensuring the shrimp is coated in panko crumbs. Move coated shrimp to a prepared baking pan sprayed with cooking spray.

Repeat with remaining shrimp. Spray shrimp with cooking spray, and cook at 425 degrees for 7 minutes. Flip shrimp over, spray again with cooking spray, and place under a low broiler for 1 minute or until  toasted (do not leave your oven!), and serve with chipotle dipping sauce (below).

Chipotle Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup light sour cream
Splash Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon (or more to taste, but it's spicy stuff) sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients until sauce is smooth. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to allow flavors to marry. Serve cold.