(Kind of) Living the Dream, Baby!

I am an unapologetic home cook. I tugged at my Mom’s apron strings as a young girl, eager to mimic her style. And she taught me how to cook, bake, and curse “Mom’s G-d Damn Pie Crust” when it didn’t come out right. I learned from one of cooking’s unsung heroes–but I am no chef.

Sometimes when I shake the ingredients in my sauté pan they shimmy on out to the burner. My knife skills are laughable compared to the pros. Truth be told I consider myself lucky I still have all 10 fingers after all these years!

Even though I know I can “bring it” in the kitchen–what I lack in skill I make up for in passion, instinct, and creativity–I have always dreamed of upping my game. You know, being one of those real chefs in crisp white uniforms who effortlessly chop an onion in one seamless motion and don’t end up looking like they just succumbed to a really emotional chick flick? I want to rock a real chef hat without mascara running down my face. I have a dream.

Reality check is I am a Mommy who has to get dinner on the table first, so my culinary school aspirations are on hold. What’s a girl to do in the meantime? Stalk a real chef I was friends with in High School for tips and tricks of the trade, of course.

She earned her chef hat, believe me.

Meet Chef Julie Alperin. Post-divorce, she ditched her ho-hum corporate career in favor of Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in her 30s–and she thrived! She is currently a cook at the Harvard Club of Boston–and now she’s a resource for Mommy Dish. Chef Julie is going to share some of her favorite Mommy-friendly recipes every month, and I am going to prepare them. I am (kind of) living my dream, baby!

My rendition of Chef Julie's dish. Hope I did it justice!

Balsamic Chicken with Mashed Potatoes

4 boneless chicken breasts

salt and pepper

1/4 cup flour

3 garlic cloves, minced

3/4 cup chicken stock

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons white wine

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess. Cook in oil over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add garlic. Turn chicken over and add mushrooms. Cook for 3 more minutes occasionally shaking the pan. Add balsamic vinegar, chicken broth, and wine. Cook, covered, over medium-low for 10 minutes turning the chicken occasionally.

Mashed Potatoes

3-4 pounds of potatoes (I used Yukon Gold, but Red Bliss or Russet fine, too)

2 cups of half-and-half or milk (I used milk)

1/2 stick of butter

salt and pepper

Put the potatoes in a large pot, add two tablespoons of salt, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender–about 15-20 minutes. In a separate saucepan, heat the milk and butter. Drain potatoes well and return them to their pot. Slowly add milk/butter mixture to the potatoes and mash to your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Chef Julie’s Tips:

1) Heat the water and potatoes together. Don’t put them into boiling water.

2) Add salt to the water before boiling.

3) Make sure you warm the milk/butter mixture; never add it cold to warm potatoes.

4) Mashed potatoes can easily be spruced up by adding your favorite condiments–caramelized onions, roasted garlic, chives, cheddar cheese, and sour cream all work well (to name a few).

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