Sunday, July 27, 2008
Star Party with Chicken Parm
A few friends of ours joined us on Saturday night for a Star Party out at Canyon of the Eagles. Jim and I had been hanging out at a friend’s pool all day, only leaving me 45 minutes to get home and whip up dinner for five before we went star gazing. I checked the pantry, the freezer, the fridge…it looked like I had all the ingredients for chicken parm.
Here is what you need for Chicken Parmesan:
Boneless skinless chicken breast
I started defrosting five chicken breast by putting them in the microwave on defrost. Then I get my big pot of water on the stove for the pasta. While the chickens are defrosting and water is heating up I diced an onion and threw that into a large skillet of hot olive oil to become translucent. The microwave wasn’t doing the trick, so I put the chickens in a zip top bag and submerged in hot water in the sink. Next, I added garlic to the cooked onions, then deglazed with a cup of red wine and let that boil down to about half. (This is the same sauce recipe I used with the homemade meatballs) The chickens were finally defrosted, using a mallet, I pounded to a one inch thickness. The sauce has boiled down, so I add a healthy pinch of Italian seasoning, 6 oz of tomato paste, one can stewed tomatoes and one can of diced tomatoes. I’m cooking for five here, so I need to make a lot of sauce. Okay, sauce is …done… sort of.
I turn the heat way down, add a lid and stick it on the back burner to simmer while I finish the chicken parm. Next, set up an assembly line for the chicken – flour, egg, breadcrumbs. I use three shallow bowls and first dip the chicken in my whole wheat flour, shake. Dip in my bowl of two beaten eggs that I added a 1/3 cup of milk to. Shake. Dip in Italian seasoned breadcrumbs last and then throw in hot skillet with some olive oil. Brown the chicken one at a time on both sides, about four minutes – then place in baking dish. I put a little sauce on the bottom of the dish, top the chicken with a slice of mozzarella, then add more sauce on top. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.
During the baking time, I add my spaghetti to the boiling water and set a time for 10 minutes. Once al dente, I drain the pasta back into my large stock pot and pour the pasta sauce on top, mix well to coat. After the chickens are cooked through and my cheese has melted on top, I pull those out and plate up. First a pile of spaghetti, then a piece of chicken. Add a slice of garlic bread to the plate and serve with red wine!
This was a quick and no hassle meal and got all five of us fed and on the road to Canyon of the Eagles before sun set. The Austin Astronomical Society (AAS) host this event in a darkened star field in the Texas Hill Country bordering upper Lake Buchanan.
There was an observatory housing two big telescopes and about 15 more AAS members dotting the field with their personal telescopes, ready and waiting for you to approach them and ask what they were looking at. We saw Jupiter and its three moons. I tried really had to see the red spot on Jupiter, but didn’t. Saturn was amazing – it looked fake through the telescope, like a spaceship in the sky. Through the different telescopes we viewed planets, glowing gas cloud nebulae, star clusters, distant galaxies, and things that were many light years away. The most interesting tidbit I learned was the definition of a light year. I was looking at a star that was 27 light years away, which means that it takes 27 years for the light of that star to reach the earth – what I see in the sky is what that star looked like 27 years ago. Jim was the one who really got into this the most. I planned this event for him and he had a great time. Just talking to these members of AAS was fascinating. We saw a brilliant shooting star and one child explained “I saw a shooting star! I made a wish on it, but it didn’t come true. Wishes never come true…” One fo the instructors from AAS explained if the wish didn’t come true, then it wasn’t a shooting star you saw, it was just space junk burning up.
Next time we go to a Star Party, I would suggest packing a cooler, some munchies and folding chairs. Although they say you need to be there by sun set, you don’t really start seeing the brilliant night sky until 45 minutes after sun set. This is plenty of time to unpack a picnic and lay down under the beautiful Texas sky.