Any of you who’s ever had to write anything for someone else–whether that’s an article, essay, proposal or even an uncomfortable email–knows a little something about procrastination. I think it’s because no matter how often you do it, writing is hard. And turns out, it’s even harder when you do it for yourself.
As a freelance writer who’s also trying to write a cookbook, I’ve become a procrastination queen. Especially when it comes to working on the book–I find literally any excuse not to. This past week, I switched out all the metal hangers in the house for plastic ones, I bathed the dog by myself (no small feat), cleaned the sliding doors, made bread and cleaned out the freezer.
Most recently, I biked to an inconveniently located Trader Joe’s to buy groceries. I wasn’t even sure what I needed when I got there besides olive oil (which I then forgot to buy). So I began wandering around, trying to mentally build that night’s dinner in my head. Twenty minutes later, I left with three types of cheese; some apples; a package of Thai chile and lime almonds (they looked tasty!); boneless, skinless chicken thighs; garlic; an onion; and a package of pappardelle noodles.
It took me a good 30 procrastinatory minutes to figure out how I was going to put chicken thighs and pappardelli noodles together. Luckily, I always have tomato puree and white wine at home.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll get back to chapter one. Oh wait, there’s that arugula in the fridge I’ve been wanting to use up for pesto.
Pappardelle with tomato-braised chicken thighs
Canola oil, as needed
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
1 medium onion, diced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine (Pinot Grigio works)
1 28-ounce container tomato puree
8 ounces pappardelle noodles
3-4 ounces shaved Parmesan (I use a vegetable peeler)
A few tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Method: Preheat the oven to 350F. Heat a cast iron or other large, oven-safe skillet on the stove over medium-high.
Season both sides of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. When the skillet is hot, add the oil and chicken thighs. Sear for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Remove and set on a plate.
Wipe some of the grease out of the skillet if desired. Add some olive oil, the onion, red pepper flake, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Saute the onion until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the wine, scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to lift up any brown bits, then stir in the tomato puree and a bit more salt and pepper to taste.
Nestle the chicken thighs back into the sauce–along with any chicken juice that was left on the plate.
Cover the skillet with a lid or aluminum foil, and slide into the oven. Braise for about 18 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. (To check, pull out the biggest thigh and stick an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part. It should read 165F.)
Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water to a boil and salt it generously for the pasta.
Take out the skillet and place it on the stove over low heat. Pull out the chicken thighs and place them on a large cutting board. Slice into large, bite-size chunks and slide them back into the sauce to stay warm.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions until al dente. With tongs, add it to the sauce and toss until combined. Add about half the shaved Parmesan and parsley, tossing to combine.
To serve, heap the pasta into large bowls. Top with the remaining Parmesan, parsley and a few grinds of black pepper.