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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

COOK'S CORNER: Pret-a-Manger




I am nothing if not organized. I make lists. I alphabetize the CDs. I like to pack two days in advance.


Part of me would like to be more spontaneous - more spur of the moment - but I know I have a better time of things when I am able to make advance preparations. I realize that I'll never be like Kevin Spacey's character in "American Beauty." I tend to go to the other extreme, sympathizing with the Annette Bening character's need to prepare "savory yet nutritious meals" and keep the Italian sofa stain-free.


Usually I keep this organizational fetish to myself, but during a dinner party last year, I whipped out a lovely little handmade notebook where I record not only the guests and menu of every dinner party I throw, but also include the page number and cookbook that each recipe came from. My friend Ted coughed up his Mushroom Strudel and asked where my jackboots were. The military camp jokes continued through the Pan-Seared Filet in Red Wine Reduction (The New Cook, page 132) and beyond the Frozen Caramelized Pear Meringue Torte (Caprial's Bistro Favorites, page 224).


From then on I pledged to keep my structured life of methodical order to myself. The masses just don't understand the need for graphs and charts in everyday life.


But perhaps the masses are ready for a life-saving, time-saver in the kitchen ...


This is so simple and takes (honestly) 10-15 minutes of your time. Buy 10-15 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Put 15 ml olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Salt and pepper both sides of the breasts and sprinkle on dried oregano or basil if you like. Fry for about 3-5 minutes per side. Add olive oil as needed. Cool and freeze in groups of 4-6 breasts.


Now any recipe calling for cooked chicken is going to take you one-third of the time it used to. I saut? an onion and a couple cloves of garlic, add tomato sauce, basil and oregano, some black olives and a couple of sliced chicken breasts and by the time the fettuccine is cooked, I've got a great pasta sauce.


Or with your stash of pre-cooked chicken a stir-fry will only take about 8 minutes. Slice an onion, mince a garlic clove, add a pepper, some diced carrots or a bit of broccoli - basically whatever veggies are in the fridge -and saut? over a high heat. Mix 50 ml soy sauce, 30 ml water, 20 ml cornstarch and some grated ginger. Add a couple sliced chicken breasts and the stir-fry sauce to the vegetables and heat until the sauce thickens.


Now that the weather threatens to turn warm, you may prefer a lighter dish. A Caesar salad with chicken goes like this: In a blender combine 2 cloves of garlic, 3 anchovies (optional), 5 ml sugar, 15 ml Dijon mustard, 50 ml wine vinegar, 5 ml Worcestershire sauce, 1 egg, 15 ml chopped fresh parsley, 1 ml fresh pepper, 50 ml grated Parmesan cheese and 175 ml olive oil. Toss with Romaine lettuce, a handful of croutons and serve with sliced chicken breast on top.