How To Eat Crow (Or: Kristin Puts Me In My Place About Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts and Pizza at Home)


When someone has a target on your head, it can be a scary thing. But ever since I wrote that article “Ten Things You Should Never Serve At A Dinner Party,” Craig’s sister Kristin has been out to get me. She first made herself known in the comments: “Dear Amateur Gourmet,
Allow me to introduce you to two of my close friends I call Chicken Piccata and Chicken Marsala. They are delicious when made properly, and if you think they’ll always be dry, leathery, and inedible then you apparently have not spent enough time eating in Steve Johnson’s kitchen.” (Note: Steve Johnson is Craig and Kristin’s dad.) “I don’t get this vendetta against b-less, sk-less chicken breasts, I think it’s entirely too stringent. They’re the blank canvas of the meat world! (I stole that phrase from another blogger.)”

And so it came to pass that on a recent trip to Bellingham, Washington, Kristin totally and absolutely put me in my place.

The first shaming happened at her house, the night after we’d arrived. She invited us over for dinner, which was a lovely gesture in and of itself. It wasn’t until we’d arrived at her house, though, that I realized this wasn’t just a dinner; this was an act of defiance. There, on the counter, were boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

“Oh no! You’re making me dinner to prove a point,” I said.

“Maybe I am!” she responded.

Her mise en place looked promising (lemon juice, lemon slices, capers, parsley):


And then the results spoke for themselves:


My least favorite protein had been manipulated and cajoled into something wonderful. It was super tender, super moist, and super flavorful with all of that lemon juice and the capers. Look at the smug look on Kristin’s face and the happy look on Craig’s:


(Hey Pacific Northwest straight guys, if you want this for dinner, she’s currently single.)

But alas! The shaming wasn’t over. Oh no, no, no. It wouldn’t be enough to just drag me through the lemon and the butter…she had to roll me in flour, flatten me, and roast me on a pizza stone too. A pizza stone that I bought her for Christmas two years ago!

And she did it all in a rustic cabin in the San Juan Islands without any electricity. As usual, it was a delight to spend a few nights on Eliza Island, where we smashed open Dungeness crab and washed it down with white wine on the beach. Here I am with Craig’s whole family:


And here’s the dinner that I made for everyone on my night to cook; a riff on this post about braised chicken thighs (yes, I was making a point too) with olives and cauliflower:


Here’s everyone at the table eating it:


And they enjoyed it, all right, only they didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as they enjoyed the pizza that Kristin whipped up like it was nothing.

She did a smart thing and I was there when she did it: she bought pizza dough from a really good pizza restaurant in Bellingham called Pizza Fiamma. Then all she had to do was flatten it, flip it in the air a few times (she used to work at Pagliacci’s in Seattle), top it with good stuff, and bake it on the pizza stone (THAT I BOUGHT HER) which she brought to the island. Here’s her sausage and mushroom pie, pretty much restaurant-quality:


Look at that crust! And she repeated her act with white cheeses and raw tomatoes that she grew herself:


And a classic pepperoni:


Damn it, Kristin! Why did your pizza have to turn out so good? Why did you have to rub my nose in it?

It takes real humility to admit when you’re wrong but after Kristin’s Bellingham/Eliza Island smack down, I have no choice. This is an official retraction: you can serve boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pizza at dinner parties. Hell, throw in some sorbet for dessert. What do I know? Kristin’s taken my mantle as the official food authority in the family.