The Elusive Chicken Recipe

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False memories are a thing. We lawyers know that eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. Psychologists have been able to plant false childhood memories in subjects with relative ease. And things I am convinced were once true, are probably not.

Take my two famous chicken recipes from long ago. Well, they were famous in my own mind, anyway.* That’s why I can’t remember them; I can only remember parts of each.

Recipe #1: In law school, I worked at the Free Legal Aid Clinic at Wayne State. We were having a fundraiser. I volunteered to make a chicken dish. I wanted to make it crunchy without frying it, so I decided to roll the pieces in crushed almonds and bake them. Garlic was probably a second ingredient, but I’m not sure of that, or what else. Anyway, I baked 100 pieces in the tiny oven of a Cass Corridor apartment, and that was well before the Corridor was hip. (It was also before I had anything but a knife or perhaps a large book to smash the almonds.) To this day I don’t believe all the pieces were cooked thoroughly, but people dug it and no one got sick. For some reason, I hadn’t made it since.

Recipe #2: Shortly after law school, I hit on a flawless combination of four ingredients for marinated chicken breast. It was my go-to dinner recipe and always a hit. But I hadn’t made it in a while, and eventually forgot how to make it. Every time I thought about it, I strained my brain. I remembered two of the ingredients (orange marmalade and soy sauce), then this weekend I suddenly remembered a third (whole grain mustard).
But what was the fourth? I couldn’t remember. It may have been honey, but then I got mixed up and started thinking about the baked chicken dish with almonds. So maybe it was garlic. Or maybe even almonds?

Then I decided to heck with it, and combined the two recipes. It was quite good, and the almonds give it a most pleasing crunch.

So even though I can’t tell you if it’s the actual recipe I made all those years ago, it’s still a pretty good story … as long as no one gets wrongfully convicted.

Let’s call this “Forgotten Chicken.”

Two whole chicken breasts (four halves)

Two garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup honey mustard (or whole grain mustard mixed w/ honey)

1/2 cup orange marmalade

perhaps a pinch of salt, and crushed red pepper to taste

1 cup almonds, coarsely ground

1. Mix all the marinade ingredients and coat the chicken thoroughly. Marinate at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.

2. Lightly grease a pan and preheat the oven to 375º.

3. Coat the chicken pieces with the almonds and bake 25-40 minutes until done (depends a lot on the size and thickness of the breasts – I had thick ones and it took 40).

4. Serve with jasmine rice, green beans, and a chilled blush wine. Eat with friends and tell stories that don’t matter if they’re true or not.

* By the way – tongue in cheek, I called my recipes “famous.” They are not. But here is one of my restaurant truisms, and take it to the bank: when an establishment calls itself (or one of its offerings) “famous,” it is not. They’re just making up stories to be popular.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel, PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. Follow him at @nickroumel.

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