Today, I want to know: What does romance look like to you? For me, it’s Pecan Crusted Chicken with Strawberries and Goat Cheese, the dishes, and time.
In the movies, Romance (total capital “R”-ing it here) involves acts of gallantry, disapproving families, and fine chocolates. Enemies are slain, prejudices are overcome, and golden sunsets are followed. This fanfare is beautiful and all, but my real life is much more dishes and sleep deprivation.
Over the past few weeks, I have come to deeply understand that one of the most romantic things you can give someone is your time—not only time together, but also time alone. For independent reasons, Ben and I have been experiencing lose-your-sanity levels of “busyness” over the past few weeks, and our free hours have not aligned.
The night I made Pecan Crusted Chicken with Strawberries and Goat Cheese, Ben was in the library. He studied until the moment dinner was ready, came home to eat with me, then went right back to his books, apologizing for not having time to help with dishes.
On Monday night, Ben drove back from Milwaukee to stay with me in Madison. (He’s been staying in Milwaukee, helping his parents with a variety of urgent items around the house.) I thanked him by spending the evening catching up on work, after my weekend at BlogHer Food in Miami. He didn’t say one word, let me focus as needed, then helped me clean up after that day’s photo shoot.
This isn’t what our marriage looks like most of the time, but it does highlight something important that I’ve learned—sometimes, the most romantic thing you can give someone is time. In college when free time reigned supreme, romance was easy. We had plenty of hours for dates, surprises, and long walks on a hypothetical beach. Now, we are far more occupied, and our time together must be more intentional. I don’t view this as a bad thing.
Preparing dinner for someone is romantic, doing the dishes is romantic, and sweeping the floor after the dishes is really romantic. No, it’s not glamorous, but it’s real.
Pecan Crusted Chicken with Strawberries and Goat Cheese is capital-“R” Romance for real life. It has elements of an elegant meal—toasty, crunchy pecan crust; juicy, meaty interior; creamy goat cheese and bright balsamic strawberries—yet requires less than a half hour of active effort. No need to spend hours in the kitchen or break the bank to sweep someone off their feet—Pecan Crusted Chicken with Strawberries and Goat Cheese is ready to woo!
Don’t mistake me. I still love my evenings out, and I am never am sorry to see a bouquet of flowers; however, I also like remembering that we can do small things every day to say, “Hi. I’m kind of nuts about you.” For today, Pecan Crusted Chicken with Strawberries and Goat Cheese is mine.
Pecan Crusted Chicken with Strawberries and Goat Cheese
For the Pecan Chicken:
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4 ounces each)
For the Strawberries and Goat Cheese:
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups strawberries hulled and quartered (about 12 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 ounces goat cheese
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat. Lightly beat the eggs in a wide, shallow bowl or pie plate and set aside.
- In a food processor, grind the pecans into fine crumbs. Place in a large, study ziptop bag and add in the bread crumbs, basil, salt, and pepper. Seal top and shake to combine.
- Lightly pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness. They need not be very thin—just flatten the middle a bit so that the chicken will bake more evenly. Working one chicken breast at a time, dip the chicken in the egg wash, then place in the ziptop bag and shake to coat with the pecan mixture. Gently press the pecan mixture so that it sticks to the chicken, then lay the chicken on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts. Drizzle with olive oil, then bake until the juices run clear, 15 to 20 minutes.
- While the chicken bakes, prepare the strawberry sauce. Heat olive oil in a small saucepan, then add strawberries, balsamic vinegar, basil, and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes.
- To serve: Top baked chicken with a spoonful of strawberry sauce, then crumble goat cheese over the top. Enjoy immediately.
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