Racing Rachael: Turbo Classics Meal

Rachael Ray makes whipping up a meal in 30 minutes look like a breeze, but we all know that there's a lot of behind-the-scenes work going on. Last week it took me, sans television magic, 47 minutes to make one of her meals. How will I do this week?

The food: Garlic Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon, Pesto Mashed Potatoes and Sweet and Bitter Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Blue Cheese Dressing. First, let me say that I've been following the recipes in the Classic Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals cookbook, but there are multiple web versions of the chicken and the salad recipes, none of which are exactly what is in the book. Lesson learned. I'll jump into the 21st (or 20th) century and go with web versions of the recipes next week.

So when cooking the chicken, I used one-and-a-half pounds of chicken, four cloves of garlic, and four sprigs of rosemary. I wasn't opening a fresh bottle of wine for the half cup necessary, so I used chicken broth. I'd forgotten about my recent herb/spice cleaning binge, so, you guessed it, no Montreal Steak Seasoning. Freshly ground salt and pepper it was. The salad recipe I followed did not call for watercress or pear.

Maybe my recipe-approved substitutions resulted in my sub-par chicken, but this dish didn't really do it for anyone in our house. In fact, I tried to pawn the leftovers off on my 16-month-old for two days in a row, and he, who eats anything and everything, threw it on the floor. We adults didn't find it that bad, but it lacked real flavor, tasting like it was taken from someone's diet-foods list.

I wasn't expecting to like the potatoes. I'm a salt, butter, milk kind of girl when it comes to the mashers, but these were surprisingly good...creamy and herby with a hint of cheese. The salad was, well, salad. Some pear (or maybe some apple) would have helped, as greens and walnuts didn't feel complete. The dressing was good if you're a blue cheese lover, which I am not.

The time: Thirty-three minutes! Woohoo! I don't know that I'll ever get closer to a 30-minute meal than this.

The verdict: This meal was very quick and easy, but it didn't cut it in the taste department. Maybe marinating the chicken would have helped (although that certainly would push this recipe out of the 30-minute category). The thin sauce that was made with it was garlicky goodness, but it was lost on plates with nothing to soak it up. Serving the chicken with rice or over pasta would be a better bet.

Pesto mashed potatoes will show up on my table again, but will likely be hugging a nice juicy steak. The best part about this meal? There is enough down time while the chicken and potatoes are cooking to clean up. My kitchen (and my husband) looked much happier when I was done being Rachael.

Ways to beat the clock: Just work a little bit faster than I did. This one really is possible.

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Carrie Applegate Jaeger