Often, messy means delicious

With this one, I beat my son to the punch.
CONCORD, N.H. -- Sometimes you just want a mess.
My toddler was the inspiration for this simple and speedy dish.
Seems everything my 2-year-old eats these days ends up a mess.
On him.
On the table.
On the floor.
And usually on my wife and me.
So why not have a meal that begins as a mess, too?
Not sure what the connection is, but messy foods have a knack for being utterly delicious.
Think banana splits, oozing with nuts and fudge sauce and whipped cream.
Or slurpy spaghetti and meatballs.
Or lobster dripping with butter.
To indulge this, I started with one of the ultimate comfort foods -- mashed potatoes.
It doesn't get much messier than toddlers and taters.
These would be simple -- salt, pepper, butter and a bit of milk.
While the potatoes boiled, I cut a pound of skinless, boneless chicken breasts into 1-inch chunks, diced a large yellow onion and sliced some mushrooms.
I then saut & eacute;ed them in a bit of olive oil with some minced garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes.
To get a bit of greenery in the dish, I roughly chopped one bunch of chard.
Kale, collard greens or spinach would work just as well.
When the chicken was nearly finished, I added the chard, covered the pan and let the greens wilt.
To pull it together, I spread the potatoes in a thick layer over an ovenproof platter.
You also could use a baking sheet or pan.
I spooned the chicken and chard over that, then topped everything with grated cheese and popped it under the broiler.
The cheese melted wonderfully, oozing over the chicken and glooping onto the mashed potatoes.
When I pulled it from the oven, it was a mess.
A delicious mess. I'd finally beaten my son to the punch.
1 pound new potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cups sliced button mushrooms
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 bunch chard, roughly chopped
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to broil.
Place the potatoes in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover potatoes by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the garlic, thyme, pepper flakes, onion and mushrooms and saut & eacute; 4 minutes. Add the chicken and cook, stirring often, until it is nearly cooked through, about 8 minutes.
Add the chard, cover and cook until the chard is wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Once the potatoes are cooked, drain and return them to the pot. Add the milk and butter and mash, with skins on, to desired consistency. For smoother potatoes, more milk can be added. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spread the mashed potatoes in a thick layer on an ovenproof serving platter. Spoon the chicken and chard mixture over the potatoes. Top with grated cheese, then place under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
Makes 4 servings.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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