The joke in my house is that if the smoke alarm goes off, Mom is cooking. HAHAHA. Oh, wow, that’s funny. Almost as funny as "Mom, which direction are we heading?" Which I always answer wrong the first three times. So?

So imagine our surprise when I took off on a cooking fest these past couple of days. And even more surprising, I invented a dish we all love! So I’m sharing it here. I call it Burning Chicken, for obvious reasons. Here goes:

4 chicken breasts – we take the skin off, but I like the bone in. Here, you buy both breasts together, so I guess that would really be 8 breasts. Feeds four of us.
1-2 Scotch Bonnet peppers (we use chiles picante in everything… looking for that "capsaicin high")
1-2 heads of garlic
carrots or squash (we are currently mad for the Sunburst variety). Or any likely colorful vegetable

Peel the garlic and smash the cloves with a heavy knife. I kill two birds with one stone by slicing off both ends of a head of garlic, like you would a tomato. Get as much of the flaky skin off as you can and separate the cloves. Smash the cloves, then the skin comes right off. My chef-husband taught me that.

Mince the peppers. These are HOT. I usually cook the seeds although not always (does not affect the heat according to the Wiki page.) And I use one or two depending on how toxic the fumes are while I’m mincing. The first time I did this, the red pepper had black seeds… so maybe this is another kind of pepper? Or maybe it was just rotten. At any rate, the damn thing was HOT. [Dan says it is a rocoto pepper.] I only used one and our mouths were burning!!! So fumes-while-mincing is a good test of how fiery your particular pepper is and how much to use. OH: Wash your hands after chopping BEFORE you touch your eyes or your penis. Just trust me on this.

Pour 3-4 T of olive oil in a deep frying pan. Turn up the heat as high as you dare without scorching the oil. (Chefs everywhere are cringing at this.)

Drop in the cloves and the pepper, keep the heat up and sauté without burning. I’m from Kentucky where we cook hot and fast. Yeah, baby. Our steaks are black on the outside, red on the inside. Except our chicken which we like done.

While the garlic and peppers are cooking, rinse the chicken and let dry. You don’t want any water in the pan.

When garlic and peppers are nicely cooked, add the chicken. If you get any water in the pan, turn up the heat until the water boils away. Get it out of there. If you need more moisture, add olive oil. Place the breasts meaty side down in the pan. Remember: hot and fast. You want this sizzling. The idea is to cook the outside fast, brown it, a little crusty even, but not black. Although I’ve burned a couple and it’s still good. I like burned toast, too.

OK: you’re going to cook 10 minutes on this side. As soon as the chicken is in the pan, salt and pepper the tops to taste. I like a lot. Then drizzle honey over the pieces, probably about 1 T per piece. DO NOT COVER the pan. The sizzling should be loud. If everyone else in the house is not telling you to turn it down, it’s not up high enough.

After 10 minutes, turn the breasts onto one side. Do the salt, pepper, honey, and sizzle for 5-6 minutes. Then, turn to the other side, salt, pepper, honey, sizzle 5-6 minutes.

Hot and fast. In the bottom of the pan, the juices should be bubbling brown goo. NO WATER. Otherwise, you have steamed chicken. YUCK. You want this as hot as you can get it without burning. Did I mention this already? Every once in a while, put a fork in one breast and circle the pan with it, just moving everything around so nothing is sticking to the bottom.

Once all sides are brown, place the chicken meaty side down again, place your vegetables on top, turn the heat down SLIGHTLY to a low roar and cover. After 5 or so minutes, switch the chicken and the veggies so the veggies are on the bottom and the chicken is on the top, cover and cook till the veggies are done to your liking. Shouldn’t be too much longer unless you like mushy veggies. The danger is over-cooked chicken, you’ll have to judge by how big the pieces are.

Two things: I have a teflon pan and a gas (actually propane) stove, so this will affect timing and heat. You’ll have to adjust. And I harp on the temp because Jal, Our Personal Chef, always turns down everything I’m cooking. I snuck this in while he was playing a video game with Mo and couldn’t leave the room, even though he was hollering at me to turn down the heat. I’d say "Alright already!" And then ignore him. This chicken is GOOD. So good I haven’t heard the smoke alarm joke for 3 whole days now. I guess we all measure success a little differently, eh?

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