Cookin’ with Coach Daddy: Password-safe Skillet Chicken

kitchen skinny
photo credit: Stéfan via photopin cc

Never trust a recipe that starts out with heating up oil in a skillet.

cookin with CDOr warming an oven.

Or anything other than take inventory of all the shit you’ll need for this recipe, and what you’ll have to do with it. Find your garlic press. Ensure each integral stupid part is with it. Chop shit up. Know the difference between chop and dice. Account for pasta prep time.

Also for the pace water takes to achieve a rolling boil.

This part makes an FBI probe into private email servers look like the life span of a mayfly.

It’s the first in a series of Cookin’ with Coach Daddy. The process runs down similar lines as those I use to coach, parent, write, and, hell, live: Frentic. With miscalculations and missteps in such succession you wonder how I manage to remember deodorant.

Today’s recipe: Well, it’s chicken, and pasta.

Unique Password Spiced Chicken Over Whatever Pasta is in Your Cupboard

(Unique password, because my spice combination will never be the same twice.)


What you’ll need

  • A splash of olive oil – maybe two
  • A handful of chopped onion (red rocks, IMHO)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (or butchered with a sharpe knife)
  • A pound (ish) of chicken breast, defrosted, if necessary, and chopped into bite-sized chunks (which could be entire breasts if my kids are hungry enough)
  • A menagerie of spices of your choice*
  • Salt is good
  • A few spoonsful of honey
  • The handiest pasta around, cooked according to box instructions
  • A dash (or 10) of parmesan cheese
  • *I won’t recommend pumpkin spice or cream of tartar
  • Half a tomato (no bigger than a baseball) or the entire tomato if you’re feeling jerky

What you’ll do

  • Splash your oil in the skillet. DO NOT TURN ON THE STOVE. You’re not ready.
  • See, you’re supposed to chop up onion and mince garlic, and while the oil heats up, and you’re fumbling around for that damned drum piece to your mincer, your oil will heat up like a turf field on Mercury.


  • Chop up onion and mince garlic. If you need, chop the garlic. Red onions taste delirious, but will make you cry. I nearly did. It had a little to do with notification I got right then that the Rockies were already losing to the !@#$! dodgers. Just a little.
  • DO NOT TURN ON THE STOVE YET. Even if you have a handsome pile (2/3 cups) of red onion and a beautifully minced pair of garlic cloves, don’t be fooled. If you have to chop or defrost or both your chicken breast, do it before you add any heat to the matter. Trust.
  • Got it all set? Release the heat! I mean, turn on that oven. You’ve arrived. Saute onions and garlic. Keep flies off your chopped chicken. (And wooden spoons.)

At this point, an 11-year-old might ask you how to tie an Enos strap. Enos is a term that lives dangerously close to Ios, which, I think, is expensive chapstick. It also sounds like an ostrich-like bird, and probably one of Jupiter’s moons.

This isn’t a good time to Google how to tie the damned things. Pandora’s choice to give you Rise Against and Trapt back-to-back reminds you you’re on a mission.


  • If you’ve sautéed your onion and garlic without burning it to look like wood shavings, good on you. Toss in your chicken, herb medley, salt and pepper, and honey. Go wild with the honey, honey. You can’t honey a chicken dish too much.

Elise used to say “too much, daddy, too much,” when I poured her chocolate syrup, syrup, or even gave her grapes for a snack.

(Now would be a nice time to remind you to stop looking for YouTube clips of Tony Shalhoub in Paulie reciting one of your favorite lines of all time – “this is going to taste delirious.”) Because, pasta. And the slow-ass run-up to an actual rolling boil.


(Pandora might give you a little Moonlight Sonata at this point to keep you from heaving the skillet at the moon. One taste test of this honey-coated chicken will turn you soft as a Buddhist beluga whale.)

  • Keep the chicken concoction to a simmer while the noodles finish.
  • Serve over hot pasta. (Again, if your timing’s off, keep the pasta, after you’ve checked for al dente status, in the warm water, off the direct heat, until you’re close to serving time. This way, the noodles won’t clump up like a toy brain.)
  • Sprinkle with Parmesan. For grownups, this truly is a sprinkle. For kids … it’s a dump.


Oh, and that emu, or ibis, or onus … well, the kid got it hooked up good all by herself.


How about you?

Does it feel like you’ve just just passed boot camp, a government cognitive test at Quantico, and an evil stepmother’s plot to destroy you, every time you cook?

Or is it just me… I do love to cook regardless.

cooking quote 1



  1. mocadeaux says:

    Your recipes read like my recipes. I’m a firm believer in the “Wing It” method of cooking. And clearly the saying about a watched pot never boiling is describing every single episode of cooking pasta.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I’m no Betty Crocker, Mo. Without winging it, we wouldn’t eat. If you have laser beams coming out of your eyes, you can help a pot of water boil. Other than that …

  2. I think the thing swallowed the child after building up an appetite for honey chicken. I am not a child, but I admit to dumping the cheese.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      These are the trappings of the kitchen, Manee. Cheese-dumping keeps us young – pretty sure Ben Franklin said that. Or something similar.

  3. ksbeth says:

    i love this so much and it is exactly my cooking style –

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thank you Beth – why should I suffer alone?

  4. I so agree on spontaneous spicing ! I never measure, just dump at will, and never repeat the same combination. It’s called cooking ! (as opposed to reading a recipe.)
    And about that rolling boil for the pasta…always a challenge. This was fun to read. ☺ Thanks.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Why else would we have an entire rack of spices, right? One time, I forgot the cilantro. No big deal, right?

      Glad you liked this! I have another one in the works for artichoke-spinach blobs. Stay tuned.

  5. Your recipe sounds delicious! I admit, I’m a pretty boring cook when it comes to a lot of foods, because my son won’t eat most of my more complex and tasty recipes. It’s seasoned salt on chicken, butter on rice, and fresh blueberries on the side, lately. Since I’m having to cook dairy, egg, and mostly gluten free for me, and dairy and gluten free for the kiddo, things tend to repeat often here. I do make a delicious soup that actually does have a lot of ingredients, including several veggies, chicken, coconut milk, fresh grated ginger, chicken stock, and curry paste; and the kid won’t touch it. It’s just for me and my husband. Sometimes I’ll add brown rice.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks! One of my best cooking moments came when my kids gobbled up a chicken-and-peppers dish I made, with heavy cream and cheese. (They’re eating not-chicken-nuggets!) It’s so tough with dietary restrictions – I don’t envy those who have to go dairy-free or gluten-free.

      So there’ll be a day the kid wants the good stuff. Then the problem is, you have to share with them!

  6. Sounds like you cook like my husband! I’m a recipe follower. He’s more free form…

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Maybe it’s a guy thing. I do follow the recipe, right up until the step that I do not. You should see what I do to Betty Crocker pancakes …

  7. pilch92 says:

    That looks really good, I have never added honey to a chicken recipe, bu there is one at Applebees that I like.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks Pat – you should give it a shot!

  8. Coco says:

    I’m so glad my son’s been cooking this summer. It’s a treat for me and is helping him realize it’s not as easy as it looks. It takes mad skillz to get food on the table without setting off the smoke detector!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      How old is your son, Coco? It could turn into a lifelong passion – or at least an appreciation. Tons of factors, and the smoke alarms are just one!

  9. amommasview says:

    Well, see, your style of cooking is very similar to mine. A handful of this and a handful of that and then a little bit of that stuff, and this one here too. Taste… okay… more of this and that and taste again. Then we eat and my husband thinks it’s the best dish ever and wants to know the recipe. I shrug, he shakes his head and asks me how on earth I’m going to plan on recreating this dish again and I shrug again and tell him by doing it more or less the same way because it can never ever be done the same way again… And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the beauty of cooking from the heart 😉

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Glad to share the club with you, Sandra. Measuring cups are just suggestions.My grandmother uses her hands as the most prolific cooking tools ever.

      That means greatness is a one-off deal, but it also means a stinker of a dinner (not many of those come out of my kitchen) can quickly be forgotten (especially after the pizza arrives.)

      Cooking from the heart – and words, and actions – rock the most.

      1. amommasview says:

        Yup! I couldn’t agree more with you 😉

  10. Kisma says:

    This sounds amazing and your spice comment made me laugh. I make what I have been told are the best hamburgers and have been asked what I put in them. My answer is whatever I pull outta the spice drawer. This last time though, the hubby documented exactly what I used and they were some of the best burgers to date so NOW I can actually repeat them.

    Cooking is therapeutic!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Spice is the spice of life! Could your burgers be as good as mine, Tiff? I feel if you make the burgers the same way every time, where’s the magic in that?

      Unless you can bottle up the magic. Cooking is one of my favorite things about the weekend.

      1. Kisma says:

        Guess will have to have a BBQ one day and see who makes the better burger eh?

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        Bring it T – maybe before a Colorado Rockies World Series game? #FeelingTheFeverAgain

  11. I like to both cook and bake, but I’m more a baker than a cook. Especially this summer. Between the shenanigans around our house and the heat I just don’t have a whole lot of desire to heat an oven, although I have no qualms at all about it when I bake. Somehow that’s very therapeutic to me — maybe because of the end result!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Baking is … sweeter. usually. It’s a tough sell to crank up an oven when it’s 103 outside, but it’s worth it. The end result makes it all worth it!

  12. stomperdad says:

    This is why my spaghetti sauce never tastes the same each time I make it. That unique password of spices. This sounds tastarific. This reads much like my recipies, use whatcha got.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Password-safe sauce works, Eric. Why unlock the mystery? I can dig it. There’s nothing in a recipe that you can’t substitute and maintain happiness, for a reasonable audience, at least.

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