Once upon a time (or more specifically, back in 2002), I was a single mom who was short on time and money. I had taken a job as an event planner for a catering company, and was surprised and happy to learn that the chef was an old childhood friend from my days growing up on Long Island. Our parents had worked together, and we had enjoyed a cordial friendship for several years until our families went their separate geographic ways. By a serendipitous twist of fate, years later, we both ended up in the kitchen of a catering hall in Florida. The new flames of our shared kitchen and the old flames of our past were reignited, and we started dating. 

It’s been said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but when you’re dating a renowned CIA culinary artist, the opposite is true. While our careers flourished, so did our admiration and attraction to each another. One day, Keith came to my house and was appalled to see my empty refrigerator. Between work and carpool schedules for my two boys, meals were not a priority. The next morning, he arrived with bags of groceries and lovingly made the most perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – just in time to pack in the boys’ school lunch boxes. I knew then it was true love.

One of the many things I love about Keith is that he truly derives pleasure from others enjoying his food. The care Keith took to prepare those sandwiches is the same type of tender care he shows everything and everyone in his life. When you’re sitting across the table from him and he’s watching you savor a crust of bread dipped in one of his magnificent sauces, his eyes twinkle, and his smile makes you enjoy each bite even more. Keith is a thoughtful and judicious chef. It’s no exaggeration to say that every ingredient he includes in a dish has meaning and purpose. Every minute he spends shopping, preparing and cooking is solely for the purpose of pleasing someone else.  

Those fateful peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made in my little condo kitchen ended up bringing us more than each other. We were married in 2005 and started Parkland Chef Catering.

One year, we were showcasing at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival. We made fried chicken with peanut butter and jelly. The peanut sauce was Thai spiced, and the jelly was a Concord grape horseradish foam. The dish was featured by the National Peanut Board.  

 

Fast-forward to many happy years spent catering together, Keith’s certification as a Nationally Certified Executive Chef from the American Culinary Federation, and now the realization of our dream, The Cook and the Cork. Yes, we have been on the receiving end of lots of jokes about escapades in the freezer or trysts among the produce, but for the record, those things never happened. True, our passions do spill and overlap between food, wine and daily living. That’s how we run our businesses and our lives, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way, or with anyone else.

 

Sautéed Chicken Breast with

Hearts of Palm & Sherry Wine Sauce 

Serves 2 

INGREDIENTS

2 eaChicken breast, 7 oz.

1 cupChicken stock

2 eaHeart of palm, sliced

1/3 cupSweet sherry wine

2 TbspButter

2 tspOlive oil

2 tspShallots, minced

Salt & pepper to taste

 

DIRECTIONS

> Season the chicken with salt and pepper before lightly coat the chicken in flour, removing any excess flour. 

> In a large sauté pan, over medium high heat, cook the chicken in olive oil (approx. 4 mins .each side). Remove from pan and set aside.

> Reduce the heat to medium low. In the sauté pan, add 1 Tbsp. of butter. Add the shallots and cook lightly (approx. 1 min). 

> Add the sherry wine and scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add the chicken. Reduce liquid until it is thick with about half the liquid remaining. 

> Add the hearts of palm and remaining Tbsp. of butter to the pan. Mix until the butter is fully mixed in. Add the chicken to the sauce and allow to heat. 

 

SERVING

 

Serve the chicken, topped with sauce.