Near Disaster Now a Warm Memory (Plus Recipe)

When my college roommate Rachel called to tell me her family would be traveling through the area and would love to stop by for an overnight visit, the first question that popped into my mind was what I would serve them for supper.

Masters backyard

I realize that other things besides menu planning really should dominate your thinking when one of your dearest friends makes such an announcement. But when said friend is bringing her husband and six energetic children with her, figuring out what to eat is a top priority.

I have a collection of tried-and-true entrees I turn to when company comes, but for a group this size, there’s really only one option—a dish called Lazy Man’s Chicken that my mom used to make for our large family when I was a kid. (You can find the recipe at the end of this post.)

It’s easy, it tastes good, it goes well with rice (always a plus at my house) and—most importantly—I had made it for this group before and knew they loved it.

Getting that decision out of the way freed me up to joyfully anticipate our upcoming houseful of guests.

Before I tell about their visit, though, some background is in order.

After college, Rachel and I both married construction management majors and settled down less than an hour’s drive from each other. We’d see each other occasionally and remained close, but as time went on, our family lives went in markedly different directions.

She suffered some heartbreaking losses along the way, winding up with six blond kids who range in age from seven to 18. My own personal struggles later turned into the joy of adopting two daughters from China.

Eventually, we both returned to our roots. First, she moved back to the farming community in Iowa where she grew up, and then—10 years ago this week, in fact—Randy and I moved to Kansas, just a few miles from my own hometown.

We kept in touch through occasional emails and her annual Christmas letter. But about five years ago, it suddenly became very important to me for our children to know each other. I asked her if the girls and I could come to her family farm for a visit, and she graciously agreed.

Iowa 1

The kids all hit it off, and what started out as a tentative experiment has become an annual summer trip that we all look forward to and enjoy.

Logistically, it’s much easier for us to visit them than it is for them to come to us, so Lilly and Molly were thrilled to be hosting their friends this time.

In anticipation of their arrival Sunday evening, I had taken the poultry I planned to serve for supper out of the freezer the day before. When I pulled it out of the fridge the following afternoon, it was only partially thawed, but I didn’t give that a second thought because I have often prepared Lazy Man’s Chicken with meat that wasn’t completely defrosted.

I assembled the dish, tucking enough chicken pieces to feed 12 into my largest baking pan and popping it into the oven right on schedule.

Rachel’s family arrived around 5 p.m. Everyone was hungry, so we wasted no time putting all the side dishes on the table and getting the husbands seated. The kids were already dishing up rice when I took the chicken out of the oven and put it on the dining room table.

When I lifted the aluminum foil from the pan, I knew immediately that something was wrong.

It wasn’t done. Not even close.

I was mortified. During almost 22 years of marriage, I’d prepared plenty of meals for large family gatherings, and this had never happened before.

Rachel calmly suggested we just put the chicken back in the oven and let it finish baking. And before I could even get the foil back on the pan, eight hungry kids had abandoned their partially filled plates and were dashing out the front door.

I was so embarrassed I wanted to cry. And I don’t embarrass easily or often.

But there was no use crying over undercooked chicken.

If I had been thinking more clearly (right then, but especially when I prepared the chicken to begin with), I might have spread the whole sorry mess out in two pans so the heat could circulate around each partially frozen piece better and bake it all faster. As it was, it took another hour for the single pan of poultry to cook enough for us to eat it.

The most amazing thing happened during that time though. The kids didn’t miss a beat. The next time I looked outside, they were all playing soccer in the front yard, and our neighbor and his two small children had even joined in on the fun.

The men stayed seated, each at one end of our long dining room table, and talked shop the entire time the chicken baked. Rachel and I chatted and laughed and toured my flowerbeds, coming back inside every now and then to check on the chicken.

It wasn’t not one of my finer culinary moments, but it turned out OK.

It highlighted the resiliency and adaptability of our kids.

It gave our husbands, who hadn’t seen each other for more than a decade, a chance to catch up.

Most importantly, it showed me that friendship, fun and flexibility trump a perfect meal presentation any day.

Lois Flowers

Lazy Man's Chicken recipe 3

P.S. Linking up this week with Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Lyli Dunbar at #ThoughtProvoking Thursday, Missional Women and Grace & Truth.

22 Responses to Near Disaster Now a Warm Memory (Plus Recipe)

  1. Jerralea says:

    Aw, I actually know how you feel – not too long ago I pulled out a pan of chicken thighs that had baked for an hour and I was going to barbecue them under the broiler. Nope, not even half done, for the same reason. I had too many in the pan. Live and learn ….

    Anyway, I do commend you on your hospitality. What is important is the fellowship, not so much the food!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      You’re right about live and learn, Jerralea. I won’t be making that cooking mistake again anytime soon! (And when I make others, at least I can turn them into blog posts!) Thanks for stopping by today!

  2. Lois, glad you got to catch up with a friend. Your chicken recipe is also really good on meat, by the way. I use it on roast in the crockpot or oven all the time. It makes a great stroganoff if you use cooking Sherry instead of the red cooking wine.

  3. It’s all about the people, isn’t it? But we have a tendency to make it all about the food or the décor or . . .

    Thanks for sharing your disaster — evidence that we too can survive.

    And thanks for being bold in your practice of hospitality!

  4. Liz says:

    That is something I would totally do! 🙂 Thanks for sharing! True friendship isn’t tarnished by raw chicken…unless maybe they had actually eaten it… Blessings, friend!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Yes, I suppose 10 or 12 cases of food poisoning would have made for an uncomfortable visit! But you’re right, Liz … friendship that can go with the flow without batting an eyelash is true friendship indeed! Blessings to you today. 🙂

  5. Emily says:

    I enjoyed this story and can relate. I once almost served underdone chicken (or maybe a little was served/thankfully not consumed before we noticed) while volunteering at a women’s shelter. It was a meal I made all the time, but it was in such a large quantity that I had trouble guessing how much extra time it would take. I was a little embarrassed!

    I’m happy you all still were able to enjoy your evening with friends!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Emily, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who has an underdone chicken episode on my cooking resume! I suppose situations like this help keep us humble and give us opportunities to laugh at ourselves … not to mention make for fun blog posts!

  6. Loved your story, Lois. I love to read blogs on Christian living, bible topics, etc, but every now and then, I just need a fun and heartwarming personal story. The recipe, however doesn’t look like enough to feed all those people! I’m assuming that you doubled or maybe tripled it. Especially two construction men! Looks yummy. I’ll have to try it. My man would love it. Visiting from Coffee for Your Heart today.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I’m with you about the blog topics, Mary. Deep is good, but it’s nice to take a fun break every now and then! About the recipe … you could probably do eight thighs and/or legs without doubling the sauce, but for any more than that, I’d definitely double the ingredients. That’s what I did when I made it this time. Hope you enjoy it!

  7. Oh Lois! You made me laugh! Once two years ago, I made a chicken dish for close friends (luckily we knew each other well!), but I forgot to turn the oven on! I only realized it 15 minutes before they arrived. I was so embarrassed. Dinner was about 1 hour and 15 minutes late. I have to try your recipe. Wonder if it works with chicken breasts?

    • Lois Flowers says:

      OK, now THAT’S a story, Betsy! Another reason to always have a spare bag of pretzels in the house in case we need something to tide us over when company comes! And yes, the recipe works with chicken breasts, but I think it’s one of those that is much better with dark meat. 🙂

  8. Love this, Lois. What a sweet story of friendship standing the test of time…and the imperfections of life. So fun. Visiting from #tellhisstory today.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thank you so much, Tiffany! It always warms my heart to read your kind comments. And isn’t it a blessing to have friends who’ve seen you at your best and worst, who remember things about you that you’ve forgotten, who never cease to encourage you in the middle of your frazzled messiness?

  9. Linda Stoll says:

    Lazy? Chicken? Canned soup?

    I’m in!!!

    And let’s hear it for friends who take us as we are, uncooked / burned meals and all.

    The fellowship’s a rich feast indeed, isn’t it, Lois!


  10. Trudy says:

    I’m glad it turned out in the end, Lois. Probably even better than if the chicken had been done on time? Don’t you wish we had the resiliency and adaptability of children? 🙂

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Absolutely, Trudy! I think you’re right about the whole experience too … it wouldn’t be near the fond memory it is now without the chicken fiasco, at least not for me! 🙂

  11. Lois, what a great story. Haven’t we ALL had those company-intended meals go awry?! I have. But how wonderful that friendship and connection trumped the perfect meal being ready on time. 🙂 Genuine friendships are like that, and they are always a gift.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I agree completely, Jeanne! An additional gift for me and Rachel has been watching such close friendships develop among our children! It’s been like a whole new batch of cousins for my girls. 🙂

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