A good novel leads to creative adaptation in the kitchen

Here’s what I mean: No matter what the plot, or how page-turning the action, the most oblique references to food — a description of a dish, a mention of a character’s favorite dessert, even a nicely phrased metaphor involving food — leap off the page as I’m reading. Parmesan chicken bites I can’t help it.

I should make that for dinner, I think. Chicken parmesan with Or use that phrase myself sometime. How to make chicken parmesan pasta Or I find my mind wandering, and suddenly I am in that little cafe in Vienna, with that perfect little pastry before me and that mysterious gentleman seated across the way. Parmesan crusted chicken longhorn … How to make parmesan chicken pasta Oh wait, where was I?

As a member of two book clubs, this sometimes comes in handy, like when it’s my turn to host and I’d like to tie the food to the book.

Baked chicken with parmesan Other times, it’s distracting.

In 2013, Wauwatosa started an all-city read program, selecting a book each year for residents to read and planning community events around it. What do you serve with chicken parmesan As a member of the committee, I volunteered to pull together recipes that book club hosts could use to enhance their discussions. Parmesan baked chicken The recipes are posted at the website.

This year’s book is the moving 2001 novel “Peace Like a River” by Leif Enger, set in the 1960s in the Minnesota countryside and North Dakota Badlands. How to cook chicken parmesan in oven It’s about a family on a mission to find its most wayward member, with elements of love, tragedy, comedy and spirituality woven throughout.

But food figures large from beginning to end, from the simple favorites enjoyed by the struggling single-parent family, to home-baked goodies brought over by friends and acquaintances, to banana bread, roast chicken, beef stew, cinnamon rolls and other comfort foods enjoyed along their route.

Of course, books like these — outside the niche of the culinary novel — have no recipes, just passages with descriptions. Chicken parmesan food network Classic foods like pecan pie and beef stew are easy to find recipes for. Pasta for chicken parmesan But in a couple of cases, I’ve had to put on my lab coat for some kitchen experiments.

So there’s this character named Roxanna. Sides for chicken parmesan She lives alone on a farm in North Dakota, and during a blizzard she takes in the Land family: Dad Jeremiah, son Reuben and daughter Swede, who have run dangerously low on gas while on a quest to find third child Davey, who’s on the lam.

Roxanna is a warm, earthy sort, with a colorful family history. Parmesan cheese chicken recipe And she loves to cook for her new arrivals. How make chicken parmesan On a pivotal outing with the family for a winter picnic, her spread includes a Dutch oven dessert she calls “Brown Bear in a Cherry Orchard.”

Hmm. Parmesan crusted chicken sides Cute name. Chicken parmesan recipes healthy I found recipes online, mostly camping or scouting websites, for Brown Bear in an Apple Orchard (applesauce and gingerbread cake mix) but nothing with cherries. Parmesan crusted chicken tenders So I winged it, placing a can of cherry pie filling in the bottom of my Dutch oven along with a few tablespoons of butter, topping it with gingerbread cake batter and hoping for the best.

The other recipe was a little trickier. Chicken parmesan over pasta In the book, the Land family (headed by Dad; mom long ago skipped town) has a staple they call “villing.” It’s described as “hot milk with a little sugar stirred in, also some butter and a shake of cinnamon.”

I started by looking for recipes for milk punch and made some adaptations. Baked chicken parmesan skinnytaste Pleasant surprise: The result is a creamy, slightly sweet sipper that I don’t think anyone would call “sick food,” as Reuben does in the book. Chicken parmesan panko bread crumbs It’s even better with a bit of brandy, making it a viable replacement for eggnog.

Now, its’ time to get back to that good book you’ve been reading. Parmesan chicken allrecipes Curl up with your favorite blanket, tune out the world…and try not to get too distracted by thoughts of food.