THE TERM "bachelor" has lost some of its meaning in these days of sequential monogamy and a 50-percent divorce rate.What was once an exclusive fraternity of determinedly single men is now a cluttered society. Virtually every male my age will at some point in the next few years spend time being single and fending for himself.
I didn't even realize I was a bachelor until a few years ago. I began to see the symbols of bachelorhood all around me: the laundry piling in the corner, the holey socks and undergarments. And although I love to cook and love even more to eat, my can opener had become the single most important utensil in my kitchen.
It was at about this time I discovered steaming vegetables as a variation on opening a can. Since I was often unemployed in my acting days, I had adequate time to roam Greenwich Village stores like Balducci's. I soon found that a meal of fresh broccoli, onion and a lemon steamed for a few minutes with the right spices beat the hell out of Charlie the Tuna and a quarter pound of deli coleslaw. It also cost about the same and required almost no time to make.
It took only a little while to figure that a breast of chicken steamed along with the broccoli created a perfect bachelor dinner. Perfect because, in addition to tasting good, it only took 20 to 25 minutes to prepare, used only one pot and gave me all the good nutrients my mom would want me to have.
I have tinkered with this recipe over the years and now can confidently bring it with me as part of my dowry. DOWRY STEAMED CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI
1/2 whole chicken breast
About 1 tablespoon brown sugar
About 1/4 teaspoon cumin
About 1 tablespoon worcestershire
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 to 1/2 pound fresh broccoli
1 onion, sliced in rounds
1 bottle wine
The first step is to uncork the wine (I prefer a bardolino) and give it a chance to breathe. Put an inch or so of water in a pot and set a steamer basket over it. Place the chicken in the basket and sprinkle on the brown sugar (it glazes in the steam and holds the other spices), 2 or 3 good shakes of cumin (probably about 1/4 teaspoon), about 1 tablespoon of worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze 1/3 of the lemon over chicken and place the rind in the pot. Cover and turn on medium-high flame.
Next take the broccoli and cut into florets. (I eat the stalks as crudites in my never-ending fight to keep my belt size from growing.) Slice the onion. This should all take about 5 minutes. Add the vegetables to the pot, seasoning with salt and pepper and another third of the lemon.
Now, since a watched chicken never steams, have a glass of wine while setting the table and selecting music to dine by. After 7 minutes (more if the chicken breast is particularly hefty) remove the lid and pass your fork through the meat. It should slide through -- the broccoli should be a little firmer. And that's it -- enjoy.