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Short-Order Kitchen Duty Is Lasting Longer

Times Staff Writer

About 15 years ago, swayed considerably by the specter of what he calls “microwavery,” Richard Regosin volunteered to man the kitchen for a short period of time--just until his wife completed work on a graduate degree.

Well, she got the degree and began a teaching career, several Presidents have come and gone, their three daughters have grown into adulthood and moved out of the family home in Irvine and the greenhouse effect has considerably altered planet Earth, but Regosin is still in the kitchen, juggling daily menus with his chores as chairman of UC Irvine’s French department.

“Mealtime was--and still is--an important time around here,” says Regosin, 51. “That was especially so when our daughters were in their teens, when it’s so easy to get out of touch.

“So, dinner was our family time, when we could all be together and talk, without a television blaring, although we always had a little classical music on in the background.”

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What was served was also important. Regosin says that’s why when his wife, Barbara, made plans to return to school and suggested they might purchase a microwave, “I said, ‘How about I take over the daily cooking.’

“The idea of taking that special family time and centering it on medium cardboard cooking was unacceptable to me.”

Regosin discovered that he enjoyed cooking and also that “putting something nice on the table day-to-day is much more of a challenge than making a fancy meal for a special occasion.”

One answer, he says, comes in subtle changes in preparation. “You would be amazed how much differently you can make the same kind of fish taste three times in one week by simply altering the sauce,” he says.

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His preference for the sauce is a mixture of butter and Dijon mustard, sometimes with rosemary mixed in, sometimes with oregano. “A slight variation in spices or herbs gives you a whole new dish,” he says.

So, the tradition of mealtime as a special time was maintained. “We always use good china, linen napkins, candles and have music in the background,” he says. “It’s still our coming-together, keeping-in-touch time and the kids (now 18, 21 and 24) look forward to coming home for dinner.”

As might be expected from a specialist in French literature, Regosin leans toward French dishes, although he also likes to cook Chinese. He and his wife, who teaches developmentally disabled students in the Irvine Unified School District, visit France once a year and generally bring back recipes and memories of some outstanding meals.

One of his favorite dishes is the one he shares with Guys & Galleys--boned chicken breasts stuffed with leeks. As is the case with many of his dishes, just slight variations can dramatically alter the taste and presentation by changing the stuffing.

“Sometimes I will saute sliced pears or apples and use them in the chicken; other times I will use mushrooms or other vegetables--you can use almost anything and this really very simple dish becomes an elegant centerpiece for a special dinner.”

RICHARD REGOSIN’S LEEK-STUFFED CHICKEN BREASTS Ingredients

4 tablespoons butter

4 medium-size fresh leeks

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2/3 tablespoon tarragon

4 to 6 boneless chicken breasts

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chicken broth

2/3 cup whipping cream

1 tablespoon grated lemon or orange rind

Preparation

Wash, trim and thinly slice leeks. Melt half the butter in a heavy saucepan and saute leeks until tender (10 to 15 minutes).When about half-cooked, add tarragon and continue stir-frying. Flatten chicken with side of heavy knife blade or kitchen mallet. Fill with leek mixture, fold over. Add remaining butter to frying pan and brown chicken on both sides. Add wine and broth and poach for about 5 minutes on each side on medium heat. Remove chicken (keep warm in warmer or oven on low), boil juices in pan down about half, add cream and boil again to reduce to syrupy consistency. Add chicken back to sauce for a few minutes to heat. Serve topped with dollop of sauce and garnish with lemon or orange rind. Serve with rice or potatoes and green beans. Variations: Stuff chicken with mushrooms, vegetables or sauteed pears or apples.

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