Happy birthday, microwave oven. Hard to believe, but October marked the 67th anniversary of the birth of the kitchen appliance most of us couldn’t live without. But did you know the microwave didn’t start out as an appliance at all? Its invention was the result of a glorious accident.
The year was 1946, and Dr. Percy Spencer was researching microwave radio signals at the Raytheon Corporation in Massachusetts. While working on a magnetron tube, Spencer noticed the candy bar in his pocket had mysteriously melted. Intrigued, he placed popcorn kernels near the tube and watched in awe as they popped.
And that’s how microwave technology made the leap from radar research to a revolutionary way of cooking.
By the mid-1970s, most households had one or wanted one. In fact, by 1975 the sales of microwave ovens in America began to exceed those of gas oven ranges.
That was exactly the year my family got its first microwave. It was enormous by today’s standards, a noisy counter-hogger with seemingly magical cooking capabilities. Mom was enamored with her new gadget, and even took classes on microwave meal-making.
These days, most of us use microwaves to heat, reheat and defrost. But in honor of the big birthday celebration, I decided to actually cook an entree in my microwave. I made Romano Chicken, a dish very similar to chicken cordon blue.
Crazy thing, this dish could pass for being oven baked. The microwave’s downfall has always been its inability to brown like a conventional oven, but in this dish, paprika and bread crumbs mimic the veneer of oven-roasted chicken. It comes out incredibly moist and tender, and the cheese, ham and herbs make for flavor-packed poultry.
The craziest thing of all? It cooks in an astonishingly magical four minutes!
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
1/4 pound Swiss cheese, sliced
1/4 pound deli ham, sliced thin
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
11/2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
Place chicken breasts on a pan. Place Swiss cheese and ham slices on top and roll up, securing with toothpicks if necessary. In a small bowl combine the Parmesan cheese, paprika, garlic salt, tarragon, basil and bread crumbs. Mix together and dip roll-ups in mixture to coat. Drizzle with melted butter and cook on high in microwave for 4 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear.
Serves 6. Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 232; Total Fat: 11.2g; Cholesterol: 75mg; Sodium: 550mg; Total Carbs: 6.6g; Dietary Fiber: 0.8g; Protein: 25.1g.