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The Irreverent Flavor of Nike: A Blast From My Past

Julie’s parmesan chicken

ChickenPlatedIf you live in the Pacific Northwest for any period of time and are willing to entertain the pursuit of corporate work, odds are strong that you will put in some time at either Nike or Microsoft, or both. If not at the company itself, one of its vendors. If not as a full-time employee, then as a temp.

I temped at Nike in 1990, helping to compile sales forecasts and RawChickenBreastassemble binders. (They loved binders.) After several weeks of satisfactory performance I was offered a full-time administrative assistant job. I was kind of bored with my work and unenthusiastic about the bus commute from Northwest Portland out to Beaverton, so I turned it down in favor of an administrative assistant job at the Oregon Historical Society, which paid far worse but offered me vastly more intellectual interest, not to say drama, starting on day one when one of the exhibit techs cut off the end of a finger and going uphill from there.

But Scott worked at Nike then too, as a full-time employee, first TomatoSauceMixturein the warehouse and then in an import-export paperwork job. And that Christmas he brought home the employee Christmas gift, an overflowing basket with a custom-labeled bottle of wine, a wooden spoon, a Nike swoosh-shaped cookie cutter, a few packets of foodstuffs like pancake mixes and chocolate, and an employee-compiled cookbook, The Irreverent Flavor of Nike.

TomatoSauceCookingThe book features recipes from both employees and sponsored athletes, from all corners of the globe. A vegetarian chili recipe from apparel marketing managers in Beaverton is next to a meat-intensive chili recipe from Bo Jackson. (Three kinds of meat and three kinds of beans.) Michael Jordan‘s fried chicken and Alberto Salazar‘s arroz con pollo jostle with brownies and salads from the company rank and file. The book is attractively designed and coil-bound, and has held up to a surprising amount of wear, because a lot of the recipes are quite good. (We still have the wooden spoon and the cookie cutter too, though I think the basket went away a few moves ago.)

SauceOverChickenI wanted to make an uncomplicated dinner dish, so I chose “Julie’s parmesan chicken,” which had been contributed by Peter Mannos of Retail Marketing at one of the Beaverton locations. (This was before the main campus opened, and the corporate offices were scattered around six or seven suburban locations, none of which was easy to reach by bus from any of the others.) He doesn’t indicate who Julie is or was, but the recipe is straightforward.

BakedMixturePreProvI started by putting three boneless, skinless chicken breast halves into a baking pan, covering it with foil, and putting it into a 425-degree oven for 25 minutes. (I was supposed to use four, but the packages I found were three-packs of very large portions, so I decided it amounted to the same thing.) While that cooked, I emptied a 32-ounce can of Italian-style chopped tomatoes into a saucepan and stirred in some cornstarch, oregano, Tabasco, and grated parmesan cheese. I brought the mixture to a simmer and let it cook and thicken.

MeltedProvoloneWhen the oven timer went off I pulled the chicken pan from the oven, drained off the little bit of liquid that had accumulated, and poured the tomato sauce over the chicken. I grated on a little bit of additional parmesan, then laid about five slices of provolone over the whole and put the pan into the oven uncovered. Then I looked more closely at the recipe, swore loudly, yanked the pan from the oven and scooped off the already-melting provolone: I had added it too early. I removed the now-deformed slices to a plate and put the pan back in the oven for half an hour. Then I laid on the provolone and put it back to bake until the cheese melted, less than two minutes.

ChickenPlated2The dish was tasty. The chicken had a good texture, and the tomato blend was flavorful, though I would add more Tabasco and maybe some dried basil as well. I may not make this often because the whole thing was pretty darn cheesy, and I’m trying to eat a little more healthfully than that. But it was very easy, and it might not be a bad option in an otherwise lean week.

Verdict: Success. Savory and satisfying.


  1. Samantha says:

    I copied down a recipe out of that book, I think, when you, Scott, and Avogadro were living in the apartment with the big windows on 25th. “Five Evil Peppers and Three Beans from Hell” or maybe it was three peppers and five beans. I made it once while Shelby and I were living in NW Portland, but I remember liking it and its stick-to-the-ribsness.

    Maybe I should review that and make it again. As I recall it serves a bunch of people. A good way to get through the cold and rain we’re having…

  2. Yes, that’s the recipe title, and I remember making it as a good cold-weather dish. I think I also made you the “Iowa brownies” from that book, which had a kind of glaze topping.

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