Chicken Three Ways

25 Mar
A threesome of chickens.

A threesome of chickens.

Wait. Before you think I’m dramatically changing the focus on this blog and have a sexual interest in poultry, let me explain…

Tonight I’m giving thanks for having some culinary skills. I think my life would be infinitely less rich if I didn’t know how to cook. I may not have won Top Chef (yet!), but I do know my way around a kitchen. I routinely surprise myself with the meals I can construct on the fly with random ingredients in my fridge.

The meal that prompted my most recent pat on the back was this: A chicken roasted from scratch (thank you, 40×40!) served with the most amazing roasted asparagus… then plucked and used to construct… white bean and sausage cassoulet… and garlic penne with chicken and asparagus. A week of meals, all created in less than an hour (if you ignore the hands-off cooking time).

Friends who are intimidated by the kitchen often ask how I learned. Here’s my answer: I had a good role model. My mom didn’t teach me to cook – or instruct me on specific recipes – but she has modeled a few things for me:

  1. Be curious. She often flips through cookbooks or magazines and earmarks pages for things she wants to try. She doesn’t always make them, but they add to her knowledge base.
  2. Don’t be intimidated. Cooking isn’t exactly a mystery when you’re driving off a recipe. Someone else is giving you explicit instructions – so as long as you can read and follow directions, you can basically cook anything. This might explain why – after being impressed by Chicken Divan at a “Brunch with Bach” (the gold standard for our community’s quarterly cultural events) – my Mom found a recipe and tried her hand at it. It rocked.
  3. Improvise. I don’t think I can open any of my mom’s cookbooks without finding recipes that include her handwritten notes of modifications she’s made – either based on what she had on hand, or the family’s preferences. I think her experimental notes would earn an approving nod from scientists.
  4. Take risks. I can’t remember the specific risks my mom took, but I DO remember the occasional meal hurled straight into our compost bucket – which tells me she was pushing her limit. It also makes me realize I’m doing something right when I spend four hours trying to create crunchy spiced nuts and then end up having to write-off an $8 bag of walnuts because it’s all stuck to my wooden spoon.
  5. Pay attention. You’ll start to realize what works well together – and develop your own library of what to combine when you need to add a pinch of something to get the flavor just right. This makes you confident and nimble – and able to create your own recipes.
  6. Love food. If you enjoy eating, cooking isn’t a chore – it’s an adventure.

So that’s my gratitude for the day – knowing how to cook, and having had a great role model to inspire me. Thanks, Mom!

Now if you’re interested in the most amazing asparagus ever, comment and I’ll share it. Warning: It involves a wee bit copious amounts of bacon butter.

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4 Responses to “Chicken Three Ways”

  1. dianeskitchentable March 26, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    I never understand people who say the don’t ‘know how’ to cook. How can you not know how? If you can read you should be able to figure it out – at least a basic meal. Taking a recipe to the next level, well that takes a little more expertise.
    So – were those the chickens you roasted?

    • pithypants March 26, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

      RIGHT?! It’s not rocket science, people. (Though I will confess that my pleasure comes not from following recipes, but from inventing things on the fly.) I think my chicken was a wee bit smaller than any of those pictured!

  2. thesinglecell March 29, 2014 at 11:19 am #

    I do think people who “can’t cook,” apart from not having that sense of what flavors or textures work well together, etc., are intimidated or lack the ability to time things properly. In my experience, that’s actually the hardest thing to get down: hosting a dinner party and getting everything to finish to perfection at the exact same time.

    Of course, the other possibility is that they don’t care to know how. BIL 2 makes grilled cheese. Full stop.

    • pithypants March 30, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

      Good point. Timing does often sink people when it comes to full meals. I’ve solved that problem by having three ovens. Not really…

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