Tag Archives: recipes

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.

Image Source: http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/35dv15

Here’s how you win Top Chef.

15 Aug

Full disclosure: this post won’t actually tell you how to win Top Chef. But it might make you feel like a better cook after comparing your culinary skills to mine. Continue at your discretion.

I love to cook and I think I’m pretty good at it, but lately I’ve been copping out. You might have noticed that I’ve been posting less frequently and that the quality of the posts is, um, lacking.

It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that my eyes have been crossed with work since May. Lest you think I’m exaggerating: my OCD self has been tracking my work time in a spreadsheet and I’m putting in 60-80 hrs/wk. And (this is for you, Alan) I’m not even a lawyer! 

Bottom-line: I’ve been compromising on things I normally pride myself on: culinary feats, housekeeping, bill-balancing… grooming.

Before you get all judgmental on my ass: When you start working at 6am and stop at 10pm, it really doesn’t matter if you shower, because the fragrance you’re wearing is Crazy. And your outfit is Porky Pig. (Which means a shirt without pants, in case you missed that lesson.)

[Deep breath.]

Looks like pizza? Tastes like ass.

So back to cooking. I feel like I could write a cookbook for lazy chefs everywhere. Here’s a list of the top three meals I can make in under 15 minutes while hosting a conference call. Consider this my gift to you:

  • Toaster Pizzas! Kind of like the crappy Triscuit Pizza your friend’s mom tried to serve you in the 80’s when microwaves required lab goggles and a lead vest. But infinitely more awesome. Recipe: one English Muffin, pizza sauce, cheese, salami. Pop it in the toaster over and 10 minutes later… amazement!
  • Mexican Fiesta! Go ahead and mock me because it’s processed, but it’s better than appetizers in half the restaurants in this town. (If by “restaurant” you think I mean “bar happy hour spread.”) Recipe: one box Trader Joe’s mini beef tacos, one package Avocado’s Number Guacamole, also from Trader Joe’s. Pop tacos in the toaster oven. Accompany with one scoop of guacamole. Demolish.
  • Bastardized Wiener-Schnitzel! So this might actually qualify as cooking, but it’s shameful because there aren’t any veggies on the plate. Recipe: bread a pork chop with panko and parmesan. Boil spaetzel in a separate pot for 13 minutes while you fry the pork chop in olive oil. Once done, in the same pan: melt butter, white wine, capers, lemon juice, mushrooms and a tablespoon of good mustard. Dump sauce over drained noodles, throw the whole thing on top of the pork chop. Eat two of them and mentally don your lederhausen. Yodle.

Yes, there are more. So many more, I can’t continue listing them without shame. But if you’re curious, I recommend adding the following staples to your grocery list: kielbasa, gruyere, tomatoes, figs, bleu cheese, pesto, toilet paper.

Because it might taste good, but it’s rarely pretty.

I think I might explode.

8 Mar

Whoa. I finally got around to cutting the fresh bacon slab I ordered from Arganica last week.

(For those of you in the DC area, an Arganica membership is worth it just to get this meat; if you live in Pennsylvania, then you can just walk your sweet ass over to Schmidt’s – assuming you can find Steelton, PA – and pick up a slab.)

And yes, you heard me correctly: the bacon arrived fresh in a slab, meaning it was uncut. That’s why it’s extra fun and super special.

Tonight I hacked the pound into “lardons” (see THIS for an explanation if – like my sister – you think a lardon is a hard-on caused by bacon), and decided to fry up a few to make a Salade Paysanne for dinner. I haven’t had a true Salade Paysanne since I lived in France, but tonight’s meal brought it all back. If only I’d had a glass of Cotes du Rhone to go with it, my memory would be complete.

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