Thursday, April 8, 2010

There are 12 steps to recovery...I hope one of them is pizza.

So today I cooked absolutely nothing. I picked off other peoples' plates and took full advantage of my friends' generosity of spirit and dollars.  I also had two bowls of cheerios somewhere in there. I came home, watched the second to last episode of Ugly Betty *sniffle*, and retired to bed.  No cooking = no blog post right?

WRONGO BITCHES!

I was thinking about people who read my blog, and the two of you really got me thinking about disasters in the kitchen.
I don't mean to imply in any way that any of you are prone to poisoning your dinner guests with undercooked poultry or mercury ridden fish; or that you should take out a renter's insurance policy on your kitchen post haste (however, if you can afford it, renter's insurance...not a bad idea. just sayin').  I just mean to say that I think everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, has had a kitchen disaster or two.  Maybe that fear is what scares people from forging into the culinary unknown, and that's almost as big of a shame as Heidi Montag's live Miss Universe performance (if you missed it...please watch in horror). 

I think fear in the kitchen is your worst enemy.  At the end of the day, it's just food.  The chances of you actually making someone sick from eating your food...slim as long as you keep things chilled that should be chilled and don't leave food out on the counter for three days.  (If you do, then tell me who you are, so I can avoid your next dinner invitation).  All joking aside though, cooking is a creative endeavor, and the best creations often take time and practice to achieve.

I've had some kitchen disasters...inedible, burned, undercooked, over salted, stuck to the pan to name a few, and I think in the spirit of full disclosure I should share them with you...complete with crappy stick figure graphics and conversation bubbles...you know, to make you feel like you were really there with me, and because this is a hi-tech multimedia experience.

Parmesan crusted chicken with green beans and white rice (age 11)

So my love for cooking sprouted at an early age. I was kind of ugly and awkward, never knew when to shut up, and had no clue what social cues were. Thus, I had a lot of free time.  I normally spent the weekend afternoons (when the good cartoons were over) watching cooking shows on PBS.  I loved Julia Child, and Graham Kerr and the Frugal Gourmet (before I knew he was a molester that is).  I was fascinated by the elaborate dishes they made, and figured I could probably pull that off.  I was lucky enough to have parents who fostered my curiosity and allowed me free rein in the kitchen. However, sometimes this was to the dismay and horror of anyone invited to dine.




 I remember seeing the recipe for parmesan crusted chicken in some "Easy Recipes" cookbook laying waste on the bookshelf.  I told my parents that I was cooking dinner that night and that they were to stay out of the kitchen until I called them in.  I followed the recipe to the letter. I garnished the plate with peels of carrot and zucchini and sprinkled the whole thing with parsley.  Then I made my Dad take a picture to document the occasion.  I believe I also printed menu cards for the evening.  My parents came into the room after three hours of preparation for boneless skinless chicken breasts, frozen green beans and minute rice and sang my praises.  Then we sat down to eat. 


I give my parents a hard time more often than not...but God must have a special place in Heaven for anyone who didn't spit that chicken in my little 6th grade face.  I'm pretty sure there was enough Lawry's seasoned salt to preserve a mummy, and after three hours...the chicken was a nice shade of E-Coli pink.  The rice was sitting in a small puddle of starchy water, not to mention the green beans, which I had decided to cover in A-1 steak sauce and microwave for 20 minutes. (pretty sure my Dad actually liked those...go figure).

Of course I pretended not to care.  It was no big deal.  But inside I was heartbroken that my first real meal was a disaster. It made me want to stop cooking forever...but I knew I couldn't let that one misstep stop me.  I'm not sure if it was a lesson imparted by my parents to console me, all the while hoping they would never have to endure an evening of such torture again, or something I picked up from the myriad of Disney Channel shows I watched daily, but either way I persevered.  I'm glad I did too, because now as an adult, I can tell you all the things I did wrong back on that fateful eve.

1. Why are you letting an 11 year old prepare chicken...stupid parents
2. Recipes aren't always great.  If it says to add 3 cups of salt and you think that's weird...well there is probably a reason.  Yes, nowadays the home food industry is so lucrative that most publishers insist on a rigorous recipe testing process, but there are duds out there trust me, and someday you might stumble upon one and serve something entirely heinous...it's just reality.
3. It was my first time.  If I've learned anything from my flops over the years it has been that once you make a big mistake...you tend to not make it again.  Proficiency takes a while, perfection can take a lifetime.  We learn from our mistakes, like in any other aspect of our lives.  Imagine your first time having sex...was that like the best meal you've ever had at a five star restaurant? If it was...call me. If not...that's because you had no frame of reference or experience.  Cooking something more complicated than Ramen takes a little finesse, and finesse comes with practice, and practice often means failures. 

So with that in mind...feel free to make mistakes.  It's truly the only way you can get better.  And when you do get better (which you will) invite me over for dinner.

This was only the first installment of  my many kitchen disasters.  There will be more horror to come when you least expect it...like demons.

But to show what time and practice have taught me...a recipe for parmesan crusted chicken that won't make you vomit.


Aren't You Glad You Didn't Have To Be The Guinea Pigs For This Parmesan Crusted Chicken

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F (I'm only going to tell you once)

Stuff you need:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cp grated parmesan cheese
1 cp italian breadcrumbs
2 eggs
2 T hot sauce
1/2 cp flour
1/2 tsp pepper
3 T Olive Oil

Combine the cheese and breadcrumbs and put them on a plate
beat the eggs and hot sauce and put them on a plate
take the flour and...put it on a plate
sprinkle pepper on the chicken breasts 

coat chicken lightly in the flour, shaking off any excess
then dip the chicken in the egg mixture
then coat both sides thoroughly in the cheesy bready stuff.
*(note: this is a standard breading procedure used in a LOT of recipes)

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes until it shimmers, or until a piece of the breadcrumb sizzles and browns, but doesn't spit or burn up quickly.
Have a baking dish or sheet pan set aside.

Lay the chicken in the skillet and brown on each side for 3 minutes, turning only once.  The chicken should look tasty and golden brown, not pallid and clammy.
Take the browned chicken pieces and place on the reserved baking dish and put in the oven for 20 minutes. 
After 20 minutes take the chicken out and check for doneness (you can totally cut one open to be sure...better safe than dead).If they are still pink at all put them back in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
When they are done, serve them over pasta with marinara sauce and melted cheese, or sliced over a salad or any way you want to really. I don't care.

This is a super simple way to recreate my childhood with one less painful memory. Enjoy, and tell a friend! And remember, if you really screw it up, you can always order pizza.

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