14 April 2008

With trepidation

A while ago The Artist Now Known As Dexter Colt ended an email by saying Off to make rosemary chicken now. You may consider this innocent enough, in which case you are new to my blog. This, in fact, is what is known in Amnesty circles as "cruel and unusual punishment" and I promptly died of lust and sorrow. If one cannot cook one should not have one's face plunged into someone else's chicken, especially if it includes rosemary, and I may have thrown a hissy fit. The condescending reply was along the lines of Oh please, *patronising little wave of hand* anyone could cook this, with recipe included, wich in turn included garlic. This prompted much renewed dying across the ocean bcs oh my, rosemary AND garlic *dizzy spell* and really? REALLY? ANYONE COULD? Right.

Mum is a wonderful cook. She doesn't particularly care for cooking so she just throws a few things together but it invariably tastes fabulous. Some of my friends really love cooking, the little freakazoids, it's relaxing, they say. Relaxing. Bee even goes so far as to not ever taste what she's cooking (invariably delicious) and she cannot stand to have anyone helping her. Do you see how this could work out so very well if both of us were remotely lesbotronic? How can I help? You can't, you're in the way, go read your book. GO READ YOUR BOOK! Ah sweet foreplay... Alas, not to be. But I feel real sadness bcs not only am I not particulary gifted (I never know what would go well with what and the seasoning is beyond me) but I dislike it immensely. In fact, the notion of having to cook something fills me with such ennui that I'll often go hungry rather than having to go through it, particularly after a long day. [And if you ever tell my mother this I will personally ensure your voicebox ends up wrapped around your ankles, no more ammo for the already powerful, please.]

[TANGENTIAL YET RELEVANT NOTE: three of you have told me separately that you love olive oil but it's too expensive to buy a really good one. Dudes, don't break my Portie heart... Good olive oil is paramount! It changes the taste of the food, you don't fuck with it! I bought 3L 3 months ago for 23 E ($36) but I still have 1/4 left and it's all I can do not to anoint myself with it, it's dark green, thick and tastes as though it's been smoked, my salads went from What the bloody hell...? to So that's what was off! Are you telling me you don't splurge on other things? Make it a luxury item then, please don't be mean when it comes to olive oil, it is absolutely worth it.]

I haven't had a boyfriend who could cook ever since that 20-year-old all those years ago, do you see how my life has been so very hard? I have instituted an Absolute Pre-Requisite for Pride Loving now, my innards for your cooking skills. [Also, NO MORE SLOBS EVER AGAIN. None of this "We'll clean up after eating" rubbish, we tidy up as we go along and I'll be able to enjoy the food, how am I supposed to if the kitchen was left a bloody mess?] Walking down the stairs is enough to make me want to cry, all those lovely smells wafting from people's flats and here I am, without any gastronomic meaning in my life. Mind, yesterday I did make some lovely gizzards + liver with broccoli Portie-style but that's no accomplishment really, they practically cook themselves. Everything else is a bit fuzzier, especially if it involves The Oven. The Oven is a fickle thing that I very much respect from a distance. My former experiences with The Oven have been surprisingly traumatising in their results. But I gave in, you cannot wave rosemary and garlic under my nose without making my knees go oh so very weak so I went out and bought the chicken legs (breast's too dry) and the lemon and the tin foil, managed to both turn on the stubborn oven and keep it on and am now sitting in the living-room in utter shock bcs the smell, that smell that my neighbours use to taunt me? IT'S COMING FROM THE KITCHEN! MY FUCKING KITCHEN! FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER! And I don't know how the actual chicken will turn out but right now, Dexter, I would darn your socks and dry your feet with the tresses of my hair.

---------------------------
10 min later - Erm, is it supposed to gurgle and crackle really loudly? I have lowered the heat already but I can hear it popping all the way from the kitchen, and the glass dish seems to be rattling as well. Mother's lamb is never vocal, can meat actually explode??

20 min later - It was burning, it was bloody burning! Dexter told me to pre-heat it to 350ºFm, which I did after converting it to 175ºC, and I was supposed to let it cook for 30 min and then remove the foil to brown it for 20 - but after 20 min only all the garlic and rosemary had morphed into black clumps and the chicken is very crisp on the outside and partially raw inside still, I had to make cuts along the meat and place it in a frying pan to finish cooking it. This always happens! TOLD YOU.

Final - Dexter, I will forever be in your debt, it tastes absolutely gorgeous! I cannot believe I made this, have now started a fan club in your honour (The Dexterettes; official anthem: Girl, You Be A Woman Soon). Chicken looks a tad dismembered but that couldn't be helped and I do think something is wrong with my oven, it's too high even on the lowest setting, this always happens and I used to think it was my fault but I did exactly as you said so it can't be. Am eating it with the rest of the broccoli sautéed in the olive oil mixture and the taste...!!! OMG you lot, why do people who can cook even bother to have sex?? IT TASTES THAT GOOD! This was the first time I meat-cooked using an oven, you have no idea how excited I am! I still have one leg left, will give it another go soon. And - and
blimey, this is the first time such words were ever uttered by me - I cannot wait.

PS - If you combined lot manage to turn me into one of those cooking people I'll be pissy though. Pissy. It's unnatural.

17 furballs:

Savtadotty said...

Be the scientist that you are: get an oven thermometer! (Oh and defrost all chickens before cooking.)

Lioness said...

An oven thermometre! What a novel and exotic idea! But then what do I do with it? I mean, say the temperature is indeed to high, that doesn't fix the stupid oven. And do we even have oven thermometres here? Ahh, brave new world!

QuietusLeo said...

If you want, I have a zucchini quiche recipe that no one, but no one, even my wife, can ruin. It involves using a grater for that wonderful tactile feeling of shredding zucchini. Or use a food processor which saves time.

Udge said...

What a wonderful post! I am lost in admiration of your mad cooking skillz. What next, spatial awareness? :-P

Lioness said...

Quietusleo, todah, be'emet, but quiche is too much for me. I don't tbhink I will ever cook anything that requires dough, also bcs I like the taste of things better without it. But I love zucchinis, know any good recipes that will leave them crisp and fresh?

Udge, haha. Funny. *kick* You mad crazy jealous is what. I'd be too, am still floating on self-created meaty endorphines.

QuietusLeo said...

I have a stuffed zucchini recipe from the Moosewood cookbook, but it's a lot of work.

Manuela said...

Well for heaven's sake, SHARE the bloody recipe. And I hope you are satisfied with the fact that I am now salivating for chicken.

I am also one of those freaks who loves to cook. Love it. I also HATE having people help. Help in the kitchen equals meddling. Prep work though, I'll let others do that. The peeling, slicing and dicing... but not the ACTUAL cooking. Heavens no.

Lioness said...

Quietusleo, no no no! Nothing time-consuming, too much. Simple can be beautiful too, right?

Manuela, I don't think it's an old Colt heirloom so here it is: garlic cloves, lemon juice (he uses half a lemon for every breast, I used more), rosemary - I'm sure you can get fresh rosemary - you may even have some in your garden! We never see any really, so sad - Mix it all in olive oil (GOOD olive oil, FFS!) and let it sit a while, pre-heat oven to 350º-400º (Chimmy uses 400º bcs his oven loses heat), then cook for 30 min, remove aluminium foil and cook for an extra 20 so it crisps up and brings tears of joy to your eyes and general body. It really is this simple, and I don't think I forgot anything. Now, I think where it went horribly wrong was the temperature, am convinced it needs to cook at a lower temp than the pre-heating one but SOMEONE neglected to mention that.

At least you're half normal, Bee does not even allow anyone to chop, peel or what have you, it's just mental. Loving to cook - how could I not adore you all.

Lioness said...

Oh, and you know what's also very useful while cooking? To not forget the salt. *clears throat*

QuietusLeo said...

I'll go with the quiche, it's not doughy at all, it's simple, and with a food processor takes no time. And it is practically infallible:
Preheat the oven to 180 celcius.
you need:
5 zucchinis
2-3 onions
1 egg
1.5 cups self rising flour (cake flour)
3/4 cup oil
1 table spoon of instant chicken soup powder (no skimping, get the good stuff)
ground black pepper to taste.

so:
1. peel the zuccs
2. shred the zuccs
3. do the same to the onions
4. put everything in a mixing bowl
5. mix!
6. when you get a nice homogeneous texture pour into a quiche dish and pop into the oven.
7. bake for 40 - 50 minutes until the top is nicely golden brown.
8. remove from oven and let sit for at least 5 minutes (so it can calm down)
9. It can also be eaten cold! (my preference)
10. salt junkies, by all means add salt, but at the table.
11. guests will always want seconds.
12. bask in the glory of your cooking prowess.

Chef Viscondessa said...

I'm not sure you have oven thermometers in Portugal. I certainly couldn't find one when I needed it, so I brought one with me when I moved over there long-term. It's in the Frenchman's mother's garage now, so if you really can't find one, I'll convince her to pack it up and ship it south to you. It's dual F/C, isn't that brilliant?

Now, about how you use it. You calibrate your oven's dial to it as well as you can. Not too complicated. Like this: say you turn on the oven to what looks like 175º on the dial, but after 10 min the thermometer reads 275º. So you turn it down to what looks like 100º, and it slowly creeps down to 150º. Two data points! You just keep fiddling with it until you've got the two relationship between the dial and the thermometer more or less matched. If you're unlucky, as I am with the current oven we've got, it's not actually calibratible because the temp goes up and down, willy-nilly, mid-cooking. You just have to be vigilant and do a lot of adjusting.

I am SO going to teach you to use the oven on a regular basis. You just wait. Cooking is lovely. I'd go so far as to say it changed my life. Tonight chez nous it's leftover spiced butternut squash soup from the party. Yummy.

me again said...

Oh, and about dough for things like quiche.

1) Go to Carrefour or Pingo Doce.

2) Find the massa quebrada or massa folhada, ready made in a nice box, all rolled up and prepped to put in your pan.

3) Take it home and unroll it into your baking dish.

It's like training wheels! Last summer my grandmother taught me how to make real pie dough, so I've graduated to the next level, but the pre-made dough was a boon when I needed it.

Corvi, Corey, Crow and Maggie said...

How strange that you are writing about Olive Oil. I had just hours ago compared a friend to the person who showed me that each Olive Oil is unique. Olive Oil opened my eyes to the plus side of the word "discrimination". I applaud you and the bottle of good Olive Oil.

Dexter Colt said...

I paid $14 for 1L of good olive oil, so your pricing carries over across the Atlantic. And, yes, all olive oil is not the same. It is such an essential ingredient...you really do need to buy the best.

Thank you for the praise, but it is completely undeserved. I get little ideas by watching Saturday morning cooking shows. And, this was one of those ideas I got a long time ago...so it is not some secret Colt Family recipe. Though I've given my oath never to reveal the Colt Family banana bread recipe.

But, I've never had a problem with dry chicken breasts. In fact, the whole reason I remove the foil during the process (my own idea) is so the outside of the chicken gets a little dry. But, my chicken breasts always turn out very juicy (that totally doesn't sound right). An oven thermometer is a good idea, although I tend to just guess a lot.

Anyway, I'm pleased that it turned out well for you. You see it don't you? You've just begun. After you master this dish you'll be wanting something else. You'll start experimenting. And, the next thing you know you'll be seeking out exotic spices and more difficult recipes. You'll begin to create your own signature dishes.

I consider myself a pretty good cook. But, it only happened through a lot of trial and error. You should have seen some of my epic failures. And, I do agree with your friends...cooking is relaxing. If you're too anxious? Then don't cook. Good cooking takes time.

Next dish I am dying to master? Cassoulet. I've got a recipe that takes 18 hours to prepare (although most of it is unattended). Still, I've had the best cassoulet last year, and I would turn down sex to have it again. Though it contains duck. And, I've had some failures with duck in the past...

Bravo, on your success. A new door is open for you. Lioness, master chef. Coming soon...

Oh, and I must say, a lot of my ideas come from my older sister who loves to cook. Quality time between us is usually spent in the kitchen...cooking.

José said...

Que #@%*§ da mania da limpeza das mulheres!
Atão não se vê logo que misturar produtos de limpeza com cozinhados contamina o produto final com os aromas a Cif Limão ou quejandos???!?!?!?!?
Além de que estraga todo o prazer que um chef tem em preparar a sua pequena obra-prima diária.
Sem falar de que qualquer cavalheiro digno desse nome não quer estragar o prazer privado de uma mulher em plena limpeza da sua cozinha, não é verdade?
Seria uma descortesia, pelo que o aconselhável será abandonar silenciosa e reverentemente esse espaço à sua verdadeira rainha, e esperar pacientemente na sala que termine o seu petit affaire, talvez com um Partagas numa mão e um balão de Henessy noutra, para mitigar a dor da separação e ajudar numa reflexão filosófica sobre as pequenas bizarrias femininas...
Ah... vida ideal, não acha?

Diana said...

Dahling! Yes! Oven thermometer is A BLOODY MUST if your oven is habitually trying to sabotage your cooking. You then adjust the oven temp until the thermometer reads what you want.

My foolproof way to roast anything without drying it out? An oven bag. Do you have them? They'd be near the foil and plastic wrap. Here, Reynolds makes them. They're of some sort of transparent plastic and you just put a bit of flour in the bag, then bung in the meat (like a whole chicken). You can cut a lemon and put it in the cavity, toss in some garlic, some rosemary sprigs, rub some olive oil, what have you to the bird. (Or can put herbs or slices of lemon or garlic or whatnot between the skin and meat of the breast and legs.) Cut some slits in the bag. You then cook it for about 15-20 min a pound at 350F (yes, convert to metric, I can't be bothered) AND USE A MEAT THERMOMETER placed in the meatiest part of the thigh but not against the bone to check for doneness--180F. Take out, let sit for about 10 min while you do what ever you want with broccoli or whatnot, and carve and enjoy. Moist. Amazing. Brown on the outside. Perfect.

Please try.

Please.

CarpeDM said...

I really want chicken now. And I like my cheap olive oil so there. It's still Extra Virgin (this always makes me think of sacrifices for some reason).