I’m thinking of starting a new section on my blog devoted to my many kitchen misadventures. Somehow when attempting to bake or cook anything I become so awkward that it’s almost always unintentionally hilarious. And there’s nothing that fuels this blog more than self-deprecating humor. Plus if my gingerbread post is any indication, cooking inspires ridiculously long posts, which we all know I love! Any ideas for a good name for the series? Megan Can’t Cook has a certain honesty to it, while Megan’s Meal-Making Misadventures possesses a consonance that’s very appealing. I’m open to suggestions!
Today’s episode is part of the continuing saga of Mom’s Got a Recipe I Should Try, which always begins with her assuring me just how easy it will be and ends with me calling her for the eighth time in an hour to ask if the meat really has to be golden brown or if it’s okay if it’s just sort of a beigy, tannish brown. This time it wasn’t just one recipe – it was a whole book of ’em! She recommended this cookbook to me (we’ll get to the objects vaguely resembling food behind it in a minute):
Mom did wonder about the legality of this suggestion since she both owns this cookbook and is indeed my mother. I assured her that because of her actions the time space continuum was definitely on the brink of collapse and the walls between the universes were crumbling. She agreed that if I actually used the cookbook that there probably would be some collapsing and crumbling. I really walked right into that one.
I shocked all involved by actually buying the cookbook (I blame Amazon’s low prices and free shipping). It arrived yesterday just in time for me to pick a recipe, go grocery shopping, and prepare it for my weekly dinner with Cecily today. Cecily is a great person to cook for because she knows about as much about it as I do and tends to do some experimenting of her own when it’s her turn to host. Last time she upped the ante when she made perogies, so I was ready to take it to the next level, crock-pot style.
In a move that should surprise no one, I’m going to go on a tangent here for a minute and ask – how many people actually call it a slow cooker? Where I’m from, it’s a crock-pot. I will admit that when The Flying Crane told me she was going to buy a slow cooker, I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. Looking back I must have really misplaced my thinking cap that day because you shouldn’t even need context clues to figure out what a slow cooker does. As Mitch Hedberg said, it’s easy to name kitchen appliances – all you have to do is take what it does and add -er. I think he didn’t use slow cooker as an example cause no one actually calls it that. It’s like Kleenex. No one really calls it a tissue. But Kleenex has to pretend people do or they’ll lose their copyright. Or something like that.
So…the cookbook. I was a little disappointed because I had kinda assumed that the “Not Your Mother’s” part of the title implied it was a cookbook for people who a) did not have their mother’s cooking skills and b) had to find a way to cook dinner while working all day. Not so much. I would say at least 75 percent of the recipes I was interested in trying called for a cooking time of somewhere between 3 and 7 hours. But on any given workday I’m away from my house for a minimum of 9 1/2 hours. The Flying Crane now assures me that it wouldn’t really matter if it was in there for a few more hours. But it’s in the recipe. The recipe is law. The law must be followed.
By the time I finally found one I thought I might be able to make, I had approximately 40 minutes to go to the grocery store, find everything the recipe called for, make it back to the house, change into my soccer gear and head out again. This wouldn’t have been a problem if it was one of my normal grocery shopping trips, but this was ingredient shopping. Meaning it would take twice as long to find the exact items specified in the recipe. This time the delay was because it called for chicken thighs with their bones and skin still intact, while all the ones at the store had been deprived of both. Finally I settled on thighs that, along with the bones and skin, also came with the legs still attached. Because adding an extra step to the cooking process is always a good way to start things off.
Apparently all of the preparations are supposed to be done in the morning before you put everything in the crock-pot. Since Morning Me can’t be convinced to get up 10 minutes earlier so I can have cereal for breakfast instead of a pop-tart, I decided it wasn’t likely to happen. That was how I found myself hacking at chicken bones at 11:30 p.m., with a knife that is entirely too large, after playing 50 minutes of indoor soccer. I might have had a minor freakout when I noticed blood on my hands until I realized it was the chicken’s and not my own. If that wasn’t enough, I then dredged* the chicken in flour and put it in a skillet with butter, which sizzled. I’m not sure what that whole process was called, but it felt and sounded like I was actually cooking or something.
I had chosen a recipe that was almost as complicated as its name: Chicken with Onions and Cheese. This morning I put everything in the crock-pot, plugged it in, and turned it on low. At which point I noticed that The Flying Crane’s crock-pot had a fatal flaw: there was no light that acknowledges it is both receiving power and working properly. That light is essential to someone like me. That light promotes confidence. That light is a welcome beacon on a stormy night. Without that light, some people might spend the entire day at work asking Is it really on? Is it actually set to low? What if the plug in isn’t working? What if while malfunctioning it starts a fire and I come home to a pile of ash and end up homeless and alone until the day I die?
Mercifully I came home to the smells of things cooking in a non-burning sort of way (see photo above). I even got to do a little broiling, another first. The chicken was delicious, Cecily was duly impressed, and the meal went on without a hitch. Unless you count the package of rice that exploded in my microwave. Or my complete inability to make chocolate pudding for desert. No one can make instant seem complicated quite like I can.
If you made it this far, I salute you. You are one of the very few who will know that the title of this post is not another one of my inane ramblings, but words that actually came out of my mouth at one point this evening. Congratulations.