Monday, September 13, 2010

Finding My Inner Chef

As you've probably figured out long before I decided I ought to point out the obvious, I'm not a professional chef. I can't even claim to be an amateur chef. I certainly can't claim to be a food blogger ala The Pioneer Woman or Aarti of Aarti Party fame. (Yes, the same Aarti who is now the Next Food Network Star and host(ess?) of Aarti Party show on Food Network started out as a food blogger.)

I digress. (don't you love that FedEx Kinkos commercial? Good morning! ........But I digress...)

Oops, did it again. Sorry.

I'm barely a home cook. I cook because I like to eat. And because my dear boyf not only likes to eat, he will suffer through any of my experiments in the kitchen (bless his generous heart). Even better? He never says a negative or critical thing about those experiments. The harshest feedback he's given is "it's ok". So I've learned to interpret his "it's ok" as "I'd really rather you didn't force me to eat this crap make this particular dish again".

I said all that to explain that once in a while I try a recipe, and gosh darnit, it just doesn't work for me. Lately I've been experimenting with chicken. It's the one protein that just begs to be dressed up and funk-i-fied. (I just made that word up. Did you notice??)

I've developed a fascination with chicken thighs (bone in). They have so much more flavor than the breasts, (the chicken breasts I mean) and don't dry out as easily. With the bone in, they do take longer to cook, which is the downside.

A dear friend of mine shared this recipe with me, and I had to try it. This recipe is the reason I set out on the hunt for garam masala.

Here's the recipe (though I used chicken thighs instead of drumsticks). All other notes in parenthesis are from my friend's notations.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
6 chicken drumsticks, remove skin or not, your choice. rinse and pat dry.
1/4 cup lemon juice (lime works)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil (olive oil is too strong - use canola or peanut oil)
2 minced cloves garlic
1 tsp paprika (if you have smoked paprika, definitely use it)
1 tsp garam masala (if you don't have it/can't get it, use a mild curry powder and a bit less than 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp tumeric
salt & pepper to taste

Mix everything together in a medium sized bowl.
Roll the chicken in the mixture, spread out in a single layer on a roasting pan, cover loosely with foil.
Into the oven it goes for 35 minutes.

3 tbsp butter
2 sweet onions, quartered and thinly sliced (Vidalia, Texas 1015, walla-walla, maui sweets, etc)
1/4 cup raisins
2 tbsp rum (Allie's note: make this 5 tbsp if you like rum & cokes like I're welcome for that helpful hint!)

Melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the onions. Cook slowly, stirring occassionally until the onions are golden brown and caramalized (20-25 minutes).
Stir in raisins and rum (another Allie note: remove the pan from the burner if you're working with an open flame/gas stove!!)
Cook 2-3 minutes more until the alcohol evaporates.

When the timer for the chicken goes off, take it out of the oven. Spoon the onion/raisin/rum mixture over the chicken. Increase the oven temp to 400 degrees, and bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes more.

So here's what the chicken looked like before it went in the oven:

And when it came out:

I made some simple garlic-buttery rice to go with it. Here's how I served it (super simple!)

Aaaannnnddd by now the smarty-pants among you faithful readers will be thinking to yourselves "whoa, I don't see no raisin/rum/butter sauce on them there chicken thighs." (feel free to insert your own geographically-based dialect. I tend to translate everything into Texan. Or backwoods-Florida. Same thing!)

Yeah, I completely failed to make the butter/raisin/rum sauce. I didn't have onions you see. Or raisins. I didn't do so well in my meal-planning-shopping-list-making task this week. 

And so I have to say, this dish just didn't really work for me. The chicken was too sweet. What's that you say? You didn't ever expect me to say the words "too sweet"? I know, it was a complete surprise to me as well. 

I do think the butter/raisin/rum sauce would have made a difference. And so I'm going to have to give it another try with the sauce this time. 

Mostly cuz I have this big-ass jar of garam masala now. 

And I have no idea what else to do with it!

I titled this blog post "finding my inner chef". Why you ask? Well, I kind of felt like a cheap imitation of a Top Chef contestant who's dish just didn't work for the judges this week. It reminded me that even the very best experienced and trained chefs have an off day. And that it's ok to experiment, and have something turn out *not quite like you expected*. 

I'm taking this as a lesson learned, and an attempt at using a new-to-me spice (garam masala). To me, that's a real win!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a date with Uncle Google and the words "garam masala recipes". (holy results to sort through batman!)

Enjoy your new day!!

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