Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Redefining tasty: Maggie's night to cook

Hello everyone! Welcome back to Out Of The Culinary. I'll start tonight's blog post off with an interesting observation. Since Maggie and I began this 'fresh food' only lifestyle (about a month or so ago) we've noticed a big change. We can now taste the preservatives and other processed things in food. It's sort of a weird thing to say - (and describe) but when we take a bite into something that has been processed, over preserved or otherwise mutated from its original, natural state, we can actually taste the difference. It just doesn't taste 'right'. It just goes to show that these nasty things are in your everyday diet, but your body is just so used to them - it never really protests. Now that we've pulled this junk from our diet - when we do encounter processed foods, our bodies respond with a 'yuck, what is this gunk?'. It's interesting how quickly the body can adjust and adapt isn't it?

Anyway, tonight was my night off. That means my better half gets to grab hold of the spatula and tackle her own recipe. Tonight's item was Chicken with tarragon and quick-roasted garlic. While not the most eloquently named dish (come on Bon Appetit Magazine, let's TRY to be creative here) it did end up being very tasty. Once again, we learned a few thing about how certain foods react (and subsequently have learned what to try and what NOT to try again). I'll turn the keyboard over to Maggie and allow her to share her cooking adventure with you this evening:

The Recipe: Chicken With Tarragon And Quick-Roasted Garlic
Original Recipe Found In: Bon Appetit May 2010 Issue

What you'll need:

3 Cloves of Garlic
2 Chicken Breasts
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
1/4 Chicken Broth
1 Tablespoon Tarragon
2 Tablespoons Heavy Whipping Cream

The Second Recipe:  Southwest Rice and Corn Salad with Lemon Dressing
Original Recipe Found In:  Bon Appetit May 2010 Issue

What you'll need:

1 cup long-grain white rice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from 2 ears,) or frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup chopped fresh poblano chiles or green bell pepper
1 cup diced seeded yellow bell pepper
1 cup 1/2 inch cubes yellow zucchini
1 avocado, halved, peeled, diced
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Hi everyone!!  As with every recipe I make, I study it, like a test, to ensure I know how much of all the ingredients I need and how long to cook everything for.  But just like taking a test, my mind goes blank as soon as I'm ready to perform the task.  Nevertheless, I came prepared for this exam:  I typed up a little timeline of when to saute certain items or how long to cook stuff, since I was doing a fairly complicated duo of recipes.  It definitely paid off
Oh boy...this is starting to look complicated

I started by boiling the water for my rice.  Whilst I did this, I cut up and seeded the green and yellow peppers, chopped the green onion, sliced the avocado; and mixed my lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl with a whisk. Next, I seasoned my chicken with salt and pepper; thawed my corn (as we were using frozen corn) and got out all my ingredients for the recipes.  I also browned my three cloves of garlic over medium high heat until they were brown in spots.  That definitely took less than 10 minutes, as the magazine suggested.  I also started to heat a pan with butter in it for the chicken.
The veggies all chopped and ready to go

Once the water started to boil, my cat-like reflexes came into play, because everything was just a blur from here on out.  I heated my butter pan until the butter was melted, then I put the chicken down in the pan, cooking it for four minutes on each side.  After this time, I pulled the chicken from the pan and added my newly peeled garlic and the wine to the still hot pan my chicken came from.  I know, it's tempting to try to scrap out the pan, but trust me, you won't, or you'll miss some pretty tasty stuff
It doesn't LOOK appetizing, but it has great flavor 

The aroma from the butter and wine in the pan smelled fantastic as I mashed up the garlic with a fork in the pan and let it simmer for about a minute.  After this, I added the chicken broth and the tarragon and let that simmer for about another minute.  I had never had anything seasoned with tarragon before, and it was pretty darn fantastic.  Although the smell of the spice never really caught my attention, it was after it was cooked that it really took ahold of my senses. It gives off a deep 'earthy' aroma which really enhanced the scents of the wine and chicken broth. I added the whipping cream thereafter, and let it come to a good bubbling simmer.  I added the chicken back to the pan and let it simmer for a little bit longer (approximately five minutes on each side).  After it was done cooking, I transferred it to a plate, spooned some of the cooking sauce onto it, and covered it with another plate to keep warm until my salad was done.
Cookin' up the chicken 

At this point in time, the rice was finished cooking - I did the Jamie Oliver technique and drained the rice into a colander. Next, I covered it with aluminum foil and placed the colander on top of a pot of boiling water (with about an inch of water in said pot)  Meanwhile,  I moved on to sauteing my vegetables.  I put my green pepper, yellow pepper, and corn in a small pan to saute for about 7 minutes or so.  
The finished veggie mix

After these were done, the rice was also done steaming, so I put previously mentioned ingredients in a big bowl.  I also added the avocado, green onions, cilantro, and lemon/oil dressing and mixed everything with the rice.  And my cooking double duty was done.
The finished dish

The Results: 

First, the chicken.  For never having tarragon before - it was pretty darn good.  All of the simmering items put together and cooking the chicken in a pan, it was well worth it.  I was pretty impressed with my cooking abilities.

Second, the salad.  The taste was...well...interesting.  I guess I never had those ingredients together before, but it was either the yellow or the green pepper that made the salad too strong.  Tyler and I agreed that if it was just the corn, rice, and avocado, it would taste pretty good.  Too much of one or two items can definitely change the recipe.

And now, back to my better half...

Thanks Maggie. Tonight's dish was very unique. The chicken was extremely moist and full of flavor. As Maggie mentioned, the tarragon really gave off a very 'woody' or 'earthy' flavor. It enhanced the chicken's natural flavor as well as the white wine's flavor. This was the first time either of us had used tarragon, and it's safe to say we will return to it again.

The salad, as Maggie alluded to - was another story. It simply came off too overpowering. The avocado, corn, lemon juice and green pepper all combined to give a smooth flavor (I know, smooth isn't a flavor but that is really the best way to describe it. Maybe 'zesty - yet relaxed, that would work as well.) However, it was the pesky yellow pepper that threw everything off. Yellow peppers are stronger and a little more spicy. I think the original recipe was going for the avocado to neutralize this effect, but it didn't really happen. Instead, the flavors clashed and left us with a bit unsatisfying dish. On another attempt, we plan to omit the peppers (both green and yellow) and see how the salad comes out.

All in all, this was a very good meal. Maggie admitted this was her first time truly multitasking in the kitchen. (She was very nervous. As she mentioned, she treated tonight like it was an exam. She typed notes and studied them for a full day ahead of time! It was cute.) The end result was worth all of the effort.

***Lesson of the night. Tonight's "Won't do that again" lesson came after the meal was done. While I was typing the first part of tonight's post up, Maggie was cleaning up the kitchen. During which time, she poured rice down the garbage disposal. If you just cringed right now, you know what I'm about to say next. If you're clueless - allow me to fill you in. Rice is one of those foods you don't EVER put down a garbage disposal. It's simply to small for the blades to chop up and instead of being knocked into tiny little pieces, it piles up and clogs your pipes.

Well, as Maggie began writing her portion of the blog - I wandered into the kitchen and found BOTH sinks 3/4 full of soapy dishwater. Long story short - our drains (both of them) were clogged full of rice. I then spent the next 20 minutes draining the water from the sink into a large pot (and carrying said pot to the bathroom to drain) and repeating until the whole mess was gone. After one maintenance call (to unclog the garbage disposal - it was too bad for me to tackle) we're back up and running. Needless to say, I wasn't very happy at my better half. We had a big, soapy, flooded mess in the kitchen and 25% of it was on me as I took care of it all.

That being said, I can't stay mad at her. She certainly learned never to put rice down a garbage disposal again (and looking back now, it is kind of funny). But, the fact of the matter is, I love this girl too much to stay mad over a sink full of soapy water (and lots of yucky, backwash rice) ***

That's all for tonight folks. I'm back in the kitchen tomorrow. (Working late again, so the blog will be up later). Until then -


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