I never thought I’d say this, but I think I may have finally conquered my kitchen ineptitude. What can I say? When I take on a challenge, I don’t do it halfway. OK, that’s not really true — I do lots of things halfway, this just doesn’t happen to be one of them.
When my cooking adventures started a couple years ago, everyone thought I was a hopeless case. My friend Brittany tried to help me out several times, but she gave up and went on to something easier, law school. That left me on my own to figure out how in the heck I was supposed to use that Crock Pot, and why I always end up with so many dirty dishes, no matter what I attempted to cook.
After Brittany shook her head in dismay and handed over the spatula, I actually felt inspired to keep at it. Oh, no, that Crock Pot would not outwit me. All the time. Only sometimes, and those times are getting increasingly rare.
When I was growing up, barbecued chicken was a staple in my house, and my mom made it look so easy. No stirring, no chopping, no mixing. It’s sauce and chicken. So I dragged out that Crock Pot sitting in a cabinet under the sink and I cooked, darn it.
Unfortunately, I kept on cooking. And cooking. I took the term “slow cooker” to heart. I put the chicken on to cook before work one morning, cranked the setting up to high, and went about my business.
Roughly 11 hours later, I was ready to eat my chicken. Just so you know, there is no chicken in the world large enough or frozen solid enough that it needs 11 hours to cook in a slow cooker. Since that incident occurred, I have learned that everyone — everyone! — already knew that. I’m sorry I missed the secret Crock Pot meeting.
I had promised my boyfriend, Brandon, that I was going to cook us dinner, and that he was going to love it, and I was determined that we were going to eat that chicken, no matter what.
It was a little dry. A lot dry, and the color that barbecue sauce turns the inside of a chicken breast when it’s been soaking for 11 hours is hard to describe. Nonetheless, we ate it, and Brandon never mentioned any of those things. I patted myself on the back for such a job well done, because, clearly, he didn’t notice that dinner was a little well done. Really well done.
When I started cleaning up the kitchen, I thought I would be even nicer and let him take the leftovers for his lunch the next day.
Brandon: “That’s OK. I really won’t have time to take a lunch break tomorrow. You eat it.”
Me: “That’s OK. I have plenty of other stuff I can eat for lunch. You take it. Really.”
Another pat on the back.
Brandon: “No, no, I never even eat lunch. You just keep them.”
We went back and forth like that for several minutes until he finally relented. In fairness, it is true that he rarely takes time for a lunch break, but I think the idea of that chicken a day later, re-heated in the microwave, was not the most appealing of lunches.
So I tried again. This time I cut the cooking time down to maybe eight hours. Again, there is no chicken in the world that requires that much cooking time. It wasn’t until round three that I finally figured out that, No. 1, I do not have to use the high setting, and No. 2, a couple of hours really is perfectly sufficient.
Brandon did point out that with my chicken, at least there was no danger of salmonella poisoning.
On round three, though, I hit on the right setting and timing and made barbecue chicken that tasted like barbecue chicken. A momentous occasion, indeed.
Then there was the chili. I fussed and fussed and fussed with chili for two months trying to get the perfect recipe. I cannot begin to even estimate how much chili Brandon and I ate this winter. Since he is so nice and won’t complain about my cooking, I tried to enlist my friend Bob to be a guinea pig for the great chili experiment. I brought him a Tupperware container full of it to work for lunch to get his opinion.
Bob must have heard rumors about my cooking adventures — it took two days of cajoling to get him to take the first bite. He seems relatively unscathed by the experience and, it turns out, no one has come down with salmonella from my chili either.
But the real triumph came when in December, when I was on pot four, and I used my mom as a tester, and she loved it. Then she saw me washing the dishes afterward, and nearly fainted dead away.
“What’s happened to you?” she said, incredulous.
To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure myself. Of course, my dad would warn me that I’m liable to break an elbow with all this back patting, but, since I’m the boss of this column, let the back patting begin!
Contact Rachel Parsons at firstname.lastname@example.org.