Mary Cooks

My spouse uttered five little words last night - a simple phrase I dread that invariably releases the beast from the deep recesses of my anxiety closet - "I'm working late next week."

The words hung in the air for a moment with all the unspoken implications in a cloud around them. I felt my heartrate quicken as my chest contracted and a tiny seed sprouted in the pit of my stomach. The moment passed, and I picked up my end of the conversation with a carefree shrug: "I can cook dinner."

Regular readers know that I am not the kitchen talent in this operation. While I enjoy good food and feel it is an important part of a healthy and happy life, I have so far been unable to create it outside the realm of dessert. Over the years, I have committed a host of gastronomical blasphemy, including Dried Pork Chops, Winy Pasta, Steakcicles, Bloody Chicken Thighs, and my enduring specialty - Unremarkable Sauce. While I managed to pull together a pot pie a few weeks ago during a work from home day, the result was mediocre at best, eaten because it was there on the table when he got home. While he said at the time that it was pretty good, this is in comparison to the afrementioned attempts. I was the sole consumer of the left overs. Besides, the protein:veg:carb ratio is all wrong. You can never add enough meat and veg to balance out the starch and fat of the pie crust.

My spouse is a good sport about these things, though. He did not laugh or poke fun at past endeavors, even the very recent ones (Twitter followers - remember the orange in the veg stock to cut the bitter from the greens? Didn't work.). He smiled patiently and asked what I planned on cooking.

"Chicken," I replied, brimming with false confidence. "I can cook chicken."

Which is true - I can. There are a plethora of chicken recipes to be found in our collection of cookbooks, as well as online. Plus, chicken is forgiving. It is inexpensive. If I screw it up, it's not like I've fouled $20 worth of duck or rabbit or venison.

The trick, as my spouse pointed out, is making it taste like something. As the name Unremarkable Sauce implies, my previous attempts at dinner have been notoriously bland, often approaching outright flavorless. Maybe it is my lack of confidence in the kitchen or the genetic imprint of my Northern European heritage or a fear of wasting all the really good ingredients that I know he will make better use of. Whatever the reason, unless it's a stir fry I'm making, I never get the seasoning right or the timing right or a combination of both and often end up with something either over-cooked or under-cooked and completely lacking in any flavor beyond paste.

If he is going to be working 12-hour days next week, he is going to want to eat soemthing that comes closer to actual food than I've usually managed to muster. Not one to hedge his bets in this area, he took the time to show me the following sauce to use on chicken, specifically instructing me to commit it to memory:

1. Mince 1/2 white onion and zip it with the immersion blender for a few seconds.
2. Cut up a jalapeno and a medium section of leek and zip them with the onion.
3. Press in a couple of cloves of garlic and add some chili paste.
4. Blend with the immersion blender until pureed.
5. Add to chicken thighs as they simmer on the stovetop in a little stock.
6. Serve with rice.

Easy, right?

To Be Continued Next Week......