Friday, February 1, 2008

Creative Cooking

It’s a fact. I can never follow a recipe straight up. I always have to give it a little tweak somewhere. I know that there are recipes that must be followed exactly in order to work, but I even do my caramel recipe just a bit differently. Sometimes I don’t have the exact ingredients, sometimes I don’t have the time required and I use a faster method (microwave anyone). If it has ingredients that I’m allergic to I substitute. And sometimes I just use the recipe as a jumping off point and make up my own thing. Most of the time it works. Sometimes very well. And I have a husband that will eat almost anything as long as it doesn’t have herring or olives in it. I can’t remember very many dishes that we couldn’t eat – well there was the time we ate vegetarian for lent. I made some weird things then!

So while I was in Maryland with Amy and Eric I did a lot of the cooking. They brought most of their dry goods with them but left the perishables behind. We all went on a grocery shopping expedition when we got to Maryland and spent a lot of money but still the larder was kind of bare. It’s amazing how much money it takes to start from scratch in the food department. I’m pretty good at making do with what I have (foodwise) and so I looked at the ingredients on hand and looked up some recipes on line. And then I improvised. The recipe that follows is probably not original – it’s pretty basic, but I did make it up on the fly. We all liked it – especially Eric. He wanted me to make it again before I left but there wasn’t time. But he’s a good cook so I’m sure he’ll try it himself.

I started with three chicken breasts. You could use other pieces of the chicken and a larger amount too. Just adjust the amounts required. I don’t have a picture of it because we ate it all up and I didn’t think about blogging about it either. Have to get used to taking picture of just about everything for blogging purposes!

Chicken Maryland

Chicken Breasts

½ stick butter

2 cloves garlic

Progresso Plain Bread Crumbs as needed

¼ tsp Celery Salt

Parsley Flakes

Melt butter in baking pan in a 375 degree oven. Add garlic (minced or pressed through a garlic press).

Combine crumbs, parsley flakes and celery salt in a ziploc bag. Shake the chicken breasts in this mixture and place them in the pan with the butter and garlic. Bake for about 50 minutes or until 165 degrees with an instant read thermometer.

A word about one of my favorite kitchen tools. The instant read thermometer. I know I’m a retired cook manager but I really do think that every kitchen should have one of these. I use it all the time. Without it you’re just guessing whether your food is cooked enough. Most people overcook their food to make sure it’s done. And underdone food is just plain dangerous.

You might wonder why I told you to take the chicken up to 165 degrees. I’ve seen poultry wrappers from the grocery store that say you should cook it to 185 degrees. That was the old recommendation. The new Minnesota food code says 165 degree for at least 15 seconds. Now that means in the center and every area of the food. You want to make sure that all the bad bugs that might be lurking in that food are killed. So stick that thermometer into several areas and make sure that the sweet spot of the thermometer is in the center of the food. The sweet spot varies with the brand and type of instant read thermometer so make sure you read the instructions that come with yours.

Eric introduced me to two new (to me) cooking items. First that you can buy bread crumbs! I’ve always had to dry some bread and make my own – which works for sure but it’s annoying. If you have crusts that you don’t want to eat you can save them and dry them. Crunch up the dry crusts in a ziplock bag with a rolling pin and there you are. But if you want you can buy them! Next time I go to the store I’m looking them up.

Second is the garlic press. I’ve had one before and I got rid of it because I didn’t like how it worked. Eric’s press did leave some garlic behind but it was metal and you could really mash down on it and get all the flavorful garlic out that you could. Hmmm, maybe I’ll investigate getting another one. On the other hand I’m lazy when it comes to garlic. I hate peeling the little cloves and then getting my hands all smelling like garlic – eewww. So my favorite way to buy garlic is in the jar already minced. And you can see we like garlic at our house. I buy it in the big jar from Sam’s Club. Garlic anyone? I do end up throwing away some of this jar every time but the cost savings of getting it at Sam’s makes up for the amount I throw. I notice that this jar is expired – have to buy some more the next time we’re there.

Now, what should I make for supper tonight?


Miss T said...

Mmmm, sounds good!

Eric said...

Ooh, I did like that chicken! In fact, I made it on Monday night for dinner. I like the idea of garlic already minced up, because I too do not like having slimy, smelly garlic fingers after preparing it for the press.

The instant read thermometer worked great - perhaps more cooking directions should come with a temperature and a time, rather than just a time.

MNLacer said...

That sounds delicious! I'll have to try it soon. Betty