Friday, September 02, 2005

WANTED: For Chicken Poaching

Here at the 19 Minutes World Media Headquarters, we're pleased to diverge from our team coverage of the "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" issue and bring you my September column from Northern Arizona's Mountain Living Magazine. As you read this, keep in mind that I did successfully concoct a batch of "hot dish" earlier this week. (Those of you without Minnesota or Wisconsin connections and who thus have no grasp of the "hot dish" concept will want to consult this website, from Australia.)

Anyway, this month's 'Last Laugh' column:

There comes a day in every adult’s life when your tastes change. Specificially, it’s when you can no longer eat an entire Twinkie without a) taking a 45-minute break halfway through, and b) reading the ‘Nutrition Facts’ section of the label (“Four thousand grams of fat? That can’t be right…”). For me, that day will forever be known as “last Tuesday”.

Recently – by which I mean for the past 12 years – I’ve been telling myself that it’s time to eat healthier. Flagstaff is a tricky eating town, though. It’s the kind of place where you can buy organic dental floss, but the supermarkets place the Krispy Kreme display right inside the front door. The big natural food store is located within easy walking distance of Baskin Robbins Ice Cream.

The solution is to grasp the reins and start cooking for myself and my wife and daughter. But like many guys, my abilities when it comes to gourmet cooking are pretty much limited to making the macaroni and cheese that requires boiling water, as opposed to the stuff that goes right in the microwave. The most influential chef in my life is Mr. Entenmann.

I blame cookbooks. The authors of most cookbooks assume their readers have at least some small modicum of culinary skill before they head into the kitchen. For example, my first-ever attempt at cooking came when I was seven years old, working with a cookbook especially written for kids. The recipe: Jelly cinnamon toast. A can’t-miss proposition. Four ingredients – bread, butter, cinnamon, and jelly. But what the recipe didn’t point out was when to put the jelly on the toast. Why? Because the author of the cookbook figured, “No one’s stupid enough to put the jelly on before they put the bread in the toaster.” Thank god it was a toaster oven and not one of those pop-up machines. (Today's kids, of course, can explode the whole thing in their microwave in far less time than it took me using a conventional toaster oven.)

To this day, I’ll periodically rifle through our cookbook collection at home and come up with a recipe that sounds promising. I’ll run around the kitchen, pulling ingredients off shelves, chopping vegetables, spilling cumin, wondering if baking soda and baking powder are the same thing, and then I’ll get to the part where the recipe calls for me to “poach” the chicken. As a law-abiding citizen, I had always thought animal poaching was a felony. Of course, if I actually attempted to poach the chicken, the result would be criminal.

So I end up following the Guy Tradition, and throw it all on the barbeque grill. Guys, myself included, like barbequing, because it allows us to combine a variety of ingredients in the simplest way possible. There’s no poaching, or sauteeing or using something called a “dutch oven” (Wooden shoes? Windmills?). Basically, your food preparation concepts are limited to “sprinkling”, “slathering”, or “rubbing”, all techniques that can easily be undone by a fourth concept, called “scraping the seasonings off with a knife”.

The other nice thing about barbequing is that you can prepare most any food on a grill – steak, chicken, vegetables, frozen waffles, etc. But I’m holding out for Grilled Twinkies.

1 comment:

Carol Davidson said...

Funny essay!

I grilled a Twinkie once. "Where were you on the night of August 20th???" I asked her repeatedly.