Friday, December 30, 2016

That Time I Cooked Creamy Garlic Chicken

December 22, 5:00 PM

Tonight, I am going to make one pot creamy garlic chicken and rice.

The scary thing about this particular recipe? Chicken.

Now, I love chicken.

I eat a lot of chicken, but cooking chicken freaks me out.

It's not because of the animal thing or anything like that. It's because of germs. It's because I'm afraid I'm going to kill somebody, most notably myself, since I'm eating alone.

My fear is that I'm going to get whatever it is that you get when you eat bad chicken. I can't think of the name right now, but you know what I'm talking about.

[editor's note: salmonella]

So, this is a concern. This is a big deal.

I know for everyone else out there, cooking chicken is not a big deal, but it's a big deal for this chick. I didn't die last week when I made my spinach and pasta bake, because obviously I'm still here. But there wasn't anything all that dangerous in last week's meal.

Now we got some meat going on, so we got the danger.

5:03 PM

Today is what? December 22, something like that. A couple days before Christmas. Work is slow, everyone is on vacation, no one is returning emails. So if I get sick, I figure, you know what? It gets me out of the holidays. So not a bad thing. Not that I want to get sick, but I'm just saying I'm trying to look on the bright side of this whole little experiment.

OK, I'm chopping my FRESH garlic. Chop, chop, chop.

5:05 PM

You want to hear something sad? I was in the spice aisle today because I needed to pick up a bottle of garlic powder. I already have a bottle of garlic powder, but here's the thing. I trust none of the ingredients that are in my kitchen because I get worried about germs, I get worried about things going bad. Even if something is un-open and the expiration date is far out, I still don't trust it.

So, I'm in the spice aisle looking for the garlic powder, and it's crowded. It's like one o'clock on a Thursday. It shouldn't be crowded, but Christmas, all that. There's this older couple looking for their stuff. They know what they're doing. There's this youngish guy, probably my age. OK, so that's not young, but you know what I'm saying, relatively young. Standing in front of me looking. I'm behind him lurking, looking for the garlic powder, and he almost plows into me and he apologizes.

Then, he asks me, "You wouldn't happen to know where the capers are. Would you?"

How about an easy question, like the vanilla extract or oregano or Jimmy Hoffa. I can help you with that, but capers? I'm not even sure I know what a caper is. At least not the food kind. I know what the other type of caper is, the tomfoolery kind.

So, I'm like, "Nope, sorry. Can't help you." Then, I say, "Why don't you ask a grownup?" I pointed to the older couple standing next to us. The older couple had been eavesdropping so the older guy says, "Oh, capers. You're going to want to look for those in the pickle aisle."

The pickle aisle?

5:08 PM

Whenever I go to the store looking for specific ingredients, it's always an adventure. This recipe calls for heavy cream. I can handle cream. I use cream in my coffee. I know where the cream is located.

So, I go to the cream section and there are two shelves of heavy cream, but also heavy whipping cream. They're labeled differently. There's one that says heavy cream. There's one that says heavy whipping cream.

Is that the same thing, and someone just decided to add an extra word?

Are they two different things?

Can you use the heavy whipping cream in a recipe that calls for heavy cream?


5:10 PM

I'm never ever going to be "a cook." Oh, sure, I'll follow this recipe and I probably won't die, but being a cook means being able to look at ingredients and magically put them together and you're casual about it. You're drinking a glass of wine, you're not stressing about killing people when you cook the chicken. It's different from what I'm doing, where it's like this big production, and it takes me forever.

I have to triple the time that it takes for the recipe because I can't prep things in five minutes. I can't prep anything in five minutes. I can't prep myself. I can't prep for a work call. Who does that? What takes five minutes?

Certainly not prep-cooking with me.

5:12 PM

I'm still chopping my garlic. This should not be taking this long. Anyway, I'm getting the garlic out of the way because then I have to deal with the chicken.

Here's the thing with chicken: to wash or not to wash? Because, apparently, this is a hot and heavy debate online.

I was raised with washing chicken. My mother washes chicken. I have cooked chicken before, and I typically wash it. It's a very stressful process. My mother is the reason why I got this anxiety about chicken, because she's got the whole germ thing going on as well, and her answer to everything is bleach.


For her, Clorox IS A VERB.

My mother Cloroxes her sink 10 million times a day.

She's the one who put the fear of God in me about chicken and chicken germs. So, that's part of the reason. I already am a little OCD, so you add that to the mix and anxious and writer-with-no-life and you get this.

I don't know who else washes their chicken, but I looked online about whether you should wash your chicken, and here is the consensus from all the experts.

You shouldn't wash your chicken, and here's why. Because the whole thing with chicken is that if you cook it, you should be able to cook off whatever bad stuff's on there. By washing it, you are much more likely to spread the germs around.

You might not realize it, but just a little splatter as you're washing—and you're not even aware because it's microscopic—could get on something else that you then touch, like food, thus contaminating it. Or you touch your mouth or whatever. Suck your thumb. I don't know.


I was thinking about this, and I'm like, "You know what? That makes it much less stressful for me. Because if I don't have to wash the chicken, I don't have to worry about the sink and I just can keep it in the package and just do what I have to do."

5:20 PM

My garlic is chopped. I don't know if you call this minced. I guess it's kind of minced. I guess I could mince it more. I'm going to chop it a little bit finer here and then I will chunk my chicken.

So, here's a secret. Underneath my sink right now I have this tall glass filled with water and bleach in honor of my mother, because that's what I'm going to use to clean my utensils after I'm done chunking the chicken.

It's under the sink because I didn't want to drink from that glass by accident and I could totally see that happening. That would not be good. That would make me sick. Or dead.

5:25 PM

OK. I'm chunking the chicken now. Here's the thing. Do you take off the little white things? I don't understand this. I have not been taught proper chicken-chunking technique.

No idea what I'm doing. None.

I am just so envious of people who are casual about this. The guys I've dated. They were all just casual about cooking and adventurous and all those things, and I wasn't.

I'm not with them anymore, not for those reasons.

Or, who knows, maybe for those reasons. 

I'm just not a cook. I'm a nervous person. I'm a nervous cook. Not just for myself, but if I were cooking for other people, that's nerve-wracking. You don't want to make people sick.
Still chunking. Five minutes prep time, right.

Still chunking.

One more tenderloin here to chunk.

We're chunking our chicken.

Chunk, chunk, chunking away. Here we go.


5:40 PM

Now, we have to toss the chicken with the garlic powder, pepper, and salt.

This I can do.

We're using kosher salt, just because that's what I grabbed. You know what? I think to a certain extent salt is salt. I know there are variations, but it doesn't specify in the recipe, so I'm going with the kosher salt.

Where's my pepper? Here we go.

Five-minute prep time, please. We're at, like, 45 minutes already. I haven't even started cooking. This is just the tossing of the chicken.

I am ridiculous.

5:45 PM

This is NOT a cooking blog.

There are plenty of those out there.

This is a support group for other idiot cooks like me. YOU ARE NOT ALONE, MY PEOPLE.

This is a meditation, a confessional, a hopeful place, maybe.

Because I'm determined to learn some things.  

I'm going to get good enough to have certain go-to recipes that I know I can cook with confidence for specific situations.

Like I need funeral food.

When someone dies, people need their food. They need their comfort food. Cooking from start to finish, but also delivering it to people. So that might mean freezing it or providing the instructions or whatever.

So I need a few of those. I need potluck foods. You go to a potluck, and you want to have food for the potluck that you feel confident in bringing, that you feel good about.

You want to be on your game.

5:50 PM

I have to pay attention here because now we need the olive oil. We're doing a tablespoon of olive oil.

How much heat? Medium heat.

Ah, the classic situation of what is medium heat. I have no idea. I'm going to put it at six. On my stove, it goes from low to high, one to nine.

I'm going with six.

5:53 PM

We heat the olive oil, add the chicken chunks, and cook until brown. This I think I can do.

This isn't a non-stick pan. It's stainless steel, so I can use my fork. Because if you have non-stick, you're not supposed to use metal utensils on it because scratching it can release some of the chemicals inside, and that's not healthy to breathe in or to eat.

There you go. There's your tip.

I had to learn that.

5:57 PM

I like this recipe, because it says you're going to be cooking the chicken until brown, takes about three minutes. I can time that, and then we're going to add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more.

What I tend to do is add on time, especially with chicken just to make sure it's cooked, but these chunks are not that big and there's not that much, so I'm feeling pretty good about it. I think we're going to be okay.


Living life on the edge, folks! Cooking chicken!

Will she live, or will she die?

Will she have to deal with Christmas, or will she be puking on December 25?

Time will tell.

6:00 PM

I'm starting to hear some sizzling going on, which is good. We like the sizzle. Sizzle is good. It's important to know how to cook, to take care of yourself, take care of other people. I get it.

Cooking the fucking chicken with confidence is what we're doing.

Can you hear that sizzle? I think this is going to take longer than three minutes on each side. That's all right. This is where I'm okay with not necessarily following the recipe. If it's going to take longer to make sure it's brown and cooked, I'm going to do that. I'm not eating raw chicken.

The next step will be to add the garlic. We're not quite there yet, because we're still cooking. We are still cooking, folks. I'm browning our chicken, because browning equals flay-vah! 

We like flay-vah!

6:05 PM

I should start these things at, like, four, because it's now past six and I thought I'd be eating at six. Oh, well. I'll be eating at 6:30.


6:06 PM

You know how they have doctor cams, where you can call your doctor via Skype or whatever and show a cut or a mole or something like that? They should have cook cams where you can be like, "Is the motherfucking chicken brown enough?"

That's what I need. I need a Cook Cam. I need a cook doctor.

That would be helpful.

6:08 PM

Here comes the garlic. Get ready for the garlic. We love the garlic. I'm trying not to drop things here. Woopsy. That's good enough. We like garlic.

I'm not kissing anyone tonight, so we are going all out with the garlic.

Smells divine.

The recipe said it would smell divine AND IT HAS DELIVERED.

Garlicky chicken.

What's going to happen next is we're going to be pouring in the chicken broth. I think I'm going to turn this down a little bit. Then add the rice, and then we let it simmer for like 20 minutes, and the rice gets all creamy. At the end, we add in some spinach on top and let that wilt and then some heavy cream, and then we're DONE.

6:09 PM

I actually sound like I know what I'm doing.

I'm impressed with me.

What happens next? We stir in the rice and the chicken broth.

Here's the thing with the rice. I use the Success Rice, you know the 10-minutes-in-a-bag thing, which is great and so easy to use. But this recipe called for three quarter cup of long grain white rice. So, the question was can you use the rice that's in one of those bags for this recipe? I made the conclusion that, no, you can't because the boil in the bag rice is pre-cooked. I'm thinking that changes things.

So, I just bought a bag of white rice. It's not a big deal. It's cheap. But that was yet another thing I had no clue about.

As for the baby spinach, I am using the pre-washed stuff that you have as a salad, because I like those containers and I like having salad, so I'm like, "You know what? I'm making life easy. You don't even have to wash it."

At least, that's what it says on the package and for some insane reason, I'm trusting it.

This could backfire, of course. I could be hanging over the toilet bowl on Christmas day.

6:11 PM

Here we go. We're starting to boil, just like it said. Now, reduce to a simmer.

That always gets me.

What does "simmer" mean?

Google it and you will see everyone has an opinion.

I want a little button on the stovetop that says SIMMER DOWN BITCHES.

That would be helpful to someone like me.

6:14 PM

To think there are people who do this every single night for their families. My mother, she's 84 years old. God, the number of meals that woman has made. Seriously impressive. Frightening. Humbling. I don't even know what to say.

All right, I think we're done. I'm going to be simmering this and adding the spinach, then the cream, and hoping I don't die.

If you hear from me next time, you'll know I didn't.


[editor's note: survived]

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