Recently, I purchased one of those value packs of boneless skinless chicken thighs for a little something different for dinner. I wanted to change it up a bit from the same ol’ same ol’, and besides, I like to keep my family guessing. It just wouldn’t do for them to become complacent about what good old Mom cooks – like last week when they said “What do you mean we’re having fish? Tonight’s hamburger night.” The problem was that I’ve been looking for a good recipe for the last two days and haven’t found one I wanted to use. I knew I needed to cook these puppies tonight because of the due date, so I redoubled my efforts for a finding a recipe as zero hour rapidly approached.
16:39 (4:39 pm for you civilians)
I comb through all my newest recipe books stacked (and as yet unused) on my dresser. Nothing of interest. It should be noted that I discovered that while most recipe books list chicken breasts as a subcategory in the Index, they do not list chicken thighs, even if a recipe calls for this as a main ingredient. Sigh.
17:12 (5:12 pm)
I head to the kitchen, drag a chair over (I am vertically challenged), and tackle the cookbook shelf to broaden my scope and search through all my favorite tried and true recipe books. Bupkis. Oh good, there’s that Louisiana souvenir cookbook I always wanted to use; however, the best found recipe calls for 4 hours cooking time. Pass.
17:50 (5:50 pm)
It’s time to hit every woman’s stand by resource – the internet. I google recipes chicken thighs. Jackpot. The first selection is 30 recipes for chicken thighs by one of my favorite chefs. However, there is only one recipe per page, and after 15 minutes of figuring out how to navigate around the popup adds (boy do they get creative – each one had the close button hidden in a different spot), I finally get to the pages that look halfway appealing. Unfortunately, the ones that appealed to me either got low ratings or required ingredients I didn’t have. So it was back to my search results. Luckily I see a very simple recipe posted with great ratings for pan roasting my thighs. However, it requires using a cast iron skillet and heating up my oven. Did I mention this is Texas where it hit 101 degrees in the shade today? I go back to my search results and keep digging, but anything else that looks good either takes more time than I have, or requires me to go grocery shopping, and by this time it’s 7pm. Oops, I meant 19:00. Luckily, I have some extra time since tonight is my honey’s turn to swing by our church and pick up sandwich donations and take them downtown to the shelter. He grabs our son and off they go – this gives me until 8pm, so zero hour is now 20:00.
19:01 (7:01 pm)
I grab my mother’s ancient iron skillet from under the counter and give it a quick wash. It’s a thing of beauty. After my mom passed 13 years ago, I brought it home, all rusted over, and my hubby wanted me to trash it, but I’d never had a cast iron skillet before, and heck, all Texas women should own one, plus it’s a part of my heritage – all those generations of cooking, so I held on to it. A few years later when my honey tried to press me into donating (trying to soften the push from when he previously wanted me to trash it) I got on the internet and found out how to clean away the rust and save my family artifact, I mean my frying pan. It can definitely be done, with a bunch of vinegar, a copper scouring pad, patience, and lots and lots of elbow grease. Anyhow, when I was done it was a thing of beauty. It was so beautiful that I never wanted to use it.
So, here I am hauling out my precious pan, adding my single tablespoon of canola oil, and heating the burner on high, as per my recipe. No sooner did I start dropping the chicken into the skillet than burning grease was most offensively spit upon my person. It sounds like I took it personally, doesn’t it? I pulled out my long tongs and reached under the stove for my universal pan lid, and began holding it up like a shield as I proceeded to add each piece of chicken to the pan. It kept popping grease out at me like curve balls at a baseball game. My glasses were smeared, so I grabbed my trusty backup pair and jump back into action. I set the timer and after 2 minutes, I reach past the pan to lower the temp from high to medium high and then literally jump as another grease pop hits me smack on the chin. I now sport a nice big blood bruise and stripe on my left hand from flinching and flinging it automatically into the sharp edge of the cabinet. Battle scars.
The timer is now set for twelve minutes, when I notice that the pan is smoking slightly. Okay, fine. I take my lid and begin fanning it (we have no exhaust vent). By the end of the twelve minute time, my glasses are fogged and when I switch out to my third and final backup pair, I notice the kitchen is a bit hazy. That’s when the hall smoke alarm started going off. Grabbing a kitchen towel and fanning the alarm yields little effect. My timer goes off and, shield in one hand, oven mitt on the other, I cautiously approach the smoking pan as you would an alligator in the Everglades.
Opening my oven, which was preheated at 475 degrees as per instructions – I am nothing if not a prepared kitchen soldier – I gently place the skillet on the top rack. Having earlier noticed that the top of my stove is now covered with grease from the projectile grease plops (honestly, where does it all come from? I mean it was only 1 tablespoon of oil), I decided that discretion is the better part of valor and placed a cookie sheet on the lower rack to catch any errant oil that the pan might decide to shoot out at my poor oven. I set the timer for 13 minutes, as ordered, grab a larger towel, and start frantically fanning the hall alarm. Remembering we have two ceiling fans, I crank them up on high, which looks like something between “Come on, I know you can do it”, and “Are you kidding me?”
About this time three of our smoke alarms start tag-teaming each other, almost as if they were communicating “Hey, let’s see if we can make her run back and forth!” The sound is just piercing, but I remember my hubby has some pretty good headphones so I pull them thankfully over my ears, and begin my fanning and running exercise back and forth between the alarms, which just happen to be on opposite sides of the house. Unfortunately, I had a little trouble with the dangling cord and almost chocked myself on one occasion, and getting distracted, popped myself in the head and glasses with the towel. Time to take a deep breath, if only I could without choking.
Heading over to the windows, I start raising up the ones I can reach, remembering to grab the screens and shove them against the openings to shield out the bugs and flies that are attracted to coming on in and feeling at home. My hubby had decided to take the screens down some time ago because it impeded his view. There is no wind. However, there is a cloud, but it’s located primarily in my kitchen and living room. And I still need to flip my chicken thighs, although at this point, I’m ready to flip my lid.
By the time I pull my thighs out of the oven, it is 8pm. Oddly enough, the chicken is perfectly done, just as the recipe said it would be. Just as I finish my whipped potatoes and pull the steam-in-bag of veggies out of the microwave, my guys walk in the door. They look around in semi-shock, and the first words out of my spouse’s mouth are “So you burned the chicken?” I give him a dirty look.
Eventually, the alarms gave up. The chicken was beautiful and perfectly done, and my guys talked nothing but how delicious it all was (and believe me, these guys are always honest with their praise or criticism). I leaned over my iPad at the recipe, and clicked on the reviews/comments section and saw 54 comments, most of which begin with, “I wish I’d read the comments before I started this….” Or “Now I know my smoke detectors all work”, and usually ending with something like “It was delicious but this is the last time I’ll be making this.” At least we had a good meal with everyone walking away from the table happy, so I may have lost the war with the smoke, but I won the battle (compliments from my guys are hard to come by). J
So, what challenges have you come across in your kitchen battles?