"Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes...it rains." --Bull Durham
And the same goes for the kitchen. We've all been there. The unexpected hits. The shocking flops. And the annoying snores. I've got one of each for you.
Part One, The Hit: Chicken Tacos
An ordinary week night and the gauntlet is thrown down around 4:45. "What's for dinner, Mom?"
"Oh God, I haven't a clue."
"Can we have tacos?"
I don't know, can we? The doors of the pantry are thrown open. Here's a bag of Vigo rice and beans mix, and here's a can of coconut milk. Here is a ziplock bag with a few taco shells and here's a packet of taco spice. The refrigerator yields a few cherry tomatoes, a quarter bag of baby spinach, and a smidge of shredded cheese. The freezer, however, yields no ground meat. Sure, I could use what I found and make these vegetarian, but unfortunately it's a very small bag of rice and beans and I have decidedly hungry people on my hands.
I dig deeper in the freezer. Ah! Half a ziplock bag of Trader Joe's chicken tenderloins. Decidedly freezer-burnt. But useable. I've just had an idea. I put the whole bag in warm water to defrost while I finish up the last bits of work. Then I open the bag, put in some olive oil and the packet of taco spice. I mush the chicken around to get it coated well, and let it sit another 20 minutes while I got the rice started and the fixings set up. And the homework cleared off the table, and everyone's shit put away, and nagged the appropriate people to set the table. Now. Set the table now. Right now.
Then I just sauteed up the chicken, sliced it up, put it out on a dish, and everyone made their taco. It was awesome. I don't have any pictures but trust me, it came out great.
Part Two, The Ho-Hum: Pizza Calzone
Now I made a living during college by throwing pizzas, and not that I'm bragging or anything, but I was quite renowned for my calzones (by the way, it took me seven tries to spell renowned...why doesn't it have a "k" in it?) Of course I haven't used that part of my brain in about 20 years, but when I came across this calzone recipe, re-pinned from Squiddoo:
I said WHOA!!!! Hell, yeah I can do that!
So you can follow the link to the recipe, which is nothing more than rolling out your pizza dough into a rectangle, brushing the center with sauce and adding cheese, then snipping the sides into strips to weave up.
When I was done weaving I wasn't thrilled with the presentation, but I brushed the top with some olive oil andpopped into the oven. 30 minutes later I took it out and still wasn't thrilled. The recipe said 375 but I don't think it was hot enough. The calzone just looked blah.
I served it, and everyone was very nice to me, oohed and aahed and said it was great, but I thought it was blah.
Part Three, The Horror: Chinese Chicken Stir Fry
I'm kidding, right? How can one possibly screw up a stir fry? Watch, grasshopper, watch and learn.
This actually was inspired by the method I used for the fabulous chicken tacos. This time though, I had the chicken marinate in soy sauce, scallions, lime juice and a little ginger. And I was going to saute it up and serve it with Trader Joe's vegetable fried rice. A no-brainer. A no-fail.
And an epic fail that snuck in at the end. I had the chicken dancing in a skillet laced with peanut oil - I'd finally found a little bottle of it and wow, does it smell amazing. Both kids wandered by with big inhales and appreciative "Mmmmmmm"s. When the chicken was done I removed it to a plate and sauteed up the rice in the residual soy-lime-ginger-peanut glaze. The game was on.
I served them up plates of rice, sliced the chicken over the top. "Thanks, Mom!"
"You're welcome, darlings!" I trilled. And then it got quiet. I sort of got engrossed in some piece of business before serving myself, and out the corner of my eye I absently noticed both of them were just picking at it. I sighed. It was going to be one of those nights. Commence huffy inner monologue. Damn kids, there's no pleasing them, they have no idea what it means to eat well, blah blah blah, serving myself some rice and chicken, they don't know a good thing when they have it. Take a bite.
"Oh my God, this SUCKS!" I cried.
Redman looked up gleefully. Panda, a little more diplomatic, said, "You know? I thought maybe something was...not right...?"
"This is terrible," I declared. I must've had heavy hand with the soy sauce because the chicken was just inedible, and the saltiness overpowered the rice as well. I whisked the plates away from them.
"Well, it wasn't that bad," Panda said generously.
"You're very sweet, but that was pretty bad," I said. "Holy cow, Mom really botched that one. Who wants a scrambled egg?"
Moral of the Story: More often than not, you kick some ass in the kitchen...but when your own ass gets kicked, be the first to laugh at yourself. And always have eggs as a backup plan.