Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lesson 1: Cooking and Eating

I had been looking forward to this for months, and I had all of the ingredients, we had friends coming over to eat and I had a plan.

The plan was clear: start cooking at about 3:45pm for a 5:30-6pm dinner time.  Enough time for our guests to arrive a few minutes late, socialize a bit and then sit down to a warm meal.  

I had all of the dishes planned as to when to do the prep work and when to cook.  It was a great plan…

The plan went out the window about 3-3:15pm, when I got antsy and needed something to do.  I started prepping the fruit salad, with the exception of the fruit that would brown, and then peeled and sliced the cucumbers.  It’s a good thing the plan went out the window because both of these prep items took a lot longer than I had budgeted and would have delayed something down the line.

The fruit was very fresh and I knew the fruit salad was shaping up to be a big hit. The cucumbers, well if you don’t like peeling a million little cucumbers then I would suggest buying the big cucumbers rather than the pickling cucumbers.  The pickling ones allow for consistency in size and it makes a good presentation on the plate with a little extra work.

3:45pm rolled around and I followed my previous plan in stride, beginning with the chicken.  I have roasted turkey for the last 5 years at Thanksgiving, to the great pleasure of my family; however roasting chicken has always been a difficult task for me.  I don’t know what the difference is, but it always seems harder to work with a smaller chicken and get a good result. 

This time was no different in working with the chicken, but let me tell you, the results were TOTALLY different. The bird was perfectly cooked and tasted great!

After the chicken was off to the oven, I had a break to clean up and get ready for completing the fruit salad.  After turning the chicken in the oven after 20 minutes, I completed the fruit salad with its cointreau sauce.  The chicken got turned again and it was the peas’ turn to hit the stove.

Peas remind me of my mom’s, not so pleasing, tuna casserole with canned tuna, mushroom soup, pasta, peas and of course wheat germ topping.  Never a favorite of mine.  So I was skeptical of this dish, and much to my surprise it came out as an amazingly easy, tasty dish that I will cook again for my family at Thanksgiving!  It was a big hit with the adults and the 1 year old that we had over for dinner, and a healthy dish that I am going to cook for my sister and her kids!

Next the chicken came out of the oven perfectly browned, with crispy skin.  It rested and the pan juices were skimmed for fat and reduced to create a perfect drizzle for the chicken.

As I tried to carve the chicken, I always think to Thanksgiving—I roast the Turkey and my Grandpa carves it.  He has been trying to teach me the past two years, but I don’t feel confident in it.  I did well slicing the breasts off of the chicken, they were amazing pieces of white meat, which my wife and our guests really enjoyed.  The rest of the chicken, as you can see from the picture, was pulled and picked off the bone.  This is on my list of things to learn—carving meat.

My wife helped me plate the dinners, with the extras in dishes for the table.

Here is a picture of the dish...I didn't take it until the next morning, so if the peas look a bit hungover you know why.  It does illustrate my carving techniques, although to my credit there wasn't much leftover!  I'm not happy with how the picture made the was a little messed up, so I will try to upload it later and figure out how to get more pictures on the blog.

How was the first French meal I cooked?  It was easier to cook than I expected; it was extremely flavorful; it was, by my guess, very healthy; it was something my wife and guests enjoyed; and it was a meal I would undoubtedly cook again as well as recommend to others. 

It left me excited about what the next 89 lessons have in store for me!


Liz C said...

Congrats! Can't wait to see the picture.

Maybe could you post the menu at the top of the post to remind me what your goal was? Apparently I'm too lazy to click back to the previous post.

CECIL said...

Come across your blog and I can't wait to see the pictures too!! Your entry is ..hmm..lemme find the right phrase, it's almost like reading a suspense novel!! :) Enjoy it a whole lot.