Another day, another mess in the kitchen

With Cooking for Dummies as my guide, I set out to prepare a delicious meal tonight.  Unfortunately, it turns out I may need a copy of Cooking for Dumber Dummies.  Let’s just say tonight was chock-full of lessons.

On the menu tonight was baked chicken breasts with a bechamel sauce, paired with a broccoli-potato mash.  There was a plethora of errors in this decision.  First, I chose to try two new things in one meal (the sauce and the broccoli-potato mash).  Second, I chose to cook a meal that requires an extraordinary amount of multitasking.  In every other aspect of life, I’m a master multitasker; in the kitchen, I’m lucky if I can boil water and open a package of pasta at the same time.  Thirdly, I give myself a big, fat F for tonight’s mise-en-place.  In fact, let me give you a rundown of the order in which I prepared everything for this meal:

1.  Peeled and sliced potatoes and set them on the burner to boil.  (Good.)
2.  Put chicken in the oven.  (Good.)
3.  Checked the recipe for the broccoli-potato mash and discovered, to my surprise, I needed 1/4 cup chopped onion.  (Not so good.)
4.  Chopped onion.  (Good.)
5.  Realized I had no clean pots and pans in which to cook said onion; cleaned one small kettle.  (Bad.)
6.  Realized I forgot to gather the ingredients for the sauce.  Quickly gathered ingredients and tossed in an unorganized pile on the counter next to the stove.  (Really bad.)
7.  Sauteed onion and butter for broccoli-potato mash.  Noticed that, for the sauce, I needed to heat the milk in one kettle and melt butter in another.  Like my butt was on fire, rushed to the dishwasher and retrieved two more dirty kettles to wash.  Meanwhile, the onion on the stove was getting zero percent of my attention.  (Terribly bad.)
8.  Alternated stirring the contents of all four burners on my stove top.  Forgot about the onions for several minutes because I was too busy measuring flour and nutmeg for the bechamel sauce.  (Really terribly bad.)
9.  Realized my whisk, necessary for the sauce, was also dirty.  Used a fork in its place, which was about 5% as effective as a whisk would have been.  (Bad enough to consider ordering pizza.)

Somehow, I managed to catch the onions before they burned and the broccoli-potato mash wasn’t a complete failure.  I also must give myself credit for not overcooking the chicken.  But the bechamel sauce…that stupid, stupid sauce…

Side note:  flour is my sworn enemy.  I get a sick feeling in my stomach just looking at my canister of flour.  Every time I cook with flour, something goes wrong.  Self-fulfilling prophecy?  Maybe so.  But I have never been particularly successful cooking with flour, thus making tonight’s bechamel bomb no surprise whatsoever.  It was thin and runny and tasted like watered-down nutmeg.  As much as I’d wanted it to work out, I did serve the chicken alongside a bottle of barbecue sauce.

What makes me particularly bitter about this meal is that it took 45 minutes to prepare and I dirtied half the dishes I own in the process, yet it still wasn’t a meal I can be proud of.  Basically, I have to take pride in the little victories:  like how the chicken was tender and juicy rather than dry and tasteless.  It counts for something, right?  And now I have to take what I learned tonight and use it to my advantage.  In the past, I would have let the sauce incident cripple me.  Never again would I have attempted bechamel sauce, because I’d have lost all faith in myself.  But now, I’m going to show that sauce who’s boss.  I refuse to be taken down by two tablespoons of flour.  I will master that sauce, someday, somehow…and until then, I’ll always have a bottle of barbecue sauce on hand.


[Disclaimer:  I did not create the above meme, I simply found it hilarious.  I say this because there is a spelling error in it, and for anyone who also follows my grammar blog, I don’t want any misconceptions that I made a mistake.  😉 ]


3 thoughts on “Another day, another mess in the kitchen

  1. Hey there. Saw this linked on Reddit. Good on you! Here are some tips that I would find helpful.

    1.- Go slow. Go very very slow if this is all very new to you.
    2.- Always read the recipe in it’s entirety before you start grabbing anything.
    3.- Check to make sure you have all the ingredients.
    4.- Prep anything that can be prepped in advance. Celery? carrots? onions? Fine. Apples? avocado? not so much (they brown, etc).
    5.- Wash your proteins. Seriously, you don’t know how clean your butchers shop was. It takes 5 seconds to rinse off and dry them, so do it.
    6.- Prep all your pots. Get them to the proper temperature. Don’t wait until you start cooking to start heating stuff up, or your not going to get the right sear/cook time/texture.
    7.- Taste as you cook. Lot of folk are act all icky about tasting raw stuffs, but just about everything is edible raw. My only exceptions are chicken and pork. EVERYTHING else I will taste raw or almost as I cook. Yes, even seafood, beef, eggs, etc. Inline with this, go easy on the salt. You can always add it later, but you can never take it out.

    And get a nice multi-timer if you don’t have a smartphone. It helps tremendously to keep from burning stuff.

    Have fun!


  2. I’ve been cooking for myself for 25 years, and my wife for 10. I still follow this routine almost every time. And ALWAYS when I am trying a new recipe.



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