When I got my first apartment after college, I didn’t know how to cook. I remember one time asking my grandmother to teach me. She had come to the US from Germany in the 1920s and had worked as the personal home cook for wealthy people. Holiday meals at my grandparents were always something to look forward to as a kid. So here I was as a twentysomething, pre-internet, hoping to learn the basics from a master chef. I remember buying a really nice piece of fish when money was tight for me. I go to grandma’s apartment with the fish and excuse myself to wash up in the bathroom. A few minutes later I return to the kitchen, and the fish has already been prepped with flour and is frying in the pan. I want to yell at her for botching my chance to learn how to cook something other than TV dinners in the microwave, but it’s my grandmother, FFS. Nana says not to worry, to watch TV and she’ll have dinner on the table soon.
A few years later, I’ve got a decent paying job, a fistful of frequent flyer miles, I’m living in a different city, and Nana is with the angels. I’ve been eating phenomenal meals when traveling for work but coming home to a freezer of Swanson hungry mans. So I decide to take a week long vacation in Colorado in September, to attend a Cordon Bleau crash course in the basics of French cooking. It turns out, if you learn the basics then you can cook anything. After a week of learning knife techniques, mise en place, how to make stock, and other useful techniques, I return home. A couple months later I successfully cook Thanksgiving Dinner. I’ve since cooked an Indian feast for a dozen vegetarian band members, a meal that took four hours to prepare. I’ve made Thai dishes like Tom Yum, Tofu dishes for a finicky Vegan, and everything in between. I like to cook now, and I love to play around with different techniques. So my suggestion if you are hilariously bad at something is to find an expert who can quickly teach you how to be successful at it. It’s an incredibly liberating feeling when you master a skill that seemed overwhelming, formidable or downright impossible before. I’ll leave you all with the recipe for a recent creation.
How to cook chicken breasts without burning the glaze or drying it out.
1 pkg boneless skinless chicken breasts
BBQ sauce, Thai Chili Garlic Sauce, Red Onion and redpepper relish, or Salsa
Take the chicken breast. With a large two pronged fork, poke holes three or four times in each breast.
In a pan, pour Olive oil in the pan.
Create a line of Kosher salt, the length slightly less than a chicken breast.
Place a breast over the salt line. Repeat with the remaining breasts.
Top each breast with the thick sauce or relish. It’s important not to use a runny sauce like tomato sauce.
The salt will draw out moisture while baking, meaning the thick sauce will be “pulled through” the holes by the salt. Your breasts will end up infused with the flavor and without worrying about burning. I usually cook covered at 400° for about an hour. Midway through I’ll do uncovered for 10-15 minutes to brown it, then cover it and cook another 20 to 30 minutes.
Serve with pasta and red sauce, fresh bakery bread and butter, and canned or fresh green beans.