Stephen gotuje, czyli “Korean Chicken”

While I have long resisted the kitchen, partly in fear of the revenge of Wife (I have been known to burn everything from pizza to water) and partly out of laziness, the last months have, for no known reason, seen a rise in my culinary interest. It started with prepping lunches for the week – a point of pride for me, having been raised in a house where a good school lunch was a staple. Add to that significance the imbuing of my daughter with goodly nourishment of the soul, I somehow tricked myself into enjoying that place of fire and spice.

To prepare a meal that is savoured by those who eat it is a great pleasure that I never knew, being, shamefully, an incinerator of all things edible, that is, until now. From the protein portions in said lunches, marinates and sauces gave rise to newer and more intricate discoveries. Then, with ease access to online videos I found myself nudged into flavours that I never thought I could even attempt. But, admittedly, I have the advantage of having a family that is open to brutally criticising whatever I make.

With said assistance thyme, smoked paprika, cream, dill, fat and the one and only salt all began to share their secrets as I experimented (when Wife wasn’t in line of sight) (for my personal safety) and as they did there became a basic understanding which, if I of all people can find, anyone can. Over time, other, seemingly exotic ingredients, such as pear, lime, breadcrumb, carrot, garlic and pasta all joined the parade as I hobbled along, but the true tool of betterment was the ability to put ego in a little box in the cupboard so that I could listen to advice.

Remember that since time began the curve of learning has arched hard (just ask the first person to eat a bad oyster) (or his wife, who, for the sake of sheer sanity, comforted him though the trauma of his own stupidity). But remember too that while it is fun to throw together flavours you think may work, in accepting the basic tenets of what will and won’t kill you, or at least won’t turn your inside into outsides, there is real hope for a meal that will actually work.

Whether it is pear and soy sauce, steak chilled in salt for thirty minutes per inch of thickness, broccoli par-roasted in honey with chilli, or parsley and mozzarella on whatever can’t outrun you, know that it is the freshest produce one can acquire that will better the experience (as is well documented). This same fact, having eluded me for so long, needed me to be taste it to know it, so learn from my ignorance, friend. Even if it is a head of lettuce or capers (which I used to think were fish – don’t ask), whatever edge you can tweak your recipe with will be worth the effort. So strive.

Lastly, all is not for the end product, or the gratification of thanks, or the satisfaction of achievement. It is for the striving and the mistakes and the questioning of self. Such fair desires are the fuel. They birth the next attempt and they keep the heart. If I could fail so awfully and still manage to hem in the mildest semblance of structure then believe me so can you. And so I implore you to try. If even with minimal effort, try. Burn things (yourself least of which), make mistakes (they will teach you), use latex gloves if you chop chillies (and don’t touch your eyes, even if you use the gloves) (trust me), and, no matter what, don’t fear. You have absolute freedom and that is what makes cooking and learning to cook so much fun. If all else fails then just remember that my going from burning water to having Wife ask me cook her the recipe below for their birthday took nothing but the will to keep trying and a pinch of patience. So go, without any fear, and do.

Korean style chicken:

Coat bite sized chicken breast pieces in starch and fry in oil (in batches).

Mix:

1 cup of Tomato Ketchup

3 tablespoons of Soy Sauce

1 teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper

1 teaspoon of Smoked Paprika

½ teaspoon of Vinegar

Salt

Pepper

Heat mix in frying pan and stir in chicken until coated.

Stephen Fahey

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