Sometimes, I can be a really dumb cook.
I made a few good recipes lately (3/5), including the Ranch Pork Roast, and got cocky. I figured if I always follow the directions, then I would automatically become a good cook. I must warn you: this type of thinking is a common dysfunction not only in amateur cooks, but intelligent students, too. Book smart people assume that if they put the work in and follow directions, they will become experts. The commonality between these Cum Laudes and I is the lack of practice and usage.
So when I read “3lb whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry” with a 80 minute cooking time, I assumed that thawing a frozen chicken in the refrigerator for four hours would do the trick. After all, one hour and 20 minutes should be sufficient for anything to cook. Right?
Also, what on earth is a “puff pastry?” I looked everywhere at Cub Foods and found only flaky biscuits, so of course I translated them as “puff pastries.” However, when I got home, I realized that they cook for 15 minutes–not 80. So I decided to add the biscuit and mushroom/herb mixture during the last 20 minutes of cooking only. Even though directions told me to wrap the puff pastry around the chicken and poor the mushroom mixture on top for the full 80 minutes.
Meanwhile, I put shortening on the outside of the chicken; it felt like changing the diaper of a baby with a rash.
The chicken felt quite frozen still, and so I cut into it, hoping it would cook better, as dissecting images from eighth grade biology whirled through my head.
Well, I was glad because my dinner was on time, even ten minutes early. Not only that, but my boyfriend was too! I switched off the steaming green beans, took out the dressing for the salads on the table, and pulled out the chicken.
The “puff pastry,” or stretched out biscuit that was not stretchy enough to hold the chicken, was a perfect golden brown and the mushrooms were crisp with perfection. I stuck a cooking thermometer, a “candy” thermometer into the chicken, looking for 160 degrees.
What? Is the thermometer broken? It reached 100 degrees. I considered looking for a “meat” thermometer, until I felt the tip of the thermometer; it was cold. I cut open the chicken and blood oozed out! Gross!
I had to cook the chicken for another hour, 15 degrees hotter than recommended. I took it off the pastry and put it on another cookie sheet. every time I checked the chicken, I drained some nasty juices in the sink. Three hours later, the pans are still soaking.
My boyfriend was so patient in waiting for food. When the food was finally finished, and we both re-heated the side dishes in the microwave, he told me two brilliant things. One, he told me he loved my cooking–always brownie points there. Two, he emphasized with how advanced and tiresome it is to cook full chickens, and then: “why not take individual chicken breasts and wrap them individually in the biscuits for the next time?”
Of course! What a smart man! Not only would it be easier to manage, it would be easier to store (no carving out the chicken), tastier (more chicken saturated with the thyme and sage) and quicker (chicken breasts cook for the same amount of time as biscuits!)
I am in love all over again.