Can we just have a moment of total culinary transparency?
Last week I cooked the worst dinner I have made in marriage, perhaps in my entire life. It was a ghastly chicken mole mess that tasted like sickly spiced yet creamy chicken goo and it looked like how food should look going out, not coming in. I took all of four bites before I pulled a trick I learned from babysitting toddlers and refused to take another bite, arms staunchly crossed over my chest. James bravely chewed on for another half serving … but he would later regret that decision. Nothing I can say can do justice to how truly terrible this dinner was. There were ultimately two tragedies to the Chicken Mole Disaster of 2015. One, I had made enough to have leftovers, which meant a huge waste of money and time. Two, this was a recipe from an actual published cookbook that I had followed exactly, and from which I have cooked many other delicious things with success. Mine even looked like the picture. What this means is that I succeeded in making chicken mole. It also means that I hate chicken mole and should have guessed from the ingredient list that this dish was not for me. As we sat around the table and made fun of our piles of sad food, christened “Puddle Meat” by James, he had me start listing off the many ingredients. I got half-way through when he stopped me to announce that the mystery was not Why is this so bad? but rather What made me ever think this would be good in the first place? After the Chicken Mole Disaster forced us into eating cookies for dinner (let’s be real — we could have technically fought back had we so chosen), I had a little PTSD in the kitchen. The next night I pulled an audible and we trudged through the snow for pizza. I cooked some pretty excited things when we were holed up in the Whole30, but that infernal pile of brown chicken set me back something fierce. It had me craving afresh simple foods, meals with few ingredients and crisp leaves. Food bursting with color and lacking in strange combinations of tastes.Which brings me to collard greens, the nice mild cousin of that bold brash kale. Collard greens are cheap and can sit for awhile in the fridge without getting slimey. They are a beautiful deep hunter green that makes me want to blow up those collard close ups and just roll around in them. And they are pretty hard to mess up. You just keep cooking them in any sort of good fat and they get better and better. They are a humble vegetable of the South, keeping good company on the veggie list with mac n’ cheese and fried okra. Collard greens carry no pretense. Once upon a time I tore a recipe out of a magazine for chicken thighs baked with collard greens. I have since lost that piece of paper, searched that recipe the Internet over, and then resigned myself to recreating it. This is food at its simplest: dump some stuff in a pot and cook it till it’s done. Should you be sans dishwasher like myself, nothing is more enticing than dinner made in one pan. And when the dinner in that pan also happens to be Whole30 approved and oozing with southern comfort food goodness? Even better. Of course, in my new distrustful of recipes state, I hesitate to even share this. What if this is your chicken mole, your perfectly executed recipe that tastes offensively bad? If that is the case…. might I invite you to leave a lengthy comment of protest below. In return, I shall send you a case of Puddle Meat. Perhaps it will be to your liking. Roasted Chicken and Collard Greens
- Chicken thighs with skin on (the skin is crucial here, though the cut of meat is not*)
- 1 large bag or bunch collard greens, washed, hard stems removed and cut in strips
- 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, diced
- Hot Paprika
- Ghee or butter
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Pat chicken dry with paper towel and season generously with salt, pepper, and paprika. Heat a dollop of butter or ghee in large ovenproof dish on stove. Cook chicken skin side down until skin is golden and starting to become crisp. Remove.
- In chicken drippings, cook onion and garlic until soft. Add collard greens and tomatoes (with juices), and a dash of all spices. Cook until greens have reduced by a little less than half.
- Return chicken to pan, skin side up. Cover and bake until chicken is fully cooked, about 30-45 minutes. Meat juices will flavor the greens and make them just the best thing ever.
- This makes a perfect meal for two, or you can use more chicken thighs and roast some sweet potatoes alongside and use the greens as a side.
- *I have heard mixed reviews on eating chicken skin on Whole30. While Paleo allows it, some Whole30-ers were out there bashing skin. I decided that if bacon is acceptable, a little skin isn’t going to kill us.*
Ok, be honest: what are your kitchen failures? Please tell me you have a Puddle Meat in your past.
Definitely trying this. I am confident that it will not be a fail.
Oh and I once messed up mac & cheese (homemade – not from the box, just to give more detail) and burst into tears. It was soon after K and I moved in together so I’m sure he was wondering what the heck he’d gotten himself into….
Now I realllllyyyyyyy want mac n’ cheese. Which, consequently, James once caught on fire.
I once cooked the biggest, worst, meat loaf ever. I also have several soup failures I could brag about.
Soup is the worst. I would say more of mine turn out failures than successes, and I just don’t get why because it is SOUP.
Oh so many. Most recently: Sesame Chicken. During said exploit I made pretty much every rookie mistake in cooking possible–from not reading the entire ingredient list carefully (I didn’t have enough for both a marinade and sauce) to misreading the amount of sesame oil required to the point of putting in about 10 times more than necessary (not one of those some is good, more is better items). Of course, it was one of those days where all my attempts to repair made things worse, resulting in much crying and beige glop. The (tarnished) silver lining was that Matthew couldn’t get home that night, so I could satisfy my Scotch side by eating it without having to inflict it on my poor husband.
Having a recipe fail for no fault of your own is ever so much worse, though. Especially when you’ve planned to eat it for awhile. Your collard greens and chicken looks delicious, though 🙂
I’m so glad you could force it down in peace and lick your wounds! And those recipe lists… maybe someday I will be adult enough to start reading the whole thing before I cook! Maybe… but then again, maybe not.
Ben made this “Korean” thing with pork and hard-boiled eggs last week, and it wasn’t inedible, just offensively bland. Plus I hate hard-boiled eggs. Also he ruined the sauce once while making it and didn’t finish cooking until after both girls were already in bed. We gave up and ate chocolate ice cream.
Poor guy took the leftovers to work and has been lunching on them for four days.
And he’s christened it “Disappointing Pork.”
Ah yes – the offensively bland disappointing dinner. Anyone who says they haven’t been there is a liar.
I certainly have, there is not much worse than ‘nothingy’ food!
You are so not alone in this.
First year of marriage: I decided to make a giant (and I do mean GIANT) pot of creamy potato soup. The last step called for making a roux, which I already had full culinary knowledge of, but alas: I had no white flour, not even a smidge. I did, however, have wheat flour.
Wheat flour does not act like white flour when you try to make a roux of it. It does, in fact, adhere to the bottom of your newly-minted saucepan, creating a taste that passes “toasted” and goes straight to “burnt.” And should you try to salvage the stuff that isn’t stuck (because you’ve already wasted a stick of butter and 2 cups of milk) and mix in into the soup hoping that it will still act as an appropriate thickening agent, and that the taste will somehow be negated by the huge amount of soup already in the stockpot, you will find you are wrong. You will also find yourself with about 2 gallons of burnt-tasting, gloopy potato soup. This is how I found myself that evening.
And because it was my first year of marriage, when we both had taken a bite and the soup was clearly inedible, I went forth with a grand, dramatic gesture of inverting the entire pot into the sink, loudly declaring myself “a failure” and “the worst wife of all time,” and storming out of the house and down the street.
I think your response sounds 100% logical. Sometimes one just has to put on a show for a little while.
A Whole Chicken. My Freshman Year. At the Ramp. Total Disaster! But tons of fun with you in the kitchen 😊
Oh I remember that chicken! Thank the Lord for kitchen doors that close, microwaves that finish cooking, and apple dumplings that made us forget everything.
Just a few weeks ago I made chicken Marsala and it turned out terrible!! I’m still not sure if it was me or the recipe itself but I will never attempt to make it again. My sweet husband ate it while I sat there and pouted about how I was a failure at life. I thought that becoming a stay at home mom would magically turn me into a Pinterest cooking goddess but alas I have found that I actually ruin more dishes now than before. Oh well I’m slowly learning 😉
Pinterest liesssssss. I think that back when we all used real cookbooks, a recipe was tried over and over before it hit our kitchens. But now that any rando can put something on line (looking in the mirror right now…) it is a mine field of dangerous dishes and failed recipes!
I made the worst meatballs in the history of meatballs once, and that is when I learned that over-defrosting ground turkey in the microwave=nasty, mushy, slimy meat that simply will not cook properly. On another note, though, the above chicken recipe sounds delicious. I recently made the kale chicken that you posted many moons ago, and my husband (who is a staunch meat-eater and doesn’t really love kale the way I do) looked at me in awe and wonder and said, “Wow, you could have made half the chicken and twice the kale, and I wouldn’t complain at all!” Well, color me shocked.
In my first year of college, I really developed my cooking skills which was great and got used to throwing things together and them turning out pretty well. So one night, I was raiding the cupboard for something to make and eat after a long day and I threw together a can of mackerel, some onion, mushrooms, chopped tomatoes and cream cheese which I had with pasta. It was wonderful and I announced to all who would listen that I was a genius and had invented an Italian dish. About a week later I attempted it again. This time, slightly over convinced of my ‘anything I throw together works’ prowess, I added what I had to hand. Everything was as above, minus the mushrooms, but this time I added carrot, parsnips and green, pimento stuffed, olives. It was vile!! The sweet, savoury fish combo did not work.
I learnt my lesson. I think I may have stuck purely to dessert that night instead.
Oh I’ve definitely had some kitchen fails. Most recently, I cooked lasagna for a guest, my sister, and her boyfriend, and the Pyrex lasagna dish cracked in the oven. I was mortified as I pulled it out and tried to slide it all onto a jelly roll pan, as the glass casserole dish split into 3 or 4 pieces and lasagna oozed out everywhere. And I was terrified that I would feed someone glass shards and kill them! They were all very nice about it and assured me it still tasted good and would make a great story…. but that was an epic kitchen/hostessing fail.
Hannah, did you make Mexican mole? I live in Mexico, and mole is the first thing I ate (and didn´t like) here. Now, if my boyfriend´s sister makes it, I can eat it and sort of like it. But what I like is the texture of the chicken and not the sauce. I´ve never been into the sauce. My Mexican boyfriend likes mole, not surprisingly, and I suspect he will be requesting it if we get married in the future. Sacrifices of intercultural relationships. 😛
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