Out of My Comfort Zone: Skillet Chicken

“I’m trying a new recipe. If it doesn’t work out, we’re going for nachos.” It’s a threat I always issue during the first couple steps of a newly discovered recipe.

“You always say that, but it always turns out.” My other half said, barely raising his eyes from the paper. “Perhaps you need to push your culinary boundaries.”

It’s a good thing he was focused on something else and didn’t see the face I made in his general direction. Truth of it is, I have been pushing my culinary boundaries. I am experimenting with things that need rising, marinating or just a bit more extra effort (soaking beans).  In fact, the recipe I was currently working on during this discussion fit into that category.

Baked, grilled and even fried, I make a lot of chicken. However, a recipe I discovered in Cook’s Country magazine called for browning chicken in a skillet before transferring it to the oven for completion. Skillet chicken has always been right outside of my chicken-making comfort zone. In my mind, drumsticks can not be cooked through in a skillet. I worry about pink and food poisoning.

The odd thing about cooking is that it only takes baby steps before you start graduating to more complex recipes. The more you learn, the more you are willing to try something new. The more new stuff you try, the more you learn. It’s a vicious culinary cycle.

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So, while there is always this fear of skillet dishes, I gave the “Skillet Chicken with Spring Vegetables” recipe a shot. I will be honest – the end result did not plate as well as the picture showed. I may not have browned it for as long as I should have. And then I had a hard time determining if it was done during the oven segment (Read: Think pink). The thermometer I was using never wanted to go further than 140.  Plus, I didn’t have white wine, being a beer drinker and all, so I was using substitute ingredients.

But, once you get beyond the presentation issues, it wasn’t all bad.  Alright, not only was it edible but that man of mine had two servings. I don’t blame him — he was once again denied nachos. The chicken was cooked through (yeah me!) and it was actually a flavorful dish, thanks to the featured herb tarragon.

I have never used tarragon in cooking but, according to Wikipedia, it is “one of the four fines herbes of French cooking, and is particularly suitable for chicken, fish and egg dishes.”

What I’ve learned with my little expertise in the kitchen is that no matter how something turns out, one gets to fine tune what worked and adjust what needs a bit of work for the next time. The important thing is not to get discouraged if all hell breaks loose and you need to make an emergency nacho run. The key is to put the apron back on and head back in the kitchen for round two.

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