Learning To Cook (Reluctantly): Grand Finale

I mean, we can certainly say it looks pretty, because it does. Look!

We could also say it tasted it great, because lying is fucking fun, but it did not. It tasted like absolutely flavorless chicken combined with pretzels. Based on this recipe:

3 tablespoons fig jam
2 tablespoons prepared stone ground mustard
6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, thighs or legs
8 ounces sourdough pretzels, coarsely crushed
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 large egg
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Mix together fig jam and mustard in a small bowl; set aside.

2. Place pretzels in a food processor, and pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer to a shallow bowl.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together peanut butter, egg, water, salt, pepper and hot sauce.

4. Place flour in a large plastic bag. Add chicken breasts and shake to coat evenly. Dip chicken in egg mixture, then dredge in the pretzel crumbs, pressing coating lightly to adhere to chicken. Place coated chicken on a rack set over a baking sheet. Bake until chicken is cooked through, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

5. To serve, divide fig mustard among six plates, and using the back of a spoon, smear it in a line across center of plate. Place a piece of chicken on top of jam, garnish with parsley, and serve hot.

Obviously, I did not try the part about the fig jam, because, hahahahahahaah, are you kidding me, you decadent Eloi? Fig jam?! I did, however, combine some honey with regular mustard to make honey mustard, and I felt really good that I figured out that that is how honey mustard gets made. Like a supergenius.

Also, I could not find hot sauce, and, accordingly, did not use any. (I was in the supermarket for like 45 minutes, okay?) And I only did two chicken breasts, because I am only one person. (One chicken breast is sitting on my counter; I was going to bring it for lunch today, but I grew unenthusiastic about that prospect). That meant I divided everything except the egg, and maybe that made a difference.

So, I guess, if you’re going to try making this, definitely use tons of hot sauce? I don’t know. Maybe I was just expecting it to taste more like peanut butter? I love peanut butter.

So, that was sad. The salad that accompanied it, on the other hand, was much more successful. Nothing special. Blueberries. Strawberries. Some goat cheese. Raspberry vinaigrette.

Oh, it would have been simple, HAD I NOT CANDIED PECANS TO GO IN IT!

I totally candied my own pecans.

candy pecans

Here’s how you do that.

You dump half a cup of pecans in a sauce pan, on a stove, with the heat on.

You put in 4 tbsp of sugar

You put in 4 tbsp of water

You stir it all around for 7 minutes, until the water sugar mixture has mostly burned away.

You have candied pecans.

They really added something special to the salad.

My biggest regret about this whole week is that I didn’t get around to making a baked potato, which I still really want to do, especially since commenters have mentioned to how to microwave it effectively, or even stick a nail in it to make it cook faster. I like the nail idea, because I really want a soupcon of gritty realism with my food prep.

If it’s cool with you, I kind of want to keep doing this. I mean, I also want to eat in restaurants again, but I would like to continue cooking food, somewhat reluctantly (but secretly enthusiastically!) and report on it once a week. I know it seems gratuitous to post it on the Internet, but sometimes it’s really hard to motivate yourself to cook when you live alone and you know there’s no one else to see the things you bake. So, this solves that! Also, I want more recipes. Preferably ones with three steps that will not require me having to go to the supermarket ever again.

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    • Jamie Peck

      This reminds me of that AbFab episode where Patsy and Edina try to go food shopping at Harrod’s. I know you’ve seen it.

      Also, it doesn’t look like you’re eating any grains but I recommend a rice cooker for if/when you do. Mine cost $20 and I use it every day to make breakfast quinoa and dinner quinoa and brown rice and such. It’s seriously like having a robot butler who cooks all your grains for you.

    • Allison

      I’m definitely going to try candying pecans! That looks so easy!

      The only place I like to go grocery shopping is Wegmans, but that’s because I always leave with goat cheese, a bottle of wine, and some fancy food i never realized I needed until the sample guy said so. I inevitably forget anything I actually needed to buy, like, bread or milk.

      These have been some of my favorite posts on the site! I sincerely hope you keep writing them.

    • MR

      Hey, you’re doing really well. And to celebrate, more Clash? :)


    • Hae

      Yes. Please continue with the updates. It was comforting to see the experiences of a fellow culinary amateur! And supermarkets are fantastic! I love going to Trader Joe’s or Metropolitan Market (this might be just a Seattle thing) and judging people by the food they buy.

    • alma

      ohhh you should try to make mushroom chicken its super easy and so delicious! Here’s how to make it:

      boneless chicken breasts
      bread crumbs (shake n bake)
      1 can cream of mushroom soup (campbell’s)
      8oz sour cream
      1 pad of butter
      a squeeze of lemon juice
      a dash of Thyme

      Bread your chicken and fry on a skillet till fully cooked. Toss the rest of the ingredients onto a pot, mix and heat until it’s warm and bubbly. Pour sauce on your cooked chicken and BAM! you have mushroom chicken. Its fantastical

    • Marissa

      I really enjoyed this series. I recommend simplyrecipes.com if you haven’t come across it yet. She’s great and fully explains (or links to explanations of) trickier cooking techniques within her recipes.

    • Janine

      I don’t have the airport nightmares, instead I have nightmares about supermarkets. They are fucking scary and illogical, inhabited with weird people, and you never ever find your way out. I like food though, and cooking is fun, so I still go.

    • Meghan Keane

      Oh man. I was really rooting for that pretzel peanut chicken.

    • Arnie

      I kind of like going to the supermarket. Albeit mostly because I get paid to do it, and get to spend money that is not mine on delicious things.

      I think possibly the more you go, the faster it is to find everything you need, too. I only like going to supermarkets I know, because I already know where everything I normally buy is, which saves me from having to actually talk to people and ask. (Which is, quite clearly, a terrifying experience and why I will never be a real adult.)

    • Madison

      you don’t need a garlic press. Rachel Ray taught me that. You do however need to get a hand held grater (microplane) that you can grate the garlic on but you can also use it for cheese. Nothing beats fresh garlic so try and find it in the produce somewhere. I’m 20 and I learned to cook by watching Rachel Ray so adding garlic to everything is kind of a must.

    • Maaike

      You’ll get used to supermarkets eventually. At least, if they don’t change the place they put everything (It happens ALL the time here). It still sucks.

      My favorite recipe is something like this:


      Put the oil and the vegetables in the wok. Add sauce. Wait. Put mixture in wrap. Eat.

      Endless varieties. Add meat! Try new vegetables. Try new sauces.

      Another one I love is:

      Cashew nuts
      Curry powder

      Cook the couscous. Add some curry powder, to spice it up. Add feta, paprika, cashews. Enjoy.

      This is also one that has endless varieties. You can open up the paprika, put it in the oven for a while and fill it with couscous and cheese and nuts. If you like raisins, you can put them in the couscous. You can add meat! (I’m a vegetarian. I don’t have meat recipes.)

      Other recipe:

      Pasta (I prefer penne)
      Stilton cheese (or roquefort)
      creme fraiche.

      Cook the pasta. Bake the mushrooms. Warm the creme-fraiche and add the cheese. Wait until the cheese has melted. (I think the original recipe called for 50grams of cheese on 1,25deciliter creme fraiche. Metric system measurements.

      Pasta+Mushrooms+Sauce. Done.

      Cooking healthy when living alone is hard. Supermarkets are harder.

    • Tania

      Do any grocery stores near you deliver? Because I found out about delivery groceries and it made my life.