Mistakes will be Made #sol21
I’m a fairly accomplished home cook. I credit this to mere longevity. When you make 5 or so meals a week for forty years, you might develop some proficiency. I have one major quirk. I rarely repeat a recipe. Whether it’s baking or dinner preparation, I can be counted on to try a new recipe. If you cook, you know, that making something you’ve never made before brings with it a level of risk. I like to think I mitigate this risk by knowing recipe construction well. I’ve read many recipes so feeling out which ones might have left out a critical step or ingredients, what ingredients I might substitute or measure by sight rather than mathematics, what steps could I skip is second nature.
Recently I have had a penchant for slow cooker meals. While my slow cooker is not my original wedding gift cooker, my husband and I estimate that I’ve had it for over thirty years. Housed over my refrigerator in both this house and our former Illinois home, I drag it out during the winter months perhaps 2-3 times a season. But lately when I drag myself home from an inexplicably tiring day at school, having dinner already waiting seems like a gift. The house is filled with the aroma of simmering food and in a few quick moves, we have a filling dinner. In the last month, I’ve adapted a half a dozen recipes to this method.
It was all working fairly beautifully until one recent day. I plan my menus over the weekends and then shop on Sunday for a week’s worth of dinner ingredients. Last night’s dinner was to be Mediterranean Chicken with Orzo filled with many of our favorite ingredients, lemon zest, olives, orzo, chicken, a little white wine. It sounded lovely and healthy. My first mistake and perhaps the only one was to ignore the time on the recipe. Slow cook for four hours. Four hours? I am coming home from school early today, so I can check it at around that four… it should be fine. It did look fine at 2 pm, a mere six hours. At 5 pm after my google meet, I loaded the orzo and contemplated the instructions to wait thirty minutes until serving. At 5:30, I served a very tight orzo and chicken onto the plates. It looked fine…
…It wasn’t fine. The chicken was dried out, exhausted from four hours more cooking than it needed. My husband knew what I was thinking. Don’t throw it out, he said. Add some stock and it will make a good soup tomorrow. I was skeptical, but placed it in a container to be amended the following day. Still skeptical the following day, I decided that giving it another chance to shine wouldn’t cause any harm. I looked up a recipe for soup containing chicken and orzo and found a Panera recipe for Lemon Chicken and Orzo soup. I added some stock as my non-cook sous chef had recommended along with some vegetables, and some fresh herbs. My expectations were low. But that little chicken and orzo surprised me. In it’s new, amended form, it was lovely, fresh and flavorful. I enjoyed it immensely. Was it because I surprised myself or because I brought it back from disaster?
It reminds me of other things. Things that went astray because of adjustments or corner-cutting. Beautiful plans that didn’t quite turn out. I was going to abandon them, but someone else or even perhaps myself, saw the potential… what could be in the mix with a little amending. I hope I’ll hold that lesson. Perfection isn’t always going to happen in the first attempt. Gently remixing the ingredients and adding on what is lacking makes that meal, that solution, or that lesson, a whole new dish.