Sunday, August 9, 2009

Jerk and Chicken

If there's one thing I've got to learn from this project: it's our kitchen, not my kitchen.

Last night, for our first foray into truly cooking *together*, we decided to go simple: grilled jerk chicken (breasts, not pieces, because we always keep a bag of frozen chicken breasts on hand), marinated cucumbers, and (because we had two ears of corn in our crisper and some wilting cilantro) corn & bean salad. We were running behind; we'd seen a movie that afternoon that ran longer than predicted. By the time we were through the monumental Sunday-afternoon grocery lines and back to our apartment, we were two hours late to get both the chicken and the cucumbers marinating.

But did we let it get to us? No! This was supposed to be romantic, after all, not stressful. We'd get the marinated items marinating and then tuck into the corn and bean salad, which required no soaking time at all. It was fine. We were happy.

And then.

Now, I know there are things you're allowed to cry over and things you're not. Things that warrant a little boiling blood and things that should be dealt with at room temperature. But somehow, when Ian finished chopping cilantro and threw the cutting board in the sink before I could slice the onions, I lost it. I had been trying so hard to make this a pleasant experience. I was dealing with the fact that my husband chops at a rate of one bunch of herbs per year. I put on some music--peppy '60s rock that seemed to match the tone of our spicy-and-cool dinner--and tried to make it the most relaxing experience it could be. I tried to avoid the teacher-and-student roles that we have fallen into in our past endeavors together in the kitchen, but when that cutting board hit the sink, I have to say, I wished I had a ruler on hand to crack his knuckles.

Of course Ian, being the fantastic husband that he is, had that cutting board out of the sink and fully sanitized before I could even get into my hissy fit.

Eventually, after we had an appetizer of corn and bean salad, washed down with a couple of beers we had sitting in the fridge, the chicken and cucumbers had been marinated almost long enough. It was getting late and we were getting hungry. We threw the chicken onto the grill (actually, the indoor grill pan--we didn't want to have to wait for the outdoor grill to heat up). The chicken took an unearthly amount of time to cook (I knew we should have pounded them thinner but had been too lazy to suggest it), but thankfully, Ian's one major culinary trick saved the day. He covered it with tinfoil. Any time anything isn't cooking fast enough, Ian covers it with tinfoil. Or, if the pot happens to have one, a lid. Or, if he's out of tinfoil, one of his cheap 1970s plates. I've yelled at him for it many times--some things are supposed to reduce, you know--but this time, it was just right. The chicken was ready very soon after, juicy and flavorful but definitely cooked through. Maybe it was the beer or my over-eager stomach, but right then he was my knight in Reynold's Wrap armor.

But back to the food. I have to tell you, if you make jerk chicken, make sure you get as much meat into the marinade as you can--we wasted several cups of it, and what we used ended up crusted to the grill pan (it's still soaking by the sink--I don't relish getting my hands in that later). However, the marinade did its job. The chicken was earthy and spicy--one of those flavor revelations that make you wonder why you never thought of it--but it didn't burn our mouths out. You see, while the recipe called for two habanero peppers, it didn't say to de-seed or not to de-seed. I de-seeded. I kept the seeds on a plate, just in case the marinade wasn't spicy enough before I put it on the chicken, but the heat level was just perfect for us, so the seeds went in the trash. The chicken still had a good burn, which was nicely cooled by the cucumbers.

So, our first Sunday in the kitchen came to a close with only one real rough spot (unless you count the burning on my eyelid from where I touched it after touching the habaneros--I had washed my hands twice, but still something spicy managed to cling to my skin). I managed, as was my goal, to suppress most of my snarky comments (though I certainly thought them loudly), and it was generally a pleasant evening. Now that I know we can peacefully share the kitchen, we can turn up the heat of our culinary adventures.

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