Clock Management

There’s something you should know when I enter the kitchen. I’m going to be there a while.

Anyone who knows me will tell you: I’ve always moved at a slow (some might say glacial) pace. I always brought a book to the bathroom as a child. I get distracted easily by newspaper box scores, my cellphone, and passing birds. I often stare into space for 90 seconds in between tying my shoes.

The point is, I’m not an abundantly effective man. And it is never more obvious than when I am in the kitchen.

You want cereal? You’ll need to give me 5 minutes.

You want some 6 minute rice? Well that will take 20.

Need me to sauté an onion? See you in an hour.

You want a pork roast? Please have my AARP card at the ready. I’ll be eligible by the time I serve dinner.

This chronological impairment is without doubt the greatest threat to my young culinary career. Good cooking is, in large part, good clock management. And to the accomplished chef’s Bill Belichick, I am the overmatched Andy Reid (only frustrated Chiefs fans will understand this).

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Anyways, the true sign of a good meal is that everything retains the correct temperature and consistency when it hits the plate, and subsequently, our mouths. If you don’t respect the omnipotent role of timing in cooking, you could end up committing a deadly food sin — like reheating sautéed spinach, or (gasp) serving a cold breakfast meat.

And on the note of shamelessly reheated and aggressively ash like spinach, lets talk about the dinner I made the other night.

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I was cooking dinner for my family. I made seared chicken with a blueberry reduction, turnip mashed potatoes, and sautéed spinach. I was trying to utilize many of the recipes that Nicole graciously demonstrated for us on Monday.

My chicken was simple — a chicken breast, cut into small medallions/fillets, and fried in a pan with butter, salt and pepper. The result was pleasantly chicken-y, and that’s about all I can say. I should have cooked it less, and seasoned it more, but how much can you really do to chicken?

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The reduction sauce was undoubtedly the highlight of the meal. I started by cooking down frozen blueberries and water in a saucepan with four halved and peeled pears. Once the berries had cooked down and the pears were fully poached, I pulled the pears out, they would be used as dessert later. After I had cooked the chicken, I added more butter to the delicious chicken grease, and sautéed shallots in the yummy swirling fats. Then I poured in my bubbling blueberries, an aggressive amount of balsamic vinegar, and a splash of apple cider vinegar. I let the sauce cook down and vinegars sweetened up deliciously. I added a pat of butter mixed with cornstarch at the very end to thicken up my creation. It was delightful atop the chicken.

But here’s the trouble, I had already made mashed turnips and potatoes (which had good flavor, but owing to my use of the turnip, entirely to watery). All this time they were sitting idle on the counter in my kitchenaid.

To make matters worse, I had stupidly sautéed a huge pile of spinach before making the chicken, and it was becoming hypothermic alone on the counter. All the time that I took constructing my sauce had made these important side dishes colder than Ice Cube in a Coors commercial.

From beginning to end, making this simple meal of potatoes/turnips, spinach, chicken and sauce took me nearly two and a half hours. Two and a half hours. Thats as long as Fellowship of the Ring. In that time Frodo made it from The Shire to the hills of Emyn Muil. I made some lukewarm chicken. That can be called nothing other than inexcusable.

Whatever the variances in kinetic energy, my family consumed the meal, and deemed it somewhere between edible and yummy. I was glad to have fed them and glad to have practiced a variety of cooking teqniques.

But the great question of timing hangs over me.

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If time is money, I am a very poor man. But the nice thing about time is, there’s more of it in the future. And there are many hours still to come where I may serve everything at the temperature it deserves.

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