Sunday, January 10, 2010

Diary of a Secret Housewife: Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

A confession: On a day like yesterday, when I sat in front of the computer for hours and got nothing intelligent written, there's something immensely satisfying about playing housewife. Whereas playing scholar gets me a few sentences that no one else cares about or will likely ever read, playing housewife gets us clean laundry, an organized refrigerator, shiny surfaces, and a home-cooked meal.

That's right. In lieu of a chapter, I produced Barefoot Contessa's recipe for Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic.

I wonder if I can submit that for credit?

Not that I would have received any kind of honors for this submission. Ina's (yes, we're on a first name basis) recipe calls for browning the chicken in a mixture of butter and olive oil. First, I forgot to add the olive oil. Second, I was a bit too over-enthusiastic with the browning, causing the butter to . . . well, burn. Never one to admit defeat, I told myself that the burnt butter would just give the dish a "smoky" taste.

Except that the burnt butter then made the garlic cloves taste bitter.

But then I put in the wine and the cognac (okay, I didn't have cognac, so I grabbed the bottle of rum we had on the counter) and topped the whole thing off with thyme, and I thought to myself: "Self, this looks pretty good, burnt butter, bitter garlic and all."

And I guess the end result wasn't bad. The chicken was actually crispy on the outside, velvety on the inside, and full of flavor. The burnt garlic, however, tasted like soft bulbs of battery acid.

Oh well. At least the brussel sprouts, which I pan fried with a bit of shallots and garlic and chicken broth, were heavenly.

The benefit of cooking over writing is that, at the end of the day, there is a tangible end product -- one that will be consumed, hopefully enjoyed and appreciated. The end product can be evaluated -- it's either good or bad, edible or inedible, worthy of seconds or of the disposal. And its valuation is -- for the most part anyway -- objective, easily discernable. No waiting for advisors. No anxious days . . . months . . . wondering if it's any good. No questions about what "good" is. And it nurtures, satisfies, fills up a person in a way that no dissertation possibly can.



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