Monday, May 13, 2013

This Might Suck

 "It was a brave man who first ate an oyster"~ Jonathan Swift

Only about a year and a half ago, I got my first Crock Pot slow cooker from Santa Claus. I had not seen the point of getting a Crock Pot, because I can do a braise perfectly well on the regular stove using my existing heavy-bottomed pots. Boy, I had no idea how much the slow cooker would free me, or make it so easy to make homemade soups (our whole family are big soup eaters)... within three months, my Crock Pot had become my new best friend. In 6 months, I decided it tied my 1978 "poppy red" Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven as the Greatest Christmas Present Ever.

And NOTHING had ever come close to the Easy Bake Oven before. Nothing. Not even jewelry.

Yes, I really am that much of a cooking geek.  I don't know how I lived without my Crock Pot. I am addicted to it so much that I secretly dream of getting a SECOND one... with the locking lid feature,  this time.

In the first few months of getting to know my new best little kitchen buddy, I came across a recipe at that I just HAD to try: a simple Slow Cooker Pulled Pork recipe that has an accumulated rating of almost 5 stars from over 2,500 people. It couldn't be easier. You put the pork in the crockpot, add a can of root beer, and walk away for 7 hours. That's it. Drain it, mix in your favorite BBQ sauce, and slap it on a bun. Delicious. The only thing we change at our house is instead of using a whole pork tenderloin, we just buy the pork shoulder roast (sometimes called "in the basket" due it the way it's wrapped up in a net at some grocery stores) and we usually use 2 cans of root beer because my particular model Crock Pot is the largest capacity one they sold.

After trying out that recipe, it sparked a lot of ideas in my own creative little chef head when it comes to cooking liquids... one one hand, I had already "learned" to always use flavorful liquids for poaching, on the other hand, it hadn't occurred to me to use the ease and convenience of already prepared juices or soda! Hellooo!

But we are big on eating chicken in our house. We live in the area of the country where Perdue Oven Stuffer Roasters are available, so for any readers on the West Coast who've never heard of these, go here to see what I'm talking about. It really is a 6-8 POUND chicken. Incredibly meaty. They even have a built in "pop-up" button to tell you when the chicken is cooked so you get absolutely PERFECT, juicy, succulent chicken every time. I grew up with a roast chicken for Sunday dinner meaning that the whole family was fed, and we had a leftover carcass in the fridge with enough meat still on it for us all to "pick at" for making lunches and snacks for the rest of the week. They are so taken-for-granted here in Philadelphia that the first time I had to grocery shop when I lived out in Seattle, I was so horrified by the chickens that I went to 3 different grocery stores... 2-3 pounds? Are you kidding? I came home to my husband and told him that all I could find were, "the scrawny, bony chickens that our East Coast chickens beat up on the playground." When I moved back, I never took our nice big chickens for granted again. And yes, I am also big on planning meals out so in the summer time I'll cook a chicken when the day is coolest (early morning) so I don't overheat the house and overwork the AC at the hottest part of the day - the late afternoon - and so we can have "cold" dinners on really hot days, and a carcass for pickin'!

An Oven Stuffer Roaster is so badass huge it won't fit in my Crock Pot, unless I cut it up first.

Having said that, Perdue also makes "fryers", though it might boggle the minds of West Coasters to realize our "fryers" here on the East Coast weigh in at a whomping 4 1/2 pounds.  (I wasn't kidding when I said our chickens can beat up your chickens after school lets out. Yo. Our chickens are Rocky Balboa Chickens.) Which brings me to today... I stopped by the grocery store and discovered, to my delight, that the whole meat case was filled with things on sale. WOOT! They must've thought that families were going to be cooking Mom dinner instead of taking Mom out to dinner yesterday...which doesn't make much sense, Mother's Day being the biggest restaurant night of the year... but it did mean great "Managers Specials" and I scored 4 fresh, Perdue frying chickens at (drumroll)  79 cents per pound!

Mwahahahahaha! Time to get creative!

“If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original.”
Ken Robinson,
The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

And NOW you understand why I say, This Might Suck. It might. Because that recipe for Root Beer braised pork has had me batting my eyelashes at the Ginger Ale... specifically, the Canada Dry Green Tea Ginger Ale, for weeks now.

Today's Snark: Notice they list the ANTIOXIDANTS in all caps at the top of the label. So I know this is HEALTHY.
One one hand, I'm sure that original root beer recipe would work to make BBQ Chicken sandwiches, no problem. But I love the flavors of Asian Foods. And I love ginger most of all. I have been wanting to do chicken in ginger ale for months. I threw in some green onions, rice vinegar, and a teeny bit of some ginger-flavored soy sauce. But even with all my training and experience, even I sometimes get worried about screwing up miserably. Not every creative experiment works out the way I planned (the infamous 1998 "bacon flavored cream sauce" made from a roux of real bacon fat was hands-down The Most Disgusting Thing Ever. Worse even than my mother's Pork Chop hockeypucks, if such a thing can even be imagined.)

You'd better taste better than you look, bird.
Maybe you'd think, since they get wonderful, delicious food 99% of the time, my family would give me a pass for the occasional culinary artistic flop, wouldn't you? They don't. When their spoiled little palates aren't pampered and lavished with epicurean transcendence, I might as well've scraped the sewers and put it on a plate. Sheesh. Talk about pressure to perform. I'm creating today BECAUSE the chicken was such a good price that I bought 4 of them, and roasted 3 for other recipes (one of which being "Plan B: Chicken Quesadillas" in case this Ginger Ale Asian Chicken doesn't turn out as hoped for.

Plan B - "Glamor shot" Notice Perdue doesn't bother to put the pop-up button indicating the chicken is done perfectly in these. Sending you the subtle message to OBEY THE MARKETING that you SHOULD ONLY be buying an Oven Stuffer Roaster if you're gonna do any roasting around here, and any Culinary Rebels deserve to choke down sawdust-dry chicken.

If they didn't want me to learn how to be a Rebel, they shouldn't have sent me to a strict, private, girls-only Catholic school.

Minimum safe cooking temperature for poultry is 165°F... with the temperature taken in the thigh meat between the leg and body, where the meat is most dense.

So as you can see, Plan B is in place, and yes, we'll be having chicken several days this week. And while this may seem crazy at face value, what I haven't mentioned is that our PTA has its biggest event of the year this coming weekend that we are gearing up for all week, I have "Softball Snack mom" duty for an away game on Thursday, and poor Brent is scrambling to cover extra hours at his shop this week due to a perfect storm of other people's family health and vacation times. But the Great Experiment in Ginger Ale Chicken is taking place, as dreamed-of. If it doesn't completely suck, I'll post up a recipe and a picture of the finished product.

And now, back to the kitchen with me... where I belong.

UPDATE: So the flavor of my Ginger Ale Chicken was just fine. The texture was a little too soft this time around but I cooked the chicken on high for 7 hours. (Not intentionally - Life Happens, lol) Next time I'll use boneless skinless cuts and reduce both the setting and the cooking time. After cooking, we mixed Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki and served it on a bun with Granny Smith apple slices. Delicious. Soy Vay has a bunch of recipes over on their site that look great, too, btw.

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