Monday, September 7, 2009

Windy City Cooking: Week 6

(Ed.'s Note- Every Monday, Chicago's good friend Jason Hissong writes Windy City Cooking, a column about eating and preparing food in the Second City. Enjoy! -Max)


Sometimes Things Don’t Work
By Jason Hissong
7 September 09

       Sometimes a dish doesn’t work. Most of the time, it’s because I made a bad decision, or a couple, along the way.

       I’m trying to take advantage of the same Farmer’s Market I mentioned two weeks ago before Old Man Winter comes and swallows the market into his cold, dead claw. So I went back to the market this past Thursday, not having a specific goal in mind. As soon as I saw the early fall harvest, however, I knew exactly what I was getting. There were rows, and rows of apples. All varieties. But then I spotted something else: peppers. Mountains of peppers. How could I pass this up?


       I bought a few apples and a sack full of peppers. A gigantic sweet red pepper. Spicier varieties, too. Jalapeno. Habanero. And with their colors and shapes, I couldn’t resist.

       I had no plan to use my peppers until on my way home it came to me: tacos. Easy. Simple, and the habanero will give it a little kick. I stopped by Trader Joe's on my way home for shells, cheese, chicken, and avocado.

       And, you know, sometimes when cooking things just don’t work. This recipe didn’t involve a lot of cooking- just the chicken, really. Other than that, it’s a knife skills dish- dicing the peppers and onion. Getting the avocado meat out of the skin, etc. It sounded great in my head- like a cross between a taco and a fajita, really, but this dish didn’t work because I made three bad decisions.

       First, the chicken wasn’t seasoned well. I could have put on a marinade, or more salt and pepper for a longer period of time. As it was, it was just bland, tasteless chicken. No bite. No kick. Just kind of there. I could have used pork instead of chicken. Or beef. Both of which have inherently more flavor.

       Second, the avocados were under-ripe. They were hard and difficult to get out of the skin. And they had some black spots on them, which is always a bad sign. I shouldn’t have used them, but I did anyway. Because they’re avocados, and I’m in love with avocados.

       Third, the habanero and jalapeno were just not that spicy. They had little kick to them, and while I’m not a huge advocate of scorching, intense, stupefying heat when it comes to spicy foods, it’s not unreasonable to expect these peppers to be a bit spicier than what they were. So they disappointed me.


       So, you know, sometimes a dish just doesn’t have what it takes to be great, or even noteworthy. Was it acceptable? Yeah. Sure. Was it amazing? Not at all. Could I have made better decisions? Of course.

       So this one goes down to experience, and learning and doing things better the next time.

       What I've cooked this week: chicken tacos.
       What others have cooked for me this week: Hamburger, mixed salad, and cottage cheese (thanks Jonathan!).
       Where I've eaten this week: Orange Garden- combination fried rice. Julius Meinl- turkey sandwich and salad. Chicago’s Pizza and Pasta- California Wrap with Kettle Chips. Hi-Tops- Buffalo Chicken Wrap with Fries (thanks Chuck).

1 comment:

  1. Love it. It's in the mistakes I learn the most when I cook. Great article Jason!