Sunday, July 30, 2006

I Miss A Good Kitchen

Tonight, I wanted good food. I wanted to make something that was not out of a box, not pre-cooked, and not beef. Since turkey is basically non-existent here and I am not a pork or fish fan, chicken was the meat of choice. I like chicken and I know quite a few ways to cook some good chicken dishes; the downside is that most of my favorite chicken dishes require an oven or a barbeque grill.

I have said it before but man, I miss having an oven. I miss casseroles, coffee cakes, muffins, cookies, everything. I miss having a fully functional kitchen.

To give you an idea what I am dealing with here, this is an inventory of my cooking equipment:

(1) Gas Burner: I do not mean one set of four gas burners, I mean one very lonely, solitary burner.

(2) Butter Knives

(2) Cutting Knives: I have a big psycho style carving knife and one paring knife. I weep at the thought that I used to have a full knife set.

(1) Measuring Cup

(1) Frying Pan

(2) Medium Pots

(1) Strainer: Technically, I have two but I only use one.

(1) Spatula

(1) Cooking Spoon

(1) Ladle

(1) Microwave

That is pretty much the ballgame when it comes to what I can cook with. I do have a very small toaster oven but I have never used it because I have a hard time making anything fit in it. Obviously, I do not have a lot of options open to me as far as cooking goes. Not having an oven puts a crazy dent in the dishes available to me.

There are a couple of upsides to having a limited kitchen. First, I have learned how to plan my meals much more thoroughly. I need to know what order things are going on the burner and how fast foods cook. I have gotten much better at this since coming here. Second, I can make a mean grilled sandwich now. I have taco variations of a grilled cheese, there is my exemplary patty melt with blue cheese that I whip up from time to time. I am a grilled sandwich master. Lastly, you learn how to make a few ingredients go a long way.

This evening’s dinner was an example of that last point. I ended up making a blackened grilled chicken breast with lemon and garlic accents, as well as grilled red peppers over the top. To go along with the meat, I made a fettuccine alfredo with broccoli that was very tasty. I have to say though, the chicken I made tonight may have been my best chicken ever. I bought a big lemon and squeezed it into the pan with a little bit of butter and some garlic and it was to die for. Next time, I will go a little lighter on the lemon but the taste was extremely refreshing. It was a light dish flavor-wise, but very filling and it gave me plenty of leftover chicken for tomorrow. I think for lunch I am going to make some fried rice with the leftovers and see how that goes. Or a may just have some chicken and rice. If I get really ambitious, I will try to make a soup for dinner out of it tomorrow night. The cool part is that by making that chicken, I have a plethora of options open to me for tomorrow.

The thing that sucks about living here when it comes to food is that I am learning how to cook much better dishes here but I do not have a kitchen to make them in and experiment on them. I have wanted to make chicken and beef stocks for use in soups and other dishes but I do not have a pot big enough to do it. I also cannot do without that one burner for as long as it would take the reduction. When I come back to the States, I will be a cooking god. I do not think I was too bad before I left but now, I will be better. In my free time here, I watch a lot of cooking shows and download tons of cookbooks. Lately, I almost wish I had a degree in culinary arts. Another thing that I WILL have upon returning to the U.S. is an oven with gas burners. Everyone always says how gas is so much better than electric and now I know why. You can be much more specific with your heat and its instantly there, no warming up.

Anywho, I am not sure why exactly I made this post. I guess for a few weeks now, I have been getting sick of food and eating and tonight, I had something that actually made me happy and satisfied.

I have mentioned it before, but there are few things in this world that bring me peace like cooking does. My blood pressure goes down when I make a simple grilled cheese sandwich but to be able to relax while cooking and then eat a fulfilling meal is icing on the cake.


At 2:26 PM, Anonymous phear said...

You should get a forman style cooker then you could do meat on that much like a bbq and your grilled sandwitches would be good on there too. Too bad you don't have access to mexican ingredients. You can do a ton of things with that without an oven. Its is probably the farthest places in the world from Japan, boo.


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