Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Way To His Heart

My husband loves to eat. He's an appreciative diner. When I fix something he really likes, I can tell. My Grandpa Dick used to love to watch Patrick eat, because, as he said, "It's fun to watch somebody eat when they really enjoy it." If he likes or loves something I've fixed, he'll be sure to tell me. He's careful with his criticism if I've made something that doesn't rate so well. In short, I like to cook for him because he likes to eat what I cook.

(He just walked up behind me and started reading the above paragraph. When he got to the last sentence he said, "Damn straight!!" Then he said, "Put that on your blog. That I said 'Damn straight.'" So there. Hope he's happy.)

When we were dating, I once made him BBQ chicken breasts and a baked potato with cheese. Friends, I used Cheez Whiz for the cheese. That's right. Cheese--with a "z". Right there you know that this won't end well. The potatoes weren't cooked all the way through. The BBQ sauce was burned onto the chicken. He dug in and ate. He didn't say much, but he kept eating. I took two bites and discovered the absolute awfulness of my cuisine and told him he didn't have to finish it because I certainly wasn't going to. He ate it anyway. Right then, I knew that if he asked me to marry him, I'd say yes. Finding a man who'll eat your horrible cooking without a complaint is rare. I knew I'd need to snap him up.

After we were married, my cooking improved. I cooked more often and found recipes I liked and that helped. Practice makes perfect, right? Or at least, practice makes less inedible... It's not that I didn't have any cooking experience. I had some. Growing up, I loved to bake and mom would let me help make dinner. I just didn't have lots of experience with cooking lots of different things and I was confounded by how to time the dishes so everything was done at the same time. But as time progressed I learned.

Now here's the thing; growing up, our stove and oven was gas and the broiler was located in a drawer at the bottom of the oven. This is important to remember in the story I am about to relate to you.

When we'd been married a little over a year and were living in our first house in Minneapolis, our kitchen was equipped with an electric stove and oven. I hated that thing. It was hard to regulate and I was constantly boiling things over and setting off the smoke detector. But, I got used to it and could cook things just fine. Or so I thought.

One night I was broiling steaks for our dinner and the steaks just wouldn't cook. I kept checking the knob making sure the broiler was on, but when I opened the drawer, the drawer was as cold as ice and the steaks were blood raw. I did this several times before becoming exasperated and called to Patrick, "This stupid broiler is broken!!"

He came in the kitchen. " sure?"

Me: "Yes. I put the steaks in the broiler and they are not cooking. They've been in there forever and are still raw!"

He opens the oven and looks in.

Me in my snarkiest tone: That's the oven. The broiler is in the drawer.

Him: No. That's a drawer. The broiler is part of the oven and it is blazing hot right now.

Me: No it isn't a drawer! It's a broiler! I think I might know a little more about cooking than you do. I do it every night.

Him very patiently: No dear. That's a drawer. It's where you put your cookie sheets and stuff.

Me starting to become irate: Look. That. Is. The. Broiler. That's where it was on my mom's oven. The broiler is on the bottom.

Him: Honey, this is an electric oven. The broiler is part of the oven. See?

I'm proud to say that it only took about 5 more minutes of arguing to convince me that I was mistaken. I did have the good grace to apologize for my snarkiness. To this day, the story of the "drawer steak" is one that he loves to tell.

Thankfully, these days I know where all the parts of my oven and stove are and I use them rather well. Or so my family tells me.

So after all that, I thought I'd share a recipe that my long suffering husband absolutely loves. I fixed it for him last night. It's one of his favorites and it made his night that I made it for him. It's the least I can do after all the culinary mishaps that he has withstood for me.

Salsa Chicken
6 boneless chicken breast halves (I use chicken tenderloins instead because they cook quicker.)
3/4 c. onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T oil
1 1/4 c. chicken broth
1 c. salsa or picante sauce
1 c. converted rice ( I use Uncle Ben's.)
1 c. shredded cheese

Cook onion and garlic in oil in 10-12 inch skillet. Add chicken broth and salsa. Bring to a boil. Stir in rice. Arrange chicken over rice. Cover tightly and simmer 20 minutes. (Check to make sure your heat isn't too high. You don't want this to burn.) Remove from heat. Sprinkle cheese on top--cover again and let stand 5 minutes. Garnish with guacamole and chopped tomato.

Then sit back and listen to your beloved make "nummy noises" and smile in satisfaction. And the bonus? No broiler involved anywhere in that recipe!

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