Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Happy Accident (or the adventures of the teeny-tiny chicken), whichever suits your fancy

I'm a creative cook, but I also love the basics. One of my favorite meals is a stuffed, roasted chicken.

Several weeks ago, I purchased a teeny-tiny roaster chicken for my crockpot. I chopped two baked potatoes (peeled, of course) into the bottom of the crockpot, chopped up an onion and placed it in the chicken's cavity (after I had rinsed the whole thing), and then lovingly sprinkled some garlic powder, onion powder, and salt and pepper on top. 1/4 cup of water went in the crockpot, and then I lined the top with fresh carrots.

Typically, slow cooker recipes suggest 6-8 hours for a roast chicken. Not a problem. Anal-retentive cook that I am, At 4 hours I went in to flip the chicken, so that it would cook evenly on both sides. My first clue that something was going to go wrong was that when I flipped it, the wings came loose. Or rather, came right off. I was not using much force (it was a 4 lb chicken, after all), so I was simply pleased that it was cooking that well, and decided it would just be a rather juicy chicken.

HAH. When I went back 2 1/2 hours later, and poked the chicken, it FELL APART. Not kidding, it shredded in the pot. I'd never seen this happen, and I momentarily freaked. Then I checked the remaining contents of the pot. I removed all the chicken (an arduous process if you've ever seen one fall apart). Picked all of the bones out and threw the chicken back in, but there was a lot of liquid. Thinking fast, I glanced in the cupboard and pulled out the whole wheat couscous. Added about 1 cup (it absorbs liquid as it cooks). Yum - but no color outside of some carrots - I now had somewhat-passable chicken MUSH. I reached into the freezer and pulled out a steam-in-bag broccoli and cauliflower, microwaved it, and then added it to the MUSH. Presto change-o, the mush became stew, I had salvaged the meal, super-hero style, and NAH LOVED the CHICKEN STEW!! (I even had about 3 cups of cooked chicken left over for chicken salad, an allergic diner fav.)

It was so darn good, in fact, that I replicated it yesterday. And this time I took pictures.....and the cost?About $10. And we have leftovers for at least another night. About $10 for two nights for two people. Three servings of vegetables, 1 of whole grains, and a lean protein. No dairy, no allergic ingredients....what a happy accident!
The adventures of 1, teeny-tiny chicken...
Start with an Allergic Diner's best friend....

Take 1 teeny, tiny chicken, 3 baking potatoes (added an additional one this week), 1 cup fresh carrots, 1 cup of fresh mushrooms and 1 onion. Sprinkle with seasoning....
Give it 4 hours, then flip. At 7 hours, remove whole chicken (CAREFULLY), and shred, removing bones. Add 1 cup of whole wheat couscous to pot, stir. Return chicken to pot. Microwave bag of cauliflower. Add to pot. Stir. Allow to simmer about 15 minutes. Chicken stew!!!

The BEFORE and AFTER...and while it may not look like much, it tastes incredible!

How am I so sure that it was about $10, you'd like to know?

Easy - teeny tiny chicken ($5.17); 1 onion ($0.69); 1 cup carrots ($0.67); 1 cup mushrooms ($0.79); 1 cup whole wheat couscous ($0.89); 3 baking potatoes ($1.45); cauliflower - steam in bag variety ($1.99) = $11.65 (ok, not $10 exactly, but pretty darn close!)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Evil Blob. Happy Ending

Last week, my allergic family all went to Restone American Grill in Marlton, NJ. We'd been there over the summer and had wonderful food and a nice dining experience, so I was confident in their abilities to handle my allergies.
When I ordered, I told our waitress to please "bring my salmon and baked potato as plain as possible, no dairy, no oil, no seasoning on anything, and please tell the chef to resist the urge to make it look pretty as it leaves the kitchen. Most importantly, the vegetable side with the tomato marmalade (coulis?) can not GO ANYWHERE NEAR/ON MY PLATE. I have terrible allergies (cue showing of med-alert bracelet here)"
The last time we went, I took pictures of how lovely the food looked. You'll note that there are no pictures this time. As everyone was handed their plates, mine was given to me by a different runner. It was evident that my plate had been kept separate so they could monitor it more carefully, and this made me very happy. Until I actually looked at my plate. There it was, about 2 inches wide. An evil red blob of tomato-ness. The waitress, who had come up behind the runner to check on our table caught my look of horror and said "is everything alright?"
"NO. There is tomato on the plate. I can't eat this. Please take it back."
Under my breath I muttered to NAH that I would simply eat at home, that after a mistake like this I wasn't feeling comfortable enough to eat.
She insisted upon having a new plate made for me.
ME: "You don't understand how serious this is. I appreciate that this isn't your fault, but I need you to make sure that the fish and potato aren't simply rinsed off and put on a clean plate. I also need you to make sure that the tomato isn't simply removed from the plate and the plate wiped clean. If you want to re-do this, please please please make sure it's a clean plate and brand new piece of fish and potato."
The manager comes over--the waitress disappears (I assure you I wasn't making a scene). He was alerted by the runner that there had been a problem. "What can I do to make this better?" Waitress reappears. I wanted to crawl into the nearby fireplace. Appetite was long gone, to say the least.
ME: "Honestly? I would like the same meal with the reassurance that it is a clean plate, new piece of fish, and new potato. I don't need anything other than that, honest."
Waitress: "I just went back there and personally disposed of both the fish and the potato, and put the plate in the dish pile. They're currently cooking you a new fish and potato, and they'll be fired and out here in 10 minutes."
Damn, was I impressed.
10 minutes later, brand new dinner, sparkling clean plate, no traces of butter,oil, or evil blobs. And I believed her, and trusted them, and ate it with no anxiety, and it was delicious.
As I was eating, Mr. Manager reappeared, leaned into my ear, and said very quietly "the house would like to treat you to your next glass of wine as an apology for what happened, and please let me know if there is anything else we can do to turn this experience around for you."
WOW. And completely unnecessary.
ME: "That's very sweet, but there is no way I can have a second glass of wine, and you don't need to comp me anything. I just needed a safe meal. I really appreciate your attention to all of this."
Evil Blob. Happy Ending.

Monday, February 02, 2009

This was news to me....

Did you know that in the City of New York, not all responding EMS ambulances have epinephrine available?

Rx for EMS Allergy Roulette: Mom urges city to put lifesaving remedy in all trucks

I wonder if this is the case in other cities as well. I will try to follow up and report back. Frightening. Make sure you carry an epi-pen and that your prescription is up-to-date.

Your Allergic Diner