I AM NOT A COOK

I am not a cook.  This is not a “fishing for compliments” statement, I REALLY am not a cook.  When I was married to my ex, he was a good cook.  If I felt he was starting to resent cooking, all I had to do was attempt to make a meal and he would be good for another 6 months.  He was very positive about my failures and usually would just ask me to let him help. 

Fast forward many years I am now married to a great guy who doesn’t like to cook.  Now we have a problem, neither of us like it.  We eat out more than we should out of laziness and sometimes survival.

I love to watch the cooking shows.  I have a friend that calls them Food Porn.  I like the cooking lessons and the competitions as well.  There is one show that the Chef’s talk about the best thing they ever ate.  There is a specific topic and they tell you where to get whatever “it” is.  I love that show, thinking someday I might actually leave the culinary mecca of Orlando and go to those restaurants and try one of those best things.

One episode in particular, one of the guys talked about a rice dish that his mom makes in her restaurant and promises it isn’t the best just because it’s his mom’s.  He even says that it is the most requested recipe and is posted on the restaurants web site.  I decided I could make this particular dish.  My ex used to make cheese, rice and peas all the time and we loved it.

Now I have learned to read the recipe before I start so I can find the little things that trip you up.  This particular one is a two parter.  You have to make a Crema Agria Preparada (Sour Cream Mixture) first so the flavors can blend together.  That is easy enough, sour cream, onion, garlic and cilantro leaves.  I got it covered.  This is easy!

The rice part isn’t so easy.  They call for converted rice.  I have no idea what that is so I call mom and ask.  She doesn’t know either.  Rice is rice so I just use my regular generic white rice.  The recipe says to take the cooked rice and spread it on a baking sheet to cool.  I find this odd but I have learned to follow instructions.  I am more than 30 minutes into this recipe.  I have already used the bowls to create the sour cream mixture blending together in the fridge, the pot to boil and now baking sheet to cool the rice.

Now I preheat the oven to 375 or 350 if using Pyrex.  I don’t know what Pyrex is and they don’t tell me what size pan I will need so I decide 375 is fine and I can always turn it down.

Now I have to heat oil in a heavy skillet.  I hand weigh all my skillets and decide the cast iron one is the heaviest.  I have to heat oil in it over medium high heat until “very hot but not quite smoking”.  Where is the line?  When do you know it is going to smoke so you know it is hot enough?  After it doesn’t smoke, but is hot enough, you reduce the heat to medium and add the onion and garlic and cook until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.  Now I am to add my roasted, peeled, seeded and deveined and diced poblano chilies .  Which of course I did not do.  I have to stop the onions & garlic.  Since I am not clear how to do this I have to Google for instructions.  Now armed with this information, I head to the grill outside and start roasting my peppers.  When they are done, you are supposed to put them in a bag and the blackened skin will just come off.  NOT.  I pick and peel to get the char off, devein and chop.  I turn the heavy frying pan back on, do I have to go to the almost smoking part again or just get it back to medium?  I go for medium and add the peppers.  After I stir one minute, I have to let cool.  Do you know how long it takes a cast iron pan to cool?  I decide to put this in another pan so it cools faster.  Now mix it with the rice.  On the baking sheet cooling?  Couldn’t be, so I get a bowl and put rice in there, not big enough, dump into larger bowl and add mixture.  And corn and sour cream mixture and shredded cheese.  (Had to use the food processor to shred the cheese by the way.)

I am to add this all to a heatproof baking dish.  Aren’t all baking dishes heatproof?  I really don’t know.  I am thinking too much now.  It says to bake until heated through, about 30 minutes.  What oven shelf do I put it on?  I have no idea.

After almost three hours, I have easily used  at least ten bowls and pots, countless spoons and spatulas but it is in the oven.  I am so proud.  The kitchen looks like a tornado when through, my clothes are a mess and I have a ton of dishes to do. When the timer goes off, I take my Arroz con Crema (Creamy Rice Casserole) out of the oven and let it sit a minute.  I cannot wait to have some.  And you know what?  It is so-so.  It is NOT the best thing I ever ate ever.  Did I mess it up?  It is not as creamy as the picture shows but I am sure I did it right. 

I take a bowl of rice over to my mom’s, trying to convince myself that I made something really good.  I am pretty picky so maybe it is me.  Mom takes a bite and says she would throw the entire mess in the garbage.  Total defeat.  Again.

I have since learned that converted rice is Uncle Ben’s.  Who knew?  But I don’t think even Uncle Ben could help me.  As I said at the beginning, I am not a cook.  Really!

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