A Sea of Quinoa

COOKING ADVENTURE # 73: Blackened Chicken with Lime Cilantro Quinoa and Choco. Chip Cookie (Take #2)

Blackened Chicken with Lime Cilantro Quinoa

Jeepers. I tried SO hard to pay attention to the instructions on this recipe. I usually have a hard time with finding the ingredients for these adventures. This time, it was just following the simple directions. I assumed that creating this dish was somehow more involved than it actually was. While gleaning snippets of important sentences and stitching them back together all wrong in my head, I managed to turn my kitchen into a minefield of quinoa. Yes. Almost every surface had quinoa on it by the end of this adventure because I over-complicated everything. At least the food tasted amazing in the end. If it had all been for nothing, you’d see a much more self-deprecating post than this. Of course, all was well and good until I attempted to make that personal chocolate chip cookie again that I failed to do a couple Cooking Adventures ago. Why is it SO hard to make this thing?! It’s almost like I need to hire a professional chef in order to make me a cookie. Pathetic.

I was honestly very excited about this chicken recipe when I found it on Pinterest. I’m one of those people that really enjoy cilantro. Most everyone else I know thinks that it tastes like Pine Sol. But I was also skeptical that I’d actually find it at the grocery store, as it happens to be one of those herbs that doesn’t often make an appearance there. Imagine my surprise when I found it among the other herbs as if it had been there the whole time. I was delighted that I actually had all of the proper ingredients for this recipe. FINALLY!

Last night very late while watching a hilarious hidden camera show about fooling people into believing they’re being attacked by monsters (freaking hilarious, I tell you), I decided to concoct my dinner. It was about 9:30 when I got done washing all of the dishes and then turned to getting the dish ready. I pulled my fabulous cast iron skillet out and put it on the front burner with some vegetable oil in it to heat up. In a pot nearby, I dumped a can of chicken stock and turned up the heat to medium. I looked at it for a moment, and decided that I didn’t have enough liquid for the quinoa that I’d be pouring in. So I added more water and then dumped in my quinoa to let it come to a boil.

Now it was time to make my spice mixture that would coat the chicken breasts. I nabbed a small bowl from the cabinet and began adding ingredients to it: 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper. As I assembled and measured out these ingredients, I began to realize that this spice mixture would be rather spicy… something that I was suddenly not so eager about. Last summer while creating my infamous Kavarma dish which was a literal cesspool of spices, onions, oil, and meat, I was struck down by my ulcer returning in all its glory. Not to mention, I also touched my eye after handling the spices and practically went blind for a good hour because of it. To say I was nervous about suddenly adding more hot spices to my sensitive stomach is putting it lightly.

The last couple ingredients in this spice mixture presented a problem. Onion powder. I don’t own such a thing. If I’m putting onion flavor in anything, I generally just add onions. I decided to substitute the powder for dried onion pieces. Not the stupidest idea I’ve ever had but it wasn’t quite what I was supposed to do. The last ingredient was cumin, which as I’ve stated numerous times, I keep thinking I own and actually don’t. I decided not to substitute anything in its place. When I glanced at the spice mixture, I realized that I didn’t have very much of it at all, certainly not enough to coat two chicken breasts. However, I was too afraid to add anymore of any particular spice to it, lest I allow my stomach to spontaneously combust.

I flopped the first chicken breast into the bowl. The spice mix created a thick layer over half of it, almost effectively using all of it up. I had to spread it over the meat with my fingers so that everything was evenly coated and even then, certain places were thicker than others. I dropped that chicken breast into the pan which sizzled to life. Remaining in the bowl were approximately five grains of paprika, two of salt, and one of cayenne and a few slivers of onion. Already too nervous about making another spice batch, I decided to just cover the other chicken breast in yellow curry instead. After doing that, I plopped that one in the pan alongside the other one and put the cover over them, allowing them to cook for seven minutes.

I washed my hands and turned my attention to getting the lime and cilantro ready. The ingredients required the zest and juice of one lime. Of course, I don’t have a zester per say. But I do have a demonic little grater that I like to call Matilda, who has made numerous appearances on my Cooking blogs.

I will eat your soul.

I will eat your soul.

I think the marketing people were trying to go for cute but essentially, she looks like she can set you on fire with her eyes. (Every time, I tried to take a picture of her, her face wouldn’t show up making her look like the culinary version of Slender Man.)

Long lost cousins?

Long lost cousins?

I took up Matilda and started zesting the lime which managed to cover my entire counter with little lime motes, all the while making my kitchen smell fantastic. I finally gathered them all into a bowl in the end. When the lime looked like it had been attacked by a rabid badger, I decided that I’d probably zested enough and chucked Matilda into the sink. Then, I sliced the lime in half and squeezed the juice out, hoping that it wouldn’t send a random squirt into my eye. Thankfully, it didn’t happen.

The timer went off and I pulled the frying pan with the chicken off of the burner and put it on one of the back ones. I also realized that the quinoa was done and that it needed to come off of the burner, too. This is where my mind failed miserably and I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do with them. It was simple. A brick would have known what to do and yet I couldn’t fathom that all I had to do was take them off the burners and let them rest! I somehow got it into my head, after scanning the directions (but not reading them in detail) that I was supposed to add the quinoa and remaining chicken broth (because there was A LOT of it) into the frying pan with the chicken. Everything in my head told me that was the wrong thing to do. Did I listen? Noooo….

I tipped the pot with the quinoa upside down and emptied its contents into the frying pan, all the while managing to dump some quinoa on my stove top. Within moments, I realized that I had, indeed, committed an error. I went back to the directions, re-read them, and consequently slapped myself from my stupidity. I fished the chicken out of the bog now in the frying pan and put them on a plate nearby. Then, I tipped the frying pan over into the pot to try and put the quinoa and broth back so that I could drain it… and dumped a helping of quinoa over one of the burners by accident. Thankfully, it was one of the ones that hadn’t been on. After trying to wipe that up and only managing to get it on the floor, I decided to just continue on with draining the chicken broth. If I kept going, I’d eventually be wading in a sea of it.

After draining the broth, I grabbed the bowl of lime zest and juice and poured it into the quinoa. The citrusy aroma quickly overtook the little grains, making them smell heavenly. My last step was to chop up some cilantro, a feat that wasn’t beyond my mental capacity, thank God. I added that to the quinoa, too, and mixed everything together. On the plate, I sliced the chicken (or shredded, if you’d prefer), because it wouldn’t cut easily. I then spooned a large helping of quinoa out onto the plate, placed some chicken slices on top and voila! It was ten o’clock and I was starving! This was absolutely one of the best chicken dishes I’ve had in a while. Now that I know how easy the instructions are, I know that I’ll be making it again in a pinch. The spices were a little hot but I know I can always distribute them a little more finely across the chicken than I did.

After finishing up dinner, I decided to try my luck with that personal chocolate chip cookie again. I’ve made this recipe many many times without a problem. Only recently, have I not been able to make it without something catastrophic happening every time. This time, I had mixed together all of the dry ingredients with the vanilla and the butter and found that, once more, the batter was becoming crumbly but wasn’t spreading out like it should have. I had one egg left in the fridge which I’d been saving for this, so I took it out and made to throw away the plastic container it was in. And somehow, I dropped the egg in the middle of my kitchen floor.

The reality that I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy chocolate in its most innocent and recognizable form last night, made me descend into a flurry of expletives as I cleaned up the mess of egg. I decided to try and substitute some oil and a little bit of caramel coffee creamer. While the cookie didn’t quite look like a cookie or taste as good as my previous ones, it wasn’t all together too terrible. The next time I make this blasted thing, I’m going to get it right. Third time WILL BE a charm.

Next week on Cooking Adventures, we’ll be trying out a cool little recipe for a blueberry shortcake, one of the recipes given on last week’s 207 episode from WCSH 6. Hopefully, I can manage this without covering my kitchen in blueberries completely. We shall see… Stay tuned!

~KSilva

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