Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The idea of this blog, and some random chicken recipe

Last night, my wife, frustrated once again that the recipe for a dish I had made had been lost forever to the shifting winds of memory, suggested that I start a cooking blog as an alternative to trying to keep a recipe book. I am notoriously bad at keeping anything organized, but I do spend a lot of time on the internet, so maybe that's a good idea...

I initially rejected it, though, because there are just so many cooking blogs out there, it's just kinda trite. But then this morning, I thought: Hey, why not combine cooking with my recent interest in nontheism? (more on that later) Now that's a non-obvious combination! How many people can have a blog like that?

Well, apparently at least one. My first idea for a name for the blog was "The Godless Cook". Harumph: http://godlesscook.blogspot.com. So, second choice: No Jesus, No Peas. I had intended the title to be clearly irreligious yet non-sectarian, because after all, I hate to single out the Christians.... no, no, wait, I think that's a lie. Meh, anyway, for better or worse, there's the title.

My interest in cooking comes from a passion for good and interesting food. My parents kinda eat lousy food, but to their credit, my mom taught me some cooking basics from a young age. I then worked as a fry cook at Perkin's for a while, which didn't exactly raise the culinary bar, but at least kept me learning.

The revelation came in my early 20s, when I went over to my boss's house for dinner, and his wife had made an ice cream pie from Bon Appetit that will absolutely knock your socks off. I asked for the recipe, and she let me copy it out of her magazine... and as I flipped through looking at all of these exciting recipes, I knew what my next hobby would be. Nearly ten years later, I haven't slowed down.

So that's why I love cooking. My interest in nontheism has been the result of a long journey from Mormonism, to agnosticism, to drug-induced mysticism, back to a sort of nigh-solipsist pseudo-agnosticism, to bashful atheism, until finally I came to embrace my nontheism/atheism and learn to be proud of my beliefs. (I actually think the word "nontheist" is a better description, but I typically self-identify as an "atheist" in attempt to dispell the taboo -- maybe more about this in another post)

My call to arms was initially the monologue that Bill Maher gave at the end of Religulous. Now, Bill Maher is sort of a tool when it comes to a lot of things, but that monologue, juxtaposed with images of the atrocities caused by religion in the recent past, really made me wake up and take notice. No longer did I just regretfully acknowledge that I could not accept the idea of a supernatural diety -- now I realized that most of us are actually better off without a belief in God. And even if some people do derive a benefit from this irrational belief (which I suspect is true, though I am anything but certain), the vast majority of religions that exist today are terribly dangerous in their endorsement of unquestioning faith and their insistence on clinging to primitive ideas of morality than were outdated two millenia ago.

And then of course, it's on to the usual suspects... Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett... I haven't really heard or read much from Sam Harris, but I'm sure I will at some point. Many people -- even some nontheists -- accuse the "Four Horsemen" and others in the "new atheism" movement of preaching to the choir (pun!) and of alienating theists with the vigor with which they speak out against religion. But what those people don't understand is that this is one choir that is sorely in need of some preachin'! Nontheists often feel a need to conceal their feelings, and to offer a reverent respect to the religious that is rarely -- if ever -- returned. Now is the time for nontheists to be proud of who they are. To paraphrase Psalms: A fool says in his heart that there is no God, but a wise man shouts it from the rooftops!

Anyway, this post is already waaay long. Before I forget, here is the recipe my wife was asking about that was ultimately the impetus for this blog. It's nothing special, just something I whipped up on a weeknight when I had some chicken thighs to grill but wanted to do something less boring. Sorry the amounts are so vague; I didn't measure anything, and even though I am pretty good at eyeballing, I made this like two weeks ago, so I don't remember for sure. Anyway, here goes:

Leek & Cheddar Chicken Rollups

  • 1/4-1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup or so shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 medium leek, split lengthwise and sliced thin (white and pale green parts only)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp or so of cayenne pepper
  • 8 pieces boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 1 lb)
  • cooking twine
  • salt and pepper
Combine first five ingredients in a bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. If you want to, letting it set for a few hours in the fridge will probably help the flavors mingle, but I didn't have time to do that when I did this, so it's no big deal.

Lay chicken thighs out on cutting board and pound flat with a meat hammer or whatever you have on hand. Many people put plastic wrap on top of the meat to keep it from tearing. Sprinkle thighs with salt and pepper. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.

Place flattened thighs one at a time on work surface. Add about 1 tablespoon of leek&cheddar mixture (whatever will fit) on the narrow end of the thigh, roll tightly, and tie with cooking twine. Repeat for all thighs.

Preheat gas grill on high. (Charcoal fans, I'm sure you can adapt this recipe no problem) When grill is hot, place roll-ups directly on grill and lower the heat to medium-high. When nice grill marks develop, turn them over. Cook until done -- I dunno, 15 minutes or so? You can tell when chicken is done, right? Be warned, if you try to overstuff -- like I did -- a lot of the filling will spill out the side, which is fine but it will make your grill really dirty.

Remove chicken from grill and let rest under loosely-tented foil for 3-5 minutes, then cut the twine and serve.

I think for a side we had grilled zucchinni. Aw, hell, since it's so simple, here's a bonus recipe:

Unbeatable Grilled or Roasted Vegetables
  • Vegetables of your choice, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Toss all ingredients in large bowl. Preheat grill to high, or oven to 375 degrees. Cook until done.

Seriously. You will be hard-pressed to do any better. Don't fuck them up with some weird marinade. Depending on the veggie, maybe squeeze some lemon on it afterwards (e.g. like with asparagus) but not too much. The salt and pepper will bring out the natural flavor of the vegetable, and the olive oil will help it to cook evenly and to get a nice browning on the outside. You don't need to do anything else.

Well, I'm already late for work.. no time to really proof-read this, so hopefully I don't look too dumb. Anyway, welcome to the blog!

1 comment:

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