Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Guest Post: The Food I Love To Eat



Have a guest post for Modern Mormon Men? Both modern mormon men and women can submit guest posts via email. In addition to your post, please include a post title and a paragraph of introduction (on yourself) to run above the post.

Roy Peckham was raised in a diverse community in north Long Beach, California and served his mission in Scotland. He’s married to a beautiful 4th grade teacher and they’re expecting their first child in June 2012. He’ll finish his Masters of Information Systems just before their tiny tenant arrives and just in time to move to Houston, Texas. He grew up filming himself cooking with an old video tape recorder, dreaming of someday having a show on the food network. He’s a messy chef who loves hearty, undefined, and chaotic food. A true eclectic, he also works as a freelance web developer in his spare time. Roypeckham.com showcases his portfolio and blog.

I love the chaos of cooking and I’m really quite good at it—the chaos that is. Being a good cook has gotten me into a few dates and out of a couple binds. It’s a subject every Modern Mormon Man should minor in. I don’t call myself a foodie because I think “foodies” live in a pseudo-intellectual soup that’s canned and sold in bulk. To me a good meal is chaotic, unspecific, simple, and delicious. For my first post, I want to walk through a manly take on a dish featuring a Greek mix of ingredients. It’s a meal by Jamie Oliver. It has three major ingredients and is remarkably simple to put together. However, it’s important to understand each component of this before putting the knife to the board. I want to tell the story of the dish so that you don’t have to think about a recipe when you cook it. You just put it together and burn a few fingers.

The Chicken: I love meat and I love chicken. However, what I don’t love is dry, boring chicken breast. The best meat from the chicken is not from the breast, the wings, or the legs. The best meat is from the thigh. A load of flavor is transferred from the bone and fat. The meat is tender and a bit dark. It will go sticky and delicious with a little bit of care. Get them, unfrozen, with the bone in and the skin on. Seriously, take a chance and break away from breasts.

The Potatoes: Potatoes are cheap and come by the bagful. For this meal you’ll need a small variety of potatoes. Lose the 1lb russets and venture into the brilliant purple and smaller red potatoes. Get a couple of handfuls of white fingerlings, purples, and reds. If you can’t find fingerling, look for smaller white potatoes. These will come in smallish plastic bags just below or next to the stalls of potatoes in an average supermarket. This dish is minimal. So find some quality vegetables and meat so that you don’t have to over season everything.

The Tomatoes: From the sweet San Marzano to the common cherry, tomatoes come in a fantastic variety of color, acidity, size, and taste. For this recipe find something interesting – yellow, red, green, mixed green/red, whatever (don’t get any bigger than a racquetball though). You don’t want to leave tomatoes in the fridge because they’ll get boring and hard. Buy them and use them quickly. I like to get vine ripened, but depending on what you are cooking, it doesn’t always matter. However, for this recipe, I’m requiring you to find something out of the ordinary. If you put this dish together with thawed chicken breasts, russet potatoes, and Roma tomatoes, it will taste like absolute crap.

The rest of the ingredients are: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar, Fresh Oregano, and Salt & Pepper to taste.

This is the kind of food I love to eat. It is simple, forgiving, and healthy. I start by boiling the potatoes with the skin on. Next, you need to start deboning your thighs. Take the time to learn how to debone a chicken thigh. Lay it on your board with the skin down. Cut along side of each bone and then pick a side where more of the bone is exposed. Reach your knife underneath the bone and free it from the chicken. Pick that side of the bone up with one hand and stand it vertically. Scrape the meat downward (off of the bone) toward the thigh. Cut any remaining pieces of cartilage and bone and then slice your thigh into 3-4 pieces. Start cooking them in a pan with the skin side down on a medium heat. This will start to cook out some of the fat from the skin. Get your tomatoes out and give them a light rinse.

This is the part for the brave man. Your potatoes should be about done. Give them enough time to at least parboil (boil most of the way). Lightly pierce the skin of each tomato with the tip of your knife. Throw all of the tomatoes in the pot of boiling potatoes for at least 1 minute. Drain everything and spill the potatoes and tomatoes onto a large board. If you want to be a wuss, pour your tomatoes into a bowl of ice water and let them rest there before proceeding. Take each tomato and peel them with your fingers by pinching the skin off. This should be easy because you pierced them and the skin will generally just slide off. You can also lightly smash some of the bigger potato pieces. No potato or tomato should be bigger than one of your cooked chicken thigh pieces.

Since you probably don’t have a pestle and mortar, grab your food processor or a blender. Take the leaves from at least 4-5 sprigs of oregano, about a ¼ cup of olive oil (or more), a hearty glug of red wine vinegar (I’d say between 1 and 2 tablespoons) and some salt and pepper. Whiz it up. Scrape all of your potatoes and tomatoes into the pan with the chicken. Mix everything and toss it with your oregano-olive oil-vinegar mixture. I would suggest transferring all of this to a large casserole dish. Grab another sprig or two of Oregano and pick some leaves off of them, sprinkling them around the dish.

You’re done. Throw it in the oven at 400F for about 40 minutes. Enjoy with a light green salad and some really fluffy, fresh bread.

You can find the official version of the recipe here.

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