When I started this blog, it was intended to be a record for myself: what have I made? What have I enjoyed? What have I not enjoyed? What have I created? At the time I was reading, bookmarking, and cooking from something like twenty food blogs in all, and I needed some way to keep track of my own output. I’m also a little bit compulsive in this way – I not-infrequently regret not having kept better track of movies I’ve seen and what I thought of them. In that spirit, I like to record when I make food that does not taste good, as well as when I make food that does. It’s probably a little weird for you to read – I don’t imagine you’re all reading the same cooking blogs I am and thinking, “You know, I was wondering how that chicken dish came out! Thanks for test-driving it!” But I figure if I record my failures as well as my successes, you have a model for dusting yourself off and trying again when recipes fall flat. I also like to think I can help you learn what not to do. And so I give you the unfortunate tale of Lemony Chicken with Potatoes and Beans.
In what has become a pretty typical mode for me of “seriously if i have to eat one more thing from our standard flavor profile i’m going to tear out my own eyes,” I reached for a simple roast chicken recipe from Jenny and Andy. I’ve developed enough skill and confidence in the kitchen over the years to be skeptical as I read it – 1/4 cup olive oil, the juice of one lemon, 2 garlic cloves, and salt and pepper were supposed to supply sufficient marinade to coat two handfuls of green beans, 10 small chopped potatoes and four pieces of chicken? The ratios sounded way off. But I figured that Jenny and Andy know what they’re doing, and anyway, I have a slightly different attitude towards cooking from recipes than most cooks I know. This might be because I have historically cooked primarily from blogs, which if you read them long enough start to feel like buddies you trust, but the first time I make something, I like to cook it as close to as-written as I can (unless I’m specifically looking to create my own dish). I want to know what’s intended by this agglomeration of ingredients! Once I know, I feel free to riff on it, add and subtract things as needed, but I want to get it right the first time. I want to know what the rules are so that I can break them most deliciously.
But in the kitchen as in life, with enough experience, you develop a sense for when the rules are stupid and when the rules are important. And in this recipe as in life, I knew the rules were stupid going in. But I didn’t listen to the warning bells except to throw in a handful of fresh basil. (I also subbed broccoli for potatoes, because I didn’t have potatoes and my partner doesn’t like green beans.) And the food, as I knew it would be, was crap. I mean. We ate it. It wasn’t total crap. It was just boring – not enough flavor, not enough pizzazz, not enough anything. If there’s one thing I pride my cooking on, it’s an abundance of flavor. This dish was a disappointment I saw coming and won’t be revisiting.
This cake, on the other hand, is a home run every time I make it. Hearkening back to the early days of The Pioneer Woman‘s cooking site, when her recipes were tasty and creative and fresh (as opposed to “look, I changed one ingredient in this combination of processed foods AND IT’S A DIFFERENT DISH I SWEAR” (although I’m looking through her recent recipes now and I see a lot more fresh food and a lot less crap than I used to, so who knows, maybe she’s having a renaissance)), this is a simple yogurt pound cake brightened with lemon zest and topped with a marmalade-yogurt glaze. It’s easy as hell to make and keeps for awhile. I highly recommend it.
Notes and Verdicts
Lemony Chicken with Potatoes and Beans by Dinner: A Love Story
Notes: I added some fresh basil, but that wasn’t nearly enough to save this from flavor oblivion.
Verdict: Boooooooriiiiiiing. This recipe needs some dried herbs and spices to kick the flavor up a notch, and in much larger quantities than suggested here. C-