Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cooking with "ingredients"

One dish that I particularly enjoy eating is chicken parisienne (a dish my French wife, who lived for many years in Paris, had never heard of). Here's a typical list of ingredients for this (and pretty close to how I made it):

"Condense soup, not books" - Project 366 2008 - August 10, 2008~
The are not ingredients!
Photo by turtlemom4bacon
  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • paprika to taste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 (4.5 ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
My wife is mystified by this and doesn't understand why "can of soup" would be listed in a recipe, but to me that sort of ingredient list was natural. In the US, it was common to see recipes listing "1 cup of Brand X goo", "box of vaguely edible things" or "can o' soup".

Me? I make a pretty mean fried chicken involving marinating the chicken overnight in buttermilk, a proper cast iron skillet, some flour, beer, and a package of Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning powder.

I was so used to the brand-driven consumer culture in the US that I didn't think about this too much. Sure, I told myself that I'd learn how to duplicate that seasoning mix myself ... but I never did. I got so used to eating things out of boxes and cans and pouches that I plain forgot what food was. So when I made fajitas for friends from France, my wife set out snacks before the BBQ and the children were happily eating salad and cherry tomatoes and not just the wasabi peanuts and other less healthy things. It was simply natural for them to eat food.

I'm still getting used to cooking over here, but I'm also spoiled by having a wife who's an excellent cook.