Monday, September 28, 2009

The Mercy Rule

I don't know what's up with me, but I've got no cooking mojo whatsoever lately. Meat has been dry and tough. Veggies limp. I plan great meals--and then they're horrible.

Tonight I had to invoke the mercy rule. I think I've told you about the mercy rule before: I cook a meal so hideous that no one has to actually consume it--they can choose something else instead.

Tonight's fiasco involved a crock pot chicken and rice dish. I found a blog (very likely via someone's blog who reads my blog) where this woman decided to cook in her crockpot every day for a year. In the fall and winter (and sometimes the spring and spring), I'm a slave to my crockpot. Yes, it's as far from raw cooking as you can possibly get, but it's a necessity. With sports practices occuring right during the dinner hour, I need a meal preparation method that can accomodate someone who needs to eat dinner at 4:15pm (hockey practice nights--and hello??? Was there an off season and I blinked and missed it???) or someone who is eating at 7pm (soccer practice nights). I also need the crockpot for days when we're out and about and I know that I won't want to cook when we get home.

Most of my crockpotting is successful. There has been a lot of experimentation (read: trial and error) over the years. FYI: Chicken thighs do well in the crockpot. Chicken breasts: Not so much. BBQ pork shoulder: A surefire hit. Mu Shu Chicken: Delish.

So today I tried this chicken and brown rice recipe and it was supposed to be like the chicken and rice bake I used to make in the old days before I knew white rice had no nutrition and Campbell's Cream of Whatever Soup was full of disturbing chemicals. So with this recipe, you make your own Cream of Whatever and pour it over rice in the crockpot, top it with spices, an onion, mushrooms and the chicken.

Voila. So easy sounding.

And it was easy. To prepare. But there were a few warning signs I ignored when choosing this recipe. First, it called for chicken breasts. Second, it used brown rice. Cooking brown rice at high altitude is, um, challenging. In fact, I only ever got it right after I discovered Alton Brown's Baked Rice . So anyway, I should have been on high alert when the recipe called for uncooked brown rice.

In the end, the result was dry chicken, and rice, some of which was cooked, some of which was not.

Now, I just went back and re-read the directions and I found my mistake--I didn't stir the rice and cream of whatever together. I didn't see that part and I thought I wasn't supposed to stir (which makes no sense, duh). Which reveals another problem--I tend to skim through recipes because I have the attention span of a gnat.

But that's another story.

So, because I've had good luck with some other recipes on that site, I'll try, try again. Both boys did actually taste it, but complained the chicken was dry (I'll have to turn the leftovers into chicken salad now). And bizarrely, Declan liked the rice.

Go figure.

I've got to get my act together. I'm using the crockpot again tomorrow. Fish in the crockpot--a first. But now I'm a little worried.

PS: If you get a chance, stop by and drop a word of encouragement to Jonathon and his mother They are neighbors of our old CaringBridge friends, the Hurleys. Jonathon is 4 and has been battling leukemia since he was just six months old. Their family is Hmong--so you can imagine being in a foreign country and battling a life threatening illness is a scary thing.


Lucinda said...

At least your kids will try it. I have to bribe Sam & Julia: If they eat what I put on their plates (not much), they can have cereal. Usually Julia says, "I'm not eating that. I want cereal" before she even knows what we're having for dinner. Speaking of dinner, it's that time of day! ("Blue box" mac & cheese is on the menu, so no fussing tonight!)

Leeann said...


Thanks for the link to the baked brown rice recipe. I will be trying it this week. I like brown rice but the fam totally wants the Minute Rice so hopefully this will convert them. I am thinking of making it with veggie broth and some dried onion. Or I may use it as a chicken broccoli casserole base.

As far as annoying phrases, the one that bugs me the most is "irregardless." NOT A WORD!!!! Or double negatives. Or most breaches of grammar (including my current poorly written response!)