I think about cooking almost constantly. I’m always thinking of ways to better my cooking, of new things to try. Right now, I’m sitting on the idea of cooking some sort of white fish en papillote. En papillote, for those who don’t know, translates to “in parchment.” It’s, as my mate loves to refer to it, “pouch cooking.” You take a protein, fish or chicken is commonly used here, and wrap it up in a parchment paper pouch to let the steam cook it through. The dilemma that I’m facing is that I don’t want to do this with chicken, but instead I’d rather do it with fish. I’ve never cooked fish before and rarely eat it. This alone causes a couple of problems: I don’t know how it’s “supposed” to taste, nor do I know what to pair the fish with. Everything I’ve seen has pointed me towards summer vegetables: squash, mushrooms (which I’m not particularly fond of), et cetera. When something finally catches my eye, I’ll make it; until then, I’ll continue to brood.
Digression aside, earlier this week, I was uncertain of how to use some chicken that I’ve had in the freezer for a bit now. We have a bunch of stuff in the pantry that I didn’t know if I wanted it or not. I could have made rice and chicken with refried beans. I could have found a way to pair whole wheat linguine and chicken with a light sauce. I could have made buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese using that crap you can get in the blue box, but I didn’t.
While I had really contemplated making the rice and beans, once I was in the kitchen, I went in the opposite direction. I put some garlic in a pan with oil to sauté. When the garlic was fragrant and puffy, I added chicken and chicken stock. While inhaling the aroma of cooking chicken, I looked around the kitchen. There were some cherry tomatoes that, for some reason unbeknownst to me, jumped out at me. I halved a handful and added them to the pan. The aroma wafting around me was different. I didn’t know what I was making, but it certainly smelled interesting. At this point, the chicken had cooked through, but I paid it no mind. What else could I add to this? Without another thought I grabbed a cerrano pepper, seeded it and it, too, went into the pan. I removed the chicken from the pan, cut it into bite sized pieces, reduced the heat, and then returned it to the pan to soak up the juices. This was unlike anything I had ever smelled before but that doesn’t mean it was bad. It was too late to cook it with rice, but how about a roll? To counteract the warmth from the pepper, I spread a garlic and herb cheese on a roll and toasted it.
The final product?
The flavour was complex. With each bite, there was the chicken alive with the heat and flavour from the pepper, accented with a subtle hint of garlic and sweetness from the tomato. Though the spread did nothing for the heat my mouth faced, it added another facet to this gem. Who needs hot sauce when you have whole peppers you can cook in with your chicken? I mention the warmth from the pepper, but it wasn’t that bad. It was a slow, steady burn that was reawakened whenever I found bits of the pepper in the sandwich. It was unexpected, it was delicious. Even with that, however, I know there is still more I can do with this. Next time could I pair it with cheese and wrap it in a tortilla for a truly flavourful quesadilla? Perhaps I could serve it with white rice, some beans and find a way to work cheese into the mix so as to temper the warmth. The possibilities aren’t endless, no. But there are many of them.
Until next time-