The Mighty Spoon: Cooking 101: Mastering Meats

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It doesn’t matter if you’ve been out of the house for five years or five hours, we all have to learn about cooking for ourselves. Some of us come from an extensive background and already know the basics, while others are unsure about how to boil water. But that’s okay. We muddle through until we figure out what works. In this spirit, The Mighty Spoon is here to give cooking tips to students who don’t have the time or energy to make a new meal each night. To welcome readers new and old, I offer a story about conquering fears.

I spent my first month out of the family home living on pasta and vegetables, too nervous to make chicken or beef. Meat was something my parents always cooked.  My dad was the barbecue master, and my mom’s chicken was to die for. With winter fast approaching, I finally decided to make some tacos. I bought ground beef, powdered flavour mix and some hard tortilla shells. I read the instructions on the packaging twice, or maybe three times. When I put the saucepan on the stove, the hood fan’s light seemed harsh and accusatory. What if I gave myself food poisoning? Why had I let my little brother become the barbecue expert instead of me?

Then something within me changed. I put the spoon down, took a breath and told myself the honest truth: people have been cooking with meat for thousands of years. My cavemen ancestors did it, and I could do it too.

Those first tacos were delicious.

I really had to give myself a pep talk before I could cook meat at first. It took some time before I gained any finesse. For years I would burn my steaks so that they’d be well done, and most of my chicken was bone dry. I am one of the most anxious people on the planet when it comes to cooking beef and poultry. So trust me when I say this: cooking with meat will not kill you.

That’s not to say there aren’t risks when cooking meat (especially poultry and pork, which need to be cooked thoroughly to kill any nasty bacteria), but if you use common sense and follow directions, you’ll be fine. This might not be a revelation for some hardcore carnivores, but it was a major step for me. So here’s a fantastic sandwich to make with a couple of chicken breasts.  The cooked meat will last for about three days in the fridge, so you’ll have lunch taken care of for at least half a week.

chicken breast-credit CandyTX via Flickr Creative Commons

Outrageously Delicious Chicken Sandwich

Ingredients:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (makes 4 sandwiches)

½ cup low-fat Italian dressing

For each sandwich:

2 pieces whole-wheat bread, toasted

2 tsp honey mustard

5–6 slices of purple onion

A handful of baby spinach leaves

Method:

Marinate chicken breasts in dressing overnight, or for at least an hour in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 350°F and spray a shallow pan with no-stick cooking spray. Place chicken breasts in pan and bake uncovered for 30–35 minutes. Do not flip. Alternatively, grill chicken on a Foreman grill or barbecue until cooked, about 10 minutes. Check the internal temperature of the chicken with a digital thermometer if you’re worried — Health Canada says that chicken breasts should reach a temperature of 165°F.

Cut into small strips.

Assemble sandwich: spread honey mustard on both slices of toasted bread, and then pile on the chicken, onion, and spinach. Crusts optional.

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