A Date With Destiny. Marinated With Garlic.

Let me be perfectly clear. I’m not much of a cook.

As an average single guy my culinary skills are woefully lacking. A fact that sometimes makes me regret not taking Home Ec in high school (where, incidentally, all the hot chicks were). Instead, I elected to take Woodworking with all of my goofy buddies. In my next life maybe I’ll get another chance to make the smart decision. One can only hope.

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In any event I promised my dear mom two weeks ago that I would prepare a nice lunch for her when she came by to check on her son. Mom’s are like that. The next time she would make her visit would be on December 30. That was yesterday. I don’t know WHAT I was thinking when I made such a foolish commitment.

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My standing rule regarding the preparation of my daily sustenance is that if the cooking part of the plan doesn’t involve a microwave oven and a timer set to 6 minutes or less it usually get’s my cold shoulder at the local Publix grocery store. Giordano’s frozen pizza is the only exception to this rule. It’s my Friday night delicacy which takes an agonizing 25–30 minutes at 425 degrees in the oven. A sacrifice that I’m willing to endure. However grudgingly.

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But I digress.

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In preparation for my appointment with disaster in the kitchen I did some research online three days ago. I figured that chicken would be a safe bet. I can do that. A lunch featuring chicken would make for a nice, light lunch entre with plenty of room for error. So, I Googled “chicken lunch recipe”.

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The good people at Google didn’t disappoint. I found what I believed to be the perfect chicken recipe. It was called “Paillard of chicken with lemon and herbs”. A fancy-schmancy name for sure, but I was up to the challenge. Besides, the online picture of the finished product looked like something my mom and I would both enjoy.

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D-Day -1

The day before the big event with my mom I visited Publix with recipe in hand and right away looked for someone who could help me. Someone who could save me from having to wander aimlessly through the isles like a lost child looking for his mama. Besides, I didn’t have two hours to waste in a grocery store.

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Luckily I found the right person at the Customer Service Desk who I thought could help me. He was a young man by the name of Deon. Turns out his focus in high school was what I regretfully passed up in favor of that aforementioned Woodworking class. “Culinary Arts”. “Perfect”, I told him.

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Within twenty minutes I had everything I needed in my basket. Garlic cloves, Rosemary sprigs, Sage leaves, a couple of fresh lemons, balsamic vinegar, Parmesan cheese, something called “rocket” (which I later discovered was just another name for arugula), some extra virgin olive oil and, of course, some nice chicken breasts. But not just any chicken breasts. I insisted on free-range, chemical-free and otherwise organically bred and raised chicken breasts. No steroids or antibiotics for this boy. No Sir-ee! I intend to keep all my vital organs (one in particular) operating at peak efficiency until I go out in a ball of fire and twisted metal on my beloved motorcycle.

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Deon strongly suggested that I prepare the marinade the day before the lunch and let the chicken breasts swim in it. Roger that!

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Once I returned home with all the ingredients for my masterpiece I got to work on the marinade. First, the recipe instructed me to grind up the two garlic cloves using a mortar and pestle. I didn’t have one of those. She took them in the divorce. So, I grabbed my tool bag and pulled out my trusty Stanley hammer. I placed one garlic clove at a time on a wooden cutting board and started hammering away. A mess? Yes. But I scooped up every bit of pulverized garlic from the kitchen floor and put it all in the marinade bowl where it belonged. No one would be the wiser except for me.

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The result of the first step in the recipe was a mound of pounded garlic the size of a decent fire ant hill in my backyard. Looked like a lot of garlic to me, but who was I to second-guess the person who detailed the ingredients online. H/She was bound to know more about how to prepare this dish than me, so I didn’t question it.

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Pretty much everything else on the list of ingredients … the parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme plus the olive oil and balsamic vinegar was added to the mix in the prescribed proportions. It still looked like a hellava lot of garlic to me. I pressed on.

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I placed the fresh chicken breasts onto a large plate,, poured the marinade on top and slid it all into my fridge for the night as per the instructions from Deon the Culinary Artist. Now I was ready to nuke some leftover frozen lasagna for dinner followed by another spine-tingling episode of Orange Is The New Black. (Please don’t spread that around. I enjoy OITNB, but only in small doses. It causes me to have flashbacks.)

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D-Day: A Date With Destiny

Wednesday, December 30, 2015. A date that will live in infamy. Or the ER. Whichever.

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The moment I woke up at the crack of noon on D-Day I felt this terrible sense of fear come over me. For a minute I thought it was just my meds wearing off. I got up, ran to the kitchen, opened the fridge and pulled out the marinating chicken breasts. With my fingers I scooped up a small bit of the marinade, closed my eyes and laid it on my tongue.

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Holy Jumpin’ Jesus! The garlic was so strong I almost started to gag. It was too late to make an emergency run back to Publix for further consultation with Deon, so I grabbed my laptop and Googled “tone down garlic in food”.

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Seems I’m not the only one who has confronted this situation involving too much garlic in food. There must’ve been fifty search results — any one of which could potentially hold the solution to my urgent dilemma. Taking the advice of one online post I threw the marinade into a pot, turned up an eye on the stove to High and let the foul-tasting conglomeration boil for a few minutes. That was supposed to help moderate the garlicky taste to a bearable level.

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As an added measure, I dumped a whole can of sliced tomatoes into the simmering pot. Then another cup or so of lemon juice. Then sliced up pieces of the only fresh lemon I had left. Then half a jar of Paul Newman’s Alfredo Pasta Sauce. Finally, I topped it all off with an urgent plea to the Almighty to perform a culinary miracle. I even added a kicker to seal the deal which was my promise to never sleep in on Sunday morning’s again. This was serious.

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As the minutes ticked away on the stove I started to taste-test what by then had become a kind of soup. After ten minutes I took one last taste of the concoction and …. a calm started to come over me. Me, a dunce in the kitchen, had just witnessed a small miracle. Not exactly on the scale of turning water into wine, but close enough. The “marinade” was actually smelled pleasant, was edible and I could keep it down without throwing up.

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The doorbell rings.

As any White House Communications Director would do just before the President’s meeting with other heads of state to agree on something no one is actually going to sign off on I immediately started to lower my mom’s expectations about the meal. That way if she actually liked the meal it would be a pleasant surprise to both me and her. Mostly me.

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In situations like this mom’s won’t come right out and tell you what they really think for fear of hurting their child’s feelings. But I needed to be sure that her initial praise was legit. I noticed that she was actually eating the marinade slathered over the now-beautifully grilled chicken breast, so I took that as a good sign. But still, I needed to hear the words.

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After about 20 minutes of eating and conversation I asked her again how she liked the marinade. “The chicken was really good!”, she said. “But the marinade needed a little bit of help. It’s not my favorite.

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Whew! That was probably all I was going to get out of her short of water-boarding the real truth out of her. But she did clean her plate. She didn’t squinch her face with every bite. And she didn’t ask for more sparkling grape juice to wash the taste down.

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After mom left I felt I had gotten the confirmation I was looking for. I wasn’t disappointed, really, because after all it was my first attempt at creating a special dish that didn’t come from the frozen foods isle. I know what I did wrong and will definitely try the recipe again. Even if I only prepare it again for myself.

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That is, unless you’d like to join me?

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MG Cooper (Never Give Up!)

http://nondeficere.com