I had the honor, the greatest of honors, to teach a bunch of new chefs how to spell culinary, and to know what the synonyms for ordinary kitchen lingo was when I taught General Ed courses at the Platt Culinary Arts and Sciences College. They, on the flip side, taught me several magical things that I will never forget. One of the master chefs, (Ken) told me that mixing up tastes that customarily would sound or smell like they wouldn't go together on an ordinary day can turn your taste buds into rockets and put a little party in your mouth. He was talking about an apple and tomato salsa spread that just blew the doors off of anything I sampled at the holiday celebrations in 2003.
I'm making a little cranberry ginger chicken tonight for dinner. I have a date, a close friend, and rather than just impress I want to astound. I thought about calling one of my former students over and actually paying him to cater, but he told me not to. He said he'd walk me through it. He would be my teacher this time. Cranberry ginger chicken, roasted if you have a spit, baked if you don't. Adding the skins of a cranberry can be virtually impossible if you don't shred them first through a juicer, and doing so makes you a little pile of silt that you can use for a few things: add them to your oatmeal, sprinkle them on your salad, and in my case tonight, mix it up with a bit of olive oil, ginger, garlic, and clove to present the masterpiece that could have been a simple picture.
I've never been shy when it comes to experimentation, why let kitchen be any different than any other room in the house? Dress up, splurge a little, get the wine you put up last week because you didn't think you were worth that extra buck, and grab a bag of life by the horns...or berries. You choose. When I set the dinner table with the traditional holiday flatware I was so super happy that I went the extra yard and bought a few candles, fluff and stuff to make a centerpiece, and a little silver plate to make things really pop. Friends deserve the best from us, even if it's just a little shake of the ginger, or a glow of the candle - make someone feel that much special and put a little party in their mouth.
Finding the right sides to go with the chicken wasn't hard at all, anything pales to it, so you have a great excuse to be a bit traditional where the veggies are concerned - but dessert? Well, that's another story. Orange creme brulee..he had to walk me through that one too. I'm glad I gave that kid a good grade back in the day, he could soooo have screwed me on the evening's events. Thanks Brandon.