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Better Cooking Through Technology: A Guest Post

Paul Kidwell, a Boston-based reader of this blog and a cooking father, wrote to me recently offering to contribute a guest post. I always enjoy hearing from Paul. He has previously written here about Mushroom Bruschetta and Christmas, as well as about a Father’s Day meal his son once made for him. This time, he has a tale of how technology helps him help his son, who is living abroad, in the kitchen. Here it is:

Like most fathers I tried to do my best in preparing my son for the rigors of the world, especially when he left for college. In between admonitions and advice on courtesy, relationships, honesty, and "not doing as I say, but rather as I do," I helped him develop an interest in my raison d'etre; cooking. Happy to say that he mostly listened to me and my wife, as we shaped this kid into a young man and turned out to be someone in whom we take great pride. He's a good kid and we are quite happy with the outcome. Personally, I am extremely pleased that he has taken after me when it comes to cooking and being around food. As much as it's terribly important to be kind, courteous, and respectful of others; I also feel that every young boy should know a few of the basics around food and its preparatio—particularly if he wants to impress a young girl, which is a story for another time.

When I introduced him to the fine art of making a marinara sauce, roasting a chicken, smashing garlic, and testing the "doneness" of a steak or pork tenderloin with his finger ("when it's undercooked, the downer I push, the upper it goes"), little did I know he would have an opportunity to put to use my teachings so soon. This was a life skill and I thought at the very earliest it would be a post-college activity. But this year he finds himself in London for a year of economics study at a school that has not embraced the concept of the U.S. college dining hall. Students are expected to fend for themselves in the daily provision of sustenance, which in his case means shopping for food and turning those purchases into meals, by himself or with a gaggle of his fellow classmates. Through the marvels of technology, though, I am not altogether absent in this process, and I help him shop for groceries and triage his meals as he cooks them, in real time.

One of the best cooking tools for us has become the iPhone's Face Time and Skype. Through these tools—though I am thousands of miles away—I help my son pick out produce at the market and navigate his cooking. Typicaly, I do this from the comfort of my office. I’m not sure if the manufacturers of these advanced technologies ever envisioned this novel use, but it certainly provides a "I am there" immediacy that I would otherwise miss. Also, he might not be feasting as good as he is. A recent meal of his was one of our family's favorite and a quick fix for when we would get home late from work and school during his younger years when there was always a PTA meeting, violin/swim practice, etc. to waylay me and take me out of the kitchen. The recipe below (my son called it "books of chicken" because the butterflied chicken breast resembled an open book) has now become a staple of his London cooking repertoire and, I must say, what I saw recently, stacks up favorably to anything I make back at home.

Paul Kidwell's Books of Chicken

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1.5 cups of Swiss cheese shredded
  • 1 lb. asparagus
  • 1 lb. baby Bella mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Butterfly chicken breasts and place in baking dish, book side up

Sauté asparagus and mushrooms together about 4-5 minutes

Salt and pepper inside of chicken breasts, and spread cheese, followed by asparagus and mushrooms inside one side of each chicken breast.

Fold over other side of breasts to cover the other; like closing a book. Stick 2 toothpicks into top of each breast.

Slather olive oil onto each breast, and salt and pepper.

Bake for about 30 minutes.

While chicken is baking make a couple of cups and rice. Serve rice covered with leftover asparagus and mushrooms. Don't forget to take the toothpicks out of the chicken breasts before eating.

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