Teaching John to Cook: Meet John

by marionroach on July 10, 2009

john-from-facebookIT’S TIME YOU MET JOHN, of Teaching John to Cook (the lovely man and dear friend of the Facebook self-portrait, above), to whom so many of you have reached out during his difficult time. I’m happy to report he’s doing marvelously well at it, and that he has mastered a new recipe. It’s one you may enjoy, as well.

But first, a recap. If you go back to my opening piece to this series, you’ll remember that at first there were three men–one whose wife of 20 years had just walked out, one who was living too high on the Manhattan hog, and John, whose partner suddenly passed away last autumn. Now there is one, since the other two are not taking us up on all our culinary help. John, however, has dutifully showed up in my kitchen, and we’ve progressed–in no small way because of your help.

Taking your cues, I homed in on a recipe that both utilized what he had on hand in his kitchen (Le Creuset, mostly; a little retail therapy indulgence after the loss of his beloved partner), and, as Sandy so rightfully suggested, got him to put down the Gourmet (for now, anyway), and, at Jim’s suggestion, got him instead to pick up Everyday Food, the Martha Stewart gem, a magazine to which I’ve subscribed from its very first issue, every issue of which I have saved.

I did not have far to look, since a May 2009 issue was just what we needed, and to tell you the truth, the results were perfect.

Of course, we changed the recipe somewhat, as all cooks do, since both he and I are limited both in our knife skills, as well as in what carbs we will eat. This taught him that lesson, as well: Any good recipe can survive (even thrive from) a little alteration.

Here it is.

From Everyday Food, May 2009
Jamaican Chicken Curry
This teaches the technique of stewing.

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 bone-in skinless chicken breasts halved, 10-12 ounces each, halved crosswise
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 medium onion chopped
1 garlic clove minced
1 tsp ground cumin
3 Tbsp curry powder
½ tsp dried thyme
4 carrots thinly sliced
1 can (13.5 ounces coconut milk)
1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas, thawed
Cooked rice for serving

1.    In large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Working in two batches, brown chicken, 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to plate.
2.    Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, garlic, cumin, curry, thyme and ½ cup water and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion has softened, 3-5 minutes.
3.    Add carrots, coconut milk, ½ cup water, and chicken with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover partially and cook until chicken is cooked through and carrots are tender,  about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in peas. Serve curry over rice.

So here’s how we adapted it: We used whole chicken breasts (bone in), letting the whole thing cook longer, about 30 minutes.

Also, both of us are low-carb people, eschewing rice, so we set the curry on quinoa, instead. Yum.

You? What recipes would you like John and me to try?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

jim July 10, 2009 at 12:52 am

Another book suggestion – Cake Doctor by Ann Byrn. She “doctors” box cake mixes. There are photos of all the cakes and really aren’t that hard to master. One of my favs is the SnickerDoodle Cake. The classsic cookie taste in a cake. Yum.

Thanks for putting a face to the name.


Sandy Daigler July 11, 2009 at 8:09 pm

I think a roast chicken would be in order next. As Nigella Lawson says, you could go through life without knowing how to roast a chicken but why would you want to?

DJ July 16, 2009 at 8:56 am

Yes, roast chicken is (relatively) easy. And good, esp. with real mashed potatoes.

Maybe try to do whole wheat pasta actually to al dente? And then: add 2tsp-1tb of olive oil in a pan, saute a garlic clove while you chunk up 2-3 tomatoes. And the tomatoes and simmer a few minutes on moderate heat. Throw in some fresh basil (there’s loads at the farm now Marion). Voila! Salsa di pomodoro. Serve it over the pasta, or any carb you like, actually.

marionroach July 18, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Hi, Jim. And welcome back. I love this idea of doctoring cake mixes. I’ve never met a recipe I didn’t alter somewhat, so why not a cake mix? Such good advice. Thanks so much. And come back soon.

Hi, Sandy. Yes. Next a roast chicken. I am on my second speckled roasting pan of my life, having literally wore a hole in the first. I love and adore mine, and use it at least once a week to roast a chicken. There are so many methods to do so. Do you have a favorite? Anyone else?

And DJ. Hello. And welcome. What a fine idea, cooking those whole wheat noodles to an actual al dente, since everyone always over-boils the poor things. And I ask you: what isn’t good with real mashed potatoes. Real mashed potatoes could bring life back to nearly anything. In a word: Yum. thank you, and please keep coming back.

Sandy Daigler July 18, 2009 at 10:59 pm

I like to roast them stuffed. Apples and raisins is my favorite stuffing for chicken. I don’t really have a recipe for it. Sometimes I make my mother-in-law’s bread stuffing and just add apples and raisins to it. The apples must be Granny Smith, of course!

marionroach July 21, 2009 at 8:20 am

Ooooh. I love this idea. I have mostly stuffed mine either with a sliced onions or with a pierced whole lemon. This is great. Thank you. I’d love some more suggestions, sisters. Got any?

Kathrine Mueller January 7, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Hi Marion, here is an old family favorite recipe to add to Teaching John to Cook (if you’d like);

Mrs. Canavello’s Pot Roast

5 to 10 lb. roasting meat
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt – 1/4 tsp. pepper

Dredge the meat in the flour/salt/pepper mix
Brown the meat in either rendered fat from the roast or 1 to 2 tbs. of olive oil for 20 minutes.

While browning chop and add 1/2 cup each;
plus 1 to 2 cloves of garlic – minced

saute until tender

1/2 cup ketchup
3/4 cup red wine
1 cup water
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf

Add mixture to pot, stir and simmer for 4 to 5 hours, turning the meat every half hour

One hour before the roast is done add;
carrots and string beans (amount according to preference)

Skim off fat, thicken gravy w/2tbs. flour and 2 tbs. of cold water mixed.

Serve with Mrs. Mueller’s Spaetzle Dumplings

4 eggs
3 cups of flour
1 cup of water
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Mix flour, salt and baking powder
Add to slightly scrambled eggs
Add water

Boil a big pot of ( lightly salted) water
Quickly spoon the dough, about a half spoonful at a time, into the boiling water
Once the dumplings have floated to the top cook for 2 minutes
-drain in colander and serve with the pot roast


marionroach January 8, 2010 at 8:17 am

Hello, Kathrine, and welcome to TSP. What a bounty this is, especially since it combines the recipes of three women–you, Mrs. Canavallo and Mrs. Mueller. I love how cooking makes that kind of braid for us all, as we receive from the women in our lives, and give the gift to someone new. Look at this: From them, to you, to me, to John. How sisterly. Thank you. Please come back soon with more.

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