Yo! What an adventure I had making my new recipe this week. It was a little ridiculous, but I learned a lot in the process. Before I dive into the whole stupid story, let’s start with some background.
In 8th grade my best friend and I made Mac ’n Cheese every day after school. I mean seriously, every single day. (She is also one of the 3 people out there who regularly reads this post. You know who you are!) Anyway, being the turd that I am, I always made fun of my friend for measuring out the milk and the butter. I figured eyeballing it was much cooler and was the true sign of a "good cook.” The truth is her Mac ‘n Cheese was always better than mine. Whether that was a result of measuring milk and butter or the fact that her family always bought Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese and my family bought store brand is still up for discussion. Anyway, it took me a long time to realize that often times when a recipe calls for a particular ingredient it is usually for good reason. Sure, you can get by with skipping some, altering others, etc., but generally speaking your food tastes a hell of a lot better when you actually follow the recipe. Now, I am still guilty of changing recipes to this day (I talk about it in almost all of my blog posts), however, I make much more of an effort to try to hunt down the actual ingredients that were called for. Don’t get me wrong, taking creative liberties is one of the best parts of cooking, but when you make a few batches of gumbo that taste just okay when you were loose with the measurements and then compare that to making it by the book, you are going to notice a significant difference.
With all of this in mind, I have been trying to make more of an effort to follow recipes I’m interested in much more closely. Now that I’m not a student and have a real kitchen, it is a lot more fun to go to the specialty stores and get actual quality ingredients for a super tasty meal. This week, by the time I was done shopping I didn’t exactly have a positive outlook though.
For some reason I had a hankering for parsley this week. I don’t know why but it just sounded like something that needed to happen. So I turned to Pinterest and searched some recipes. I ended up finding three that sounded pretty interesting. I also had some rice noodles that I wanted to use too but that wasn’t a hard requirement for me. The recipes I found were:
Saffron Chicken with Parsley and Lemon
Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)
Cabbage sautéed with chicken
When looking over the recipes I thought that the Saffron Chicken was the perfect fit. In the spirit of doing the recipe right through and through, I was determined to make sure I used Saffron in it. I mean it is the name of the dish for crying out loud! I already had about half the ingredients at home, it looked like it would go well with rice noodles, had easy to follow directions, and didn’t have a ridiculous prep/cook time. I figured I would just head to WinCo, pick up all my groceries for the week, and grab my handful of items for dinner. Easy enough, right? WRONG. I had heard of Saffron before but didn’t really know much about it up until this week. I figured I would just head to the bulk spice section, scoop some up, and call it a day. I only needed ¼ of a teaspoon after all. Well, I checked the bulk spice, regular spice, and Asian sections of the store with no luck at all. I was starting to get a little irritated, but then I remembered that there was an Asian market down the street! I had never been there before, but I had been wanting to go for a while, and they were bound to have it in stock. So I finished up at WinCo and headed down to LF Market Oriental & Seafood. This place is ballin’! They have like an entire aisle dedicated to fish sauce. It’s nuts! Rice noodles, squid, and pigs feet out the yin yang. Really though, they have a lot of very cool products in there. I could have spent way more time in here, but I didn’t want my lunchmeat to spoil in the car (it is still hitting the mid 90s here in Phoenix during the day . . . yeah). Anyway, I look and look and look though the spices and can’t find the damn Saffron anywhere! I finally had to ask 2 different people, and they eventually determined that they had run out (what the shit??). Since the Saffron situation didn’t seem promising, I started thinking about plan B for dinner. I didn’t want to make this new recipe without the key ingredient! So my next step was to start gathering some things for my back up plan, Drunken Noodles (which by the way, I originally wanted to make, but I didn’t feel like hunting down fish and oyster sauce—heh). I got some super cheap fish sauce as well as some more rice noodles and chili oil. (Now I can try it out on my ahi tuna recipe and do it the right way!) I did eventually find oyster sauce, but it wasn’t gluten free so I had to pass that one up.
I left the store somewhat satisfied because I found some things I wanted, even if I didn’t end up going though with the Drunken Noodles. But I had one more trick up my sleeve and wasn’t ready to completely give up on the Saffron hunt. I headed across the street to Sprouts (which is basically a small good food store type chain). After a little looking and almost giving up entirely . . . Halleluiah! I found the Saffron! I found the Saffron! I go to grab the bottle off the shelf and then see the price . . . (I still can’t get over this.) This sorry excuse for a spice costs $9.99 for 0.01 oz (or $999.00 per oz). (Quick side note . . . my husband and I always joke that when an establishment charges too much for a good or service that they are charging “crack prices.” Well I did a little research, and, as it turns out, the price of Saffron actually is incredibly similar to the price of crack on the street. This also probably means that my phone is now flagged by the DEA for looking up crack prices, but I guess that is the price I have to pay for making my point about Saffron.)
I couldn’t believe it. This tiny little baggie, inside of a jar was going to cost more than most of the other ingredients involved in this recipe. I couldn’t bring myself to pay for it, and I’m glad that I didn’t. At this point I was 100% team Drunken Noodles. Saffron can go screw itself. In order to make this Drunken Noodle recipe work out, I needed 2 more key ingredients (everything else I already had at home or had recently purchased). Oyster sauce and red chili peppers were all that was left on the list. I would finish up my shopping really quick at Sprouts and then be on my merry way, right? WRONG. I did get lucky and found Oyster sauce that happened to be gluten free pretty quickly, so that was a pleasant surprise. Next up, red chili peppers. No problem. I head over to the produce and swear I looked everywhere for the shittin’ chili peppers.
They. Are. Not. Anywhere. What the hell is the deal today? Why me? What is this? At this point I am just getting pissed, so I bag the Drunken Noodles idea and go for plan C. It’s not that I didn’t want to make the Cabbage sautéed with chicken. It just wasn’t my number one choice. At this point I didn’t give a crap though. I had a bag of ice and other perishable items in the back of my car and was ready to be done with my wild goose chase. I grabbed 2 carrots and a head of cabbage because that was basically all I needed to make this one work. (I had olive oil, chicken, paprika, bay leaves and salt and pepper at home and had recently purchased chicken stock for one of the previous recipes so I was good to go.) Only one thing was left on the list for Cabbage chicken, and that was tomatoes. I located the tomatoes, and as I reach for a produce bag to put my tomatoes in, I see the damn red chili peppers. At this point I’m about ready to throw a temper tantrum and dropkick my cabbage across the store, but I managed to refrain.
I certainly wasn’t going to put my cabbage and carrots back, so I took mental note of the location of the red chili peppers, grabbed the tomatoes, and got the hell out of there. When I got home, I had calmed down, partially because it was my day off and I was still having a nice time, partially because I realized that this would be a pretty funny story to write about. I had moved on. I no longer gave two shits about Saffron. I was going to make a delicious dinner of Cabbage chicken, and it was going to rock super hard. I put my groceries away, fired up the turntable, and listened to some records while I went about my house business for the afternoon.
By about 4:30 I figured I would start doing my prep work for dinner since it needed to cook then simmer for a total of about an hour. First thing is first, gotta thaw some chicken. I open the freezer and find AN EMPTY BAG that is supposed to have frozen chicken breasts in it. Done. Just done.
I texted my husband, and he stopped at the store on the way home to get some chicken thighs and dish soap (plus some adult beverages for me). Dinner was actually really easy to make, and I served it over the rice noodles (yay). It turned out pretty well. It wasn’t exactly mind blowing, but it was very inexpensive, relatively healthy, easy to make, and I was pleased with how it tasted.
Plus it didn’t involve Saffron.
P.S. Next week (if I’m feeling up to it) I will probably try the Drunken Noodles recipe because it does sound pretty awesome. If I do, I’ll let you know how it turns out. I included the recipe for the Saffron chicken in case you want to try it. Let me know if you do; I’m curious how it turns out.
Saffron Chicken with Parsley and Lemon: http://www.kalynskitchen.com/2005/11/saffron-chicken-with-parsley.html
Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao): http://thewoksoflife.com/2016/03/drunken-noodles-pad-kee-mao/
Cabbage sautéed with chicken: http://cooktoria.com/recipe/cabbage-sauteed-chicken/