This is by no means a recent event.  This took place many years ago.  Before I was married.  Before I became the culinary giant I am today.  It was shortly after I moved out of my folks’ house.  I decided one night to make chicken.I moved into an apartment in September of my third year of college.  Up until this point my cooking experience consisted primarily of Kraft Dinner and sandwiches.  I was quite talented at sandwiches (less so at KD) so my diet consisted primarily of cereal for breakfast, a sandwich at lunch (the odd time I was home) and typically a sandwich for dinner.  I made really thick peanut butter & jam sandwiches.  A quarter inch of peanut butter per bread slice and all the jam that would fit in between.  These always had to be eaten over a plate because the jam would make frequent and drastic bids for freedom.  Eventually I expanded my repertoire to include pb&j wraps.  Basically the same as above just with a slightly different bread product surround.

Whenever Amy was in town (she only lived about 25 minutes away and owned a car) she would cook.  She is a much, much better cook than I am.  Always has been.  This is not a state of events that bothers me.  She’s better at cooking, baking and grilling.  I generally stay away from the barbecue because my barbecue foods come in two varieties:  raw and burnt.  I’m pretty good at s’mores and so camping is really my time to shine.

One night, being home alone, I decided to break out of my peanut butter mould and try something new.  I looked in the freezer in the morning (forethought!) and selected a chicken breast.  I knew it needed to thaw in the fridge (being a lousy cook doesn’t mean I know nothing of food safety) so I put it on a plate and left for the day.  On getting home after school, I considered my options.

It seemed a terrible waste of energy to heat up the entire oven for one small breast of chicken and my eye alit on the toaster oven.  Our toaster oven actually is intended to function as a counter-top convection oven so this is not quite as bad an idea as it appears at first blush.  I pre-heated it to about 400°F and as it warmed I looked around for options.  I knew that chicken alone would be fairly dull so I perused the spice rack.  I say rack but what I really mean is ‘the four bottles of miscellaneous spices that we had gathered.’  I knew parsley was not a good option and, though I’m not sure exactly what one would use cream of tartar for, I was fairly certain that ‘chicken seasoning’ was nowhere on the list.  The cinnamon was right out.  This left mustard powder.  I am not a big fan of mustard at the best of times but it was the least of the available evils.  I sprinkled the chicken breast with mustard powder and put it into the toaster oven.

Notice there that there were no steps like ‘put it in a covered dish’ or ‘wrapped it in foil’ or ‘and then put some vegetables on the stove to boil.’  No, I just put the chicken directly into the oven (on a little tray so it wouldn’t leak all over.  I am not a barbarian) and wandered off to read a book.  I knew that chicken had to be white all the way through to be safe to eat so I figured about 45 minutes should do it.  I came back to check on it now and again and made some cuts to make sure it was white through.  It frequently wasn’t so I would leave it in a bit longer.  I think it was in there for close to an hour with about 15 cuts in it to check for done-ness.

For those of you who do not have a convection oven, they work by heating up air and circulating it around the item to be baked.  The air was certainly well circulated around my mustard chicken.  I should really call it ‘chicken jerky’ because that is what it had become.  The failure to wrap it up and the myriad not-so-tiny cuts had reduced what had formerly been the cream of M&M Meat Shop’s crop to this sad, tanned-looking piece of rawhide.  I managed to eat the whole thing.  I think I drank close to a litre of milk during the process.  For dessert, I made myself a nice, thick peanut butter and jam sandwich.

un, deux, trois, le miroir noir