Jenny Famewhore

Cooking style: The lazy chef

Posted in Recipes by Jenny Famewhore on October 6, 2009

The extent of my culinary training is eating a lot, occasionally watching my mother cook (in a peripheral, attention-deficit way– mentally wandering far from the preparations happening before my unfocused eyes), and indulging in a little baking thrice a year (on a good year.) Professional cooking: the balletic dicing of peppers, filleting of a sea bass, or the neat julienne of carrots, is a spectator sport to me, much like how football is a spectator sport that most Americans can passionately drone on about but in practice, relegate to non-committal dabbling.

My mother came from a fairly agrarian background, the countryside of southern China in a coastal town where people caught or bred their meats, planted their vegetables, and lived self-sustainably (what the urban food movements are ironically striving for). Her culinary training was not from recipe books, but rather, from memory, from learning from my grandmother, from trial and error and the natural process of learning by doing. As a result, she would impart her knowledge of how to make dishes like, 酸辣汤 (a spicy and sour soup), 醉鸡 (“drunken chicken” marinated in a white rice wine),饺子 (dumplings) to me not in the traditional form of ingredient-measurement, but rather in ingredient-proportion.

And that’s how I cook– on intuition that this amount of this goes with this amount of that. With passion, with the natural curiosity to experiment. With a million different inaccuracies, and a range of variations from one dish to the next. I cook spontaneously, with little patience for academically poring over the intricate recipe of a French cassoulet, a labor intensive Spanish paella, and anything that requires more than 10 minutes to digest the instructions and execute. I cook minimally,  and the result below is inspired by the taste boredom of eating re-heated take-out Chinese food ordered at 4AM (the notoriously dependable New Hong Kong!) and corporate presentation cheese-platters for two weeks before the food lover in me started slitting its wrists to seek attention.

So I rummaged through my refrigerator, for bits ‘n scraps, and somehow, something taste-bud rocking, healthy, and perfect for the lazy cook (the oven does the heavy lifting here) was born:


What’s in it:

  • 3 lb “kosher” chicken (segmented into 8 pieces by the able butchers at Trader Joe’s)
  • 3 tomatoes (I got 3lbs worth of tomatoes for a $1 from Haymarket two Saturdays ago!!!)
  • 1/2 clove of garlic
  • 1 onion (I used to have them frozen before I chopped them– which is one way to prevent inconvenient weeping, but that was rather unintentional and a trick learned in a slumdog millionaire manner. The refrigerator in my Tokyo flat had only one temperature setting, so I had to defrost everything from strawberry jam to daikon radishes– which were creepy because the water would crystallize in between the meaty parts of the radish, so when the water melted, the daikon deflated and wrinkled like a fetus.)
  • 1 lime’s worth of juice (also, another brilliant 10 limes/$1 investment at Haymarket. Best time to go is around 4-5pm, when all the workmen want to go home and are eagerly getting rid of their leftover wares for way below production value.)
  • a handful of chopped parsley
  • olive oil (enough to coat chicken in a thin layer of the Mediterranean, and so the parsley/additional seasoning adheres more readily)
  • liberal amount of salt and pepper (as you wish)

How it becomes dinner:

Preheat oven to 350 — the hardest part of making this actually. It’s the easiest step to forget.

Put everything in a baking pan and mush it all together. This is my favorite part.. getting all in there, the front lines, fingers coated with oil and raw ingredients. Bake for ~45 minutes, then open the oven and turn the pieces of chicken over. Might as well move around the tomatoes in the drippings/sauces so they don’t dry out. Bake for another 10-15 minutes.

Serving Size: 4 extremely ravenous people.

Food Cost: $13 (opportunity costs/trade-offs: one dessert at Finale Desserts; 2 pork buns at Momofuku; or 3 McGangbangs.)

Lazy points: 9/10 (Subtract 1 for having to peel garlic. What an annoying prep necessity.)

Referenced Locations:

Trader Joe’s
(various locations)
1317 Beacon St
Brookline, MA 02445
(617) 278-9997

Blackstone Street, around the corner of Quincy Market
Boston, MA
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