The kitchen timer’s been beeping incessantly for more than a minute. “I know, I know.” The mac and cheese needs to come out of the oven. But I’m almost finished trimming the excess fat off a couple pounds of chicken thighs, so I’ll have to let it ring out for a little while longer until I get out of these dirty gloves. “I get it already, timer! I’m coming!”
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I quickly plop the chicken into the bowl of marinade and shove it in the fridge, trash my gloves, wash my hands, and then dive straight into some oven mitts to grab the big casserole of cheesy pasta and get it cooling. But all my wire racks are currently occupied: two of them with cookies and the other two are dirty in the sink from frying chicken this morning. So I guess the crowded stovetop will have to do for a moment.
It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m developing and testing recipes from my home-base kitchen in New Orleans. I’ve already made and tasted two batches of Southern fried chicken thighs (that I brined in sweet tea overnight) and baked off a couple trays of cream cheese–stuffed red velvet cookies.
I’ve got chicken marinating for lemongrass chicken banh mi that I’ll grill for “dinner.” But I’ve still got to taste this baked macaroni with sausage and peppers and prep and make sherry-braised chicken. Distracted, I shovel a big forkful of macaroni into my mouth and then immediately spit it into the trash. Way too hot. I pull up the recipe on my computer and type in “Let cool for 20 minutes.”
“Today is brought to you by chicken thighs!” I say to myself in a mock voiceover as I reach into the fridge to pull out two more packages of poultry to trim, along with some Spanish cured chorizo, dry sherry, and a red bell pepper. The sherry-braised chicken wasn’t saucy enough last time, so this time, I’ll increase the chicken stock to a full cup. I’m slicing onions and garlic when I look over and notice it’s already pushing two o’clock. Ah jeez, if I don’t save some time to get to the gym this afternoon, I might just stress eat a tray of cookies.
The timer goes off again, and I fork out another big bite of pasta. This time the spirals of pasta are wonderfully creamy (rotini has loads of nooks to hold onto all of that cheese sauce), and I make sure to get a big chunk of spicy fennel sausage and some sweet peppers. “Oh man, that’s good!” I practically yell out to my empty kitchen. “I’m calling it!” If I’m this excited about it when my stomach is totally full, then the recipe has simply got to be ready. But my sense of self-satisfaction doesn’t last long, because across the kitchen on the stove, my skillet full of chicken thighs is nearly billowing smoke. I need a cookie.