I read a quote during the week from that American man of many talents, Alton Brown and it made me wonder.
Mr Brown (a food show presenter, food scientist, author, voice actor, and cinematographer) remarked, “A home cook who relies too much on a recipe is sort of like a pilot who reads the instruction manual while flying.”
My first reaction was, “Shut up, Alton. Who doesn’t follow recipes.”
But when I thought about it, I had to admit that he was kinda making sense. Mr Brown is obviously inferring that home cooks shouldn’t adhere too strictly to a recipe, otherwise instinct can be lost, not to mention the joys associated with creation.
Still, just as a pilot needs to know the fundamentals of how to fly a plane, a cook needs to know the basics of cookery, like seasoning or timing or the rudiments of adding heat to raw materials in order to elevate them beyond inedible. In both instances, a basis of knowledge and hands-on practise is required before one goes solo (so to speak). Although I don’t know which would be worse, crashing a plane into the sea or letting the spuds boil dry (the smell of the latter would definitely be worse).
I was reminded of Alton and his assertion this week when the crew at home finally decided upon their favourite chicken goujons of all time.
Friday night oven-baked goujons (or goojins if you’re one of my little humans) have become something of regularity in recent times. With just a little effort, they are the most wonderful fake-away treat, particularly with home-made chips and/or an end-of-week beer. They are also a million miles away from the mushed up rubbish which comes in frozen format.
However, as I can personally become bored with routine, I have habitually been tweaking the Friday night goujons (or googons, if you’re reading this in Fermanagh).
Once you have the process down pat (dredging through flour, whisked eggs and the crispy element of choice ie breadcrumbs), then there are tweaking options aplenty (Alton would be so proud).
As well as adding various spices to the flour (smoked paprika, cayenne or onion powder etc), the crispy element of my goojohns has morphed from panko breadcrumbs to rice krispies to cornflakes and back to panko with added parmesan.
The week before last though, as I had mistakenly assumed that I had panko in the pantry, I was forced to fly my plane with added instinct. Not only were there not enough cornflakes to complete a perfectly crispy crust, there wasn’t a scrap of bread in the house from which to make breadcrumbs.
ENTER THE CHEETO
What I did have in the pantry was a big bag of Cheetos Twisted: Flamin’ Hot. These I had been saving for the Saturday night although as my priority was landing the plane on the Friday, all bets were off.
My resultant Cheetos and cornflake encrusted chicken goujons were declared the finest goujons to ever have existed and/or been created sans panko. And that declaration came by way of the little humans, a demographic which has absolutely no compunction of withholding criticism when dishes aren’t up to scratch. To say I was pleased was an understatement, especially since the plane had been landed without the instruction manual.
Obviously, I can see the irony in providing a recipe when I’m talking about trying things on instinct. But maybe if you try this you might have suggestions on what might make it even better.
Moreover, any corn-based snacks would likely work in place of the Cheetos. Wotsits? Meanies? Monster Munch?
No doubt my Cheeto infatuation will eventually wear off some Friday evening and I’ll dip into whatever else in languishing in the pantry.
2 or 3 chicken breasts, sliced into goukons
3 tablespoons of plain flour, seasoned
2 eggs, whisked
150g of cornflakes
Large bag of Cheetos Twisted: Flamin’ Hot (65g)
First blitz or smash your cornflakes and add these to the Cheetos which you have also smashed. Dump both onto a plate and then stir to combine.
Next, lay out your flour and eggs in separate bowls; don’t forget to season the flour.
Line a baking sheet with grease-proof paper and set aside.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
Next is where the bit of effort comes in.
Take a strip of chicken (I use a fork) and dredge first through the flour to coat and then through the whisked eggs.
Allow any excess egg to drip off and then drop your strip into the Cheeto mix and roll around. Place onto the baking tray.
Repeat until all the chicken strips are thus coated and by that stage, the oven will be hot and ready to go.
Depending on thickness, it will take around 18 minutes’ worth of baking before the choojohns are ready. I always check this is the case by cutting the biggest one in half to check it’s cooked through. Then I eat it.
Whilst the little humans like to eat their goujins with their paws, I like to load mine into a wrap with coleslaw and some pineapple salsa and a squirt of hot sauce.
Michelin Star stuff, right there.
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