Confession's good for the stomach
By Jennifer M. Latzke
Sitting in the Domestic Arts building of the Kansas State Fair, surrounded by the aromas of beef cooking in all various forms, I couldn't help but think, ³I have the best career.² It was the Kansas Beef Council's Kids in the Kitchen Beef Cookoff, and I was one of the three judges to select the best beef dish.
How great is my job?
The six finalists, accompanied by their parents or guardians, prepared some creative dishes using everything from ground beef to minute steak, and each was a great showcase of beef. But as I sat there, I couldn't help but thank my fortune that it was a beef contest and not a poultry contest.
You see, I have a shameful secret. It's followed me for more than 30 years.
And before I tell you I want you to remember I grew up on an Angus ranch, the daughter and granddaughter and great-granddaughter of cattlemen. When you have a freezer full of home-raised beef, you don't really get an opportunity to train with other proteins.
Therefore‹I don't know how to cook chicken.
(Whew. I feel better getting that off my chest.) I can practically hear your howls of protest right on this screen as I type this, and I look forward to your cards and letters. But remember, I grew up in a house of cattlemen. My dad and my brother would only eat fried chicken‹if they were to eat ³yard bird² at all. Because Mom hated the mess, I can only remember three times in my entire life she fried chicken at home.
Dad was so anti-poultry that we practically had to force-feed turkey to him at Thanksgiving and Christmas. And, even then, it was the one dish he didn't take seconds and thirds and fourths on.
So, is it any wonder I grew up in a beef-only kitchen?
Not only that, I also have a secret fear of undercooking chicken and winding up on the Centers for Disease Control's Most Wanted List of Patient Zeroes.
I minored in animal sciences at Kansas State. I took the food safety courses. I have seen what undercooked chicken can do to a human's intestinal fortitude. And that's a lot of responsibility to place on a chef.
Who needs that pressure?
Look, it's not as if I'm incompetent in the kitchen. I can whip up nearly any beef recipe on a dime. Pot roast and the fixings? Check. Beef Stroganoff? Check. Spaghetti and meat sauce? Oh, definitely a check. (Mom's recipe has been known to inspire random protestations of undying love from complete strangers.) Hey, given enough preparation time, I'll even bake you a ham.
But chicken? Well, I fake it.
I'm telling you, the single greatest invention in the history of grocery-dom for poultry fakers has been the pre-cooked rotisserie chicken. With one stop I have a properly prepared, golden-crispy bird I can turn into chicken noodle soup, shredded chicken tacos, or barbecue chicken sandwiches.
In second place of world's greatest poultry fakes would be the pre-cooked and seasoned chicken strips you can buy pre-packaged in the freezer aisle.
Seriously, add them to soups and casseroles and no one has to know that they came out of a Ziplock baggie that way.
That is, until now.
Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807, or firstname.lastname@example.org.