There was a time about 6 years ago where I went through what I can only define now as a quarter life crisis. I had figured out I loved food (it only took 25 years of shoving it in my face non-stop to come to that realization) and yet I was working full time in consulting in higher education which couldn’t be further from the realm of food if it tried. I applied to Le Cordon Bleu in Miami (we were living in Florida at the time), I got in and then never followed through with it. A year or so passed, we moved back to NY, I had read far too many Julie & Julia type books (The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry particularly did me in. Thank you, Kathleen Flinn) and the culinary school itch got to me again. I started researching Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and was seriously contemplating leaving my husband, my dog and all our (joint) responsibilities for 6 months (hello, mortgage) to just do it. I talked with their admissions people on the phone, got really close…and then backed out again. Next thing I knew, the company I worked for at the time was mandating us to take furloughs in 2009 (like most of the corporate world). I thought, “this is the perfect time to go to Paris” and started researching the 6 week program Le Cordon Bleu had for that. I had it all approved by my manager and then what was supposed to be multi-week furloughs turned into only 1 week and I dropped the plan again.
I spent 2 more years in this “I love food, I have no passion for my day job and I need to find a way to make it all work” funk until I started this blog.
This site has completely satisfied the need in me to make something I’m passionate about become my living but there’s always a small part of me that wonders if I should’ve gone to culinary school. Would I have made it? Would it have spun things in a different direction for me? Would it have been completely awesome to just live abroad and live, breath and die by food for 6 months?
And then I spent last Saturday afternoon in a kitchen at the CIA learning knife skills (probably the very first class I would’ve taken in any culinary program) and realized it’s one HELL of a good thing I never went to culinary school.
You guys, I can slice, chop, dice, mince pretty efficiently. I don’t cut my fingers off and I can do it with speed. Do I need to julienne, batonnet and brunoise though? No. In fact, I was getting really agitated at all the waste that goes into those perfectionist cuts. You waste half a freakin’ carrot squaring off the damn thing to get the perfect batonnet! And for what? So things can look uniform? Because god forbid my carrots and onions are off by a millimeter when I shove them in my mouth.
So suffice it to say, I don’t think I would’ve done well with some French chef yelling at me about the lack of uniformity in my cuts. It took 6 years, but I think I can finally say I’m happy with the path this food thing has gone for me. Happy slicing my shallots haphazardly while I throw some cherries in a pot and brainstorm on the go what will go well with them in a sauce over some BBQ chicken. The answer? Jalapenos. The heat from the jalapenos married with the tart from the cherries and the sweet smoke from the BBQ sauce? It’s just pure heaven over some crispy roasted chicken thighs.
And the best part? No culinary degree required to make it.
- 1½ pounds chicken thighs with skin, bone in
- salt & pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¼ cup BBQ sauce
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large shallot, thinly siced
- 1 large jalapeno, seeds removed and minced
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup tart frozen cherries
- ¼ cup dried cherries
- 2 tablespoon chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ tablespoon cornstarch
- ½ tablespoon water
- salt & pepper
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Heat butter in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
- Season both sides of the chicken generously with salt & pepper.
- Once butter is melted and skillet is hot, add the chicken skin side down and pan sear for about 5-7 minutes until golden brown and crispy.
- Flip the chicken over, spoon the BBQ sauce on top of the chicken and spread evenly over the skin side with a spoon.
- Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
- Once the chicken is in the oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat in medium sauce pot.
- Add the shallots and jalapeno and saute for 3 minutes until softened.
- Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
- Add both cherries, broth and brown sugar, mix and bring to a simmer.
- Let the sauce simmer and cook down for 10 minutes.
- Mix the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl. Add the slurry to the sauce and stir until thickened, about 1 minute.
- Remove the sauce from the heat. Use an immersion blender to blend the sauce a bit, leaving a few chunks of cherries. Alternatively, you can do this in a normal blender or food processor or, just leave the sauce as is.
- Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
- Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.