The Women of Trust Meal Try Their Hand, and 2nd Chance Chicken (double post)

Greetings again, Trust Meal™ fans! Since this blog got a bit of a late start, I’ve decided to knock two meals out in one post. So, without further ado, here it goes!

The Women of Trust Meal™ Try Their Hand

Natalie was our first Trust Meal™ women’s submission. In a classy move by husband Curtis, she was handed the reigns on what would be his week to prepare the meal, and the resounding feedback indicated that she did a great job.

Here’s how the meal went down:

Natalie getting the first female Trust Meal submission underway.
                            Natalie getting the first female Trust Meal submission underway.

This meal was a combination of recipe and trusting an outside source. The main entree, Bacon Chorizo Smothered Meatloaf, was the recipe. You can find the recipe here, but there are a few changes to the recipe that Natalie made for our meal that you may want to consider:

  • Get rid of the ‘shrooms. – Natalie decided to keep the mushrooms off the recipe. If you’re a fan of the fungi, then by all means, give it a shot and see where it takes you. For this meal though, I don’t really think anyone was disappointed with the absence of the mushrooms.
  • Drop the almond flour. – Again, leaving this ingredient out of the recipe was not a deal breaker, but for those of you who need to follow recipes/instructions/advice to the letter, feel free to conform as you like it.
  • Scrap the spinach. – I imagine that since this was a paleo-inspired meal (you’ll notice that when you click on the link above for the recipe), that these ingredients were thrown in so that the diner could get some extra protein/nutrients while not sacrificing calorie/carb counts. Same rules apply here, if you want it, you got it. If you don’t, then you can leave it by the wayside like Natalie did.
  • Add in 1 egg and 1/4cup panko crumbs. – I was a fan of this addition. I think it gave the meatloaf some extra consistency, so if that’s your scene as well; by all means, get down with the gettin’ down.

As you follow the recipe (again, you can find it here, in case you decided to blow past it the first time you saw it), standard practices apply. However, Natalie did opt for creating her own special chipotle mayo.

There it is folks, the goodness.
                                                          There it is folks, the goodness.

You’ll have to try to get the recipe out of her yourself, since even us Trust Mealers don’t have it. The result though, I’m sure you’ll be happy with..

Just look at all that parnipulation..
                                                    Just look at all that parnipulation..

Yes, that’s a bacon covered meatloaf. You’re seeing that right. Looks goooooooood, doesn’t it? But wait, there’s more to this meal.

Can't go wrong with these, plus bacon.
                                                   Can’t go wrong with these, plus bacon.

You can find some really good twice-baked potatoes, in fact the same ones you see here, at Fresh Market in Fort Wayne. If you don’t live in Fort Wayne, check out your Whole Foods (or equivalent) to find some really good ones. If you’re looking to go all out and make them by scratch as well, you can follow the recipe here.

The last part of the meal was a deliciously-sweet coleslaw. I personally had never really been a fan of the ‘slaw, but I have recently been made a believer. It gave a great compliment to the spice of the chipotle, and also was a cooling part of the meal as well, with everything else coming out of the oven.

Here’s the finished, plated product:

Yeah, looks good, doesn't it?
                                                            Yeah, looks good, doesn’t it?

As per usual, the drinks were had, the meal was eaten, and the critique given. All in all, the critique was only negative in the regard that we’d have liked to have seen the twice-baked potatoes be made from scratch. However with time constraints, coupled with the fact that they were still really good, the criticism wasn’t detrimental, just an idea. That’s the idea of Trust Meal™, it’s not to tear someone down on their efforts, it’s to give some pointers and insights that will help the next time the meal is prepared. Natalie did a great job, and if you take this recipe and run with it, we’re all confident that you’ll have a great meal on your hands too.

Of course after every Trust Meal™, a shot is poured and a toast is made for yet another successful gathering. Next, as is more often the case than not, we all go out to a local bar for a drink or two. This evening, the choice was Chevvy’s, a nice little place on the Southwest side of Fort Wayne (if you’re from here, you know) that serves good drinks and great pizza.

Mmmm...booze...
                                                                        Mmmm…booze…

I chose the Jack and Coke to follow the meal. As a self-proclaimed epicurean gentleman, I often try to pair my food and drink accordingly. I’m also the resident bartender of Trust Meal™, and it’s usually up to me to mix the more complicated cocktails. It’s a job I am fond of, and one that I take seriously, because as I’ve said many times before; it is a pleasure of my life to watch my friends enjoy theirs. Thanks to my friend Alvaro in Lafayette for that one. If you’re ever out there, check out his restaurant, Ichiban. It’s a fantastic place for sushi and authentic sezchuan cuisine. Next up, the 2nd Chance Chicken.

2nd Chance Chicken

This Trust Meal™ submission was from yours truly, Chris. It was quite a day leading up to this meal for me. An interview that got off on the wrong foot (in my opinion), but I was able to swing back in my favor. An old friend making his way back to Fort Wayne from his travels out to the Pacific Northwest, then to the East Coast. All in all, I was on the road more than I was in my apartment, and with only a couple of hours to go before the big meal, I was in a small panic.

What I thought was plenty of time between meal-prep and serving the meal, ended up being considerably less. What’s more, is that I was greeted with some last-second RSVPs that I wasn’t as ready for as I thought I’d be. What that resulted in was some improvised additions and increased portions. Here’s the process:

The proper name of the main course was Roasted Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Oregano. You can find the recipe here, but if you have the Epicurious App for your phone, it’s also on there. I saved it into my “Recipe Box” a long time ago, but until this particular evening, I didn’t have a good opportunity to make the dish. It was a playful, but mysterious little dish (one of my favorite food quotes, oddly enough, from the movie American Psycho). However, the prep itself would prove to be the biggest mystery.

I decided to make some changes to my meal as well. Some of them were intentional, and others weren’t.

  • Shed the skin. – I decided to go with skinless chicken thighs instead of the skin-on thighs. In retrospect, I think that I would have had a bit better luck with the skin-on, but I decided to drop the skin in an effort to make the dish more healthy. You can decide your own level of involvement on that notion, but the skinless option did turn out well.
  • No caramelization. – I also decided not to caramelize any of the lemon slices, as the recipe calls for. I decided against this, mostly, because of my new cookware. I just got some new cookware, and I think I treat those pots and pans better than I treat my car. That being said, I was nervous about the caramelized lemons leaving really difficult stains behind on my shiny new pots. Petty, I know, but you can decide to be more cavalier than I was if you’d like. I think the lemony taste was sufficient without the caramelized lemons, but maybe you like a little more zest in your dish.

The process, and finished product, looked something like this.

Diced Shallots, Lemon Slices, Garlic, Parnipulations..
                                         Diced Shallots, Lemon Slices, Parnipulations..That..
Look at all that purdy meat..
                                                                 Look at all that purdy meat..
First time through. There would be a second. Hence the name.
                                   First time through. There would be a second. Hence the name.

I paired the entree with some of my mashed potatoes. These are pretty straightforward, boil the potatoes, drain the pot, return and mash. When I make them into the dish, I add the milk and sometimes a little heavy cream (if I have it), the butter and the salt all at once. One thing I do not do, is use an electric beater. I whip them by hand. I think there’s something to be said about doing it the way my great-grandma used to do it that gives it a little something extra.

Whip it. Whip it good.
                                                                     Whip it. Whip it good.

I also tossed some asparagus in olive oil, salt, pepper, and a bit of butter. Does the EVOO and the butter contradict each other? Most likely, but I just like the way it all comes together better that way. Call me crazy, and edit the ingredients as you see fit (I think I am going to try some parmesean cheese next time), but I think we can all agree that asparagus is delicious.

I wish I had a grill. I do not. I am a failure.
                                                     I wish I had a grill. I do not. I am a failure.

I will stop here to explain the name “2nd Chance Chicken.” After the first tour of duty through the oven, I plated and served. It took everyone about 35 seconds (in Curtis’ case, about 2.5 seconds) to start to question whether or not the chicken was fully cooked. I had every confidence that it was, and cited a chicken wing recipe of my great-grandmothers. If you bake the chicken like she calls for, the result is what looks like undercooked chicken, by color, but the temperature is more than sufficient to be safe to eat.

In the end, it was decided that back into the oven they would go. A second chance at the dish, since I did NOT want to be and was dreading having the dubious title of the First Flop of Trust Meal™. While the chicken was getting its second chance, I decided it was time to throw out a little pacifier. The Lemon Drop shot.

  1. 1 Part Vodka (I don’t exactly know the quantitative amount of a “part” is, but I use a free-count 2count pour).
  2. 1/2 Part Triple Sec. You can sub this for Cointreau if you are affluent.
  3. 3 scoops sugar. Use a standard spoon.
  4. 1/4 Part lemon juice. You can also slice up 2-3 slices of lemon, squeeze, and drop into the shaker
  5. Shake vigorously for 30-45 seconds, strain, and serve.

Shots all around, a toast to the generosity of the Trust Mealers for a second shot at this chicken, and 10 minutes later we had a plated dinner (finally).

At long last, the meal was served.
                                                            At long last, the meal was served.

Once again, drinks were poured, food was eaten, and critiques given. Starting with the chicken, it was an obvious consensus that the chicken needed cooked thoroughly. I still held onto my initial stance that it was cooked to temperature, it just looked otherwise. However, appearances are important. The asparagus was also worthy of constructive criticism, being over cooked and a little squishy. If you’re cooking this meal, and want your asparagus to be softer or firmer, is entirely up to you.

The usual "Everyone having a great time, Eric being inappropriate" shot. Nothing major here.
   The usual “Everyone having a great time, Eric being inappropriate” shot. Nothing major here.

Again, as is tradition, another shot was poured, a toast given to yet another successful gathering, and it was out to the nearest watering hole for drinks. Again, the choice was Chevvy’s. A couple of drinks and some good conversation with Natalie about a second chance that I had been given with a very special person to me ensued. More on that in a later post. I think 2000 words is enough for one post, right?

So, from all of us at Trust Meal™, may your food and your company be warm, and may your drinks be cold and strong.

This is Trust Meal. A primer for future posts.

It’s been about a year now since my friends and I decided to start doing a weekly meal with each other. The goal was simple enough, everyone gets together once a week, the host does the cooking, the guests bring the drinks. The idea of the cooking was to try something that you had never tried before, or if not, to at least make a meal that took more thought than plop-and-bake lasagna. What was more important than the food though, was the opportunity to come together as friends and spend some time in a fun and relaxed setting.

The name came from a discussion early on. It was decided that, after the host cooks and serves the meal, the host would explain the meal (with as much detail as was necessary) and the guests would offer a critique about said meal. If it was too salty, if there was an ingredient that could have been added to make it better, if there was under/over cooking, you get the idea. Because of this agreed upon discussion, a certain level of trust was required. You can’t just say “the food sucked/the food was awesome”, that’s too easy. And so, Trust Meal™ was born.

Over the past year’s worth of meals, there have been some successes and some failures, but the intrinsic values of the idea have still remained. We still get together to make a new dish. We still critique the meal. We still have a great time together.

The posts that will follow are going to be a recap of each evening. What was made. Where to find the recipe. What critiques were the most popular, or if the meal was a perfect meal, why it was so good. A general description of what was discussed around the table. Obviously, for matters of exclusivity, only 30,000 foot levels of the discussions will be described. You have to  be at Trust Meal™ to know exactly what happens at Trust Meal™. It’s a sort of Fight Club mentality, only the first two rules are going to be bent a bit.

So, who are the players in this Trust Meal™ game? Yours truly, Chris, is not only the author, but also a contributing member.

Not only do I like to cook, but I also like to find the rare breed of men who still like to wear Affliction embroidered shirts in public, as if no one would notice.
Not only do I like to cook, but I also like to find the rare breed of men who still like to wear Affliction embroidered shirts in public, as if no one would notice.

I started taking the cooking game more seriously about 5 years ago, when I was living with a friend of mine who happened to be an incredible chef as well as an incredible friend. He helped relate cooking to chemistry for me, in the way that different ingredients come together to make something awesome. Being a science nerd in perpetuity, it was easy to become engrossed in the intricacies of cooking.

Curtis and his wife Natalie are also charter members of Trust Meal™.

I'm sure they'll love what I chose for their picture. In future posts, I'm sure they'll find something better.
I’m sure they’ll love what I chose for their picture. In future posts, I’m sure they’ll find something better. Side note: Curtis and Natalie are also the #2 ranked couples Uno team in the World. 

Curtis and I worked together for about a year and some change, and have developed a friendly rivalry in the kitchen arts. As a grilling guru, he’s always had an edge when it came time to put meat to heat. Yes, that was intentionally awkward. So is Curtis. If you were writing a movie and had to figure out who was the perfect compliment to Curtis, it would be Natalie. She even has some cooking game, and was the first female Trust Meal™ submitter. We’ll get to that soon enough.

Eric and Lindsey are the final charter members of Trust Meal™.

Also pretty sure they'll find better pictures for future posts, but this is what I had. Eric is, in fact, gangster.
Also pretty sure they’ll find better pictures for future posts, but this is what I had. Eric is, in fact, gangster.

Eric, Curtis and I were all formerly co-workers, until company cutbacks and the like took us in different career directions. Eric and I actually went to training together, where I learned that Eric does not take kindly to airline passengers walking up into the stewardess’ areas and looking around. A life was almost taken on our first flight together. It wasn’t mine.

So, I suppose that’s that for a primer on the blog. Just a few friends getting together to share good food, good drink, and good times. Stay tuned for the next posting, and welcome to Trust Meal™!