Storm Warning, Careful In The Kitchen

by Kevin Burton

   Our favorite Mexican restaurant has an offering called “Special Rice.”  It is special but I think I can do better.

   There it is kids, your official warning: I’m headed back into the kitchen.

   I don’t mind cooking but don’t truly love it. Mostly I rush through the process without proper care to such nuances as measuring cups, cutting boards or our smoke alarm.

   Every once in a while though I get tired of eating the same old things and get the urge to create. 

   Here’s how it usually works. I get the idea and things start to materialize on the kitchen counter to the right of the sink, near the juicer we never use.  In this case, boxes of Minute Rice, Lipton onion soup mix and some very small pans.

   This is like a gathering storm my wife Jeannette can monitor. She can see the signs and will take shelter when necessary.

   The small pans are ideal for Jeannette to make bread in and also for me to create experimental rice-based dishes.  I’ll end up cooking just enough of it for us to sample and tweak if necessary before making a bigger batch.

   Recently we had a boil water advisory in the town where we live. That delayed my kitchen foray, as did a strange shortage of mushrooms.

   My rule for restaurant meals is, you have to be able to beat my cooking. This is not an exceptionally high bar to jump over. (Shockingly, there are some places that can’t meet this low standard).

   Special Rice has its meat variations.  The dish is rice in cheese sauce with bell peppers, onions and mushrooms. They make it with steak, chicken or shrimp. We’ll stick to chicken mostly. But I can imagine a version made with pork or sausage, or, if I ever advance to grad-school-level cooking, fish.

   It’s the cheese sauce I think I can improve upon. It’s good but by the time you eat your meal and the leftovers you take home, you’ve had enough of it.  You wouldn’t want a big pot full of it.

   I think the dish would work better with some other kind of base. Maybe cream of something-or other soup from Campbell’s, or that Lipton onion.  I’m not going to try soy sauce because I never get that right. My soy sauce meals are way too salty every time.

   I want to add Chinese vegetables, which we have already secured. I’ll keep the bell peppers and maybe the onions on a limited basis. We have a small quantity of frozen mushrooms just in case my preferred canned mushrooms don’t re-appear on store shelves soon.

   The Campbell’s creamy soup would be used sparingly. There is even a thought of using Campbell’s golden mushroom soup as a base, probably with a brown-rice variety.

   The dish could be made without meat, to be served alongside baked cod fish or chicken.

   Maybe I should get some wild rice to try.

   You can see the possibilities are endless, so much so that even I will likely stumble into one or more that are good. 

    Of course all these variations will fall into two columns, a dish for normal people with normal palates, like Jeannette, and a nuclear one with Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning added for pepperheads such as me.

   But I’m truly looking to create here. The Slap Ya Mama, I will probably only use to “save” failed efforts.

   A good guess is my renewed culinary capers will commence on an NFL Sunday soon.  It’s always good to have something to do on those days, to keep me from checking my fantasy football teams’ numbers every two minutes. 

   Have I overlooked anything? Please leave suggestions and/or your favorite rice-based recipes in comments below.

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