My week as a kitchen bachelor featured no take-out — and just one casualty

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Many men I know fancy themselves as good cooks. Tossing a nice steak or a few finely-seasoned burgers over some charcoal is enough, I suppose, to qualify you for a “Grill Sergeant” t-shirt or a monogrammed apron. But perhaps a better resume-builder is baching it in the kitchen by yourself for a full week — without your wife and without getting takeout.

Which I have just done.

And with only a single casualty along the way.

You can’t fairly boast about your own cooking or kitchen prowess, but I did casually mention to my wife via phone (she was in Texas this past week, visiting our daughter) and my sister about my culinary exploits of the last seven days. Included was a humblebrag that, aside from a few trips to Starbucks, I hadn’t hit a single drive-thru, made any Door Dash orders or picked up any to-go food. I might have also shared a picture or two of my meal creations on Snapchat, but I refrained from sharing that on Facebook or Instagram — I mean, why gush about yourself?

Why not, says I. Is it not obvious? A proud cooking man’s answer, of course, is simple: leave me alone with a cast-iron skillet, some good olive oil, a few spices, real butter and some meat, and I can feed myself just fine without compelling the neighbors to call the fire department.

My menus included salmon (twice), steak, spaghetti with meat sauce, and baked chicken. Lunches were leftovers. Most dishes included fresh vegetables I chopped and sautéed myself, including favorites like bok choy and broccolini. The lone “instant” meal I made was on Saturday night, when I dumped a warmed-up a can of soup and a bagged, pre-made kale Caesar salad into separate bowls and ate while watching a movie on TV.

Everything turned out superbly — particularly the salmon and the steak (and, I hasten to add, the spaghetti and the chicken). I only texted Lee Ann for help once — when I was starting to prep the chicken thighs for lunch mid-afternoon Sunday afternoon. She texted back a recipe she found online, but I ended up just improvising: tossing the thighs in olive oil and an assortment of spices, then adding in, as I threw caution (and carbohydrate counting) to the wind, some mustard, honey, spicy barbecue sauce, soy sauce and brown sugar.

They were sweet. I mean, way too sweet. But delicious nonetheless, served with some rice I prepared on the stove.

Which brings me to the week’s casualty.

One of the staples in our kitchen is a Vita Clay pot we chiefly use for making rice. We’ve had it forever. It makes perfect rice (toss in with water, butter, a dash of salt) with the push of a single button with no fuss.

After preparing the chicken, I pulled the Vita Clay out and plugged it in as I measured out the rice and water. But when I opened the cooker’s top and removed the clay lid, steam tumbled out. I was surprised to find the plugged-in pot had already started heating up. Remembering that Lee Ann measured and poured first before plugging in, I dutifully unplugged it — waiting a minute or two for it to cool down before adding the two cups of water I was using for the rice.

Then my mistake. I didn’t wait long enough. When the cold water hit the surface of the clay, I heard a distinctive pop. The pot cracked and was ruined.

I made a frantic, apologetic call to Lee Ann, who thankfully was nonplussed about it all. She’d had her eye on a small rice cooker anyway, she said. And besides, our Instant Pot is our go-to pressure cooker.

Relief washed over me.

And the rice? I just poured the ingredients into a large sauce pan, covered it, brought it to a boil and then simmered for 15 minutes.

Perfection.

Now, about those dishes I left behind …

Bill Horner III can be reached at bhorner3@chathamnr.com or @billthethird.

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