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November 19, 2007

Kitchen Relaxation: Hammer Away


There is an unspoken and seedy underside to the kitchen, which has to do with the fact that when you are cooking for other people, it is a place of great stress and anxiety. Who knows what catastrophe might be unleashed on dinner guests, from fallen soufflés to salmonella poisoning? It’s a wonder that anyone can get through a dinner party without keeling over from stress.


Some might suggest that a good way to relieve stress is to do some mid-cooking yoga, but it’s hard to justify doing the downward dog position when it might result in scorched pots (not to mention the distinct possibility that you might get stuck in downward dog).


An alternative exists, but it is rarely mentioned because it is generally considered socially unacceptable. The reason for this is that it involves an act of violence using a hammer. Or, more accurately, a meat-tenderizing mallet.


Before guests arrive, and at the moment when the stress is at its peak, lay out on a clean counter a piece of wax paper. On top of that lay a boneless, skinless chicken breast. On top of that lay another piece of wax paper.


Now, take out your meat tenderizing mallet and take a whack at the paper-covered chicken breast. You will feel slightly better, and you will suspect that you might feel even better if you took another whack. Listen to this voice . . . an at-ease you is right around the corner.


In fact, lift the sheet of wax paper and look at the chicken. If it had eyes, it would be looking back at you. If it had a mouth, it would be smirking. If it had a voice box, it would be mocking you.




Whack, whack, whack away until the chicken breast is about one-quarter inch thick. Shout at it, “Yeah, who’s laughing now, pal?”, especially if your guests have since arrived and you wish to remind them who is boss at your house.


Now, relaxed and at ease, you are confronted with a question – what to do with the chicken breast? You could slap it on a plate and present it to your guests as evidence of what happens when someone sasses you, but this might be overstating things.


Better to lay on top of it several pieces of salami, or perhaps prosciutto or capicolla ham, and sliced provolone cheese on top of that, and roll the thing into as tight a log shape as you can. Bake this in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.


Remove and cut into bite-sized sections to serve as an appetizer. When you present it to your guests, if they’ve heard you at work, they might have a look that suggests that they are unsure if you are mad or a genius. Take the upper hand by immediately declaring, “Madness and genius . . . isn’t it funny how often the two resemble each other?”


Your guests will take this as an answer to a question they haven’t yet asked, but more importantly, you’ll be relaxed enough to enjoy yourself. 


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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