Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Angry Chef And The Tale Of The Tinfoil Dinner

I'll admit, I'm a bit of an angry, neurotic chef.  I talk to myself when cooking.  I am always on the move in the kitchen.  I like keeping a tight time.  I also don't take kindly to an invasion of my kitchen.  That's right.  I said, "my" kitchen.

I tell a lot of tales from my past on this blog.  After over 550 or so blogs I thought I would have told this tale.  However, today I realized that I had never written this story down.  It is the story of how I threw my own Grandmother out of my kitchen.  But first, let me start with what I was cooking.

When I was in the Boy Scouts of America we had a great recipe for the ultimate complete dinner.  It's called tinfoil dinner.  Basically, here's what you do.

Lay down some aluminum foil.  Place down some leaves of cabbage.  Place thinly cut potato slices down over the cabbage.  Add cut carrots.  Then place down some thawed out hamburger meat.  At this point you can be creative. 

You can add onions, but feel free to add whatever onions you like.  I also like to add bell peppers.  There are many types of mushrooms you can add.  Then you cover those back up with the rest of your raw hamburger.  Sidenote:  It actually works better with higher fat hamburger.  In other words, the cheap stuff.  At this point I like to add Heinz Beef Gravy (Savory Flavor.)  It's wonderful.

Then you go in reverse from there.  Add some cut carrots.  Put more thinly cut potato slices over them.  Then cover it in some more cabbage leaves.  In fact make sure you cover it completely with cabbage. 

When you are adding layers make sure to salt and pepper.  You can also be creative and use garlic salt and Italian seasonings.  If you like it spicy, by all means add your favorite spices. 

Then you wrap it up in aluminum foil, and then wrap it some more.  Why?  Because you are going to put it directly on the hot coals of an outdoor fire.  Leave it there for an hour.  You want it nice and hot.  The hamburger (and if you added gravy) juices will cook everything with a wonderful flavor. 
Since you have it in a nice fire, it will also have that nice campfire smoky flavor. 

When I was a young teen I described this meal to my family.  They asked me to make it for them.  I had to think about it.  How would I make it at home?  So I decided to take a cookie sheet, lay down the foil on it, and do the same thing I would normally do. 

Since I didn't have a fire, I decided to cook it in the oven.  I set the oven to 500 degrees, and cooked it for an hour.  It worked out wonderfully. 

Since I decided to write this blog about the tinfoil dinner, I made sure to take pictures.  Here they are.

As you can see it is covered pretty well in foil.

Here you can see all the cabbage.  You know you did a really good job when the cabbage is just a little bit singed. 

I've pulled the cabbage away, and you can see the nice mixture of meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, etc.

And here it is on my plate.  It tastes wonderful.  It really does. 

So now that I have explained how this dish is made, I will clarify my angry chef situation.  So as you know, I am king of my domain in the kitchen.  My grandmother is queen of her domain in her kitchen.  In fact, she thought she was a great cook.  (She's not.)  Her specialty was baking bread.  (You better have water or you would choke on it.)  She thought she was creative.  (She wasn't.)

So I was asked to make tinfoil dinner for everyone when my grandparents were down to visit.  She comes into my kitchen, and starts trying to tell me what to do.  I wasn't having it. 

She started making suggestions.  Things like adding tomatoes to it.  I halfway screamed, "What?"  Then she said I should add shredded cheese.  I really did yell, "At 500 degrees for an hour????!!!!!  Do you know what that will do????"  She just looked at me like a deer in headlights.

That's when I blew my fuse.  "Out!  Get out of my kitchen!!!"  I was not having that.  There's a reason I spent most of this blog teaching how to make this dish for a reason.  I wanted to show just how hot and how long this dish needs to cook.  Tomatoes and cheese would just be destroyed in that much heat. 

Besides this is not an Italian dish.  Grandma liked to make Italian baked dishes.  Her version of "spaghetti" was made in the oven.  My Uncle Jimmy called it, "awful."  It was something he did not look forward to.   It's true, her bad cooking was the stuff of legend.  That's one reason I really blew my top. 

I was not going to be given bad advice in my kitchen while I was working hard to feed six people.  My B.S. meter just went through the roof.  So, I threw her out of my kitchen.  I don't regret it.  My grandmother would tend to push people until you stood up to her.  You had to let her know where the line was.  And I did just that. 

Now that's not to say I didn't care about my grandmother, but she could be very trying at times.  She had mood swings and a very sharp tongue.  As I became older we had come to an understanding.  And part of that was my kitchen was my territory. 

So, there are many things I want you, the reader, to take away from this.  First off, stay out of your chef's way.  Try a little tinfoil dinner now and then.  Don't add tomatoes and cheese to any dish at 500 degrees for an hour unless you want it to be goop.  And finally, you can learn some really neat things in the Boy Scouts of America. 

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