27 January 2010

the hotel homemade challenge

The challenge:
Cook a healthy, tasty, fresh dinner for one, using only the provisions already stocked in my hotel kitchen, along with food purchased from the Trader Joe's across the street

The rules:

  1. Ingredients purchased must be in a quantity that can be used in a single dish, with no waste
  2. Any leftovers must be easily storable sans plasticware, and must be consumable in only one more dinner
  3. Ingredients must be fresh, and the dish must be "from scratch"


So far this trip, I've been pretty good about avoiding take-out, and I wanted to continue that trend last night. I went out of my way to get this whole kitchen, after all, so I wanted to get more use out of it than just stashing some yogurt in the fridge. Perhaps inspired by the mammoth amount of work I had to do and an urge to procrastinate, I decided to hit up TJ's, and see what I could find.

Unfortunately, because all the meat at TJ's is pre-packaged, it's mostly in quantities that are far too much for one.

Steaks are the only exception, but the whole point was to be healthy


Of course, meat is never a necessity, but other options carby like pasta and rice would just have put me to sleep -- not good for getting my work done. Looking at the other options, the salmon looked tasty, but was only available in big portions.

I decided on organic chicken breast, which I could buy in a portion of less than a pound


I thought about doing kind of a stewed chile verde thing with it, but the packaged guacamole kit that TJ's sell contained only completely unripe avocados. Why??? And, since they didn't sell tomatillos fresh, that would have meant buying salsa verde, and that didn't qualify in my mind as "fresh."



The tasty korma and masala sauces also offered up a tasty notion, but are nowhere near fresh


I had already bought a can of spray canola oil (faux Pam) to cook up some eggs for breakfast, so I couldn't justify buying a big thing of butter or olive oil. With the completely non-nonstick pans stocked in my hotel kitchen, that meant sauteeing was not going to be feasible. And with no oven, that meant stewing. When I think stewing, I think tomatoes, so I decided to go for an Italian theme.

Unfortunately, all of the onions were only in gigantic bags



I did find a little $1 bag of skinny green onions, though


The fresh basil was quite lovely looking


I decided to make a few exceptions: canned tomatoes (because I would have used them at home) and dried garlic and oregano (because a whole bag of garlic heads would have been too much, there was no fresh oregano, and I could take both home so neither would go to waste)





The few ingredients available in the room: my canola spray and the hotel-provided salt & pepper



(Oh, there was also a little $6.99 bottle of German Riesling back in the room that would add nice depth to the tomato base.)

Breaking Julia's rule, and crowding the pan, getting just a little sear flavor on the chicken



All those raging bubbles are from the hotel stove's definition of "low" heat (the same "low" heat that burned all my little green onions and got them tossed out)




The finished dish: Chicken a la Suite 707



The total bill: $21, including a $3 frozen meal for today's lunch. Not bad.

Perhaps the Hotel Homemade Challenge will become a recurring segment here on PoMoHo? We're staying at a Residence Inn at the base of Little Cottonwood in a few weeks when we ski Utah over Presidents' Day, so many opportunities will arise...

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