2 Chainz was my therapist this past weekend and he didn't even know it.
From Friday night to Sunday night (September 13-15), omitting mornings (2 Chainz apparently sleeps through breakfast), I cooked dishes from his and Chef Aleem's cookbook, "#Meal Time." The 15-recipe book, filled with large dishes for the road and accompanying appetizers and sauces, came bundled with the rapper's sophomore studio album, "B.O.A.T.S. II: #METIME."
The 2 Chainz Cookbook "#Meal Time"
I went into this assignment ambitious, despite the cookbook disclaimer: "Use of these recipes is at your own risk. UMG (Universal Music Group) is not responsible for the outcome of any recipe." Little did I know that not only would 2 Chainz quickly take the place of Martha Stewart in my heart, but he'd also teach me so much of myself throughout the culinary process.
Starting with the cookbook's #Tru introduction:
"Keep in mind, all measurements are at the discretion of your palette. As we all know, some people have a lot of flavor, while others enjoy their food and their lifestyle a little more subtle (boring)." [My initial thought: I only add ketchup to my hot dogs (boring), but I'm Mexican (automatic "flavor"). Who am I really?]
"Meanwhile, be sure to season every single meal in layers as you prepare the recipes so as to avoid throwing seasonings on dishes after they're already cooked, and items being prepared can absorb the flavors of the spices. And while butter is always preferable to substitutes, mixing in olive oil can work, as it's both healthier and ha s a higher smoke point than butter." [So you're telling me I can do whatever I want? I can do whatever I want.]
"2 Chainz doesn't write down his music, it flows naturally from his mind. Follow 2 Chainz, and feel free to freestyle your cooking until you (and whoever's eating alongside you) enjoy it." [Soon after cooking pan-seared sea bass with heirloom tomato salsa with ItsTheReal's Eric Rosenthal and Jeff Rosenthal on Saturday, after having attempted to make Chicken Marsala on my own, I realized the assist of co-chefs for this "first" adventure (first time cooking non-Mexican dishes) was imperative."Whose ever eating alongside you" can make or break a dish, or leave you alone long enough to not care to substitute Merlot for Marsala wine.]
"Finally, remember: Embrace mistakes, and always cook within your comfort zone." [Thank you for my new life motto, 2 Chainz.]
Disclaimer: I'm Mexican. I was raised to use my better judgement when cooking, not measuring cups. Blame mi gente.
Friday, September 13
I should have known I was in for a surprise when the clerk at my local grocery store was unfamiliar with mascarpone cheese. I grabbed whipped cream cheese instead. Or maybe it was when I couldn't find Marsala wine and thought to myself. "Well, I have Merlot at home."
Instead of putting on my "favorite Alexander Wang tee," as 2 Chainz suggested, I put on a tee I stole from my brother Alex (I'm sorry, Tity Boi). I continued to follow the instructions, which included playing "U Da Realest."
It was a fight to stand still while listening to 2 Chainz when cooking, but don't worry, no one was harmed during the making of the chicken marsala.
The dish turned out well except for the dry aftertaste. It seems as if I poured more Merlot than I should have (see disclaimer). After eating one chicken breast cutlet, I took myself to sleep to avoid drunk texting.
Saturday, September 14
Pan-Seared Sea Bass with Heirloom Tomato Salsa and Sautéed Asparagus
I am a stubborn person. Thank you, 2 Chainz, for bringing this to light. When gathering the one avocado needed for the tomato salsa, I found that the lucky avocado that was perfectly soft was at the bottom of the pile of avocados. So, I went for it. I wanted THAT avocado. I didn't just run away from the mess; don't worry. I walked away slowly while making sure no one noticed.
I must admit that I was disappointed at the Chicken Marsala, so understandably so when Eric Rosenthal asked if I was excited to cook that afternoon, I said: "Make this stop." I want to take this time to apologize to Eric and say: It wasn't you, it was me.
We paired up the sea bass with sauteed asparagus. Eric and Jeff donned Adidas sweatsuits, as per 2 Chainz's instructions, while I wore a 2 Chainz promotional shirt. (Thank you Def Jam.)
Eric seasoned and prepared the sea bass. Jeff and I chopped the produce: three multi-colored heirloom tomatoes, one avocado, 1/2 purple onion, one lime.
The dish turned out delicious! The hardest part of the dish was deliberating on whether to take off the skin.
Eric, Jeff and I called our friend, who I won't name, to "leave messages telling them to cop the new 2 Chainz album." Unfortunately, he had plans other than buying "#METIME."
Crab Cakes with Mango Salsa
I need to move. The grocery stores in my Brooklyn neighborhood don't have ingredients that 2 Chainz and Chef Aleem use, and I simply can't afford to get drunk again before I take the second bite of my dish.
The grocery stores near me didn't have fresh crab meat, therefore I asked my friend Alex to pick up fresh crab meat… except I got a call mid-text message and didn't finish my sentence ("The stores near me"). (But also, she should have known that if I had meant to type "store's" I would have definitely used an apostrophe. Duh.)
Ten minutes before a grocery store nearby closed, Alex called to ask me where around my neighborhood she'd like for me to grab crab meat.
Guess who made tilapia cakes that night?
I have never made crab cakes before, let alone tilapia cakes. When Kene Anoliefo, Product Manager at Urban Compass, noticed I was breading tilapia fillets, she and Alex took over, diced and rolled up the tilapia into six balls (why I couldn't just leave the fish in fillets and then fold, I still don't understand, but whatever).
Unfortunately, I don't own more than one television, therefore I couldn't "position yourself in a room surround by a handful of TVs playing Sportscenter with the sound off," as 2 Chainz requested. But thankfully for us three women, "Sex and the City" was on.
The "Me Time" sauce, which 2 Chainz and Chef Aleem suggested I top the cakes with, introduced me to a new friend: Old Bay seasoning. The "Me Time" sauce includes Old Bay seasoning, four tablespoons of mayonnaise, one teaspoon of Dijon mustard, two tablespoons of BBQ sauce and lemon juice. How much lemon juice you ask? They didn't specify.
This Saturday, 2 Chainz taught me that I should care about those who I'm cooking for. Just because I love lemon juice doesn't mean they do, or I can convince them to by drowning them in it.
Also, I hated mustard until I made the "Me Time" sauce. It's possible that my distaste stems from rarely using mustard in Mexican dishes. I didn't know it could be so tasty! I'll be having a conversation with my mother about this soon.
Sunday, September 15
Do you talk to your food when you cook it? I don't. Neither does 2 Chainz and Chef Aleem, for what I know. But Mikey Fresh, Music Editor at VIBE/MissInfo, does.
As "I Do It" played in the background, one of the best songs on 2 Chainz's "B.O.A.T.S. II: #METIME," I cooked the accompanied linguine and prepared the shrimp. Chef Fresco chopped up the garlic and parsley. He stirred the seasoned shrimp, a stick of butter, fresh garlic (instead of four tablespoons minced garlic as listed), parsley, one lemon, kosher salt, and black pepper.
"'Me Time'? It's shrimp time," Mikey said, after we listened to the genius outro on "I Do It."
Another delicious dish -- if you ask Mikey, he'll say it was because of his culinary experise. See below.
Shrimp & Grits
I want to ask 2 Chainz if having dietary restrictions and being slightly picky falls under "subtle (boring)." If so, don't tell BET Interactive Producer, Taj Rani.
I had originally planned to cook fried chicken, garlicky green beans and mashed potatoes with Taj, but this girl doesn't eat anything on a bone, red meat, pork, lamb and is allergic to raw fruits and vegetables.
To make up for something that she really has no control over, she brought delicious dessert: cheesecake and chocolate mouse cake. I see you,Taj.
This Sunday, 2 Chainz taught me patience, and that you can use Old Bay seasoning at any time with anything.
Since, again, the grocery stores near me don't carry anything but water, we substituted turkey sausage with turkey bacon.
The dish turned out to be a filling meal. Surprisingly, the grits were perfectly creamy, considering it was my first time making grits; another thing to be grateful for when Taj and I took 2 Chainz's advice: "sit back, count your blessings, play 'Live & Learn (It Will)' and eat shrimp & grits with the homies."