Friday afternoon, approximately 2 pm… I had a light bulb moment. The kind of moment that we work towards every day in the hope that it will happen, probably when we least expect it. The creative person’s utopia. The high we chase. Michael Jordan on fire in NBA Jam kind of moment. Free Willy jumping over the rock wall. How many other ways do I need to explain this to you so you get it… dammit?!!
It was big. I’m also going to let you in on a little secret here… it’s very hard to have an original idea in cooking these days. Almost everything we (yeah all of us) do is some sort of a ripoff… of a ripoff… of a ripoff. By the way, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s just like music. Who an artist is influenced by is evident in almost every note of a song. I said almost everything, though. At some point, all of us can have a moment of brilliance. An idea enters our brain to add this or apply some technique to that and it transforms the whole dish and makes it your own.
Friday afternoon is when I thought I was there. Big things were gonna happen this weekend. I would be the Inventor of the world famous Chinese Chalupa. There would be stories written about me… Interviews… Food Trucks…maybe even a Chinese Chalupa dance. Wait… I would need a mascot or something… Let’s discuss the brand!!! This is all too stressful!
All day Friday and into the night, I thought about how I would construct this masterpiece. I wrote some ideas on paper and late Friday night I had the attack plan set. I was a handful of beers deep and a few winter Jack’s on the rocks down at this point, but no excuses… I was feeling good about the soon to be infamous Chinese Chalupa. I scribbled a shopping list together Saturday morning for my wife and went off to work.
Saturday evening, approximately 5 p.m… Step 1- Poach a whole chicken in a sous vide water bath. Crack a beer and relax. Four or five hours later (again with the beers and whiskey… this might be an issue… ’tis the season though) I take the chicken out of the sous vide bath and let it cool. I tuck it under some plastic wrap for a nice nights sleep in the fridge. I go to bed, visions of chalupa dancing in my head. Side note- I think the wife is sick of hearing about the chalupa at this point, but she’s not showing it yet. Good sport.
Sunday Morning, approximately 7:45 am. I wake up out of a dead sleep and my mind is racing. It’s like Christmas morning in Chalupa land. I make my way out to the kitchen. I’m the first one up which never happens on my day off, but I’ve got big things planned, ya know? My wife comes out into the kitchen and says, “Why are you up so early? Are you thinking about the chalupa?”. I quickly reply, “No, I just woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep.” I’m a little rattled at this point, wondering how she had me figured out. Was I talking in my sleep? Can she read my thoughts? Did she read the part about Alanis Morissette?! I might be in trouble, but the chalupa will smooth everything over… I’m confident.
I have some coffee. Make the kids some breakfast and jump in the shower. It’s go time now. I begin shredding the chicken. Eh, maybe I should say I got out of the shower and got dressed before I start talking about what I did to the chicken. Anyway, I’m out of the shower and the chicken is shredded. I’m getting amped up for the chalupa now. I start clucking like a chicken for some reason (I think most cooks will understand talking to themselves and making animal sounds while working… I hope it’s not just me) and I also start singing the song with the part about the chickity china the Chinese chicken. My family is giving me strange looks and they think I’ve gone mad. No worries… the chalupa will let them now I’m sane… I’m confident.
Break time. We head out to get a Christmas tree. My wife is now singing the chickity Chinese chicken song now… it’s a catchy song or maybe her chalupa dreams are starting to look like a reality. She’s keeping it to herself for the moment it seems. Kids pick out a tree. I throw up a little bit in my mouth at the cost of said friggin tree. Get home… put it in a stand. Christmas music has now replaced the chicken song in my head thankfully. Break for a game of Battleship with Liam. He wins one and I win one… no time for the rubber match…back to the chalupa.
Enough with the nonsense. Let’s get down to what exactly a Chinese chalupa is. First, let me explain the inspiration for this- The Venezuelan Chalupa! In short, a Venezuelan Chalupa is made up of the following in layers, like a lasagna- Cachapas (corn pancakes), shredded chicken with peppers and onions, and a bechamel cheese sauce. Repeat. Bake in the oven. Eat. Find a Venezuelan, thank them for being alive and kiss them. Run. How do we make this Chinese?
Cachapas Scallion Pancake
Chicken Chickity Chicken the Chinese Chicken
Peppers & Onion Chopped Red & Green Cabbage Dressed
Bechamel Cheese Sauce Cashew “Bechamel” No Dairy
Sounds like it will work, right? WRONG! It all came crashing down like the career of the guy responsible for putting Guy’s Grocery Games on the air. It just didn’t work. For a number of reasons too and I’m still beating myself up the next day for it. You have to fail to succeed, right? Right?!!
There were two major problems I see.
- A scallion pancake is delicious and I love them, but too chewy to be used in a recipe like this. I let the term pancake trick my common sense for a moment and I paid for it. A scallion pancake is nothing like a regular pancake or cachapa. It was hard to cut and lost the fresh from the pan deliciousness that makes a scallion pancake what it is.
- Never underestimate the power of CHEESE in anything that is layered and baked. Although the cashew sauce was really delicious, seriously it was phenomenal. It didn’t play the part of a cheese sauce in this recipe. It kinda just soaked into the scallion pancakes.
One other thing I found, which was strange, it seemed as though the sous vide poached chicken was too delicate for shredded chicken. The chicken was too moist and tender and was more mushy than shredded. I never thought I would say that chicken was too moist and tender, but it was… weird.
The wife and kids said they loved it, but I thought it was a complete failure and it was. Chinese Chalupa you may have knocked me down, this time, but I’ll be back! Don’t worry, I think I’ll stay away from the Chalupa for the immediate future. Back to the drawing board and now I’m singing that damn chikity chicken song again! FML. Please don’t try this…