Posts Tagged ‘Cook’

Cooking When It’s Cold

The clenching cold weather is suddenly upon us in the Northeast. It makes one dread to step outdoors even to get into a car, which is ironic for me because being cooped up indoors leads to a path of annoyance and crankiness. In an effort to make this imprisonment productive, I plan the Sunday dinner.  It’s the only day with some possible “down” time.

Because I am not a chef, recipes are my friends. As one who is regimented and organized, I, along with these formulas, have formed a natural bond to produce a rather good meal when the effort is put forth. The process begins with a search usually on epicurious.com or in a cookbook coated with a light layer of summer dust, sitting on the book shelf. The stomach’s mood of the day usually dictates the search words. Tummy said “shellfish” today. While the thought of consuming paella or gumbo or jambalaya pleased me, the time investment wasn’t as appealing on this blustery day. IMG_6101

So I found something not just simple but full of texture and flavor: shrimp with roasted cashews, celery, scallion, mushrooms, peas, chicken broth thickened and parsley with a 45-minute cook time. I counted on at least an hour to compensate for some dilly-dallying, some dancing and singing along to my ipod, a peek at 60 Minutes in the neighboring room and careful execution. I follow the recipe exactly, and because of that, I have never made a bad meal. On the contrary, this was quite good.

I made a bed of jasmine rice – my low-level creative addition – and laid the shrimp mixture neatly upon it, only to be tucked into my now warm belly. Maybe cold Sundays don’t have to be so bad. Oh yeah – then there’s clean up.

Meddling with a Muddle

mud·dle

verb (used with object)

1.

to mix up in a confused or bungling manner; jumble.
2.

to cause to become mentally confused
 
When I read “seafood muddle”, I was mentally confused. I had never heard of a “muddle” in the culinary sense. But stick  food as an adjective in front of it, and now it’s intriguing. One could think that it would be something like a paella with different types of seafood and some rice, but the Carolinas have something else in mind. They start with bacon…lots of bacon. How can anything be bad with an opening like that?
 
Then the ingredients take a turn toward healthy: thyme, celery, carrot, onion — ding/ding, a mirepoux..the French holy trinity adopted by southerners. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Bacon-Infused-Carolina-Fish-Muddle-388690. The leeks and parsley and potatoes make it sound like a heavy soup is on the horizon, but no.
 
 Behold the bed of grits that this confusion rests on like a cloud. The bass and the grouper and the shrimp are muddled together with all this earthiness and then, another sharp turn leads right to the arteries: It gets topped off with a few slices of oven-toasted french bread with — are you ready? — some of the collected bacon fat brushed upon them! It sounds so naughty and yet disguised with the light beauty of vegetables and fish. Oh those sneaky southerners. Thank you for confusing the heck out of me!
 
 

Seafood Party in a Pan

Paella! You all just conjured up a picture in your mind of streamers coming down upon a flat pan filled with yellow rice, shrimp, mussels, clams, scallops, something green like

 peas and scallions or parsley, something red like pimentos or chopped

Paella Familiar

Paella Familiar (Photo credit: ketutita)

 tomatoes. It’s so festive, it makes you relate to the word pinata. And for those that like big parties, you’re envisioning some chorizo and chicken in there too!

I’ve heard that, “You can’t get good paella in Spain or Portugal,” but as it is with any other foreign dishes in America, we’re used to the American version and expect exactly that. The Valencian dish is traditionally made with snails and rabbit and beans and definitely not with boxed yellow rice. It looks more like this:  

It’s not the blast of color you had before your eyes a few seconds ago. This looks like a party without music and dancing, but I bet it’s delicious once you get past your narrow-minded, bastardized definition of ‘paella’.

Throwing my Party

I decided to make paella at home, even though I don’t have a paella pan, and it was just dinner for two. I used a stainless steel pan and made sure I kept scraping the bits off the bottom to get that same crunchiness. I discarded any recipes that called for “yellow rice”. Every box of yellow rice in the supermarket contains MSG..no thanks. I achieved a (paler) yellow color by using the saffron threads and the chorizo, which contains smoked paprika.

The result was my own private party in a pan. I did a little dance before I sat down and let my stomach celebrate.

The following week, I felt like collaborating with my seafood friends in a pot this time, since they all got along so well in the paella. I discovered a “muddle”; this party was almost criminal — to be continued in the next post………

A Stranger’s Seafood Chowder

image image

I’m very organized and probably a bit too regimented – I like recipes…good recipes. So I want to start by thanking Brenda for helping me have a delightful dinner. I don’t know who Brenda is, or if her name is really Brenda, or if Brenda is a “she”, but let’s say she provided me with the tools for a very delightful seafood chowder. It’s exactly what my stomach desired on this cold evening – the smoothness of the cream, the different textures of the meat (seafood), the crunch of the chopped celery and the warm bread, and the bite of the cracked pepper. Okay, so I embellished on it ever so slightly. http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1748,134176-240199,00.html
 
The chowder was so good that I spread the love and snuck out takeout containers filled with it for friends to have. Either they were just being kind or they enjoyed it as much as I did. Thanks Brenda, wherever you are.
 
 

Swiss Twist on Tubers

I stop into her house for a cup of coffee, and there, on the kitchen counter are about five idaho potatoes. The skins are still fresh with dirt from their previous home. The filthy sight of the tuber evokes a beautiful memory – past and fairly recent – of what these tubers can transform into.

Visions of two dishes flash alternately before my eyes, like a disco strobe: her warm potato salad and rösti. I blurt out, “potato salad?”

“No,” she says, “Rösti“. I couldn’t wait for the finished product. I was definitely coming back to pick some up for dinner, breakfast, whatever. After all, where else am I going to get rösti??

It’s a simple dish, but so much love needs to be put into it, or if you’re Swiss, it just comes naturally. It can be made by shredding raw potato (I think the Swiss Miss W pats it with a paper towel to absorb the moisture), or the potatos can be par-boiled and shredded. Butter is preferred in a non-stick pan, some salt and pepper, and it’s fried until golden brown on both sides. Now, there’s a standard Swiss brown that must be achieved for perfection (every photo you see will have the same hue). This leaves you with the dual texture of crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

If it really gets Swiss’d up, to turn it into a meal, bacon, onion and cheese (Swiss naturally) are mixed in with the shredded potato. Want more? Fry an egg on top. Oh yeah!…..I got the call – “It’s finished. Do you want to pick some up?” Silly question.

Two days later, there must have been some extra potatoes sitting around because I was able to realize that other photo that was flashing when I was handed a small portion of……….potato salad! Double jackpot.