Wednesday, January 16, 2013

And one for Red.

First off I would like to apologize for not posting in a few days. I am sure there's nearly 1/5 of a dozen  people out there wondering what has been keeping me. The quick and easy answer being.... life. Our household has been racked with illness since the onset of the Yuletide festivities, and is finally showing signs of abating. I (knock wood) have been the sole member of the quintet not having succumbed to the big yuk, and hopefully will remain as such.

As you can imagine tending to an ailing household takes a pretty heavy toll on ones energy, creative drive and appetite. Don't get me wrong, I certainly am not complaining about the task. I take a particular joy in trying to make the unwell less so, and feel great satisfaction after preparing three or four different dishes for the same meal knowing that scattered throughout the house there are my little ones feeling not quite as awful as before. Amazing how a simple meal can take the edge off a great unpleasantness. Which brings me to this belated and abbreviated posting.

I was home for lunch today, as I am every workday, and for the first time in weeks it was just my wife and myself. No dashing from room to room checking on the sicklings, patting them on the bottom and telling them everything is going to be all right. A lunch break with out packets of pills being popped, and semi transparent cups lined indecipherable dosage measurements having to be washed, filled, dispensed and washed again. A lazy lunch, and just in time I might add.

Our cast iron griddle was on the stove top making the choice of grilled cheese an easy and down right logical one considering there is a good mid January chill in the air; a bowl of soup with a grilled cheese is just what was in order. Leftover Chicken Tortilla soup from the night before warming in a pan, butter, Kosher Salt, Havarti and Potato Bread all neatly lined up on the cutting board awaiting assembly. It was then, upon opening the fridge to grab something or other, I saw it.

Perched expectingly on a half empty container of Humous, and innocently steadying itself gently on a head of Romaine. There was a peanut butter and honey sandwich made for one of the girls lunch earlier in the day. Immediately I was taken back 30 years to our kitchen on 75th Street, and knew what had to be done. A smile crept across my face before my hand even made it to the little treasure the Universe had left me. I unwrapped the sandwich, slathered it with an terribly unhealthy amount of butter and a generous dose of salt, and slapped it on the griddle. Within 30 seconds I could smell the peanut butter warming up, and shortly thereafter a drip of honey found it's way to the griddle releasing a heavenly Apiarian aroma I hadn't enjoyed in decades. Being a firm believer in the slow cooking of grilled sandwiches, it seemed as though an eternity passed before I could flip it over, let alone get it into my hands, but in the final tally it was worth the agonizing wait.

My wife had put a silly TV show on for us to chuckle at while we ate; I sat, literally, on the edge of my seat wondering why on earth it has been so long since I had a grilled peanut butter and honey in the middle of my plate. To make a now long story short, it is suffice to say this serendipitous little sandwich delivered on all accounts. It was salty. It was buttery. It was resplendent, replete, and without equal for this small town Minnesota boy, down to the last dollop of goodness I wicked off the plate with my finger.

Thanks for this one Mom, this perfect moment would not have been possible without you.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

And then there was one.

So last night, do to a variety of reasons, was a rare, quiet one in our little house. On leaving work a touch later than usual I knew I would be fending for myself as far as dinner was concerned; a situation that doesn't occur very often, and one I normally relish. Though by the time I hit the exit to the parking lot I knew I didn't have it in me to spend hours in the kitchen fussing over that special something or other.

Precisely halfway between the office and home there is an intersection; to carry straight ahead, is to go home. To the right is our local grocery store which, out of habit I still refer to as 'Norm's', even though Norm passed away years ago. Sitting at the 4-way for a time I tried to convince myself to go to the store and grab a few things to make something special even though I did not feel much like cooking. I hoped if I could coerce myself to hang a right, and, begrudgingly pick up a red plastic shopping basket inspiration would find me by the time I hit the produce isle. But this evening it was not to be. Feeling slightly defeated, and with my finger still resting on the turn signal I proceeded across the intersection leaving Norm's, and a potential culinary opportunity behind me.

After making my rounds through the house, chatting with my beloved, and greeting the dogs who act as if I had just returned from a years long polar expedition each and every time a come in the front door, I set out for the kitchen to see what was for dinner. Having been away for the entire holiday season, our  cupboards were more than more than Mother Hubbardy. I mean there was nothing, save for a few potatoes, half a Vidalia onion and, for some reason, Celery. I immediatly discounted the latter as a viable ingredient, and decided to make an old standby, Roast Potatoes. A ridiculously easy preparation, with a very satisfying result. Perfect.

All that is required is potatoes ( I prefer Russet for this type of dish), a non non-stick pan, your oil of choice (Olive for this guy), onion, garlic, salt, pepper and spices to taste.

 1.  First put a good glug of oil into the pan, enough to evenly coat the potatoes once they are tossed in. Wash and cut the spuds into even (ish) sized pieces. The smaller the pieces are, the faster they will cook, and visa versa. I typically quarter the potato lengthwise and then cut the quarters into 3-4 sections depending on the individual tuber's size. 

2.  Take care of the onion in your preferred manner. I typically cut the onion in half from top to stem, and then slice across the width of the onion leaving me with a pile of 3-4mm wide slices. 

3.  Rough chop 2-3 cloves of garlic.

4.  Throw the spuds, onion slices & garlic into the pan and roll them around until coated with oil. Hit with a healthy pinch or two of Salt (and unless you are in imminent danger of developing a goiter or have been otherwise advised by a member of the medical community it had better not be iodized. More on that later), black pepper, dried Rosemary, Italian seasoning, or what ever spices you have at hand. I actually spotted some dried Ancho Chile powder and added a good sprinkle for a bit of gentle heat.

5. Throw the pan under the broiler set to medium - medium high heat. Our broiler has settings from 1-5 , for this dish I set it 3. I would imagine a broiler temp of around 350 - 400 would be about right though. It should be stated that I use the broiler a lot. I feel it is one of the most versatile and under utilized tools in most kitchens.

6. Pour a glass of wine, make a shaky-shaky of your liking and give the potatoes a peak in a few minutes, or when you start to smell them doing something. If they are turning a little past golden brown on the top, carefully take the pan out and push them around  so the non cooked edges are exposed to the broiler. Repeat until the potatoes nicely browned and break under a wooden spoon without too much pressure (approx. 20 - 25 min). Everyone will have their own idea of what 'done' is so just follow your gut on this one.

7.  Dump the lot into a serving bowl, or, as I did, directly on a plate. (Remember the pan is crazy hot so be careful, and don't leave it where little hands can reach). Hit again with a pinch of Kosher salt, may be a squirt of Sriracha sauce on the side if you are feeling daring, and you're away. I had a little Danish blue in the fridge which I broke over the top to add a little somthin'- somethin'. (I would have rather used a run of the mill crumbled Blue Cheese for this dish as the Danish Blue is a tad too strong, but I did not have any to hand.)

This is one of those 'go to' dishes for me when I want something satisfying both to prepare and to consume. It is as simple as it gets, and rarely misses the mark as far as I am concerned; The onions get a little char on the ends while releasing all of their sweetness, the garlic, all but disappears into the oil which the potatoes soak in, and the Ancho layers in a nice even heat which slowly blooms after a few bites. 

I hope a few of you try this dish on for size if and when the mood strikes you. Please remember this recipe, as with most, are simply foundations, points of departure for you, and all of us, to make something with our very own voice in the kitchen.

Monday, January 7, 2013

And so it begins.


My name is David; I am a forty(ish) something father to three amazing teen & near teenage girls whose eating habits range from tree hugging vegetarianism to voracious carnivore, a husband to a beautiful long suffering wife who puts up with my rants about artificial sweeteners, margarine, liquids served in bread bowls, etc., and a wannabe pack leader to our three dogs, two of which I routinely threaten to someday serve as an entrĂ©e. I also, as it turns out, love food.

There are few things in this life which bring me more happiness, frustration, pure unadulterated joy, and absolute misery as preparing daily meals for our happy household. When I get it right...I mean really knocking one out of the park, it feels as though all that is green and good with the world is centered around our rickety little dinner table, and that having consumed this very meal our children are assured  grow up to be a trio of the finest, most well adjusted, kind and loving human beings the universe has ever seen fit to grace the face of our planet. But when a meal goes all pear shaped (which is more often than not) I can't help but wanting to call Gollum up to see if I can sublet his cave.

I guess that brings us to why I am doing this, and what 'this' actually is. This will be a journal for the insanely busy cooks out there with or without kids, those who want to cook more but need to watch somebody fall on their face first so they don't feel alone, and folks who simply love to talk, read and write about food. This is not a 'quick & easy' sort of thing, as I feel most shortcuts in cooking can ultimately be tasted in the final product, but rather a place where I can offer up some views on the kitchen, favorite utensils, appliances, and of course recipes, both successful and otherwise. I also intend to tackle personal hang-ups and foibles; like using the microwave for... anything really, my apparent inability to make a flavorful chicken stock without a Valdez-like mouth feel, and, last but not least, Celery. I just don't understand it.

I am not a professional cook, have no formal training, nor really desire any. I am a father, a husband, and a son who loves to cook for the people I care the most for in this life, and was taught at an early age that love, is in fact, the secret ingredient in every unforgettable meal ever made.