Kitchen Nightmares

January 21, 2020

My cooking passing the smell test

I like to cook, but I am no chef. Basically, I just like to eat; it follows then that what I like to cook is what l like to eat. If I owned a restaurant, its reputation would be fixed by the fact that “the chef himself eats there.” (The restaurant’s reputation would also be fixed by how the chef seems to hate the customers, but that’s another story.)

I’m always amazed at how much eventually winds up in the bowl

My regular dishes from scratch are meatballs and spaghetti, gumbo, veal or chicken marsala and, perhaps oddly, potato salad. Everything else I grill. Since this story is about the cleanup, what I grill is not important. It’s the cutting, chopping, measuring, flouring, adding, boiling, simmering and stirring that is the roux of our tale here.

I’m not one of those self-anointed cooks who believe someone else should clean up. Since my style of cooking calls for every utensil, pot and bowl in the kitchen to be in play, there’s a lot of cleaning up. I try to clean up as I go. (Carol has watched me clean up, and has come to gently insert herself in the process, both to insure everything is clean and then put away where it can be found again.)

What I cook involves a lot of chopping: onions, peppers, celery, mushrooms and so on. Bits and pieces are flying everywhere, and even Carol despairs of finding them all. My daughter has reported that after I once made gumbo in her apartment, she was still finding bits of green pepper and onion two weeks later. (In the case of sauce making, Carol has come to check even the ceiling during cleanup.)

Anybody got a spare pot to lend?

I’m not much on measuring when it comes to recipes, and this is why what I cook never tastes the same twice. My daughter once asked me for my spaghetti sauce recipe. When I got done, she looked at it and said, “That’s not a recipe; that’s a shopping list.” A cooking teacher I’d heard of once answered a student who was being quite pedantic over adding ingredients. The teacher finally said, “Look, do you want to measure, or do you want to cook?”

My well fed King Cake

The exception, of course, is baking, where measuring is critical. I don’t do a lot of baking, as a consequence. Recently, I did try to make a New Orleans King Cake from a kit. After kneading the dough, yeast and butter for the required 15 minutes, I saw that I had forgotten to add the egg. I added it afterwards, but I seemed to never quite get back to square through the rest of the prep. The final result, which is supposed to be a perfect ring, looked more like a green, gold and purple python was digesting a rabbit. I also forgot to stick the baby in, which I’m sure the python would have appreciated.

Oh yeah, there was flour everywhere, too.

But, overall, I found I enjoyed working with flour and eggs, and I’m buying a pasta maker. I want to make my own orecchiette. Carol said she’ll lay in extra mops, sponges and Resolve.

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