You’re All I’ve Got Tonight

I know I’ve been slacking here, but between the last article and my ostensible main gig as a painter it’s been hard to find the time. Now that summer is over, I’m hoping to get back into more of a routine. Another plus to the advent of fall is the cooler weather, of course, which allows for such lavish luxuries as baking bread after 7AM without wanting to kill oneself, wearing pants (actually kind of a hardship), and braising tough, inexpensive cuts of meat to transform them into unctuous and sensual delights. And having a pressure cooker makes this last item possible in half an hour flat.

To wit: lamb neck, cut into rounds, from the freezer. I thought to call home and arrange for their de-freezerfication in the afternoon, but the rest of the meal was rummaging in fridge and garden and then clamping the lid on the thing and letting it go.

I browned the neck steaks in a bit of oil, then removed them, adding carrot, onion, celery, red bell pepper, garlic, leek, and some lamb-friendly spices: 5-spice, cumin, saffron, coriander, and pepper. Stirred it for a minute to get it all sexy and coated, and then let it sweat and shrink and brown for a while. Then the meat went back in, plus pitted black olives, pesto, wine, and the last of a big-ass pot of tomato sauce, 17 pints of which got canned the day before. These dregs of a mixture of heirloom paste varieties slow-cooked with a few peppers, shallots, garlic cloves, and basil leaves, then food-milled to a skinless, seedless smoothness, handsomely thickened and bolstered the stew and made it extraordinary.

While the stew hissed and sputtered for thirty–count ‘em–thirty minutes, I roasted a couple of halved acorn squash in olive oil and simmered collard greens with a little lamb bacon and shallot, plus vinegar, random stock, and soy sauce until soft and giving. When I served it, I made sure to fill the concavity in each squash with extra stewy goodness; as tender and succulent as the lamb was, it was not as good as a scoop of squash lubricated with the cooking liquid. I garnished the adult plates with thinly sliced jalapeños for a nice overtone of heat.

I love this sort of cooking; beyond the simplicity and the profound flavor, it also allows for stupid, lazy schmucks like me to bang out serious chow in next to no time on a weeknight. Having a pressure cooker means that you can forget to soak beans and still have them for dinner. You can make really wonderful short ribs within an hour of buying them. I can’t imagine going through a winter without mine. If you don’t have one, consider obtaining one soon. It smooths out a lot of rough edges.

Also, The Cars made a new record? Who exactly thought this was a good idea? Honestly, what was the possible point of such a thing?

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Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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