The induction burner I bought to cook on during the kitchen renovation a while back is another great technology for summer cooking, since it doesn’t give off any heat apart from the food and it’s highly portable. The presence of this device in our house has also meant regular clamoring by the resident small person for shabu-shabu since he loves interactive eating. The garden currently offers very many things one would want to dunk in hot broth, so with some meat from the freezer, some noodles from the cupboard, and a quick stock from random leftover bones we were in business.
A lot of my posts are just descriptions of a single meal, which is a logical format for a blog, especially if one is diligent enough to document them regularly. Ahem. Moving on. I thought that this time around I’d show a little more about how unlike my actual approach to cooking the concept of an isolated, free-standing meal really is.
I make ceramics because it’s relaxing, and because I make the plates and bowls that I want. It’s the same reason I paint; the images I want to look at are not in the world so I need to make them if I want to see them. It’s not complicated. That simplicity is important, and I try to always keep it in mind. What happens to the work after I make it is largely out of my control (though that fact chafes sometimes) so I try not to worry about it too much and trust in the process of making. It has not let me down so far.
I like the daily practice of cooking; it’s easy to get better at something when you do it regularly. And since I’ve been back in the ceramics studio a bit lately, that familiar feeling of climbing the learning curve has been a welcome part of the process. I unloaded a kiln today, and unpacking all the work back here got me excited to make a dinner worthy of the new pieces. My plates make me cook better.
Speaking of essentials–like the pressure cooker mentioned previously–it’s hard to beat having a few containers of smoked chicken stock on hand in the freezer. As much as I love smoked chicken (and mine enjoys a pretty good reputation in these parts) I almost love the stock more. It’s like liquid barbecue, yet weightless and fat-free, so it has an Ali-esque butterfly/bee dichotomy going on. It’s mighty for cooking beans, stews, gravy, or anything else that enjoys a good smoky note, and in a pinch it’s superb as a noodle soup base with a little or a lot added on top.
So in anticipation of today’s big stuff-a-thon, yesterday I ground a couple kinds of sausage meant to hang and cure into salami. But of course all of that pungent meat, fragrant with garlic and spices and the like, was impossible to resist once it came time to shake the magic dinner 8-ball.
Making the rounds in the garden, lately I’ve been thinning little heads of things like frisée, escarole, pan di zucchero, and radicchio so their brethren can expand to full size. I like to manage my thinning as attentively as I can; keeping track of the progress of various greens allows for using them at all the points of their growth cycle, from tiny sprouts to big fat heads and everything in between. Left too long, they get too crowded, but done right means more food from each bed. The work of the last few days has been to remove the last of the too-close small heads so the rest can grow up unimpeded. And since it was escarole’s turn, that led inevitably to this soup.
Following up on the DIY article, I thought I’d show a specific example of the extra refinement that a sous-vide rig can bring to your regular old standards.
I’m working flat out to get a new piece ready for a show in LA at the end of the month, so posting might be spotty and/or lackluster over the next couple of weeks since I’m logging long hours in the studio (the wood shop, actually, sanding hundreds of small pieces and fabricating the aluminum plates that will hold them all together). It’s frustrating, because there’s much gardening to do but I’m not letting myself do any of it until the piece is done. And fancy cooking is likely to be another casualty of the 10+ hour days, though I’ll do what I can.
Winter break found us in Vermont, where the weather cooperated wonderfully; after some fluffy flurries, the sky cleared and the mercury surged. Traveling farther North this time of year may sound counterintuitive, even masochistic, but the rewards were many. Bright sun and above-freezing air made for wonderful cross-country skiing through the silent woods, on the frozen brook, and around the meadow. A bracing breeze offered a perfect balance to the warm sun, and the cloudless sky was a resplendent cerulean vault. There’s not much better medecine for late-winter malaise than being vigorously outside celebrating the season’s beauty and low-friction environment. And such exertions make for serious appetites.
I’m busy, so I have a backlog of posts that I want to write but haven’t found time for yet. This is something from a few days ago, and illustrates a principle that may be my very most favorite of all kitchen truisms: that charcuterie and a well-stocked pantry and freezer can make seriously high-quality food appear as if by magic in next to no time at all.