Monday, September 6, 2010

The Middling Chef Tells All...well, some.

I felt like doing something a bit different this time.

I'm sitting here with a plate of charry bits and half-baked potatoes, thinking about my vast collection of kitchen knowledge. And, more importantly, that I should share this treasure trove of knowing-ness

I enjoy the Food Network tremendously. I watch the chefs saute and bake and toss pans of whatnot high into the air all the while thinking, with a mental shrug of ennui, "I could do that."

Well I could.

I'd need to make a double recipe because after scraping the whatnot off the ceiling and floor there might not be enough for everybody. And I'm sure that whatever the whatnot lacked in deliciousness would be related solely to poor recipe transcription and not my culinary talents.

So with that in mind here is some of my gathered kitchen wisdom, just for you and in alphabetical order because, well, it had to arranged somehow now didn't it?

Curry Powder: If you do not like the taste of curry powder, get it the hell out of your kitchen. There is something exotic-y about curry powder that, when the middling chef wants to add a pop of the unusual, is positively seductive. The middling chef--let's call her the MC, shall we? stands in the kitchen, spoon in hand after tasting the dillweed and sour cream dressing she's made for a fresh tomato and cucumber salad: "this needs something...hmmm...something a little different. A touch of curry, perhaps." The MC may also attempt to use curry powder to season chicken fingers, savory waffles and pot roast. Curry powder, in the hands of the unskilled, is a bit like a slasher movie. Everyone knows the prom queen is going to get it, and mostly you're just going to be grossed out at the end.

Grill Fires: The MC knows that grill fires happen. She also knows that when they happen, the wisest course of action is to close the lid, turn off the propane (unless it is an out-of-control charcoal fire at which point you're on your own), and walk away. New grills are cheap this time of year.

Muffins: When the MC wants to bake, she goes for muffins. A classic muffin batter is the perfect vessel for most any borderline fruit or hunk of cheese (please note that the MC does not condone using rotten fruit or cheese, only that which is past it's prime but not yet compost...and yes, the MC knows that cheese is not compostable). Once the basic recipe has been mastered, the sky is the baking limit. Home baked muffins offer lots of baking satisfaction without the long-term commitment of cakes, pies or brownies.

Non-stickiness: Here's a little something the MC picked up in a cooking class (hope springs eternal). To make a sticking pan into a non-sticking pan (please don't try this with scuffed, shredded or beaten-down nonstick pans. Those need to be discarded. Immediately.)

  1. preheat the dry pan on a medium-medium high burner
  2. add fat to the pan and allow it to come to temp (fyi: if you're using cooking spray on a nonstick pan, add it cold--spraying it into a hot pan is what causes that sticky chemical mess you sometimes see on nonstick cookware)
  3. add the whatnot, giving it a quick stir after the first minute

Note: Apparently this works because the initial heat causes the metal of the pan to expand, then the oil or other fat creates the nonstick layer between the food and the pan. Who knew?

I feel compelled to add...or warn...that this short list barely scratches the surface of kitchen knowledge accumulated over my odd (as in mathematical term) years. I know some secrets about store-brand cheese that would make your ice cream curdle.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A quck 'n' messy transitional post

Where were we?

Oh yes. Summer was upon us, and I took a 3-month hiatus to move. And move. And move one more time.

I moved into a house; moved my son here from Michigan; moved my writing center into a different space altogether (although confession: I only had to do the packing for that one.)

I love serendipity. At the end of the spring semester, once I finally made the commitment to stay here for a second year, I discovered that I hadn't left myself any time to figure out living arrangements for the 2010-2011 academic year. Worst case scenario, I thought, was that I would stay in my apartment for another year. Eventually we will buy a house, but there are some pesky details that need attention before then. Details like selling the one we own in Michigan, which is no easy task right now.

A second year in the apartment wasn't ideal for many reasons, despite its considerable charms. Chief among these reasons were the complicated set of door locks and alarms that required navigation to get outside, and the fact that I was, by about 20 years, the youngest resident of the house. Combined, they made moving my 8-year-old into the apartment a fairly bad idea.

Enter serendipity. As I was beginning to panic over living arrangements, one of my colleagues was starting to worry about her house. She accepted a one-year teaching assignment in Central America and needed someone to rent the house for the year. Through the magic that is Facebook, it came together for both of us.

Last year brought with it the opportunity to rediscover myself, my priorities, and other things long forgotten in the shadow of cohabitation. This year brings my son to New York, where I will be parenting solo most of the time. My spouse will be the one doing the commuting which, really, doesn't sound so bad right now. I suspect, however, that I have a lot to learn.

And we're off.