Random Table Notes
Welcome to yet-another experiment in fine living. Wherein we offer a few notes on the fine art of eating. And whatever happens first to get there…
We invite you, dear reader, to also contribute from your epicurean expertise to our own adipose pursuits. Write us a foody article!
Yes, contributions from aspiring chroniclers of cookery are welcome. In return, we offer no money or valuable consideration, other than perhaps the notoriety of finally scratching that “I want to be an author” itch.
Submissions: Ideal submissions will be of general interest. (Everyone eats, though.) 400-900 words in length. One or two photos – if, that is – you’re sufficiently proud, embarrassed, or entertained by your culinary visuals.
Send along how you wish to be identified too. But, more than anything, have fun. Ask the assembled (and exceptionally bright who hang around here) if you have any particular open research questions associated with your dish/recipe.
The Saturday Gourmet column will appear once a week for at least a one week run. We hope for obvious reasons. Depending on interest and levels of submissions. Otherwise, only occasional hap-hazard disaster briefings from around here will have to suffice.
Aging and Cooking
First thing is a mood-setter on what Aging has much to do with Eating. You have to eat to live. Follows that “eat well” is key to “living well.”
Or, as Pappy said, “My stomach doesn’t know I’m not rich…”
Aging has meant that in our own kitchen, we have increased levels of semi-prepared foods we’re consuming.
Sure, we still eat mostly “close to the source” but once, maybe twice a week, we’ll eat something that in our “healthier years” – more sensitive to organics and preservatives – we would never have considered. Like those prepared “ready to bake” pizzas.
At latest check, there were 53 cookbooks on the “coaching shelf.” None has been opened in 10-years, with the exception of a collectible Hood’s Cooking School textbook and Joy of Cooking where I was reading up on survival field butchery. One other time when I was looking for an allspice substitute while doing a Jamaican jerk something, or other.
Cookery began to change for us about age 60: You either have the basics and some sense in the kitchen, or you’re going to have a miserable (and hungry) ride to the exit. We’ll take food and whatever’s behind “door three.”
Our [current] Theory of Aging is that people die when they run out of goals. Cooking is an easy one – practiced at least a couple of times a day. So’s offering insight in our Comments section.
So, if you don’t quest for baking that perfect batch of German Hard Rolls, or the best-in-your-life prime rib roast, you may be more likely to die before dessert. Boredom kills. Goals birth magic and magic keeps us young. Candlelight dinners…you ARE still having them, right?
Life-force and cooking (and did I mention spirits?) are intimately intertwined in ways that are non-apparent: Qigong, Tai Chi, and stir-fry go well with a bottle of two of Ozeki. With grown up “yee haw!” for later.
Our same [crackpot] theory says if you don’t have enough energy for sex as a senior, either your Life Force is low, or, your marketing skills suck. Amazon offers books on both.
Portion Control? Organics?
“Portion? You meant Porsche’n, right?”
This portion (sans PCA membership) concept is not usually seen by people in the Ure clan until sometime in their 70s. Prior to that, it’s always been “Well, OK, seconds then…” (“Well, if you insist, thirds…”)
All in the “Birth to girth” period.
When it’s two people eating, it’s just easier to prep two meals a week that would previously have been scorned. Premade Asian food – like Sweet and Sour Chicken,or Gen. Tso’s – are showing up now and then. Pot Stickers, a favorite from my Asian neighborhood upbringing in Seattle, are no longer made “from scratch” either. Expeditious for Two is the model. Cook for four; ensure leftovers.
[Technically, the pot stickers are in the semi-prepared category; what being frozen and what-not.]
Another one – same bucket – is the once-weekly pot (or pork) roasts that Tyson puts out as a prepackaged ready to cook meal.
These come as three plastic bags in the meat case. In one bag is the meat. Generally, doesn’t need trimming-up, but on occasion. Elaine and I go round & round over whether ban searing to help develop a rich roux is worth the extra work and clean-up. (Except for marrying me, Elaine has taste…).
The second bag in the Tyson’s roast pack is the veggies while the third is a “spice pack” – to be mixed with 6-ounces of water, stirred and tossed into the pot.
Special Note for Children Under 50:
Do NOT get a slow cooker (crock pot) with all those fancy electronic controls that you can stir from your phone (or whatever). Buddy up the street got one, only to discover – after a power failure – that those damn electronic wonders will not come back on after the power is bumped.
On the other hand, the simple 8-quart with mechanical controls do fine.
Same learning point applies to small space heaters, too. If you use one of those in the winter, don’t get the “electronic marvels.” Mechanical controls still have their place, even if you can’t write them into apps.
Like the phone company message used to say at Directory Assistance (remember that Golden Oldie?) “Please make a note of it…”
Where were we…oh, yeah…
Hacking the Pot Roast
As seniors, we’re very-much aware of nutrition as well as taste. So a Centrum Silver and side stacks with additional C, zinc, and an egg or two for breakfast for the selenium is part of the regimen.
When it comes to “family-sized” meals we generally “eat half, save half” and enjoy the cooking-free day thanks to leftovers. Even when full-meal leftovers don’t survival, I don’t eat sweets so leftovers for breakfast is dandy. (Miss the nicely paired wine, though…)
The Tyson’s pre-portioned pot (or pork) roast packs do have their downfalls, though no fault of theirs. I’ve told you about those Reynolds Slow Cooker bags that reduce clean-up on the crock pot to zero. Rinse, wipe, done with the pot. No more soak and scrub.
The only veggie in their packs that can be “dicey” to my eye has been the onion. They generally have one, a little bigger than an old Dollar coin if you are old enough. We’ll generally clean and quarter a fresh onion (two if Elaine’s not looking and it’s my turn) and toss that in instead.
Tyson’s doesn’t include celery, either, so a cup (or so) of fresh goes in from the start. And, since we’ve got a good pot going now, a 1/2 teaspoon of Kitchen Bouquet and a half cup of whatever red wine is around. Invariably Pisano.
This week, since Wal-Mart had fresh mushrooms in, a cup of sliced ‘shrooms went swimming, as well.
Eight-hours later, the solids went into a covered holding bowl. The rest of the bag’s contents came up to a slow boil in a pan on the stove where it was thickened with oat flour and water slurry making it extra delicious.
We’re found (Bob’s Red Mill) oat flower makes a better gravy, in many ways than wheat products. Big reform for me, formerly the prince of Wondra. Age and gluten sensitivity, seem to go hand-in-hand. I just don’t get that “full and slightly off” feeling when using the oat flower.
A Big (or Gargle) search will turn up additional ingredients. As with most recipe research, the main reason to scan 50 different recipes is to find new ingredients to try tossing in. The cooking? No real magic to that but temperature rate-of-change and cooking times held.
The Cointreau Chicken
Best meal this week – and when Elaine raves for two whole days, you KNOW it was good! – was Tuesday afternoon’s Cointreau chicken.
In a pan, mix a tablespoon (+) of butter and an equal amount of (extra virgin, first cold pressed, organic) olive oil.
To this, either shake in an 1/8th or 1/4 Tsp. of garlic powder (NOT garlic salt) and a 1/4 to 1/2 Tsp. herbes provence. If you like some bite? 1/8th Tsp. of white pepper works about here. Shake of tarragon, as well. Everyone’s taste shades this way, or that.
Crack a tablespoon of pepper on each side of a (washed, dried) boneless, skinless chicken breast. Salt it well with a Kosher or Himalayan salt. Both sides. Half the pepper will fall off enroute to (and in) the pan, which is about right.
Never go “easy” on chicken salting. Yeah, blood pressure and all, but salt is the secret to tender chicken. Main “secret ingredient of KFC chicken is care to guess what?
As soon as you lightly brown one side (medium heat, 5-min.?) of the chicken, flip, and add 3/4 cup of fresh sliced mushrooms and stir it all around.
You’ll let the chicken cook another 7-minutes until a slice looks done, or a thermometer says 170, or so. Juices from a toothpick poke run clear, or a simple “I’m sick of waiting…” (Want us to send flowers?)
Passing this stage, you ought to see a perfectly tanned chicken breast not quite floating in a brown pan of oily stuff, some happy mushrooms swimming, and the chicken itself nearly done.
With the pan still hot and final minute or so of cooking, drizzle a tablespoo0n (or a bit more) of Cointreau over the bird. If you have done it right, the hot oily patch will suddenly boil briskly where the liquor hits. Reason is the boiling temp of the olive oil and butter combo is much higher than the liquor.
If you’re doing this on a gas range (and showing off a bit, are we?) this would be where you administer hot Cointreau and give it a quick flaming.
When you think the chicken is done (but not over), remove to a warm plate.
Into the pan, oily stuff and ‘shrooms, stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of heavy (whipping) cream. Toss in a tablespoon, or two (three for Elaine) of freshly shaved Parmesan. Bring back to almost a boil.
Now drizzle over the chicken. Let sit for 2-minutes or a photo shoot. (No photo this morning must mean No patience!, huh?)
Optionally (gas oven, broiler) you could toss on more Parm and toast the top, but let’s not get ridiculous. The goal is to eat…well.
Serve with any kind of pasta, though we simply dredge the chicken in the cheesy Cointreau and pepper sauce/gravy. It’s just great.
And writing. Anyone can write a cooking article, as I’ve just demonstrated.
Senior cookery is a fine endeavor. The goals include low cost, delicious tastes, nutrition, leftovers, and having something worth doing.
Don’t forget the candles. (Or if you do, make it on your night for the remote.)
Write when you get rich (and full),