Cooking is Easy
Last night, I took a small piece of beef roast, floured it, and put it into a baking dish. I added some peeled carrots and potatoes, a couple of onions, seasoned it well, added a half bottle of decent red wine, covered it all and put it into a 400°F oven for about an hour. When it was done, I drained off the wine and roast juices, thickened them up with a little flour mixed into a cup of wine, and enjoyed a great dinner of roast beef, roasted potatoes with a rich gravy, and fresh carrots flavored with the meat. This is simply cooking.
I rarely look at or follow a recipe, although I will occasionally consult one as a loose guide.
The first time I wanted to make a patisserie crème I went to the New York Times Cookbook. But, I didn’t adhere to the several steps the book instructed me to follow: heat the half and half with a cup of sugar, separately whip the eggs with a tablespoon of flour and cornstarch, then add half the hot cream to the eggs and whip until blended, add the rest of the hot cream and heat, stirring continuously over a medium low flame until the mixture thickens, then cover and let cool. Instead, I simply put all the ingredients, the eggs, vanilla, sugar, cream, flour and cornstarch into a blender, smoothed it out, then heated it up until it thickened, blended it again then put it into the fridge. It tasted like a wonderful crème patisserie because it was, and it only took about five minutes.
Daily food preparation should be simple. I rarely use more than a single pan. For example, I might flour a couple of bone-in pork chops and brown them on one side in a little olive oil. While they are browning, I strip off a bunch of kale, and wash it in very hot tap water. I wash kale and any green leafy vegetables in hot water because when washed in hot, rather than cold, they keep their color. I’ll turn the chops over, spread the kale across their tops, season well, cover and let cook on a low flame for another fifteen minutes. Then it’s time to remove the chops, toss the kale around in the drippings and serve. One pan, two forks, two knives, two plates and a couple of wine glasses. A great dinner, not a lot to clean up, and the cost? Less than ten dollars.
The appreciation of a great meal is more important to the cook than most people realize. I have always remembered hearing my grandfather telling my grandma, “great dinner, Agnes. You sure are some cook.” It’s one of the reasons she loved cooking. The cook hearing a compliment for the meal is like hearing the kitchen muse whisper in your ear. It inspires.
Food and cooking are some of the most profoundly loving and nurturing things you can do for someone. What you feel inside yourself as you cook goes into the meal. For as long as I can remember, I have always loved cooking. So much that at thirty-three, when I opened what proved to be a very successful restaurant, I was fortunate enough to have found an outlet for that love, a love which has sustained me ever since. Did those feelings go into my food? My restaurant, Blue Strawbery, ran for twenty-five years. What do you think?