Monday, December 11, 2006

And What Did You Have for Dinner?

In many other places it’s well documented that I am a food snob. One of the ways this exhibits itself is the nightly dinner cooking ritual. Even though I live alone, most nights I cook a full meal. A meal from scratch. I never warm up frozen meals, I don’t buy meals in a bag, and you’ll find few boxed meals or side dishes in my pantry. Also on the MIA list in my house? Processed cheese, canned tuna, (or any other type of canned meat) and hot-dogs.

There are staples I always to keep on hand in my pantry. You’ll find several types of pasta: Geminelli, fettuccini, rotelli, penne, fallafelli, egg noodles, Japanese buckwheat noodles, and whole wheat spaghetti. I have just as many types of rice: Jasmine, Arborio, basmati, sushi, wild rice, long-grain rice, and not a single box of Uncle Ben’s *shudder*. There are several cans/boxes of chicken stock, sun-dried tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes (plain and seasoned), spaghetti sauce (and of all things I’ve fallen in love with Hunt’s canned chunky style), mandarin oranges, canned apricot halves, coconut milk, canned corn, chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, pickled beets, baby corn, hearts of palm, sliced and whole olives, diced jalapenos, apricot nectar, Herdez salsa, and curry paste/powder, expensive olive oil, cheaper olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red-wine vinegar, Champaign vinegar, cider vinegar, wild-flower honey, orange-blossom honey, sweet chili sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, and Basque marinade.

In my freezer there are always Sweet Italian Sausages, Beer Brats, bacon, ground hamburger, ground turkey, skinless/boneless chicken breasts, a London broil and pork chops. Also jammed in there are Brussel Sprouts, pearl onions, beer mugs, a quart of vanilla ice-cream, a quart of coffee ice-cream with chocolate chips, frozen shrimp – cooked and raw, whole ginger root and edamoni!

My refrigerator always contains plain yogurt (for a sour cream substitute), unsalted butter, horseradish sauce, Duke’s Mayonnaise, red-pepper jelly, orange marmalade, oyster sauce, peanut sauce, hoi-sin sauce, minced garlic, coarse-ground deli mustard, Dijon mustard, La Victoria green taco sauce, capers, roasted red-peppers, soy sauce, red miso paste, and Will’s Dad’s Tender Bourbon Marinade.

If I’m not traveling I try to keep on hand, a yellow onion, red onion, flat leave parsley, fresh rosemary, thyme, cilantro, a couple of limes & lemons, shallots, pine nuts, 2% milk, heavy cream, and garlic.

You’d think with this much stuff on hand I’d never need to stop at the grocery store. Oh how I wish that were the case. Far too often though, I find myself rushing to the store on my way home for a few last minute items. Usually meat, produce or wine. When I get in the door, I open a bottle of wine and start that nights dinner project. I subscribe to several cooking magazines and haunt their “20-minute dinners”, “Fast-starts”, and “Dinner-In-a-hurry” sections. What I find is my cooking times are never quite a quick as theirs. Maybe I’m not as organized, maybe I’m more anal *shhh* - or maybe I end up talking to a client from the West Coast on the phone in the middle of cooking. Usually it’s a hour between starting a meal and sitting down. An hour I completely enjoy – but also it’s an hours worth of dirty dishes. If I walk in my door by 6:30, that means 7:30 or 7:45 until dinner is on the table. The next thing I know it’s 8:30 and time to clean the kitchen. A few minutes to straighten up the house – and then into bed with a book before lights out. (Of course that was before blogging and hanging out on a certain web-community)

Tonight? Tonight was different. I truly found a 20 minute meal. Okay, closer to a half-hour meal, but I walked in the door at 6 o’clock, and was DONE EATING by 7:00 pm! Woo hoo! And what was this meal? Well, I did break down and fix one thing out of a box. Only because it’s been sitting in my pantry for a year now and calling my name, “Mit Moi, stuffing, bread-crumbs, herbs and seasonings”. People I must confess, even I can only resist that siren song so long.

I started out by cutting broccoli into bite-size florets. I placed them in a steamer with fresh, crushed minced garlic and a little water in the bottom of the pan (but I didn’t start steaming them yet.) Next I diced some red-onion, some more garlic and some flat leaf parsley. I poured some olive oil in a sauce pan, warmed it up and added the onion to sauté. When it was tender I mixed in the garlic, then added a cup and a half of water and some butter. That came to a boil and I dumped in the packaged stuffing and removed it from the heat. Next I took some pork-chops, salt and peppered them on both sides and placed them in a hot cast iron skillet with just a touch of olive oil. They cooked for 2 minutes on each side until they were nicely browned. I removed them to a plate, covered them with foil and placed them in a warm oven so they wouldn’t cool off. In the same skillet I dumped some apricot preserves, Riesling wine, and ground ginger, which deglazed the pan. I brought this to a simmer and turned on the heat under the broccoli. The sauce simmered and reduced for about 5 minutes, then I returned the pork chops to the pan, for another minute. Finally I removed the steamer from the broccoli sauce pan, added a little butter to the bottom, dumped back in the broccoli and added salt and pepper. Next I fluffed the stuffing, and added the chopped parsley. Viola dinner for one. Lunch for one tomorrow and one more dinner!

Now with a meal like that, why would anyone ever want to eat something frozen, filled with 1,000 mg of sodium, or from take out? I just don’t get it.

So again, what did YOU have for dinner tonight and what’s in your pantry waiting to be whipped up into something yummy?


Joe said...

I took a new loaf of bread over to the house of some friends (to get their opinion), along with some leftover chicken chowder (of sorts) and leftover cake. They opened a bottle of wine. We were all happy, apparently; I didn't exactly plan it, but it seems to have worked out fine.

JMom said...

that dinner sounds delicious! I would say I only have a touch of food snobbishness as I too have been known to resort to fast foods and pre-packaged short cuts on occasion. I do prefer to have fresh ingredients as much as possible though. My kids hate my pantry this time of year cause there's no canned goods for the food drives at school :) we have to make a special trip to the grocery just so they can bring some for their food drives.

Pasta and rice is a staple in our pantry, and the usual suspects in our crisper are garlic, onions, ginger, celery, carrots, cabbage, and broccoli. Last night we had left over chicken adobo (stewed in soy, vinegar, plenty of garlic and onions), steamed broccoli and rice.

I like quick and easy to prepare meals too :)

tp said...

"you" did say verbose, didn't you? My eyes got thru before my brain finished - *o*