Sunday, January 13, 2013

Easy, cheap, and, slow.

While I was looking back on old blog posts to find my first Daily Sentinel link, I came across my first recipe post.

Easy, cheap, and, fast - What a man wants in a good recipe
I was going to title this post “Simple recipes for simple guys“, but She-who-must-be-obeyed gave me one of those looks. So, I hope she likes this.

Note to my male readers: A man’s ability to cook an edible meal and clean up afterward is an attribute highly valued by women.

There is no shortage of cooking shows, magazines and websites. So I say, “why not me too?” Too often recipes are unnecessarily complicated. There are too many ingredients, and too many pans. So let’s simplify it.
A couple of things stand out for me from that first post. It's still true that the ability to cook is a highly valued attribute.  It's also true that there is no shortage of  cooking shows, magazines and websites.  In fact the right hand column of this bog has a link that will list all the Grand Life Recipes  and the recipes are also aggregated on Grand Life Cooking.

But cooking is more than just following recipes.  After practice and trial and error efforts some skills emerge.  Some technique is important. And imagination is always the secret ingredient.  Can you imagine the taste?  What would it taste like if you added a bit of that spice?  Only practice gives a cook that.

Chefs are tasked with inventing a dish and then replicating it exactly the same night after night.  When you go to your favorite restaurant you often order something you have had before and you know exactly how it should taste.

A Cook is different. A good cook  can put together a good meal with items on hand.  General guidelines can serve as well as a detailed recipe.

Yesterday, She-who-must-be-obeyed said, "It's cold out - some bean soup would be good".  There are four or five bean recipes on this blog, and thousands on the internet.  But as the lady said, it's really cold out right now and this is the soup made from what's on hand. I did not want to go out to the store.

Recipe #48 Hambone, red bean and lentil soup.
Red beans and ham

1 cup (8 oz) red beans
3/4 cup red lentils
1 can diced tomatoes (with onion, celery and green pepper)
1 ham bone
splash of blackstrap molasses
dash of Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
That's the recipe list because that's what I had. I often use stock rather than water, but neither homemade nor canned was available. Fresh veggies were in short supply too. I often start with a Mirepoix (onions celery and carrots), but I had a can of tomatoes with stuff in it.

After you have cooked a few pots of beans you know what to do.  Beans take a long time at high altitude whether you pre-soak or not.  I just started these dry right after lunch.  Cover the beans with a couple of inches of water and bring to a boil - then let them simmer.  A couple of hours before dinner add the ham bone and some lentils.  The lentils will cook faster than the beans and fall apart to thicken the soup.  In the last hour sample the broth and add salt and pepper. Remove the bone and chunk up the meat.  Fifteen minutes before serving add a couple of tablespoons of blackstrap molasses (if you have it) and a few shakes of  Worcestershire sauce.  Blackstrap molasses is not particularly sweet, but it does add a nice complex flavor.  The cornbread muffins are straight out of the Jiffy cornbread box. 

I used only half a package of beans because there are only two of us. The general rule is 1 cup of dry beans yields 3 cups of cooked beans.  Note that the lentils have disappeared into the broth. I was using a five quart pot so I made 2½   or 3 quarts of soup. That's enough for dinner and lunch the next day.

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