Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In Which I Am Not Top Chef

Today was a Crock Pot Surprise sort of day, which is when I am cleaning the kitchen and making dinner consists of throwing a whole bunch of things into a pot and hoping the result is edible.  I actually make most of my meals this way, come to think of it.  I've managed to come up with some pretty tasty stuff every once in a while, though I've also served some pretty spectacular failures.

The problem with cooking like this is that you never end up with the same meal twice.  There have been a few times that I've made really tasty meals that I've never been able to duplicate because I don't measure anything and I never write any of the ingredients down.  I've considered writing up some recipes, but that never works out both because of the whole not-measuring-anything issue and also because I get off on huge tangents and my recipes end up being three pages long.  Take tonight's dinner, which is something I'm calling beef stew because it happens to have beef in it.  I liked the results and tried writing it down, and I ended up with this:

1.) Peel and chop 1/2 onion, a parsnip, some carrots, a few small potatoes or substitute whatever root vegetables you happen to have in your kitchen and 1 apple and put in crock pot.  Cut up a whole mess of beef chuck, dust with a heaping spoonful of sweet rice flour (regular flour will work too) and add to pot.  Pound a couple of garlic cloves, a smallish chunk of palm sugar and a piece of fresh ginger about as big around as your pinky together in a mortar and pestle and then add to the other stuff.  Brown sugar will work too if you don't have palm sugar, but don't use plain because what's the point. 

Add a generous dollop of fish sauce, a pinch of pepper and a heaping spoonful of Thai roasted red chili paste-- that kind made by Thai Kitchen that comes in the little glass bottle with a black lid. It's mild enough to eat right off the spoon-- it adds just a bit of a kick and a nice smoky flavor. Yum!  If you don't have roasted red chili paste for Pete's sake don't use more than three fresh Thai chilies unless you really like spicy food or you will sear the roof of your mouth right off. 

Stir up the whole mess and then throw in a single bay leaf, because it's a rule that all meals identifying as stew have to have a bay leaf in them.  Pour in plain apple cider until you're halfway up the ingredients and then top off with water until all the stuff in the pot is covered.  Toss in a packet of mulling spices and a small hunk of frozen beef stock (if you are out of homemade beef stock you can use the paste, but skip this if all you've got is the cubes because they're too salty).  Throw in a shot of Tuaca or Fireball for added flavor.  Shot for the cook optional.  Cover and cook until done.

Just realized I put all of that as one instruction.  Whoops.  Anyway, this goes really well with a big ol' hunk of dark bread with lots of butter and a glass of milk on the side. 

After reading that, not only is that meal kind of bizarre (Mulling spices and fish sauce?  Really?) but it's pretty well useless as a recipe because unless you speak Southern Cooking Dialect you probably have no idea what a 'whole mess' or a 'generous dollop' would look like.  I don't speak with a southern accent, but apparently I cook in one. 

So yeah, I don't think a recipe book is going to be happening any time in the near future. 



spherescamp said...

I would totally buy a book full of recipes like that...may not try cooking any of them (I apparently don't cook with a southern accent so goodness only knows what would happen). But it would make a good read! :)

Unknown said...

I know exactly what you mean but I won't follow a recipe even written in Southern terms, so what's the point? Here's to improvisational cooking!

Pamela (Duncanville) said...

Regardless of what language you say it in; this sound delicious!

Should you do a cookbook, for those who don't speak "Southern" you could always just say "add to taste" and let them figure it out. :)

Jess said...

~spherescamp, I absolutely love the kind of cookbooks where you can sit down and read them from cover to cover. Unfortunately I never cook anything out of them. But then I don't use recipes (except for baking), so there's that.

~Mary, we know where we learned this trait from!

~Pamela, that's an excellent idea. It would certainly shorten things up! This entire recipe would be:

Root Vegetables, Beef, Random Spices, Juice, Water, Booze. Add to taste.

That could cover pretty much all of my beef stew recipes right there!

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