There are days, days where I feel like I'm never going to have a moment to enjoy cooking again. Days where I'm eating a ham sandwich for dinner for the fifth night in a row, days where I drink one beer and am too exhausted to even consider heating up a bowl of Spaghetti-Os, and even ordering from Pizza Hut online is a serious struggle.
And then there are days like today.
Days where I feel like I've got it right. Days where the preparations and back work I do on the weekends and on nights when I have a lot of time pays off. Days where I feel like my kitchen really has reached that self sustaining perpetual bliss that is always described in the forewords of cookbooks in accusatory, 'if you can't do this you're not really a home chef' tones.
Days like, well, today.
Today I took the bus. Usually that means I'll get home late and exhasuted, have a Saint Arnold whatever (Christmas Ale of late), eat a bit of cheese and collapse on the couch, lucky if I have a few saltines and some summer sausage before bed. But today was different. I knew ahead of time that tonight I would somehow cook the venison backstrap my brother in law brought home for me, and that I had been thawing since Sunday. I knew this because I had worked out a meal plan on Sunday, and so I had prepared to have the meat ready to go when I got home on Wednesday evening, along with a few other key ingredients.
On the bus, I read the Food section in the Chron. There was a review of an Australian winery, and a recommentation for a $9 Shiraz with a complex fruity and spicy flavor. I decided to stop at Spec's on the way home (2 minutes from the Bay Area P&R) – I thought this wine would go well with the venison. (The Shiraz was a 2004 Wynn's)
I got home and got to it. I pulled out the backstrap, about the size of a pork tenderloin (that's what it is after all), washed it off and wrapped it in bacon. I decided grilled venison would be nice, and so grabbed charcoal and some mesquite wood chunks I keep for just such an occasion. I fired up the Weber I keep right outside the kitchen, and while the fire was getting hot I made the salad out of avocados and tomatoes I had purchased on Sunday, both of which had jut hit the peak of ripeness.
Thinking about a starch course I remembered the surplus cheese and garlic mashed potatoes I made on Monday, and I put those on to heat, splashing them with just a bit of the heavy cream I always keep on hand.
I cracked open the wine, poured myself a glass, put my backstrap-mignon on the now hot grill, put the avocado, tomato and basil salad in the fridge to set up and settled in on the couch to watch a little Law and Order with Jaime.
In about 35 minutes, the backstrap was ready, the bacon crispy and mesquite smelling. I let it rest a few minutes and then carved off 3 medallions each for Jaime and I. Potatoes, perfectly creamy and just warmed, salad, just cold enough to taste right, and a hand torn piece of my baguettes, 1 day old and still tasting awesome, chewy and substantial made for a heck of a home cooked plate.
I drank my wine (the youngm fruity peppered flavor melding perfectly with the smoky game) and just couldn't believe that I had prepared, basically, a three course balanced meal with completely from-scratch ingredients, and had spent maybe 30 minutes total in the kitchen.
THAT'S a sustainable kitchen, and THAT'S what keeps me cooking. People say that you play golf for the one shot in a thousand that makes you feel like a pro. Tonight was that way for me.