Blog of an aspiring foodie

I think I'm in a zone

Posted by beer_chris on 27-July-2006

There are times I get into zones when I'm cooking. These periods usually last for a couple of months. They are characterized by an absolute inability to avoid cooking my own meals at home, and usually the only way I know I am in one of these especially active cooking times is once I'm out of it – looking back at some of the things I did and wondering how in the hell I was able to pull it off without killing myself.

Former zones I've been in include the last 'I'm going to bake fresh bread twice a week' zone, which lasted two months. There have been times since then when I wondered exactly how I found the time to bake even one loaf on a lazy Sunday, much less pulling some pizza together after work on a Wednesday or something.

Before that, I was in a homemade danish on Saturdays zone. I found a recipe for danish in one of my Nigella cookbooks, and I got into a serious zone, making cheese danishes from scratch each weekend for roughly the same period – about two months.

I really miss that zone. I bet Jaime does too.

I've been in 'cook multi course home cooked meals at home on weeknights no matter what is going on' zones before. Duration on these is a bit longer, generally about 3 months. Usually these are marked by my doing something like making ice cream on a Thursday night after work, or baking 2 or 3 different pies in one night. Additionally, the hallmark of these zones is an amazing ability to keep my kitchen relatively clean – no dishes left over the next morning, unless they have been pre-washed and neatly stacked (because the dishwasher was full). I get some kind of mojo going that helps me stay focused, balance out the cooking tasks and clean as I go.

I just wish I could capture some of that oomph and keep it somehow!

I think I'm in one of these latter zones again. This is the second night in a row I've whipped up a multi course meal. Not everything worked, but again I didn't get started until after 8 PM and this time I fired up my grill (in the dark of course), and to top it off, before starting I ran about 3 miles. Usually a workout is the death knell for any type of cooking – sandwiches is about all I can muster – but I took a little rest and then sprang into action:

Grilled pork chops
Rubbed some of my ubiquitous Randall's bone-in pork chops with TexJoy and cooked 10 minutes a side on my Weber. Attempted to make Cumberland sauce, but couldn't get it to reduce in nearly enough time, so we skipped it. For good measure here's what Cumberland Sauce is:

Cumberland Sauce (From ATK binder cookbook)
2c rosy port
1c orange juice
1/2c lemon juice
1/4c red currant jam
2 2″ long strips of orange zest
2 tsp dried mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Along with the pork chops I served scalloped potatoes:

Scalloped Potatoes (from ATK binder cookbook)
5 russets, peeled and cut into 1/8″ slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1c chicken stock
1c heavy cream
1c grated parmesan cheese
2 bay leaves

Saute onions in butter until soft, add garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and mix until fragrant. Add potatoes, stock, cream and bay leaves. Lower heat and simmer until potatoes are nearly cooked. Remove bay leaves, transfer to a casserole (8″) and cook at 425 for 15″

So – I've worked out, my kitchen is clean, I have pork and potatoes in my belly (along with a splash of Port – some for the dish, some for the cook, right?) and my blog is updated. How long can I possibly sustain this pattern?

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