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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Comfort Food

This past weekend was a mix of minor chords. Some deep and serious --remembering the shock and sadness of 9-11. Some self-absorbed and silly -- my favorite putter is missing from my golf bag and Mr. Wonderful's putter messes up my short game.  All in all, Sunday night required staying at home and making comfort food.

What is comfort food?  It means different things at different times to different people. Last night, for us it, meant using whatever was on hand and making do.

We had pork chops, which I grilled after applying something I found in the pantry:  "Jake's, Righteous Rubs (tm) Tri-Tip, Steak & Rib Rib."  [After I wrote the name I looked it up on the Internet; the site is here].  Anyway, while I don't know where I got it, the dry rub must have been good since I had kept it.  It did not say "do not use on pork chops" so I used a generous amount in the very thick chops that mysteriously appeared in the refrigerator -- Mr. Wonderful's idea of a hint.  Results were good!

What next?  I found two potatoes, so I dragged out the mandolin slicer and made my lazy version of baked scolloped potatoes -- slices of unpeeled potatoes layered with slices of onion, little pats of butter, salt, pepper and a half cup of cream -- topped with grated parmesan cheese and baked for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees F until golden.

Anything else?  An impromptu ratatouille from the vegetables that were in the house and still respectable!  Onions, eggplant, green and yellow bell peppers, cherry tomatoes.
Here is what I did:  sautéed chopped onions in olive oil on medium-high heat until semi-soft.  Threw in chopped peppers and kept the sauté going until the onions and peppers were soft.  In a separate pan, I sautéed in a bit of olive oil chopped unpeeled eggplant that I had salted with Kosher salt 10 minutes before cooking.  Since eggplant is notorious in its ability to absorb enormous amount of oil, I added a 1/4 cup of vegetable broth and covered the sauté pan so that the internal liquid in the eggplant and the broth would help to cook it.  Then, when the eggplant was nearly soft, I added it to the onions and peppers. On top of that I added the cherry tomatoes, covered everything and let it cook on medium for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Just before serving, I added about a 1/2 cup of white wine and turned the heat up to high.  As the liquids reduced, I added salt and pepper to taste.

Nothing special, but we enjoyed it. Comfort food provided a nice end to a somewhat unbalanced weekend.  Not bad.

P.S.  When I started cooking, "recipes" like the above above infuriated me.  I wanted exact measurements -- amounts of ingredients, temperatures, cooking times.  Well, over time I've realized that cooking can be free-form [this does not apply to baking!] and still be good.  With practice I've been able to figure out a number of things out and feel comfortable in the kitchen even if I have to make-do with what's on hand as opposed to what's listed in the cookbook.  I approach the whole thing as a low cost chemistry experiment.  If things work out -- great.  If not, we can always order pizza!

P.P.S.  When we were playing golf in Pebble Beach, I mentioned to our caddy that I blog about cooking, among other things.  He asked if I was "classically trained."  Well, I watch Julia Child videos and the Food Network, I do like to eat, I can decline Latin nouns, and my next house will be Palladian in style.  Classical enough?

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