Skip to content

The Unnatural Cook

a chronicle of weekly meal plans from someone who can't just throw a meal together

Tag Archives: Burnt

Cheap. Easy. A little Burnt.

Used up our leftover steak, onions, mushrooms and jalapeños by making quesadillas for dinner. But I enjoyed piling on the fillings a bit too much and didn’t realize how high the heat was. So we had crunchy quesadillas, which was alright.

I was shamed into making my meal plan tonight. Aesthetically shamed. I deleted last week’s menu and put tonight’s meal at the top. Then it looked so pathetic hanging out there by itself under the heading “Weekly Meal Plan,” I was forced to give it company. I’ll thank myself in the morning.

Tags: , , ,

Two new recipes: Lemon Chicken & Sauteed Jerusalem Artichokes.

Both represent a bit of changing of the ways caused by the blog. The chicken because I made an effort to plan based on what was leftover – some unused chicken legs in the freezer. The Jerusalem Artichokes because I saw them in the store last week and wrote it down on my meal plan thinking I could try to find a recipe for them for the following week. Sort of a baby step toward being inspired by ingredients while I’m shopping.

Both recipes are keepers. I did burn the chicken at the last minute by putting it in the broiler to crisp the skin and then forgetting about it. It wasn’t ruined, just slightly to the wrong side of charred.

The Jerusalem Artichokes were another Jamie Oliver recipe. I like the way he writes his recipes: the directions are clear enough so that the food turns out, but free enough so that you feel like you’re really cooking, not following instructions. I realize that contradicts everything I thought I wanted in the kitchen when I started the blog. But now that the blog has forced me to see that cooking is easier when you understand what you’re doing instead of when you’re following rules – I’m also free to see that certain recipes can actually teach you to become a more confident cook.

In other words, the Unnatural Cook is discovering she has an interest in becoming a Natural Cook after all….

Tags: , , , , , ,

My experiments with vegetables continue. I was able to make a two vegetable meal because the main course was so easy. Two ingredients: ribs & bbq sauce. The country rib recipe came from my friend Judy via Real Simple. She follows the technique but substitutes Bone Suckin’ BBQ sauce instead of making her own which is just what I did. The ribs go from the crockpot to the broiler and can be served whole or pulled apart with two forks to make pulled pork sandwiches.

As sides I made spinach and garlic and oven roasted sweet potato fries. The fries were an experiment in natural cookdom. I tried to recreate a dish we used to get at a restaurant called Beso. I spiced them with chili powder, cinnamon, cumin and salt. They would have been delicious had I been paying more attention while I was cooking them. By coincidence Judy of Judy’s Ribs was visiting and I was so busy talking I missed the fact that they were burning. Enough were salvaged to declare them a hit and next time I’m going to try and add a bit of cayenne. I sort of winged the spinach too, remembering my husband’s technique: Saute copious amounts of garlic in olive oil. Add spinach. Stir for a bit. Add chicken stock and salt. Cover pan and cook for a couple of minutes. Uncover pan and cook for a couple of minutes more. Now it’s a matter of doing the dishes so I can make tonight’s dinner!

Tags: , , , , ,

I improvised! I took the basic recipe I used earlier for the frittata w/ bratworst & onion and devised my own filling. The result was  frittata w/Potato, Asparagus & Bacon. I roasted the potatoes, cooked the bacon in the oven while the potatoes were roasting and blanched the asparagus. It was delicious.

And…my fancy-shmancy new cutting technique (holding the knife straight) worked very well on the potatoes.

I think the blog is making me a better cook. Being forced to pay attention to what I make and how I make it is changing what I make and how I make it. After six weeks I’m less afraid of that change and more intrigued by it. I still burnt myself twice. That’s not changing anytime soon.

Tags: , , ,

I did it again. I burnt what I was cooking because I was writing about it. A whole batch of chips. The point of making our own nacho chips is that it’s cheap and easy. Only it’s not cheap or easy if I have to do it twice. I know one of these days the camera is going to fall in the food. It’s only a matter of time.

The chili nachos were made from leftover chili. The recipe is from Cooks Illustrated and long ago John added a twist which is now standard operating procedure. He made ancho chili powder by toasting dried ancho chilies and grinding them into powder with our old coffee grinder. So in addition to regular chili powder, this recipe has ancho chili powder. The chili takes about an hour to prepare and then you can leave it on the stove to simmer or you can throw it in the crockpot if you need to leave house. It usually feeds the four of us for at least three meals.

Tonight we added a new condiment, red jalapenos from the bodega next door. City life is full of inconveniences but the trade off for all the noise and for never being quite sure where your car is parked is that when you realize, two minutes before dinner, that there are no jalapenos in the house the solution is steps away.

Tags: , , , , ,

I was going to write a really nice post about the romantic associations I have with tonight’s meal, Pepperoncini Pasta  – and then I burnt it. Playing scrabble. There was an incident over an ‘x’ that involved crying. There are so many ways to get distracted in the kitchen. I like to blame my children and they are a constant distraction, but really, I’m so easily distracted by my own thoughts that I can’t blame them for most of my mistakes in the kitchen. I think cooking well, like anything else, takes focus and I find the kitchen an incredibly difficult place to do that. My mind is always on the next thing I want to do, or the thing I stopped doing in order to cook, or what I wish I was doing instead of cooking. It is rarely completely on the task at hand and this evening was no exception: my beautiful bacon and onions turned black. Not all of them, not irretrievably black, but annoyingly so. I am curious if writing about cooking will help the problem or exacerbate it. Yesterday I didn’t hear the timer buzz for the zucchini bread – I have a sneaking suspicion it was because I was writing about it…

Tags: , , , , ,

For Christmas a friend gave me a jar of goose schmaltz rendered from the Christmas goose she cooked. My mother used to keep a can of bacon fat under the kitchen sink to cook with* and my friend’s Irish grandparents saved their fat too: the grandmother for cooking and the grandfather for repairing farm equipment. I’ve never had goose schmaltz at my disposal before and in the absence of a tractor, I roasted the potatoes in it. They tasted wonderful but I set the oven too low (400° instead of my usual 450°) and so the potatoes wouldn’t brown.

I had it all planned out nicely so that while the potatoes were roasting I would cook the ingredients for the frittata, make the salad dressing and have dinner on the table by 6:00. Didn’t work out that way; dinner showed up an hour late. I got so flustered I came perilously close to burning the bottom of the frittata because I wasn’t paying attention to the heat on the stove. In the end, I only burnt a small piece and a kind person would call it “well done.” I still am not sure why sometimes my potatoes come out dark and crispy and sometimes they don’t. They always stick to the pan terribly. Advice anyone?

Not all meals can look beautiful and I guess tonight’s lesson was that simple dishes can go as wrong as complicated ones. The frittata recipe is usually a no-brainer. It’s basically 8 eggs, 1/4 cup heavy cream and whatever fillings you want. The cooking technique is simple: 5 minutes on the stove, 2 minutes under the broiler. I always use a cast iron pan and I never have trouble getting the frittata out clean. It’s a good way to use up leftovers and assuming you know your way around a potato, it should make for a quick and easy dinner!

*CORRECTION: My sister has since informed me that as she recalls it, my mother never once cooked with the bacon fat. She kept it under her sink because she was afraid to pour it down the drain, thinking it would clog the pipes. I think she’s right and it would explain my own fear of pouring fat down the sink. I ask my husband if it’s really okay every damn time….

Tags: , , , , ,