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The Unnatural Cook

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

Tag Archives: Challenge

Ever since I came up with the pink sausage sauce for one of my surprise nights, we’ve been wanting to eat it again. It’s funny to have to look up your own recipe but I couldn’t quite remember what I’d done. The only thing I modified was that I added some red wine because we had just a splash left, and I added red pepper flakes to the sauce. Despite all my writing about not cooking bacon and onions together anymore, I went ahead, ignored my own advice and cooked them together which almost killed the onions. Next time I really, really must cook the sausage first!

 

 

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I made up my own Thai Green Curry dish. Me. The Unnatural Cook.

It was inspired by the whole making Chicken Indienne is the same thing as making Tortilla Soup thing from last Tuesday. I really owe it to my daughter who convinced me a mere two months ago to challenge myself to make something up from what was in the pantry. Now there’s no stopping me.

The curry came out pretty well – it smelled fabulous but didn’t taste quite as good as it smelled. Not that the flavor wasn’t good, it was just weaker than I expected. I think next time I’ll add a third tablespoon of green curry paste. Here’s how I did it: I cut an eggplant into cubes and roasted it at 450° for one hour. Meanwhile, I browned 2 packages of boneless chicken thighs in olive oil. I removed them from the pot and sauteed one small diced onion. (Not too long, because I learned my lesson from Carbonara Night). Then I added 2 T. of green curry paste. I cooked the onion with the curry paste for one or two minutes and added chicken stock and coconut milk and returned the chicken to the pot. Then I simmered the chicken for about 40 minutes, uncovered. While the chicken was simmering I cut up one red pepper, one green pepper and trimmed a large bunch of string beans. I added them to the chicken for the last 10 minutes of cooking and put the lid on to steam them. Oh, and stirred in the roasted eggplant too. At the very end I tore up some fresh basil leaves and mixed them into the curry.

I think I cooked the chicken a bit too high because I was trying to get the sauce, which was very thin, to thicken. It never got any thicker, but the chicken did get a bit stringy which means it was overcooked. (Don’t think I knew this – it was my husband who explained it.) Next time I’ll simmer it lower, for less time & keep it covered like I do with the Indienne. I served it with Jasmine rice which, disappointingly, tasted exactly like regular rice. I expected something all fragrant and flowery. But that’s just quibbling. All in all it was an extraordinary success.

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So it’s official, I’m going to try to change my ways. A tiny bit. I’ve been undermined by my own blog.

When I started the blog I was sure that the easiest way to get the cooking done was not to think about it. I thought I had mastered a brilliant strategy for how to serve dinner every night even though I didn’t like to cook. Meal planning and following recipes were my battle tactics. Then, in the act of writing about it I discovered that, in fact, my way was not the easiest way – even for me. I learned that on the nights I didn’t need to follow a recipe, I was more relaxed.

At first this was a source of great concern because I am not comfortable with change. (Is anyone?) But in the end it seemed ridiculous to avoid being more relaxed. There’s just no justification for that. So  I am going to see if I can nudge myself to learn more about cooking without recipes. Here’s the plan (because there always has to be a plan, I haven’t changed that much….)

I’m going to leave one night a week open on the meal plan. When I do the shopping, I’m going to allow myself to be inspired by some ingredient in the store and create a meal around it (Which I will then put on the plan. Again, I haven’t changed that much). It’s sort of like my daughter’s challenge for me to make dinner from what was in the house, only, I’ll have a much better “pantry” to choose from. The crazy thing is, this actually sounds fun to me.

I realized while I was shopping today that my plan keeps me from paying attention to anything other than finding what’s on the list. It’s really a silly sort of way to go through life. As an homage to my former self I am going to post in the sidebar my Meal Plan 101. I’ve had it written for ages but for some reason, I’ve never gotten around to adding it. It will be a record, of how the unnatural cook got her start. I’m not going to stop meal planning, but maybe, over time, I can adapt it so that I’ll grow as cook. One day, far in the future, I may even attain natural cook status.

Tonight we had leftover tomato soup with garlic broccoli and french bread. I finally doctored the soup to my satisfaction! I did it poorly a couple of weeks ago – too tangy, no flavor – so I tried to correct that with what I had around. I added sugar, fresh basil, marjoram, hot pepper and extra cream. Being willing to do it wrong and keep trying is the secret to all success in life, why I thought cooking was different I have no idea.

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