Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Scromelets and Other Aberrations

I am so weary of having to think about the idiocy of Republicans I have decided to take a break and consider something closer to home and more meaningful to me, my stomach. As near as I can tell the entire Republican philosophy (if it can be described in such a grandiose term) comes down to about six basic beliefs: Lie and Steal, Snatch and Grab, Hoard and Gloat. Anyway, on to my stomach:

I have been blessed in my life by having had two wives who were wonderful and serious cooks. My current wife of 27 years is a Gourmet-class chef who has fed me so unbelievably well over the years it is remarkable that I still remain merely somewhat overweight but not obese. I once had a wife for a time whose culinary skills were restricted to two things: bananas wrapped in bacon for breakfast and tongue. How she had mastered merely these two dishes has always been a mystery to me. As she also claimed not to know how to use a broom I did not pursue the issue as I might have. But I digress.

The problem with my current wife is not that she is quite likely the greatest cook in Idaho, but, rather, because of her teaching duties, she is not always home to feed me. This means, of course, that I must sometimes cook. The title of this blog should probably be: Scromlettes and Other Aberrations: Cooking By and For Little Old Men. I have already discussed food a couple of times, my adventures with pig’s feet, for example (Morialekafa 8-14-05), and also my fondness for sardines (Morialekafa 6-07-06), but there is more in the way of food that challenges me.

When I was a child my father (and thus also myself) were strictly meat and potato eaters. If every meal did not include meat we did not consider it food. Vegetables, blah, pasta, never, rice, foreign, and so on. It was so bad my poor mother tried to serve us steaks on beds of lettuce in the vain hope we might actually consume some, if only by accident. Until I left home, traveled, and eventually married, I stuck pretty much to the regimen of meat and potatoes. Gradually, over the years, I began to appreciate a much broader menu. I can cook, of course, and if I stick to the basics, pretty well. Ham and eggs and scrambled eggs I do fine, steaks too, although I seldom eat one anymore, partly because of the exorbitant price but mostly for health reasons. Fish and shell fish I have no trouble with. I have come to enjoy vegetables and can cook them passably well. The basic techniques of frying, roasting, baking, barbecuing and steaming I can handle. My problem is, that having been exposed to somewhat more complicated things, I generally fail. Omelettes are perhaps the best example. I consistently fail at them. I love Spanish omelets, but when I try to make one at the very last moment I fail. That is why I refer to them as “scromelets,” Spanish omelets in the style of scrambled eggs. This is a constant source of frustration for me (as well as embarrassment). Baked oysters have also given me trouble, although I cannot understand why, the basic recipe is so simple even a child should be able to do it. I found a recipe for “Baked Oysters Italiano,” seemingly simple, but when I made them they did not turn out as expected. I did not enjoy them. I stubbornly kept at it until after many attempts I managed to make baked oysters that I could enjoy. But by this time they deviated so markedly from Baked Oysters Italiano I now refer to those I make as Baked Oysters Morialekafa, but at least I enjoy them. I have mastered at least one form of apple pie but pumpkin pies still rather eludes me. I did not understand that when you assemble a pumpkin pie to go into the oven the pumpkin is still a liquid. By the time I get one to the oven there are little splotches of pumpkin all over the kitchen floor, a real nuisance to clean up.

It is, as you are probably aware, difficult to cook just for one person, and recipes do not always do well when arbitrarily reduced. For this reason I sometimes disdain the recipe and just “wing it.” I sometimes do a pretty good version of Shrimp Vera Cruz but it is probably more like Shrimp a la Kitchen Sink. Once when my wife was gone for a week I made a terrific Paella, but as it lasted for the entire week I was pretty tired of it by the time she returned. By now I have developed a repertoire and stick to it fairly well: Pork Schnitzel, Breaded Rockfish, Oyster stew, Baked and Fried Oysters, Shrimp a la Kitchen Sink, Steamed Cod, Hangtown Fry, Beef stew, Liver and onions, Ham and eggs, Scromelets, and Sausages and Beans, as well as an occasional roast chicken. When I can I also try Salmon, Whitefish, Mussels, and even Octopus (some of these we can only find in Canada). Sometimes I dream of Cassoulet, Choucrute, Ossobuco, Lapin au Saupiquet, and even Pied de Cochon, but, alas, they are not for Little Old Men cooking for themselves (happily I have my wife).

A couple of years ago my wife came home with a book on Charcuterie (Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn). Naturally, being an unrepentant carnivore, I plunged into it, quickly making bacon, corned beef, and Guanchiale, all of which I thought were very successful (my wife complained that I over-smoked the bacon). Now, for the past year, she has been involved in an international contest, Charcutapalooza, that has required her to make a different kind of cured meat each month that she has done very successfully (see her blog, In Linda’s Kitchen). As this is entirely her show I do not help her, but I have been inspired by her efforts. I am now thinking of attempting an air-dried ham (ham being one of my favorite things in all the world). But as someone who now has to pause before even buying green bananas, and as the ham has to hang for at least six months or a year, this may be a bit overoptimistic. But what the hell, if worst comes to worst it can be part of my Estate.

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

J. R. R. Tolkien

1 comment:

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