Archive for February 19, 2010

Failing to Fluff the Couscous and Other Kitchen Confessions

   I agree with Betty Macomber, whose cover flap text for the Cedar Cove Cookbook describes the preparation and serving of a meal as “probably the ultimate expression of hospitality and friendship, comfort and love.”  I convey nurturing best through the investment of labor and time in a from-scratch meal prepared for people I care about.  

Last weekend it was a “thank-you” dinner for friends who volunteer to dog-sit whenever we are out of town.  I did a simple beef tenderloin stir-fry (meat marinated in soy sauce, a dab of olive oil, a bit of crushed garlic; broccoli, yellow and red peppers, scallions, Chinese pea pods, celery, water chestnuts) with dry-roasted peanuts for sprinkling, a big bowl of cubed fresh fruit, biscuits hot from the oven, and whole-wheat couscous in place of rice.  For dessert, marble cheesecake.  

Fine and dandy, until I got too many things going at once – which is my major flaw as a cook.  The couscous – stirred into boiling broth, removed from the heat, and left briefly to absorb the liquid – got ignored for 12 minutes instead of five, without the requisite fluffing to separate the grains.  The result?  Clumpy couscous, which I blame for some uncharacteristic indigestion I experienced later in the evening.  I had been hoping for “heart-warming,” not “heartburn.”  

My second big flaw as a cook is closely related:  over- cooking/baking/roasting one dish while waiting for other items to get done.  I am improving, but for extra insurance I sometimes go for a foolproof (I must stop calling myself names) main dish that can bear a little extra time on the heat while everything else is being readied.  For example, this menu of Baked Chicken Legs in Hoisin Lemon Sauce, Roasted Potatoes, Corn Pudding, Warm Tomatillo  Salsa, and Applesauce Bran Muffins.  If your oven situation is tight – i.e., you don’t have a commercial kitchen – you can prepare the muffins and corn pudding (which bake at a lower temperature) earlier in the day.  With any luck, you won’t have to be serving up apologies along with your dessert.  (more…)

February 19, 2010 at 12:28 am Leave a comment

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