|Five Foods. Taking longer to choose than to write about...
||[Aug. 14th, 2011|11:28 am]
Only FIVE? Right. Discipline. I gots it. |
I come from a family that firmly believes "You should eat to live, not live to eat." Tall, skinny, eating little half sandwiches with a slice of turkey, a slice of cheese, a piece of lettuce and a skim of Miracle Whip.
Sometimes I think that food just TASTES better to some of us -- and THAT'S the "problem". It's always been difficult being a zaftig, food-focused, hunter of flavors and textures growing up in a family of WASPs who think that "eh, a handful of cocktail peanuts and a martini, that's enough lunch for me, I mean it's only four hours until dinner!" Growing up, except for holidays, I was mostly geographically isolated from my father's family - the Danish butter cookies, the Kartoffeln, the Bacon, the tarts, the gooseberries...sigh. But clearly my GENES remember.
1. English peas. Peas in a pod. Raw. Big bowls of peapods, as fresh as possible. During the oh, so brief season, I will literally buy pounds and pounds of them and whenever and wherever I can, sit, pop 'em and eat them. My favorite thing about the movies is being able to sit and eat a big tub of popcorn. If they served a big tub of English Peas, I would be at the movies EVERY WEEK. They were a treat for us as children. We'd go to the farm stand and my brother and I would clamor for peas the way other kids would clamor for candy at the grocery store. My brother has lost his love for them. But then again, his ideal culinary treat is a Bagel Bite. Clearly he takes after my MOTHER'S side of the family.
2. Lobster. Well, of course. Don't be doing fancy stuff to it! Steamed or boiled in heavily salted water if you don't have seaweed, with hot melted butter. Done. Cooked properly, it will NOT ever taste any better than that. Never in a restaurant. Never. If you serve them to guests who clearly don't understand that there's more to a lobster than claws and a tail, you can rescue the bodies and make bisque the next day. And in the interests of expediency, if we're away from home, a lobster roll. But made properly, Connecticut style: simmering the legs and shells in butter that is then poured over the lobster meat which is sitting in a buttered and toasted Pepp'ridge Fahms split-top roll. I've tried lobster mac and cheese and lobster lasagna...and it's awesome...but only to save company the work of eating the seabugs straight.
3. Rib-Eye Steak. Hands down the best steak ever. The most felicitous combination of texture, beef flavor and tenderness. And...hold onto your hats, pets, but it really is better pan-fried, instead of grilled. Season it with Penzey's Turkish Blend (I have tried all sorts of seasoning variations and there is something about this blend that is PERFECT) and salt (salt last so that it's on top so that it's what hits the hot fat in the pan first. Wipe a skillet with peanut, canola or other high heat oil, heat until it just smokes and then slap that steak on. Couple minutes without moving it, flip, couple more minutes without moving it. Turn it off, flip once more to let things even up, rest 8 minutes. Picking out the right steak is crucial. It has two parts - the center, round part. That should have little lightning bolts of fat in it. If it's not fat-loaded, move along, it's going to be tough. And along the top and side runs another part -- the spinalis dorsi, which is always loaded with fat lightning bolts. This is, without question, the best part of beef ever. Sometimes it's called the cap or the lip, the steak being labeled, lip on or cap on. That's me you see at the store, rooting through all of the packages, hunting the pieces with the biggest spinalis. If I find a run with a lot of spinalis (it varies depending on where along the muscle it was cut from) I will stock up and freeze them. One of the accomplishments I never thought I'd be able to list is that the guys at the meat counter of Costco recognize me and call me "The Lip Lady".
4. Lamb Shanks. Honestly, I just love lamb. Mild American, near-muttoney Australian...and everything in between. Ground lamb in a tomato and eggplant sauce ladled over pasta, sprinkled wtih feta. Lamb steaks with a balsamic mint sauce. But it was lamb shanks that made me decide that the slow cooker had earned a place in my pantry. Some shanks, some wine, some tomatoes and herbs, some time. Heavenly. Although I did learn that I couldn't do the slow cooker overnight, since I tend to cook by smell -- when something starts really cooking, you smell it. Then you get used to the smell -- and then, suddenly, you notice that you smell it AGAIN. That's when it's done. I tend to not rely on timers and I never remember when the hell I put anything in the oven, so when I smell it AGAIN, I know I have to race to the oven and grab out whatever it is. Obviously, that's not a crucial moment in a slow cooking stew. But tell that to my amygdala, I woke up half the night in a "OMG, it's DONE!" panic.
5. Butter. Don't get me wrong, I love me some animal fats. Bacon fat, goose fat, duck fat, chicken fat...but if I could only choose one, it would have to be butter. It's just so damn versatile. A piece of fresh brown bread with a smear of butter is like an Ur-Food. A dollop to a sauce at the very end, and voila! Thicker, better. My baked goods taste better because I only use butter. Even if it means my cookies are wide and flat...Crisco can go screw itself. I will take the taste of butter over an upright, perky shortening laden button of a cookie. Land of Lakes. Unsalted. It is what every baking recipe is calibrated to. (Unless it's a European cookbook.) Now, if it's only for savory food garnishing...then I go fancier. Yeah, Plugra, Lurpak...but this one has rocked by butter world: Vermont cultured butter http://www.vermontcreamery.com/cultured-butter/cultured-butter-with-sea-salt-crystals/