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The Magic Saute [Jun. 26th, 2008|11:55 am]
Back when we were married and I was cooking for a living, lot's of people would say to my then-husband, "Married to a chef, oh, you must eat like a king!"

Which really wasn't true. Sure, I'll admit it, when I did cook, it was damn good. And I did try to purposely overcook for my clients so that I could bring home various leftover components that I could mix and match for dinner, because frankly, after spending the entire day cooking, that last thing I felt like doing was coming home and...cooking. So, if I didn't have leftovers from work, we'd have Hot Dogs n'Beans or Spaghetti using Saucefromajar...just like everyone else.

Sometimes that made me feel that I wasn't, in my soul, a chef. I'm passionate about food -- but really, about eating it. I'm not passionate about making it. I'm good at it. Pretty damn good at it. I make it because I want it a certain way. (And controlling b*tch is not an epithet I dare duck from, if I'm honest.) But if I could deliver my daily order of what I wanted to eat to someone else and they could replicate it...I'd be all for it.

But now that I'm not cooking all day, every day, I do find myself cooking from scratch more at home and relying on That's when you grab random items, "frizzle them up" as my mother used to say and eat. You can put it over rice, pasta, whatever, but I usually try to skip the background carbs and assuage the need to nibble further with raw veg, or berries or a small piece of nice cheese.

Your Basic Magic Saute
1 onion, or the same amount of a member of the allium family (garlic, shallot) or all 3, diced, chopped or minced.

Oil of choice with which to do the frizzling. Or butter, although always mix it with oil to raise the smoke point. (For you non-scientists, adding oil will keep the butter from burning and tasting yucky. If you're sauteing in butter and it's not burning, you probably don't have the heat turned up enough. If you want more butter, swirl it in at the end, it will help thicken it up, too, as well as give you burst o' butter flavor)

Other random vegetables that require cooking. Hint -- cut them small to cook faster on a weeknight. Cut the thick hard ones (carrots) small, and the softer, quicker cooking ones (Zucchini, mushroom) larger so they'll cook at the same rate, or throw the hard ones in first. Or see the cheat under veg that don't need cooking. Use salt if not pepper, as well, here. Ideally, you want to use a little salt throughout the process -- it will flavor better and assist with the cooking better than if you wait until the very end to add a larger amount. Greens you can add here if they're heavy like collards or chard, or post meat if more delicate.

A meat/fish. Sliced sausage. You'll have to judge when to throw it in. Ground, sliced thin, cut in small bites, so that it cooks with the veg. Or, if it's already cooked, or cooks quickly, near the end, when the aforementioned veg are soft.

Season with seasoning of choice. I said you could choose, but see "controlling b*tch" above and get yourself some Penzey's blends. Oh, sure you love to cook and have all sorts of herbs and spices, you can just mix and match....obviously you have way more time on a weeknight than the rest of us or THIS my friend, is why you think cooking takes too long.

Can of beans of choice. Do not tell me you don't like beans. See my hand? I don't want to hear it. Try gandules/pigeon peas, edamame, the gateway beans. THIS beanlover insists that you've just never had beans prepared properly. But rinse them, please, you have no business eating that salty goop they come in. And back away from the Goya -- crap beans. Hanover. Bush's maybe. Progresso if you're talking Cannellini or Chick. I digress.

Veg that do not need to be cooked. Diced canned tomatoes are almost always a good choice. Canned artichoke hearts. Frozen vegetables that you thawed in the micro so that you can drain the extra water. Simmer 5-10 minute while you open the wine. Not that opening the wine takes 5-10 minutes. If so, you need a new corkscrew. Watch while the Captain and I come to blows over the best corkscrew...no, I mean, you'll have to go get the wine, get the glasses, push the cat off the counter before he knocks over the wine glasses...you know.

Other random seasonings and additions. Chopped or halved olives are always good. Pine Nuts. Nuts of any kind - chopped hazelnuts or pecans are my favorite. Dried cherries work well, especially if you want the German or Indian or Moroccan seasoning path. Capers if you're that kind of person. Fresh herbs, but really, only if they're hanging around and you need to use them up. I don't want to hear about your little precious pots of herbs you have growing on your kitchen windowsill. Mine either got eaten by the cats or knocked off the windowsill so many times that they started looking like...if Lon Chaney Jr was an herb...

If it's not liquidy enough, drop in some water, broth, wine.

Final seasoning -- it must have a dash of acid. My personal favorite is balsamic or malt, but any will do. You could use wine, if you haven't already. And Tabasco is my second favorite. You can use lemon or lime, but I prefer to put that in my cocktail. And a Tablespoon of parmesan cheese never hurts any recipe. Seriously, no matter the nationality. It's got similar chemistry to MSG -- it enhances flavors, but so far, no one's bitching about being allergic to it.

Now you can be fancy...saute the veg, remove. Saute the meat and garlic, remove. Deglaze with a liquid - broth, water, wine, beer, bourbon, rum, vinegar, til all the brown bits are scraped up and liquid is reduced by half or more, then toss it all back in...but I gotta tell you, there are plants that need watering, litterboxes that need cleaning, critters that need feeding, plus...it tastes pretty damn good done the lazyass one pan way, lemme tell ya.

We eat a variation on this 2-3 times a week.

Last night: shrimp with black beans, tomatoes, artichoke hearts and Penzey's Salsa seasoning, dash of balsamic. And a dash of rum. Because, well, it was OPEN.

(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: quislet
2008-06-27 01:42 am (UTC)
According to his holiness, isn't that really a capybara?
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[User Picture]From: quislet
2008-06-27 01:57 am (UTC)
You also have a point, nicht wahr?

Now I'm thinkin' I need a tepid carafe of white zinfandel to go with that tasty, tasty meat/fish.
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From: faithellen
2008-06-26 04:43 pm (UTC)
This is the best corkscrew. :)
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[User Picture]From: terribleturnip
2008-06-26 04:53 pm (UTC)
No. It's not.


But you can join the melee next time we mix it up....
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[User Picture]From: sestree
2008-06-26 05:20 pm (UTC)
Beer's easier to open

just sayin .......
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[User Picture]From: pyratelady
2008-06-26 05:14 pm (UTC)
If a "good" or "best" corkscrew is defined as "even Darcy can use it," then I bring this one to the table: a corkscrew even Darcy can a use.

Call me a wimp or a Philistine. The damned thing works for me every time.
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[User Picture]From: quislet
2008-06-27 01:49 am (UTC)
I dunno, I'd say that this is a corkscrew that even Darcy can use. There's one at my house, and the odometer says something like 2500 bottles of really questionable Tigger wine.
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[User Picture]From: pyllgrum
2008-06-26 05:33 pm (UTC)
I am afraid of winged wine openers.
This corkscrew has never failed me where most others have.

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[User Picture]From: lowlandscot
2008-06-26 06:03 pm (UTC)
I used to always use this elaborate compound-lever corkscrew called a LazyFish, ustil an_idle_fellow came back from a Paris business trip with one of those in his luggage. Said all the waiters used these. The Lazyfish hasn't been out of the knife drawer since. And I'm a complete klutz at stuff like wine bottles.

'Z OK if I put fresh oregano in everything? I understand about cats and effete little pots of herbs, but I've got a stand of oregano outside that started as one sad little seedling from Wentworth nursery and is now the size of a Mini Cooper.
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[User Picture]From: terribleturnip
2008-06-26 09:08 pm (UTC)
Okaaay, but only because I like you.

No, giant stands of stuff growing out in the yard like weeds is just fine. It's the twee kitchen gardens (see, eventually I knew I'd be able to use "twee" for you) with twee special herb clipping scissors and that fawncy twee basket to collect them in...heading outside, hollering at the dog "Don't panic, for petessake, I'll be right back" and chopping at the chives, over to the edge where you're sure the pigeons who hang out on the overhead telephone line probably haven't pooed on them...that's okay.
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[User Picture]From: terribleturnip
2008-06-26 09:10 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's the style the Captain prefers. My answer to that is...do I look like a Waiter?
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