Despite my parents moving us to Maine when I was a baby (a move that I have yet to get a reasonable explanation for), there are still southern cooking traditions that I follow. One is having a tub of bacon grease in the fridge. Having that tub turned one of my favorite soups from yummy and comforting to mouth watering.
My plan tonight was to keep it simple and cook Terry Foster’s Acorn Squash and Pear Soup from The Pilgrim’s Inn Cookbook – substituting butternut squash since I had one in my fridge.
I had a blonde moment at the market and forgot to buy butter. Since the oven was on it seemed prudent to find a substitute instead of leaving and burning down my apartment. I opened my fridge and voila, there was the bacon grease.
The infusion of smoky flavor brought joy to my tongue. I may die slightly earlier, but I plan on making this substitution much more often.
I have an odd way of choosing what I’m cooking for dinner. I start off with some normal logic – what is in my fridge and pantry and what is the most perishable. After that my OCD kicks in, and luckily the lesser quality results have not been fed to other people.
Based on what’s in the refrigerator I will flip through my 30+ cookbooks and find the next recipe that uses what I’ve got in stock. Well, the next recipe that I haven’t already made since I check off what I have already made. Tonight it was Apricot-Mustard Glazed Pork Chops and Roasted Vegetables courtesy of the BH&G 75th Anniversary Cookbook.
I admit to cheating on my formula sometimes. Who wants to have beef stew on a hot summer day? And sometimes there are some recipes that just seem like they were created on a dare. Although I love sweet breads and order chicken feet in Chinatown so what I consider a dare might be a little off the mark.
Comparing my pantry items with my cookbooks the next recipe on my list is Savory Ham and Eggs. Ingredients include ham and eggs of course (not green though). Some other ingredients seem normal if you are making deviled eggs, but then they add chicken broth, milk and cheese – which just seem like things a drunken frat boy would add together.
Normally I would find an excuse to move onto another recipe (that would be Scalloped Spinach, and I do prefer my vegetables cooked with butter and cheese). But I am taking myself up on the cooking dare tomorrow and just hoping that the amazing team at Downtown Cellars can find me a good wine pairing.
A few weeks ago I went to City Grit’s “Feeding the Dragon” dinner. Sarah Simmons cooked an amazing tasting menu based on brother and sister team Nate and Mary Kate Tate’s new cookbook “Feeding the Dragon”. I enjoyed it so much I even ate tofu, and I hate tofu with a passion.
In addition to a delicious meal I got a copy of the cookbook, which chronicles Mary Kate and Nate’s travels through China and recreates recipes that they got from the locals. You get pulled in and inspired by their travel tales, and more importantly they make you hungry. I started snacking on some of the already cooked ingredients in the Chicken and Mushroom Congee I made tonight as I read about their first meal in Hong Kong because it was making me very peckish.
As authentic as the recipes are, you don’t need to have any previous experience cooking Chinese food or hunt down crazy ingredients. Although I think that Chinatown has some of the freshest seafood in the city so I recommend exploring the next time you have an afternoon for shopping.
By the way, the congee was delicious and I am looking forward to leftovers – with a spoon.