What I’ve Been Cooking Lately

Professionally, I’ve been navigating USDA requirements for meat analogues for school lunch programs and trying to work out a recipe that would be accepted by a state monitor as having sufficient protein quantity at an acceptable pdcaas digestibility score.  Fascinating stuff.  Mainly for how difficult it becomes to serve neither meat nor processed foods to vegetarian school children.  But also mentally exhausting, which is one big reason that I don’t write much here anymore…

The personal stuff is quite a bit more fun, particularly when the kids decide that they want to cook with me.

Faraday is about to turn 4, and tends to cook with me quite a bit.  He can clean mushrooms with a brush and pick leaves off of fresh herbs, but he’s mainly there for the tasting privileges that come with helping me in the kitchen.  I’ll take what I can get.

When we’re in the kitchen, he tells me, “You’re the chef and I’m the cook.”

“What’s the cook’s job?” I ask him.

“To do whatever the chef says.”

I’ve got him trained well.  At least in the kitchen.  Outside of the kitchen, I cease being the chef and he ceases to see his job as being to do whatever I say.

Angstrom is 7.6667, and starting to come into his own when he wants to help.  He’s usually more interested in reading, which is also a fine activity.  But, as he’s getting older, he is becoming an actual help.  I can give him a block of cheese and a grater and he’ll turn it into shredded cheese for us.  He’s also starting to get the hang of using the knife that I got him (perhaps a bit prematurely) for his 6th birthday.  I still keep an eye on him to make sure he’s got his thumb and fingers out of the way, but he does a fine job slicing mushrooms on his own.

He also has been interested in making sure I write down my recipes.  That can be tough because so often I am just reaching into the fridge to take what we happen to have and turn it into dinner.  We won’t necessarily have the same leftovers the next time, so the recipes may not be re-creatable.  Not to mention the fact that I so rarely measure.

But… I did make a very nice cheddar, broccoli, and potato soup the other day that he asked me to document.  So, because Janice asked what I’ve been cooking and Angstrom wants me to preserve my recipes, here is the best I can do on that front:

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

  • Bacon Grease leftover from cooking a metric s*it ton of bacon for brunch.  Not all of it.  Probably about 1/3 cup.  Maybe a half of a cup.  A good knob’s worth scooped out of the custard dish of bacon grease with my favorite wooden spoon.
  • Garlic, sliced thinly.  A bulb’s worth.  (bulbs seem to be about the right unit to measure in.  Never trust a recipe that calls for 1-2 cloves of garlic)
  • Flour, sufficient to make a roux the consistency of wet sand.  Add slowly as described below.
  • Stock.  I’m not sure if it was chicken or vegetable.  Either would work.  Probably about 2 cups; I had about half of one of the boxes from the supermarket leftover.  Lately, I’ve been partial to whatever brand is low in sodium and labeled “cooking stock”, though I really should make my own.
  • Milk, about 3-4 cups, I think?  1%.
  • Leftover roasted potatoes and broccoli, from the same brunch that you cooked the bacon for.  Probably about 4 cups combined of those?  All of the broccoli that was left and most of the potatoes.
  • Cheese.  A mix of 3-year-old Vermont white cheddar and supermarket meunster.  There might have been some parmesan in the mix, too.  2.5 cups, shredded?
  • Spices.  Definitely black pepper.  I probably used Aleppo pepper, too.  If you don’t have any, I highly recommend getting some right away.  Penzey’s sells it.  So does the random multi-ethnic grocery store I shopped in Temeculah, CA once.  So there are probably some other sources, too.  And I bet I used some nutmeg, but only a touch.
  • Herbs.  Thyme, oregano.  Basil?  Whatever you like.  Sage.
  1. Saute the garlic in the bacon fat.  When it just starts to turn golden brown,
  2. Stir the flour in slowly until the roux gets to the consistency of wet sand.  When in doubt, stop adding flour but keep stirring.  If it looks too loose, add some more.  Go ahead and crack your pepper into here, too.  Keep on stirring the roux until the garlic encased therein has mellowed to a gorgeous golden color.
  3. Whisk in the stock, followed by the milk.  Break up the lumps, scrape the corners with your wooden spoon.  Whisk some more.  That’s it, looking good there now.
  4. Let it simmer for a bit.  15-20 minutes out to do to let the flour cook out.  Add the potatoes.  Some of their starch will cook out and add to the consistency of the soup.  Let it simmer another 15-20.
  5. How’s the consistency?  If it’s too thick, go ahead and add some milk.  If not, add the broccoli.  And if you add milk, go ahead and add the broccoli, too.
  6. When it all comes up to temp, drop that heat back way down to low.  Stir the cheese in, slowly now.  Let it melt before you add more, just a handful at a time.
  7. Taste it.  Adjust seasonings.  It very well could benefit from some salt.  I swear by Diamond Crystal kosher salt for most purposes, but it irks me that they eliminated the metal pour spout from their 3-pound box.  Now, every time I fill up my little salt dish, I have to tape the cardboard flap back closed with masking tape.  But it’s still fine salt nonetheless.
  8. Tell everyone it’s time to come to the table.  Get ignored.  Walk into the dining room and discover that the table isn’t even set yet.  Make a Pinky & the Brain reference about how it’s the same thing every night, you’ve got to set the table for dinner.  Listen to some griping as the kids get the bowls put around the table.
  9. Wait for one of the kids to go to the bathroom.  Once he comes down, wait some more because the other one will realize that he also urgently needs to go.  Maybe turn the heat back on under the soup while you’re waiting so it doesn’t get too cold.
  10. Wait, what, is everyone here?  Did you wash your hands when you finished in the bathroom?  Did you do an adequate job?  Okay, dinner is served.

One Response to “What I’ve Been Cooking Lately”

  1. Corduroy Orange Says:

    Mahmud Quotes…

    I found a great……

Leave a Reply