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I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

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Entries in cooking (2)


Plus It Makes The House Smell Great All Day

One of the advantages of being around the house all weekend is that I get to take advantage of one of my favorite cooking methods: braising. I love it not just because it results in tasty food but because it represents a triumph of technique over inputs.

Braising is basically a two-step process. First you sear the outside of whatever it is you are cooking. Then you cook it for a long time either partially or wholely submerged in liquid at a relatively low temperature. The second step of the process — where you apply heat, moisture, and time — is what makes braising an alchemical reaction. In meat, it breaks down connective tissue and collagen, rendering normally tough, unappetizing cuts into moist, flavorful dishes that you can separate with a stern gaze, rather than a knife. Braising can take ingredients that are normally ill-suited for cooking and make them delicious. I have to respect that that.

This weekend, we braised beef short ribs we had in the freezer. I’d never made short ribs before, so I was curious to give it a try. Gwen commented during dinner that the beef was tasty, but it was the sauce — made from the red wine the ribs had been cooked in, a generous helping of sauteed vegetables, and the juices released by the meat as it cooked — that really made the dish. I think she could tell by the way I licked my bowl at the end of the meal that I agreed.


Alice Waters I'm Not

Tonight’s culinary experiments were successful, in that like any good experiments they gave us more information.

I’m starting to work through some of the recipes in Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. I like the book’s approach: He’s not a vegetarian, and he’s not trying to convert anyone to vegetarianism, but he wants to teach people how to prepare tasty, healthy, meatless meals. In a lot of ways, it’s written for me. I do most of my grocery shopping at the supermarket; the book assumes that. I try to supplement with local produce when possible; the book encourages that. And I’m interested in eating less meat for both health and environmental reasons, which it’s pretty clear is what his priorities are as well. So I’m excited to try recipes from it.

The first dish I tried tonight was the Lentil and Potato Dal. It’s dead easy: Simmer a cup of dried lentils in three and half cups of coconut milk and a tablespoon of curry powder for fifteen minutes, partially covered; Add two chopped baking potatoes and simmer, covered, until everything is soft. That last bit is what eluded me. I only let it go for about thirty minutes, when it probably wanted more like forty five. That was the only problem, though, so it’s going on the list to try again.

The second dish involved some improvisation. I was attempting to make Beer-Glazed Black Beans with Thai Chile Paste, but I accidentally bought fresh chiles instead of dried, so I ended up making a Mexican-style dish by adding canned fire-roasted tomatoes and green chiles. I also should have read the cookbook’s instructions for cooking dried beans, rather than using the instructions on the package. And I was worried about the tomatoes adding too much liquid, so I cooked it down a little too much and killed off much of the tasty sauce. You live, you learn, I suppose.

I served these with white rice; a salad of red leaf lettuce, spinach, carrots, and cucumbers dressed with the juice from an orange; and dry rosé wine. It didn’t all hang together, but it certain had its moments. And it pointed me in the right direction.


Fitness: Ran 4 miles
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 00 words, 176 seven-day average, 253 average, 22812 total