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Cooking

No, I’m not talking about S.O. plus child, in this case. But there is merit to cooking for more than just one, no matter how your more-than-just-one is defined.

Tuesday nights for me now means one thing: cooking dinner for me and my parents. OK, so it’s a pretty new thing, having just begun last week, hardly enough to be called tradition. But it’s no small thing. As I’ve blogged about before (remember my fiasco with the apple pie?), cooking is just not my forte. And though I know I have crowed about how simply wonderful it is to just cook for one person, turns out having less pressure isn’t that motivating at all. Not having someone to live up to standards of not just edibility but palatable edibility is actual quite a deterrent. When it’s just you, it’s way too easy to give up on the dish and reach for the Easy Mac. (Were you wondering why there were no apple-pie-attempt followups? Now you know.)

As it turns out, my parents are the perfect test subjects. Not only can I count on them to be brutally honest, but I also know that if it all goes utterly and disastrously wrong, they can easily whip up the most delicious meal I’ve ever had in less time than it takes for me to re-read the recipes I’m using.

Last week, I cooked my parents some lamb, a tweaked version of one of my favorite Japanese dishes: pork katsu. The result? Despite the semi-fail of the katsu sauce (too ketchupy), they liked it! As in, really liked it. This is no easy feat, as demonstrated by the words that came out of my younger sister’s mouth when I recounted the details: “That’s bullsh**! How is that possible?!”

I have no idea, and I really hope it wasn’t a fluke. You know, like those one-hit-wonder bands who hit on a Top 10 song on their first attempt…and then NEVER experience anything like that success again?!

Tomorrow I’m attempting a cherry-glazed  salmon and shrimp dish I came across. (Yes, it was all about the cherry glaze for me…I drooled!) If it’s even somewhat appetizing, I’ll post a photo and let you drool, too!

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It started out so well, my apple pie:


Why apple pie? Well, I was enticed by the saying “easy as pie.” Easy? Ok. If you say so, colloquial English expression. I also wasn’t quite ready to tackle something meatier – in recipe complexity or literally speaking.

Somehow, despite following the recipe to a T (umm, okay, I admit I used lime juice instead of  the prescribed lemon juice – the store was out!), there wasn’t enough dough for the crust to cover the pie dish all the way around. Oh and um, I didn’t have saran wrap, so I just covered the dough for 4 hours in a bowl…but don’t I get points for improvising instead of throwing in the towel?
Thanks apple pie, I think you’re hilarious too! Hmph. Oh well – maybe next time! Next time, think I’ll buy a ready-made crust instead anyway. In my defense, the filling is DELICIOUS! Too bad I can’t eat it as a pie. But it tastes excellent as a topping to cereal or ice cream…

Upcoming to-cook list: pork chops, something to do with eggs, and some kind of simpler dessert. But I won’t bore you readers with too many details of those escapades. You know what’s still easier and funner than cooking for one? Waxing overphilosophical about relationship theories and commitment when finding one for yourself is not a priority! 😀 Stay tuned!

My kitchen and I have been having a staring contest since I moved in. So far, I think I’m losing.

I know plenty of people who are single and living alone who are perfectly capable of cooking somewhat delicious tasting, non-takeout or non-microwaveable meals—but I’ll let you know something: I’m not one of them.

And while I could probably continue to subsist on cold milk and cereal, or Subway and Pizza Hut, for dinner, I realized something over the past year.

would like to be married and have kids someday. And according to Ms. Irene in New Orleans, I’ll have a daughter and a son. The realization came with not just a little soul searching, and well, who am I deny the words of a New Orleans palm reader? All well and good. But then it hit me:

These kids are gonna have to eat.

And while having kids might be years away, it will be nice not to starve until then. So since cooking has always intimidated me, I’ve named November the month to start getting over my tendency to default toward Ramen-like meals.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Buy only the essential essentials…for now
Saucepans, mixing bowls, a baking sheet, and staples like butter, flour, sugar and salt. If you had all these things already, you are way ahead of where I was, um, a few weeks ago. With everything else, you can improvise when you get there. And if you get as easily stressed out by endless recipes as I do, baby steps are the only to preserve sanity.

Find one good cookbook and cling to it for dear life
For me, that’s Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food. She does make it simple, and the hand-drawn illustrations make the read non-threatening.

Mise en Place (that’s Le Français for “everything in its place”)
This one’s a gem from Alice. She recommends reading a recipe ahead of time and laying out not only the ingredients but also the utensils and equipment needed. My own suggestion: read the recipe multiple times and highlight. It’s really annoying to buy all the ingredients you didn’t have on Sunday and be all excited on Monday evening to put it all together—only to read that one portion of your recipe calls for 4 hours of refrigeration. GREAT!

Beg, borrow, steal
There’s nothing wrong with borrowing or pinching ingredients from mom and dad. Nothing can deter a zealous culinary-unhopeful such as myself like a long list of the smaller, less obvious ingredients. Like, for example, a recipe I tried out yesterday that called for ground nutmeg. Ground nutmeg? I’m sure it’s important, but what exactly does it DO? When else will I need it? Right now I need simplicity, not answers. So I (unintentionally) displayed my ignorance to the parents, and they were more than happy to let me take the called-for tablespoon in a plastic Ziploc bag. Crisis averted.

Get used to inconvenience
Like many awesome things, good-tasting and healthy meals  come at a price, mainly inconvenience. I can’t name many drool-worthy Indian meals my parents make (and yes, I WILL most definitely be learning that too!) that don’t require the oven and/or stovetop.

So for now I’ve decided that everything that needs heating or reheating needs to NOT go in the microwave anymore (little steps, remember?). I may not be ready to cook a pot roast yet, but the  shiny new cookware I bought recently mainly for the sake of the next generation (Lord help them) has got to come out of the box!

This week I’m trying to make apple pie and get used to using real, LIVE cookware. Updates to come, and don’t worry, more over-opinionated relationship analysis forthcoming as well!

Any tips from you experienced home cooks out there? Am I missing something?