Bill and I spent most of yesterday in the kitchen, working on various food projects, some for eating that day, others for packing away for future meals. We used to spend entire weekends just cooking, way back when. During this summer so much of our time has been consumed by the whole house-painting project that yesterday, we both agreed after dinner, was like a vacation.
Here’s a look at what we were doing…
Before things really got underway, Bill went shopping at one of the Asian (in this case, mainly Thai) markets in the area to stock up on supplies, and then stopped at a local chain grocery store to get stuff like cat litter and the rest of what was on the list. Our cupboards have now been replenished with things like fish sauce, soy sauce, shrimp paste, all sorts of noodles, rice, and coconut milk.
I asked Bill to pick up a supply of garlic. We have garlic that we grew, but I wanted to roast some, and I didn’t want to use our fresher stuff up that way. So he brought home about fifteen heads of garlic for me.
I sliced them in half…
After a bit of a go in there, the whole glorious mess of garlic had become so silky and velvety (yes, two different fabric analogies)…it reminded me (really, I know it’s a weird jump) of various skin-care product commercials. Only better smelling.
We also were able to get a good supply of limes, which Bill juiced and portioned out in ice cube trays (most of it) and used in cooking dinner later.
Next, for Bill, it was onto the main part of his day – making a huge batch of red Thai curry paste. You can find the original recipe here, and a slight variation here. But every batch is different, and yesterday’s, because we were using assorted red peppers from our garden, rather than just the little red ones called for in the recipe, turned out much sweeter than usual.
And moving right along...since we had jalapeno and other green peppers, Bill made a batch of green Thai curry paste as well.
While my husband was busy with all of that, and while my garlic was roasting away slowly in the oven, I was making stock. It was time. I cleaned out our freezer (well, our main freezer – the one attached to the refrigerator in our kitchen) a couple of days ago and it was time to bring all that stuff from the chest freezer in the basement back upstairs to the kitchen. Only in a more organized manner that I’d brought it downstairs. I also didn’t just want to put everything back. It’s the time of year when (as you can tell) we are harvesting things from the garden and finding yummy ways to pack them away for use through the winter. Some things needed to go.
Fortunately, we’d kind of planned for this. Whenever we’re cooking chicken or beef, we save the trimmings, the bones, the scraps, whatever, in the freezer until we have a good supply.
And then we make stock.
We also make fish stock, but that’s more often done the same day we cooked the fish. Same with clam stock. It just works out that way.
Anyway, I had lots of little bags of chicken and cow parts, so I separated them into two bowls so they could all start thawing, and I chopped the vegetables – onion, carrot, celery – that would also go into the stocks.
I got out our two biggest stock pots, poured some olive oil on the bottom of each, and divided the roughly chopped vegetables between them. I left the skins on the onions, didn’t peel the carrots – it’s stock – I was only using the vegetables for flavor, not for eating.
I lightly browned the veggies in the chicken stock pot, and left the beef stock vegetables to brown longer, to get a darker, richer flavor.
I dumped the body parts chicken and beef scraps into their respective pots, added water, and turned up the heat. Once they’d reached a boil (which took a while – they’re big pots), I kept both pots at a simmer for…oh, the rest of the day, and past dinner.
This one’s the chicken stock…
They didn’t look all that pretty, of course, but they smelled…oh, how do I describe it? They smelled like, well, chicken and beef. But really yummy, roasty, rich, makes-you-salivate chicken and beef. Yes, really, that good.
Now, the stocks aren’t really done. But I wasn’t going to leave them on the stove overnight (they’d probably be fine, but I’d never sleep, worrying about boil-overs and fire and who knows what else going on. So I cooked them down as much as possible yesterday, and then I strained out the meat scraps and vegetables, and put the stock-in-progress in the fridge. Today, after I’m done writing this post, I’ll take them back out, remove most of the fat, put them back on the stove, and cook them down some more. I don’t have an exact time frame…it’s one of those “I’ll know it when I see it” kinds of things. I know, that’s not at all helpful, is it? I’m basically looking for a yummy, flavorful stock. So when it tastes right to me, I’ll stop cooking, portion it out (2 cup portions work nicely for us), and freeze it all.
Oh, you know what? I also made two different batches of cookies, and for some weird reason, I didn’t take pictures of ANY of that part of my day. Odd. Maybe later. One batch was a kind of peanutbutter cookie with milk chocolate chips and dry roasted peanuts. The other batch was basically an oatmeal cookie with maple pecan granola and dark chocolate chips added in. I froze some and the family devoured some and the rest might last through the rest of today, but I’m not promising anything.
After the cookies were out of the oven, I roasted some potatoes. Not just any potatoes, mind you, but OUR potatoes. I’ve been wanting to grow potatoes, and so this year, at last, we did. We weren’t sure where they’d do well, so we planted them here and there, in various different spots throughout the garden areas of our yard. We were impatient and dug some up a couple of days ago.
Anyway, I scrubbed them clean, cut the bigger ones down to the size of the smaller ones, tossed them with olive oil and dried (from the garden) rosemary, salt, and pepper, and put them in the oven, uncovered, for around 45 minutes or so.
Some of the crispy parts stuck to the pan, so I scraped them up and tried them – they tasted like really good rosemary-flavored potato chips. And the part that wasn’t crispy? Soft and creamy and – potatoey. Yay – we grew potatoes! We’ll leave the rest of them in the ground and harvest them this fall, though. But it’s nice to know they’ve actually been growing down there in the soil!
Oh, and these potatoes? The ones I cooked? We’ll probably eat the rest of them (whatever’s left after I kept “tasting” them yesterday afternoon) today with whatever we make for dinner.
Hmmm…what else did we do?
Well, Bill made dinner. Two dinners, really. One non-spicy meal for the kids (Cantonese Lemon Chicken), and one involving red curry paste (Red Pork Curry) for us. I helped a tiny bit: I battered and deep fried the chicken. Bill did the rest. Both dishes were served over jasmine rice, and we had edamame as well, because I found a bag in the freezer and we all love edamame.
And what, you might be asking, are those little red things? They’re fresh lychees! Bill and I used to get these a lot, way back when. I remember sitting out on our porch in our first little rented cottage, peeling these and eating them after whatever multi-course meal we’d prepared that day. The flesh is white and kind of grape-like in texture, and it’s wrapped around a proportionately large pit. Recently a friend of mine made a white sangria that included lychees and granny smith apple. Very nice.
And that, in a really big nutshell, was how we spent our rainy Sunday.