To be fair, sometimes I sometimes indulge in bad food. I love mixing a can of Hormel chili with mac and cheese from a box. We call it "chili mac" and I insist that I invented it in college. I am not perfect.
When I'm planning my meals, I think about what I'm in the mood to eat, go buy the ingredients, and then I make it. I usually pick a cookbook to work through for the week, and decide what I'm in the mood to make. I'll occasionally take requests, but they need to be placed at a reasonable time.
This last week, I worked through this one, which I bought at Recycle Books in Campbell:
This is a really good cookbook. Historically, I wasn't a fan of either Julia Child *or* Jacques Pepin. My childhood, while enriched and loving, was one where we didn't watch a lot of TV. Every Saturday, KidBrother Sam and I would get up and get to watch cartoons until 10am, and then Mommy Dearest would change the channel and it was time to watch Julia Child, Martin Yan, or Jacques Pepin. KidBrother Sam and I hated cooking shows for YEARS because they meant the end of cartoons.
I'm sure in retrospect, this was partly because Mommy Dearest (which is what Mom prefers to be called, and yes, I know the reference) wanted us to get up and go play, which we did, and partly because she wanted to watch her cooking shows. Since KidBrother Sam and I are (mostly) healthy and balanced adults, I have found it in my heart to forgive Julia, Jacques, and Martin. I can't speak for KidBrother Sam.
Anyway, back to the book. I looked at the contents, and it was all fancy schmancy foods, but the directions made it seem... easy. And it is. I poached a chicken for the first time. I made my own chicken stock out of the leftover bits (that was from Mastering the Art of French Cooking). I made a list of foods that I love to eat but I've never made at home, and now I'm making them.
Like Salmon Tartare. If it's Tartare, I love it. Before this, I had never prepared fish at home. I would walk past the fish counter at Whole Foods and gaze longingly at all the beautiful fish, and then think to myself, "I can't do that yet, but someday I will. Someday."
Jasmin 2009 made an appearance, and she and I went to Whole Foods last Tuesday and bought a beautiful piece of salmon.
Guess what? This thing that I've wanted to do for years? Not so hard.
I had to take the skin off of the beeeeeautiful cut of salmon myself, and I got some direction from my friend Uschi. The beginning wasn't pretty, but halfway through I Got It. Fortunately, this is cut into tiny parts, so my initial job was covered up by the small cuts. I also learned how to pull bones out of fish, which is - in my opinion- the best use for a pair of tweezers that have lost their oomph. It's also oddly satisfying to do.
I normally don't fool around with garnish, but since Jacques has yet to lead me astray, I made the cucumber ribbons, too, and those added an extra bit of freshness and texture to the dish. (Also, following Jacques' directions, I ended up with a rather interesting looking cucumber when I was done. Use your imagination.)
The results were delicious, and we paired it with a nice white wine, by Little Black Dress Wines. Since we're all friends here, my mother liked the salmon tartare so much that she licked her plate. For effect, of course. (It seems to have become the signal for "this is really good" in our house.)
Things I have learned:
- Fancy food requires a lot of lemon zest. My kitchen looks like a scene from Silence of the Lemons.
- Garnish isn't always frou-frou or a waste of time. Sometimes it adds a necessary note to the dish.
- Cucumbers are always funny. That is both science and a fact.