Friday, December 18, 2009

The Motor that drives me.

For some reason, on some days, I forget what it is I am doing on this culinary journey. There is no diploma awaiting me in June, and I am pretty sure I don't want to work the line in a restaurant. But then I remember - I don't just want to cook great food, but I also want to know why it is great and how it got to be great. Not only do I want great flavour, but I want depth of flavour. I love living simply, but food should be complex! I don't want to be bound to recipes and formulas, but instead understand what I am working with and create my own signature meals. I want to achieve excellence, even if it's just for me and my family to enjoy. I want to rock the budget I have and make a stunning weekly menu. I want to be healthy now and also in my 50's - which are the years, if you ask me, when we should be out travelling the world, not stuck in doctor's offices. (You'll probably find me in Tuscany or somewhere in France, checking out the local culture through the food they eat.) And, tucked away somewhere amongst the many other things I would like to do, is a desire to get North American kids growing up on more than just hot dogs and Kraft Dinner. How? When? Who knows... but I think this could very well be my "getting there", when I "arrive" at where I am supposed to be. Not that we ever truly arrive, since tomorrow always lurks around the corner, and to do lists and dreams never go away (and nor should they).
This week I have learned what braising does to a chicken, especially with the bone left in. It is magnificently moist and flavourful. Basically, braising is roasting with liquids in the pan. I made Chicken Fricassee, from a whole chicken split nicely into 8 parts, lightly seared, topped with chicken stock and some other fine ingredients including a sachet of celery, bay leaf and parsley stems - there's plenty of flavour in those stems! - and gently roasted on a low temperature until the meat fell off the bones. Then comes the best part; the depth and layers of flavour in the broth extracted from the chicken and the bones during cooking is reduced and thickened. It's in these simple sauces where we often get the most wow. It is the component in a meal that pulls it all together, in this case, the chicken with the homemade Spaetzle and simple green beans. I'd have to say, these kind of meals are my kids' favourite, even if the older one to my horror asked for ketchup (I did not give in to her, and she did not miss it.) This week I am also going to attempt my first sour dough starter, and make clam chowder from scratch. I am very much looking forward to Christmas Dinner in just a few days... 86 the turkey, and make room for Beef Tenderloin and some tasty, very un-Christmassy sides. Change is good!

Here's what's on the menu at my home:

Soup and Salad
New England Clam Chowder
Fresh and crunchy Carrot Salad

Chicken Fricassee
over Spaetzle and blanched green Beans

Ratatouille (since every home should serve this at least once!)
over Rice Pilaf

Southwestern Grilled Salmon Sandwiches
with Three Bean Salad

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