Um…yup, that would be me…lazy and recipe-averse.
For Christmas Day dinner I made an exception and purposefully selected 3 published recipes to ‘follow’. The word follow is accented because it never seems to turn out that way…
Most readers know that I don’t follow recipes. Not even my own. I did years ago, but I’ve been cooking for a long time…these days I really get my culinary kicks from the personal development of a dish. Yes, I look at published recipes. Every single day, in fact, when I visit my blogging colleagues. It’s become a ritual that gives me joy and feeds my soul, just as surely as food feeds my belly. I also occasionally do a recipe search because I already have an idea of what I want to do but perhaps am not sure of a technique or quantity, especially if it involves flour.
Christmas Day dinner was at my son’s house. They planned to make turkey and ham, among other things, so I offered to bring 3 vegetable sides. Jim requested one of them be twice-cooked smashed potatoes…and then added that Julie really likes brussels sprouts. So, my direction was fairly clear — and because I like a balanced and color-coordinated plate, I quickly identified butternut squash as the third dish.
I found 3 recipes online that looked interesting — and I learned a few lessons.
I am a lazy cook.
I’m ye of little patience.
I am weak-handed,
and I’m not all that skilled with a peeler.
The personal traits I was already well-aware of. They’re nothing to brag about (for sure!) and not necessarily worthy of a post. But, there is a lesson to be learned here and perhaps the various work-arounds I made to the recipes might be interesting to readers.
Lesson 1: Before you start cooking, stock your kitchen with a little common sense, a dash of instinct, a measure of problem-solving, and a heap of flexibility. Kick fear and rigidity out the door!
This recipe is a keeper. It’s mild-flavored; yet, surprisingly, forward with the taste of roasted pears and vanilla.
However, it does not have to be as difficult as published. I altered it from the gitgo because:
(a) I could not halve the 3 large butternut squash I bought.
(b) I could not (would not try further to) peel the squash before they went in the oven*.
(c) I used about the same quantity of ingredients for the butter sauce for 3 butternut squash as was noted for 1 and did not find it wanting. Instead of 2-1, I used 5 pears.
Adaptation. I roasted the squash (skin on) for about 40 minutes or so until they could be easily halved. At that point I added the pears and picked up with the recipe, brushing with the butter, ginger, vanilla mix and returning it to the oven.
[Texturally and size-wise, it did not make sense to me to put the pears in at that same time the squash first went in the oven.]
When they were properly cooked, I removed them from the oven and scooped the flesh out of the-delicious-skins which were caramelized from the butter and sugar and crispy at the edges!
Lesson: *OMG, I would have missed this wonderful cook’s treat if I had peeled them. I glommed the skin nibble by nibble.
The flesh was mashed with the pears but instead of giving it the final dousing of butter sauce and serving immediately, I refrigerated it in a serving dish and warmed it up at the party with a generous sprinkle of fresh nutmeg, black pepper and a few dabs of butter as shown above.
Whether I’m carrying out or entertaining at home,
I never choose stove-to-table dishes.
I prefer to prepare in stages…and it’s generally doable and
(The added bonus is all the pots and mess are cleaned and cleared before serving.)
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Topping
The idea to follow a very tasty recipe for brussels sprouts slaw from blogging faves White on Rice Couple ended relatively quickly.
Once I started coring and shaving the brussels sprouts, I realized that:
(a) they’re not that easy to shave and, more importantly,
(b) coring them would greatly diminish the yield.
Lesson: Be flexible. You have to be able to think standing on one foot, meaning ‘adapt to the circumstance’. I had brussels sprouts and all the ingredients, but I changed direction at the last minute.
Since I had already cored and shaved a half-dozen, I put them to the side and then halved the rest which I roasted with crumbled bacon, sundried tomatoes, chopped almonds, olive oil (garlic-steeped) and dry herbs/seasonings. When they were cooked, I drizzled a little balsamic syrup and tossed them.
The slaw would have been a different side dish for our family, but I knew this would taste equally good. It did!
I fried the shredded brussels sprouts with seasoned panko crumbs, the zest of a whole lemon zest and then mixed in the bacon, almonds and sundried tomatoes that cooked with the sprouts and used it as a topping.
Lesson: Prepare in advance but keep separate. After brussels sprouts have been heated, add the topping.
This recipe was pretty much foolproof. Easy instructions and easy to do in advance. Before the final baking at very high heat, I doused the smashed potatoes with a mojo sauce made of olive oil, mashed garlic, salt, lemon juice and herbs which gave them a little bit of a Latin flair.
(question) So how lazy a cook are you?
(Me) I’m so lazy that…
I’m returning a pasta machine I got for Christmas.
I’m tempted to keep it, you all know how much I love pasta but…
I hate the mess of anything associated with flour.
…almost as much as I hate the mess from hot oil deep frying.
[Say what you will. We all have our quirks.]
I hope everyone had a lovely holiday.
Best wishes for a happy, healthy and delicious 2012!
A perfect meal has multiple levels of flavor and textures, bright colors and tastes, and healthy(ish) choices. It's all about enjoyment. Enjoy the process, the presentation and the just rewards...eating!
I've always been a culinary improvisor which means I get my kicks out of recipe development. In the FOODalogue kitchen each meal is an adventure and the journey is as exciting as the destination. My favorite kitchen tools are imagination and intuition. I rarely look at a recipe, not even my own!
On these pages, I suggest food pairings and techniques to be experimented with...in your own kitchen...to your own spice levels...and to your preferred portion sizes.