Hello world!

Posted on 01/22/2010. Filed under: intro |

There’s a song that we’re singin’, c’mon get happy!  Ok, lame, I know but when WordPress defaults my first  blog post title as “Hello world!” I’m gonna quote The Partridge Family.

So, this is my blog about cooking.  I’m not writing this to be different, or wow anyone.  I’m writing this because I love to cook, I love to make people happy and satisfied with my food, and I have been told I am a decent writer.  I am 31, single, living in the suburbs of Richmond, VA.  I work a job I am indifferent about, so I spend my life outside of Indifferent Job playing hard and making the most out of my life.  This isn’t a forum to bitch about my job, but instead a document of my forays into cooking and enjoying life.

A little more background on my cooking history: I am not professionally trained.  I have never taken a cooking class.  I have a friend who’s a chef in Denver.  I once dated a chef for three months (our demise was not his strange hours, it was his distance).  I worked for a year at Whole Foods in the Prepared Foods department.  I started out making pizza (by the way, I hate the sauce on the pizza at Whole Foods, it never is seasoned well enough for my tastes).  After six months of that hell, I went to the kitchen.  I was one of the three people responsible for the two salad bars at Whole Foods–cutting veg, grilling 40 lbs. of chicken breasts, making prepared salads, etc.  I decided to start cooking for a living after reading two books: Julia Child’s My Life in France, and Michael Ruhlman’s The Making of a Chef.  Julia inspired me because she came to cooking later in her life, almost like I had, but we both have shared a passion for food throughout our lives.  Ruhlman inspired me because his book told what it was like to be a student at the Culinary Institute of America, and while reading Ruhlman’s book I kept thinking, “Hell yeah I can do this!  I can be on my feet for 8 hours striving to make perfect and clear veal stock!”

So I decided to go back to school for the culinary arts.  I quit my job as a middle manager for a company I personally found unethical and reprehensible, and thought I would work at Whole Foods and attend school.  I helped open the store in Richmond (technically Short Pump).  I worked very long, exhausting hours.  I was very tired and very cranky when I first started.  Eventually I found my rhythm.  And then my body decided it’d had enough, and I developed a blood clot in my left leg.  I made the hardest decision I could since I’d finally found a job that I was passionate about (and could have been more passionate about had it not been for disagreements with management, but that’s another story), and got a desk job.  I won’t give details, but I work in customer service for a national company that has a call center in the area.  I hope that’s vague enough.

Anyway, I have decided to flourish my passion at home and share it with people I know and love, and also share some hits, misses, tips & tricks with the Internet.  I have decided to make one meal a week that I have never made before.  I will refer to cookbooks I have, I will ask friends what they think I should attempt, and I am open to suggestions as well.  I don’t have any food allergies, but I will say this–I can not stand cilantro, and will not make anything for this blog that involves it.  Sorry cilantro lovers, but that herb can suck it.

I kicked off my personal challenge by making Cream of Mushroom Soup from scratch.

I consulted a couple of websites for this, and found a recipe on Tastespotting .  The recipe I found was the author’s take on Anthony Bourdain’s recipe on Serious Eats (found here).  His recipe isn’t necessarily Cream of Mushroom, so I halved the chicken stock the recipe calls for and added two cups of heavy cream.  I also used a full stick of butter to cook the onions and mushrooms.

I diced a yellow onion and cooked it in 2 tablespoons of butter until they were translucent.  I added 12 ounces of sliced button mushrooms and cooked until they were brown, in the rest of the stick of butter.  I should have known then to maybe add more chicken stock than cream, but what the hell, it was my first time.  I slowly poured in the two cups of chicken stock (Swanson stock.  Sorry y’all, I didn’t have time to make stock from scratch.  I am poor and I work 40 hours a week at wierd-ass hours), and two cups of room temperature heavy cream.  I had a few sprigs of fresh thyme, thanks to the overgrown plant that has survived this dreadful winter, salt & pepper, and let the soup come to a boil.  I then reduced the heat and let the pot simmer for an hour or so, stirring every ten minutes to break up some skin that formed on the top.  Ah, cooking with dairy. 

Speaking of dairy, the reason I let the cream get to room temp is that I didn’t want it to curdle when it hit the hot pot of buttery onions and ‘shrooms.  During my time at Whole Foods, we once made a pizza that required an alfredo sauce.  We usually got such things like bechamel from our Mid-Atlantic commissary in Maryland.  (Sorry to disappoint hardcore WF fans, we don’t make EVERYTHING in house, and not EVERYTHING is organic.  Deal with it.)  But the commissary doesn’t make alfredo sauce.  And really, there’s no reason for them too, as most hot foods bars don’t have pans of fettucine alfredo out. So we had to make the alfredo in house, and this was my first time doing so, especially in large batches.  Well, here’s the thing about alfredo.  It’s not a sauce that you want to put in the fridge if it’s from scratch unless it’s already tossed with noodles or on a pizza.  Because the fat in the butter cools and hardens and you’re stuck with a blob of solidified fat in the middle of the container.  Anyhoodles, one night I was in the kitchen making sauce and I used a pound of butter and what I thought was an adequate amount of cream.  And here’s where I messed up:  cold cream.  And dammit if it didn’t curdle in the pot.  And dammit if I didn’t whisk the shit out of that pot.  I saved it, thank God and it was tasty.  But lesson learned–don’t add cold dairy to hot food.

Getting back to the mushroom soup…I let the pot simmer for about an hour and then slowly in batches poured the soup into a blender to make it smooth.  Oof.  The soup was delicious but incredibly rich.  Think about it, I used TWO cups of heavy cream and a whole stick of butter.  Paula Deen would be proud.  I would totally make my version again if I was serving it in small cups.  Because honey, one bowl of that soup and I was bloated for days.  Delicious, yes, but hell on the intestines.  I ate it with some garlic naan bread from Trader Joe’s.  My mom ate the rest as leftovers the next night for dinner.

I have begun asking friends what I should make next week.  I’ve always wanted to try risotto, and a friend suggested beef Wellington with boiled new potatoes tossed with butter with fresh minced parsley on top.  Sounds delicious.  But I have a few days to research and find something. 

stay tuned, and bon appétit


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waiting to hear about the braised meat and what you were up to!

[…] been wanting to make a risotto dish since I started the blog (as first mentioned in the very first post).  I decided to finally tackle it.  I knew Matt didn’t like mushrooms, and I figured […]

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