I am watching the Top Chef rundown to the finale tonight. It started at 5 a.m. and I’ll have to leave it at 7:00 so I can go to work. I love this show and especially liked watching it this season because it was filmed in Texas. It’s funny to me how many foods I prepare and eat today that I would never have eaten as a kid.
Years ago when GE was 5, someone gave me a package of beef ribs. I had no idea how to prepare them, but that was in the days when my take home was $180/week with rent of $225/month and child support a paternal suggestion. So there was no thought of wasting something edible. My usual cookbook then was my mother, but she had never cooked ribs either. My boss told me that I could cook them slowly on a grill which I didn’t own. Second idea: slow cook them with BBQ sauce in the oven. That is not an officially Texas way to cook ribs, but it worked. “Cave man food, mommy?” GE asked. We ended up having a cave man picnic on the floor of our little apartment, eating the ribs like clubs and grunting like we’d stabbed the beast with our stone spear.
Ribs remain one of my favorite things to cook. I never use a grill because I don’t do a good job slow cooking with one. Slow cooked in the oven is dependable. They got the best review a mom can get when I made them for 10 year old Jack. We had our own cave man picnic; he rubbed his exaggeratedly distended belly and said that he’d eat those ribs “pretty much every day of my life” if I’d make them. High praise indeed!
We weren’t much on wild game or fish when I was a kid.
Our dad’s sport was golf. An errant ball might have beaned a seagull or pigeon, but that’s about the only thing that might have gotten terminated on the links. John loved deep sea fishing so I am used to pescaline cuisine, but deer, alligator, and feral hog had never graced my cooking pot until I started cooking with Bob. I love wild game and enjoy preparing and, most important, eating it.
I have found that alligator is like shrimp; it can’t be cooked at too high heat for too long or it gets tough. Deer needs a marinade to both tenderize and flavor; a good pounding with a jacard or meat mallet helps on some of the tougher cuts. I like balsamic or rice vinegar as a base to most marinades, and of course, garlic. Anyone I cook for is guaranteed a pass if a vampire family moves to town. Hog cooks like what I buy in the grocery store and subs in without much help needed in most pig recipes. It’s especially nice in posole and gumbo.
On the other end of the food spectrum, I never ate risotto. In fact, if it wasn’t polished Minute Rice, we didn’t eat it at my growing up home. Brown, wild, jasmine, arborio, basmati rices weren’t commonly available in George West’s Campbell’s Grocery. No HEB or Walmart on our 1960’s main street.
My grand-daughter Nina enjoys cooking shows and suggested Hell’s Kitchen. After listen to Gordon Ramsey sling contestants’ pans and plates of risotto into the garbage can with his trademark anti-blessings, I decided to try to turn raw arborio rice into risotto. Bob and Bobby are hungry by the time dinner’s cooked so I knew they wouldn’t turn down my risotto attempts. We rarely have leftovers which may be a testament to my late serving of dinner or my cooking skills. I like the latter since it flatters my ego.
A few weeks ago when Bob did an overnight hunting trip, I ran across Mark Bittman on late night TV. He’s a non-chef who has a show on the one of the cooking channels called “The Minimalist.” Having been a maximist for most of my adult alcoholic life, I appreciate minimalism in sobriety. His show appeals to me. He demonstrated a way to cook pasta risotto style (pastotto?). Looks simple enough and tasty, too.Stir fry pasta of preference (I like fusilli) in olive oil until it’s browned, then slowly add broth (meat or vegetable) in 1 cup increments until pasta is done. Add herbs, vegetables and/or meat early enough in the cooking process to make sure they are done when pasta’s done. The broth makes a sauce that’s thickened with the starch from the pasta. That sounds like a super nice side (or main) dish. Going to try it tonight.