The problem is that most food writing is treyf. That is, it's about food in nonkosher restaurants prepared with nonkosher ingredients in nonkosher ways. This gets frustrating - I'll never eat in Chez Panisse. I'll never have Thomas Keller cook for me. And, after twelve years, I don't even remember what a lot of those ingredients/techniques taste like anymore. Except bacon. I don't think I'll ever forget bacon.
I miss bacon.
What I need is good, *kosher* food porn. And I can't seem to find it. So. This is my attempt.
My house smells delicious right now, and that's a feat, because I have a cold, and it's in the stuffy nose/I feel dizzy stage. It's still Friday afternoon, though, so I have to make Shabbat dinner. And Shabbat lunch.
This should be a religious experience, and sometimes it is. After all, I'm using kosher food in a kosher way, and all for the honor of the Sabbath, so that we will enjoy it, and I keep that in mind.
Today, though, it's serving another purpose. Passover is in less than two weeks, and I need to rid my house of chometz, of food purchased and opened during the year, and then frozen if necessary, as a gesture of frugality.
Except I live a block away from a kosher butcher, so it's just as easy for me to purchase fresh and so I forget what's in the freezer, and it needs emptying and waste is a sin. Literally.
So, my kitchen smells wonderful. I'm making a fake jambalaya, a fake chicken paprikash - a kosher dish with elements of both. I found the sausage three or four weeks ago - four long links of "spicy" beef. Two links were cut into large chunks and cooked with a veal stew to give it character as I served it over couscous. It wasn't as spicy as advertised, but it was good. I froze the other two links.
I could probaby get spicier sausages at a local steakhouse - sausages hot enough to clear your sinuses and make your mouth beyond happy. I haven't tried, though. Maybe after Passover when it feels like I have unlimited choices, and everything is possible.
I took out the links last night, and a package of frozen breast filets, and put them in my fridge. The sausages thawed, the chicken is still on its way. I went to my local store, which is now in the throes of Passover itself, and open late dispite the day of the week - open until 4PM today, open until 1PM tomorrow night.
Maybe I'll go shopping tomorrow night.
But I didn't need to buy meat, and I didn't need to buy bread. I needed to get vegetables - a head of celery, a pound of carrots, some tomatoes, a green pepper, an onion. Any store would do for them. However, I wanted cheese as well, and that must be kosher.
I made the kitchen fleishig, and got to work, leaving the chicken to thaw under a stream of warm water. The sausages squished under my hands, and I resorted to a serrated knife to cut the slices I wanted, to toss into the post. And then it all began.
I steeled my good knife, and felt it glide through the onion. I am not a neat cook, as I am not neat in anything I do. My onions come in chunks, not neat dice or slices. Take off the stem, chop in half, slice four times straight down, and three times perpendicular and do it again, and into the pot it goes. The other vegetables get treated the same way - fast chunking, nothing neat and pretty.
There are reasons for neat and pretty. They cook better. They look better. My chunks cook fine.
You're also supposed to cut everything up ahead of time. This is called mise en place, and it makes cooking more efficient. You take your little bowls and fill them with premeasured and prepped ingredients and add them at just the right moment.
I cut up my onions and toss them in the pot. Then I move on to the others one by one as they come to hand and then they go in. The meat goes in first or last, according to whether I want it browned or not, the grains go in last. I get impatient and I think of this as more efficient because the carrots are cooking before the tomatoes or mushrooms go in, and they take less time, right? :)
Or I'm lazy and sloppy. The food tastes good, anyway.
The chicken is still frozen, but it's thawed enough to cut into pieces, so I take the serrated edge and saw them up. There are three breasts and I only need two. The third goes in the fridge - I'll cook it for lunch on Sunday. It should still be fine. Of the four tomatoes, one is in bad shape - not bad for New York in April. The recipe gives ketchup as an alternative, but I'd rather use the tomatoes. The remaining three get chunked and tossed in the pot, and I add the paprika and some water, and let things simmer until the chicken is cooked. Then I'll add all the rice in the house and an equal volume of water and let it come to a boil, and then slide it into the oven. By the time I light my Sabbath candles, it'll be cooked and I'll turn the oven down to 200F.
And the house smells like heaven, which is, after all, the smell of the Sabbath.