Slow Cooking Pays Off

December 21, 2009

Saturday was sort of a “down” day–the chores done by mid-day; the shopping finished early for a change.  There was even time for a quick nap.  Intrigued by a recipe for a pork and white bean French casserole in the latest Cook’s Illustrated magazine, I began a four hour labor of love.  I had sort of planned on this by buying the beans on Friday afternoon and soaking them for 24 hours in a brine solution.  The recipe cooked for about three and a half hours, with iterations of covering and uncovering necessary to produce a perfectly browned crust atop the bean/pork

Nothing Like a Slowly Cooked Cassoulet to Provide a Great Smell in the Kitchen

/sausage/tomato mixture.  The heavy enamel on iron pan was the perfect vessel. With the timer to remind me, everything went swimmingly well. The dish was perfect.  On a gray cold winter’s evening, it was just perfect, and a reminder that sometime, taking a lot of time to cook something really pays off with great taste and a desire to make it again.  We stored the leftovers and reheated last night after a late concert.  Like many slow-cooked recipes this one tasted just as good as a leftover. That was an added treat.

Don’t Freak Out Over the Holidays

December 7, 2009

Thanksgiving always opens up with numerous calls and emails from folks fretting about their cookware and their cooking.  Having the family table enlarged during the holidays is key stresser for many cooks.  Will there be enough food to go around?  Will this strange recipe that I cook only once every year work out?  Will the turkey be done?

My advice is to relax.  (And I remind myself of that when I start feeling the pressure grow).  Start far enough ahead that you won’t have to have everything be done at exactly the same moment.  A turkey benefits by resting for 30 minutes under a foil tent before carving.  There’s no law that says that sweet potato casserole can’t be cooked three days ahead, stored in the fridge, and then warmed up on a holiday morning.

I always run a sink full of hot soapy water and try to wash up as I cook.  That way it isn’t a mound of pans and pots to clean up at the conclusion of the meal.  Thanksgiving, I loaded the food processor parts, pots and pans into the dishwasher and did a mid-morning load.  Made the time after our meal much calmer.

We also set the table about two days before the holiday, which gave us plenty of time to repair the hole that mysteriously appeared on the good linen tablecloth between last Christmas and this Thanksgiving.