First, I cook. I was taught by my mother, grandmother, aunts and went to school for Culinary Arts. I worked fifteen years in kitchens from the top to the bottom. I’m real good at it. To the point that would make me a good catch for some nice lady. The problem is I’m easily distracted. Anything I see on TV cooking shows, read in a magazine or think up on my own occupies me. For a while.
I can blame the start on my parents. My father liked chili and my mother was willing to make it for him. The recipe was: 1 lb. ground beef, 1 can Campbell’s Tomato soup, 1 can of kidney beans, drained, 1/2 can of water and 1 tbsp. chili powder. Brown the meat, add the tomato soup, water, chili powder and beans. Simmer, serve. This was nice for them. Me, not so much. When I could see over the range top, I began to experiment. I discovered Tabasco sauce, cumin seed and cook books devoted to chili. I had no real gauge for how hot things got. I wound up me making a insipid shadow of my chili for my father and the real thing for me. It was a beginning.
My Aunt Sophie married an Italian guy. She learned to make red sauce or Sunday gravy. I watched, helped and learned. The brands were specific, a fiddly point then but later I found out the reason for the brands, quality. It was a long involved process. Cooking sausage, making and cooking meatballs, frying pork chops and deglazing the frying pan with tomato paste and water. Into a stock pot with garlic and spices. Simmer forever. Serve over an obscure pasta.
There were failures, I couldn’t duplicate the crunchy chicken from the Chicken Shack. The meat sauce for Capitol Lunch hot dogs, a major miss. I didn’t give up. I improved. Buying chicken breasts and boning them myself gave me a platform, dried buttermilk freed me from buying a quart and leaving a pint in the refrigerator to spoil (?). The breading, flour, corn starch, Adobo powder, Goya Sazon, salt pepper, poultry seasoning, paprika and salt and pepper. fry in a cast iron skillet in peanut oil. The hot dog sauce? Ground beef, beef stock, chili powder s and p. Simmer, serve on a grilled dog with mustard and chopped onions.
There were fads. My foray into sausage making that got me inundated with equipment catalogues. My attempts at home smoking. The baking period, when I bought artisan flour, cultivated sourdough and made the apartment smell like a bakery. I went total vegan. That didn’t last. I’m a semi-carnivore. I’ve cooked chicken, pork, lamb and beef into concoctions that shouldn’t exist. I ate them and didn’t try that again.
There are things I don’t do. Mainly pie crust. I’ve got a dozen recipes with various ingredients from lard to vodka. I buy pre made and I still screw them up. Fruit pies come out just a bit under sweet. Quiches never make it out before the crust has blackened.
How did I spend fifteen years in kitchens? Food fads. The ability to exploit the latest thing and make it palatable. I loathe shrimp, scallops and fish. Yet I can knock your palate out. Something inside my virtual sense of taste knows what herbs, spices and cooking methods will work. I worked in a kitchen where the owner picked up some liver. Personally, it’s an all-time must miss. I sliced it kind of thin, quick fried it and served it with an apple/bacon compote. It sold.
I’ll leave you with a recipe. You’ll need: 1 pie crust, 3 eggs beaten, grated parm, provolone and mozzarella, 1/4 C cooked orzo, 1/4 lb. cooked salami. Pre bake pie shell, mix the meat, cheese, orzo with the egg. When the pie shell cools add the mix and put it into a 350 degree oven until the center is just jingly. You can use pregrated pizza mix cheese, and the first time I had this the salami was Hebrew National Cooked Salami. The orzo? When you make soup this is an add-on. Just toss it in as the soup is cooking. The starch will add some body.

See you tomorrow. Monday we talk about somebody real big, I mean stupendous.