This is my journey as I return to school and work in a profession I once dabbled in as a means for funding an after college 7 year long ski trip...not as a viable career choice. I hope I entertain, enlighten and learn something from any readers I may attract.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What's for dinner?

Today, I thought I would not rant so much. I have had an easy morning. As per my usual routine, I generally get up, shower, and hit the coffee shop for some motivation. After I have caffeinated goodness coursing through my veins, I think about what to buy for dinner. I go to the grocery daily on the week days, and only purchase what I need. This is just how it goes. I hate buying too far in advance, and usually whatever I do get in advance gets lost in the bowels of an overly full fridge.

So what is dinner like at Casa de Ranter?

During school, I usually recreate whatever we have prepared in lab, while method and taste are still fresh on my mind. Before practicals, we usually eat whatever I plan on preparing for a grade. I am hyper-organized when it comes to school, and enjoy the confidence that comes with being ready for an exam. For my finals, I have been known to print my recipes and method on one side of paper and print my mise en place list on the back, along with a schedule for timing. All this prior preparation prevents poor performance since I am actually able to relax and simply cook instead of do alot of thinking.

Off months, like summer break and winter break, I go for easy. This summer's menu has seen lots of fresh fish and pasta or salad. I adore simple dishes when it is hot and don't want to spend alot of time in my kitchen. Tonight is simply fresh tuna, and roasted red potatoes. Last night was chicken sausage and tortelloni with pesto. You get the idea. I may experiment with a sauce but I generally try to keep my time in the kitchen to a minimum. The winter is a whole other thing. If I am not cooking whatever I made in lab that day, I torture my husband with endless experimentation with sauces. We have some rediculous sauce nightly. Some work, some do not. I enjoy the "mad scientist" role I assume and love playing with flavors. The manipulation of food is amazing to me. I love using combinations of spices and herbs that are unusual and enjoy the element of surprise when my husband deems the dish "worthy" of a slot in the regular rotation. He, by the way, is a very adventurous eater raised by a meat and potatoes kinda family. Not that that is bad. I love mil's flank steak. All this bodes well for me, as I can fix a simple meatloaf and mashers or go for some insane creation I have been pondering for a while. He is easy to please and enthusiastic about new things. Yeah, that's why I married him.
So, what is in the grocery cart? I seem to buy shallot, butter, and garlic cloves regularly. If I don't grow them myself, I purchase fresh herbs from the farmers market. I get mushrooms at least once a week, and red potatoes or fingerlings make an appearance in various ways frequently. We seem to do lots of chicken and pork, but if it is a good grill day, red meat with char marks is lovely. Another perk of my climate is shrimp. Wild SC shrimp is outrageous! We know several baiters and during that season we score enough fresh shrimp that we can stash some for use in my signature shrimp gravy during cooler months.
I hope this has given you an idea of what I do casually. If it is a "dinner thing" then I will step up the game, usually a Wellington with duxelles in lieu of foie gras (not a political statement, easier and cheaper to feed the masses) some fresh veg, like asparagus, a starch like risotto, a salad with homemade vinegrette, and some f'ing dessert I did not really feel like making. (another aside... HK did not influence this menu, it has been in place since our first dinner party after we got married last year) We got into "menu rut" after a couple we entertain regularly requested the same dishes with every invite. The beef is his fave, and she's like me and won't cook it for just 2 people even though we both are very aware you can do individual wellingtons. Oh yeah, the duxelles thing.... we have an amazing basil plant, and love mushrooms so I do incorporate it regularly. I do mushrooms stuffed with duxelles on the grill almost every time the flame hits the charcoal just because it is so damn good.
Now the disclosure.... I have had my eating and cooking habits on my mind today. We are having company for dinner this weekend, no not the Wellingtons. I am busy with marketing events for my side business tomorrow and the next day, so I am considering my menu now. I just did a recon mission at the market, and got some ideas. I will post my menu separately so you don't have to sludge through it if you don't want to.
I hope I have given some insight into how food and cooking is done around these parts. Our friend the pharmacist looks in people's medicine cabinets to be nosy. If you want to find out more about a cook, follow them through the grocery or farmer's market.

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