Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Culinary Cliffdiver

I actually like cooking, but do it very rarely. I haven’t worked out the details yet, but I’m pretty sure that there’s a grid that describes the pros and cons of cooking. One axis would be taste, another would be convenience. Another would be for cost, and perhaps another for skill. Perhaps a final one would involve actual nutrition. Like I said, I’m working on this and will try to get it down to three axes. Though I don’t consider myself skilled, I’ve yet to really fail at anything I’ve tried. It’s counterintuitive, but taste isn’t my biggest concern in cooking either. I’m not a picky eater in the slightest. I’m still operating under the delusion that my body can handle whatever I put in it, so nutrition doesn’t get too much attention. Which means that cost and convenience are what keeps me from cooking, which is pretty accurate. I can eat cereal and Wendy’s for about 3 dollars a day, and it only takes 15 minutes out of my entire day. Kind of sad, kind of amazing.

In any case, I’ve cooked quite a bit in these last few weeks. Really the only thing that gets me cooking is socializing, and that’s exactly what happened. Dinner parties. Unfortunately for those who attend, I don’t like making things I’ve made before. But each of these turned out fairly well.


I threw a dinner party for Saint Patricks, so needed to come up with an Irish dish. After a thorough search of Irish cuisine on Wikipedia I decided on colcannon, primarily because the name is great.

3 pounds potatoes, scrubbed
2 sticks butter
1 1/4 cups hot milk
Freshly ground black pepper
1 head cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 (1-pound) piece ham or bacon, cooked the day before
4 scallions, finely chopped
Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish

Steam the potatoes in their skins for 30 minutes. Peel them using a knife and fork. Chop with a knife before mashing. Mash thoroughly to remove all the lumps. Add 1 stick of butter in pieces. Gradually add hot milk, stirring all the time. Season with a few grinds of black pepper.
Boil the cabbage in unsalted water until it turns a darker color. Add 2 tablespoons butter to tenderize it. Cover with lid for 2 minutes. Drain thoroughly before returning it to the pan. Chop into small pieces.

Put the ham in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes until tender. Drain. Remove any fat and chop into small pieces.

Add cabbage, scallions, and ham to mashed potatoes, stirring them in gently. Serve in individual soup plates. Make an indentation on the top by swirling a wooden spoon. Put 1 tablespoon of butter into each indentation. Sprinkle with parsley.

I don’t always follow recipes very well. For instance I only used a half head of cabbage (because the rest was used in the cornbeef and cabbage) replaced the ham with Canadian bacon (which my research indicated is more authentic for Ireland) and added some garlic and used non-freshly ground pepper. I know, I’m a rebel.

Review: It was pretty great, if I do say so myself. I’ll certainly make it again next St. Pattys, and perhaps before.

S’More Bread Pudding

I was asked to make a dessert starting with an S last week for a ward activity. Despite being in charge of these things, I get stuck with stupid assignments. In any case I originally planned on making some S’Mores, but eventually decided that was too slackerly and found this bread pudding recipe. Enjoying most everything British, I thought I’d try it out.

2 cups milk, scalded
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup graham crackers
1 cup marshmallow cream
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter

Mix all ingredients in the order listed. Place in a greased casserole dish and bake at 325 degrees for one hour.

Review: Pretty good. The marshmallow made it hard to tell when it was done, so it was a tad overdone. But seeing as this was bread pudding, that meant it was closer to cake than mush. So it wasn’t a wild hit, mostly because people thought it was a cake. I added to the S’Morishness by toasting a couple marshmallows and having them poke out at random intervals on the surface of the pudding, as well as extra blocks of Hershey chocolate and graham cracker squares. It was an interesting looking thing, but quite tasty.

Squash and Zucchini Thingy

I don’t often do vegetable dishes, so made up a couple using squash and zucchini. The first involved frying the veggies (cut into circles) with butter (I have yet to buy any manner of cooking oil) and lemon juice. After browning them I layered them in a casserole dish adding a bit of parmesan and mozzarella cheese between each layer. I made a second batch later in the week to get rid of the rest of the veggies and this time used more lemon juice, cut them into small wedges and added them to a batch of rice made with a bit of milk and garlic. Both variations were good, but I slightly preferred the rice dish.

This is test week so cereal and Wendys will do nicely.

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