Category Archives: Food resolutions 2009

More than I could chew

I decided to tackle three of my food resolutions and (hopefully) make some good food in the process.

When I did a roll call of the contents of my freezer, I discovered kielbasa among the frozen meats. And a thorough inspection of my cupboards brought forth (among other things) Zatarain’s rice mix.

These were the two main ingredients in a tasty Real Simple recipe for jambalaya that I had made a few years ago.

In the spirit of my resolution to rely less on recipes, I winged it and cooked the jambalaya on my own. First I browned the kielbasa. Then I added the rice mix and a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes. I brought the mixture to a boil, reduced it to a simmer and put a lid on it for 25 minutes. At the end, I added some raw shrimp and heated everything through.

The result was this:
jambalaya

It turned out to be one of the worst dishes I have ever made! The main reason was because instead of using a jambalaya rice mix, I used a red beans and rice mix. I realized I had the wrong mix while I was browning the kielbasa but decided to move forward anyway.

The flavors in the red beans and rice mix didn’t complement the spicy kielbasa or the can of whole tomatoes that went into the dish. Instead, there was an all-out flavor war that resulted in nothing but an awful bitterness.

In making the jambalaya, I also managed to pull off a raw food hat trick: the beans, rice and shrimp weren’t fully cooked. There were a couple of things going on here. I didn’t put enough liquid in the pot to thoroughly cook the rice and beans. The liquid from the can of tomatoes would have cooked a jambalaya rice mix just fine, but the addition of the beans required extra liquid.

When it was time to add the shrimp, I didn’t think that the rice and beans looked done, but I decided to go ahead and throw in the shrimp. I thought the heat of the rice would cook the shrimp so I turned off the burner because I didn’t want the rice to burn. Wrong move. The pot needed to stay on low heat.

As bad as the jambalaya was, I couldn’t bear to throw it out because I hate wasting food. I brought it to work for lunch one day but couldn’t down more than three bites. I brought the leftovers home, fully intending to throw them out. But somehow they made it back into the fridge.

My husband ate the leftovers and told me–with a straight face– that the flavors had improved over the course of a few days.

Lessons learned:
1. I need to make sure I have the right ingredients before I start cooking.
2. I should trust my food instincts.
3. Some food cannot and should not be saved.
4. My husband is a saint.

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Filed under Food resolutions 2009, Savory, So wrong

9 food resolutions for 2009

1. Cook a Filipino meal at least once a month.
My son just turned a year old, and I want to start introducing him to a key part of his heritage. But let’s be honest–this resolution is mostly for me. I miss Filipino food! I recently realized that I now only eat Filipino dishes at parties or restaurants. I rarely cook Filipino cuisine at home. I want Filipino food to be part of my family’s life every day. But I know I have to start slowly. My initial goal is once a month so that this resolution can be a successful one.

2. Inventory the contents of my freezer…
My husband makes a delicious cranberry sauce that friends and family frequently request for their Thanksgiving meals. So he made a big batch, gave a bunch away and froze the leftovers, which have been hanging out in our freezer–for two years.

3. …And figure out what’s in my cupboards.
Cleaning out the cupboard is akin to going through your closet. You rediscover old treasures (a pencil skirt/green lentils), find things you didn’t realize you had (cashmere gloves/Cincinatti chili mix) and re-live some mistakes (leopard print leggings/Manwich).

With the economy being what it is, food prices aren’t going down any time soon, and it’s time to make the most of what you have. But first you have to know what you have and where it is!

4. Use kitchen gadgets or give them away.
My husband and I put a mandoline on our wedding registry with ambitions of making our own potato chips, gratins and other dishes that required cutting foods ridiculously thin. How many times have we used the mandoline since we got it almost three years ago? Exactly once. And it’s still in its original box.

5. Learn how to cut a whole chicken into pieces.
It’s cheaper to buy a whole chicken and cut it up yourself. This task usually falls to my husband, but I am determined this year to learn what I consider a very basic kitchen skill.

6. Learn how to clean and cook a whole fish.
When I was a kid, my parents cooked fish at least once a week, and most of the time, the fish would be whole with the head and tail intact. Yum! I love eating fish, but I’ve never prepared any that wasn’t filleted. I’m not exactly excited about gutting or scaling a fish, but again, I think this is a skill that all (fish-eating) cooks should have.

7. Get my knives sharpened.
If I’m going to accomplish resolutions #5 and #6, my knives need to be in peak condition!

8. Rely less on recipes.
I yearn to be a more intuitive cook. I want to be able to whip up a great meal with whatever is in my fridge at the moment. I want to just know how to make a great lasagna.

Recipes are a good place to start and get inspiration, and I want to be able to have the confidence to cook on my own.

9. Make ice cream more often.
This year’s Christmas dinner was punctuated by delectable cinnamon ice cream made by my sister-in-law, Yvette. Making ice cream is relatively easy, and it’s something that always impresses people. When you serve homemade ice cream, someone will undoubtedly say, “You made this?” with a mix of wonder and gratitude. And homemade ice cream makes a unique and fabulous gift.

I’ll keep you updated on my food resolutions throughout the year. Here’s to a tasty 2009!

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Filed under Filipino food, Food resolutions 2009, Ice cream, Savory, Sweet