How I Cook

Its cold, windy, and rainy today, and I’m going to want something hearty for dinner. A quick check of the freezer offers several options: filet mignon, shrimp, goat meat, pork loin, and … wait a minute … are those oxtails? Decision made. Now I have to decide how to cook them. Since Louise and I are heading out this afternoon, I pull out the slow cooker so I can just let it cook all day, and it will be fork-tender by tonight. As I defrost the oxtails I remember that I also have some sweet Italian sausages in the freezer. Thinking they might go well together, I defrost those as well. While I heat up the frying pan to sear the oxtails and the sausage, I start gathering the spices I want to use. At first I think I’ll go Middle Eastern, so I gather cumin, coriander, turmeric, cloves, and cinnamon. Changing my mind, I decide to go more European, but I keep the cloves and cinnamon just to flummox my taste buds. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, garlic power, onion powder, and just to mess with Louise I pull out about a tablespoon of mint. That will confuse her. My larder is not yet fully stocked since our return from Florida, so there is no beef stock. I make due with beef cubes dissolved in hot water. I also pull out Worcestershire sauce, and to add a little bit of acid—balsamic vinegar. I also decide to throw in a whole jalapeño pepper for a little spice. After browning all the meat I add it to the slow cooker. Covering it with the beef stock, I then add some Worcestershire sauce and vinegar. Now all the spices get tossed in. I don’t measure them; I just add what looks to be right. Later on, we’ll see how good my judgment is. I have lots of other spices, but I have decided to just keep it simple this time. I have a tendency to add spice like a Punjabi chef. While this works brilliantly in Indian dishes, it’s not always so great in other food. Restraint is not something I’m known for, but I resist the urge to add more. The one thing I’m missing is a decent bottle of red wine. It’s the perfect ingredient to add a little body to the broth. I won’t add salt and pepper until it’s almost ready, since I don’t want to mask the actual taste of the broth. I will taste it periodically throughout the day and my taste buds will tell me what it needs. I will then make the appropriate adjustments. I will need something to go with the meat. I search the cupboards, but I have no potatoes or onions, both of which would normally be essential ingredients. I do have some unused asparagus, broccoli, peppers, snap peas, and portabello mushrooms, so I’ll add these with about an hour to go so they’ll be cooked but not to a mush. I’ll add the mushrooms last because they don’t need much time to cook. And there you have it. Dinner!


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