Valentines Weekend

Get your tea, dessert, hot chocolate and sit for a story.

So I was off from school the next day and that meant I would relax. That did not happen. I cooked dinner on Friday, and prepared for lunch on Sunday, on Saturday night.

On the menu for Friday was Steak, sauteed potatoes and string beans. I wanted dessert but did not feel like spending money. I also had biscotti before I reached home. My other half had ice cream etc. etc at work.

I cooked the steak in a frying pan, after cutting in half, lengthwise. I think it was a sin to cut it in half but it was quite large for us. I made some string beans, boiling first then sauteing. The correct way would have been to blanch them. Blanching: bring a pot to a boil and then drop the veggies in for like 10-15 seconds. Then take them out and put them in cold water that is standing by. In class we blanched for a bit longer and then put in cold water. We held it there for about 1-2 minutes.

Saturday afternoon I started to think about my cooking. I knew that I needed a few different pots and I started to panic as I am new to my place and have not amassed cooking wares from years in the kitchen. So I decided on a round 5 inch tall dish, (originally part of a set with 4 little ramekins), it would be ample room for potatoes. Next I needed a pie dish and a casserole dish for my meat. Well I had a rectangle casserole dish that was to be my pie dish. Later on I used a large cooking pot for my casserole dish.

As a wise person once told me, you should read through the recipe first. It is not as silly as it sounds. Most of us find a recipe, look for the ingredients, or buy them and then proceed to make the dish. For very complicated dishes one should always read the recipe properly. My first read was on the scalloped potatoes. I pulled the recipe from the Naparima Girls High School recipe book. I realized that I would have to cut a bunch of potatoes. Originally I had planned to make sautéed potatoes but there is so much waste and then it take a while to cut up. It has to be at the precise heat and you have to look over it constantly—my least favorite thing, as you cannot multi-task. So I thought about cutting the potatoes on Saturday night and preparing on Sunday. Okay so I did not actually read to the last part of the recipe on this one, in the beginning. It said, cook for 1.5 hours. Plans changed, I had to make it then.

While I was contemplating that, I reread the recipe for the veal and ham pie, which I had found in a book called, Meat & Poultry. It looked nice in the picture. I read most of the way through and realized that I would have to cook two times. I immediately knew that some part of this had to be started later that day. I had already seasoned the veal, with soy sauce, onions, garlic, some red wine, and black pepper. The recipe called for cooking in a casserole till golden brown, then cooking onions in the left over grease, then cooking all of that in a stock. At the same time I wrote and re-wrote a schedule for the following day. It eventually ended up like this:

1) Make meat, 10-11:30 as it takes 1.5 hours to cook in the stock. Put that on first.
2) Eat Breakfast from 10 or so till 10:45
3) Make the cod fish cakes from 10:45-11:15,
4) Make the pastry dough at 11:15 to 11:30 and put on meat
5) Make the pears from 11:30 to 12
6) From 12 to 12:30 make the salad, broccoli and finish up

Okay, so what really happened, for a moment, I was going to call the meal St. Valentine’s Day Food Massacre.

Okay so on Saturday, realizing that the meat needed to be cooked for a while, I started that. I mixed up with the ingredients and then browned it, removing it from the heat. The next step would be boiling in stock and that was 1.5 hours so best done in the morning.

I started the potatoes. I cut them with the shape, so ovals. Potatoes like apples don’t do well in air, so in order to stop the brown mush, I put them in cold water. They lasted till the following day, the balance. I decided this would take a while after reading the recipe earlier and so, I proceeded to make the dish then. It was a layering process, similar to lasagna. The recipe called for milk that barely covered the potatoes. Okay so I did that. The packing part took about 25 minutes. While it was cooking a large bubble formed I thought, ‘this can’t be good.’ It was the milk boiling over in a way but not over the edge. So when I realized that the potatoes had cooked long enough and the milk was still there, I punctured the top and started “ladling” out milk. I filled a whole bowl. I was panicking-are the potatoes cooked down below, are they overcooked, where the hell is all this milk coming from? I thought part would have evaporated and the rest used for cooking the potato. My potatoes looked like they were attacked. I put back in the over with the harmed section opened to the heat, hoping it would crust like the other part.

In the morning, instead of sleeping later, I got up as soon as the sun hit my eyes. I mobilized to boil the meat. Then I started de-boning the cod fish. By the way—don’t get caught doing this the day of. The night before is best. I did the exercise twice and later on there were a few random bones. Then I followed a recipe in the Naparima book. That was a mistake. The mixture was so wet. My other half kept saying, add flour. Little did he know I already tried that method. It just made it creamier. So I gave up and he said he we would do it. He used a generous helping of bread crumbs and fried the balance. Then I told him he also had to make the broccoli and salad.

At this time, I had finished with the boil. I scooped the meat into the dish and let it sit for the dough. I proceeded to make the pastry crust. It was nice and buttery. Because of my lack of kitchen tools, I usually use a wine bottle to roll dough—yup, whatever we have. Today since my wine bottles was opened and the others were too far, I use a tall skinny jar. It worked for the most part. I ended up having to use a spatula to peel it off of the cookie sheet as it was breaking apart at the edges from I guess a lack of flour. I finally peeled it off and placed it on the meat—right on it, then into the oven

In the mean time I peeled the pears, cutting out the cores and making a little dish in them. Then I put them in the oven with some wine. I tidied up all the mess that I had made. By that time I took the pears out again and flipped them.

The pie in the oven was almost done. Meanwhile my other half was making the broccoli with so much garlic, that you could ward off the tax man. I proceeded to the concocting the topping. The topping was made of MARIE cookies crumbled, walnuts already crusted, pecans, some butter for the pot and 2 teaspoons of honey. I cooked it till it looked like crumbs and then spooned in into the pears. I put back in the oven. I proceeded to make the salad. Yeah it was not my job but I wanted it a certain way and so I did it. (Lettuce, seasoned walnuts, raisins, carrots shavings, and shredded cheese.) I took out the pears as they would just dry out in the heat I thought. The pie was done as well, and I left in the oven with the potatoes to stay warm.

OMG, we finished. We were able to shower and have about 10 minutes to spare.

What we learned:

No amount of garlic will help broccoli taste good. It is a matter of technique and careful preparation.

Bouillon cubes are the worst. If you can make the stock yourself DO IT.

Read the whole recipe first and yes you will most likely have to prepare the day before. [It was mentioned that I cook all on Sunday so it can be fresh. We can I tell you, all together it took about 5 (and change) hours to prepare. Okay so let’s rethink that.]

When you make the bouillon stock, take some of the sauce even if the recipe does not mention it, and add to the pie dish. Later it would be like a little sauce-must be hot or it becomes gelatin. If you have time, dilute and add something else to the stock to take away the saltiness.

Thanks goodness for pre-planning. My parents enjoyed it and so did my other half. When people went back for seconds, I was happy on the inside. They either were enjoying it, or were really hungry.

If you want the recipes, I can scan them it. You can have a go at it.
If I glazed over some things it was because I was tired of writing and because my memory of exact steps is 15% fuzzy.

Eat well, enjoy life!!

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