Last night, as usual, dinner was cooked in the Crappy Kitchen.
But, I did not lift a finger to help, (I think I was actually in the way!). This was the first time anyone besides myself was in charge of dinner. Of course people have helped me cook countless times but I have always been there, doing some job or other. Last night I was up to my eyes in work. The dining room was awash with all sorts of things in a half organised state and dinner was the last thing on my mind. My friend Tom dropped in and saw the situation. After several quick plans and thoughts, he raced off to the supermarket.
Back he came, armed with bags 20 minutes later and ousted me out of the kitchen – literally! He was completely adamant that I get out and leave him to it! I became panic-stricken! He couldn’t throw me out; how would he manage without my help?
There was also that other pending question – how would I write a blog if I wasn’t going to cook, and, not be allowed to see what was being cooked? I had acquired, over the past few months, the mentality of a postal carrier (mailman, postman – you know..) and had to deliver a dinner and a blog, hail, rain or shine!
We reached a compromise. I was allowed to sit on a stool and “observe but not interfere!” My man Dave found this all very amusing as he opened up a bottle of wine and got 3 glasses. He was delighted to see me initially squirm and feel frustrated because he knows how I am about how things are done in the only place in the house that I truly deem as my very own.
At first I acted like that annoying “passenger driver” and politely told Tom where things were, and if perhaps he could use a couple of sprigs of herbs from the garden? I even went as far as adjusting the heat under a pot when he wasn’t looking (hee hee).
Then I remembered I needed to photograph the process, and, after a little, I became curious about what he was doing and began to scribble things down on the note cards I use for myself when I make dinner. I became more interested in watching him than in participating. It became enjoyable. I saw that he didn’t seem to need me for anything. He just grabbed this and that like it was his kitchen. As he was sautéing, stirring boiling pots, deftly squeezing lemon juice onto the fish and charring Pita, he exclaimed, “your kitchen is like a cock-pit, everything is right at arm’s reach!”
It was then I realized because my kitchen is so small (don’t forget crappy!) I have situated everything in a way so as not to make me frustrated while preparing food. Seasonings are on the counter, along with oils, wooden spoons, spatulas, tongs etc. Pot and pans are overhead on obliging nails and right beside the stove and sink, not forgetting that all the herbs are planted right outside the back door! This was the first time I felt a little glow of pride where my kitchen is concerned, even feeling a smidge bad at how many times I have muttered horrible things about it under my breath (daily actually). I decided then and there to treat the space with a little more respect, well, try anyway?
Tom has cooked lots of meals for me but for some reason this was my favorite. The combination of the bok choy and the potatoes was really lovely; crunchy and smooth textures. The fish was perfectly cooked and seasoned, and was delicious with the charred pita bread. The corn was like the sweet-bite between each mouthful – absolutely delicious food.
Tom made this meal in lightening speed, and, I suppose this is possible if you use almost every pot, pan and spoon in your wake! He apologized for the mess and at a quick glance I thought it didn’t look too bad. That was until everyone was in bed and I started to clean the kitchen!
Besides the countless plates, silverware, glasses, cups and bowls, I washed 1 big saute pan w/lid, 2 big pots w/lids, 1 heavy casserole, 1 small saucepan, 2 large serving bowls, 1 platter and a number of knives – how did he do that?
Bok Choy with Smashed Potato Recipe (serves 6)
You will need: 3 lbs white potatoes, skin on and cut into large dice, 1 big head bok choy, stalks sliced and greens roughly chopped, 1 sweet onion, diced, 5 cloves garlic, 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup heavy or light cream, coarse sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper.
1 – Wash and dice potatoes. Put in pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cover. Boil until soft. Drain into colander and set aside.
2 – While potatoes are cooking add 3 tbs of oil, the onion and garlic into a big saute pan and cook for 8 minutes on medium heat, stirring frequently. Add bok choy and continue to saute (while stirring often) for a further 8 or so minutes until bok choy is cooked (taste to test). Transfer bok choy to the middle of a big serving bowl.
3 – Put the pot that you used for the potatoes on the stove-top on medium heat and add 2 tbs oil. Let the pot get hot and then add the cooked potatoes. Saute for a couple of minutes all the while stirring and mixing the potatoes. Smash everything with a potato masher until roughly mashed. Add the cream, 1 tsp salt and several grinds of pepper, and stir. Turn off heat. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper according to your taste.
4 – Spoon all around the bok choy and set aside until ready to serve.
Steelhead Trout Recipe (serves 6)
You will Need: 2 lbs Steelhead Trout fillets (Rainbow Trout is very similar), 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 lemon along with it’s juice, 3 sprigs fresh thyme, 3 sprigs winter savory OR 4 or 5 sprigs of tarragon, coarse sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper.
1 – Lightly season fish with salt and pepper. Put big saute pan on high heat and add oil. When oil is hot add fish, flesh side down, and cook for 2 minutes.
2 – Turn fish and cook, skin side down, for 3 minutes until skin browns. Turn heat down to low and squeeze lemon juice over fish.
3 – Add the herbs and cover pan and cook gently for 8 more minutes. Turn off heat and leave covered for a couple of minutes before placing on platter or big plate. Spoon lemony oil over fish.
You also need to get the Pita and Corn cooked!
For the steamed corn: Put a big pot on the stove-top and add 1 1/4 cups of water. Stand the corn (6 pieces for 6 people) upright in the pot with pointy side up. When the water comes to a boil, cover and turn heat down. Steam for 10 minutes.
When corn has cooked remove to a big heavy casserole or dutch oven and cover. It will keep perfectly warm like this until ready to serve.
For the Charred Pita:
Tom got to do this on our gas stove-top but he cooks it the same way on his electric cooker!
When food is getting close to being ready, cook the pita on a low open flame or your electric ring until starting to blacken in spots. Remove to a big plate or bowl for serving.
We served everything buffet style at the table. It was all so pretty to look at and I got to eat my plate of food and then continue to pick until I felt more than satisfied!