With all the crazy fists full of rain and snow last night, I wanted to cook something cozy. What I wanted was pot roast and cheesy scalloped potatoes. What I cooked was an entirely vegan risotto with pescetarian scallops. Kind of the same letters so I thought I might trick my brain.
I got the risotto recipe from my favorite food blogger: Thug Kitchen. The risotto ended up creamy and flavorful and delicious. And I didn’t stand there constantly stirring and complaining about my lower back.
Well, I complained about my lower back, but it had nothing to do with standing at the stovetop for long periods of time and more to do with my incredibly weak core and general lower-back pain associated with being a lazy sack of crap.
This Thug Kitchen guy–I think it’s a guy?–makes cooking seem easy. I am ridiculously anal in the kitchen and since the only kitchen experience I have is as either a very short-term line cook and as a prep cook, my solitary skillset is chopping vegetables and tossing them into prep bowls. As you can imagine, my precise manner makes me an okay baker. (I make a pretty good crust because, along with my consistently cold hands, I remain retentive about portions, but lose interest in actually preparing things. I get bored while mixing the ingredients, and end up with a flaky crust almost every time.)
This Thug Kitchen guy, though, he makes me feel like I don’t have to be anal, like I’m on the trapeze without a net, skiing without a helmet. His basic philosophy seems to be “shut the fuck up and just cook it.”
It reminds me a little of my friend MoMo who prepared an entire raw kelp noodle pad thai in her tiny little kitchen, all while reminiscing about our evil shenanigans together when we were in our 20s and gossiping about people we barely even know anymore. We finished lunch and she pulled a coffee cake out of the oven, set it aside, and promptly started frosting some homemade cinnamon buns that had been cooling in the corner so they would be ready in time to deliver to her local coffee shop. You know, just something she does on the side.
There wasn’t an ounce of hurriedness or distraction in her manner, nor did I have (nor have I ever gotten) the sense that she was showing off her cooking prowess. That’s how I want to be in the kitchen.
Aside: Her kids were all tooling about the house and her husband showed up after working over 24 hours straight because he has a full-time job and moonlights as a plowtruck driver and we had just suffered a major storm. I was almost too exhausted after I left them to meet some friends for sushi.
Back on point. Her behavior in the kitchen–and I worked with her in restaurants–is the type of behavior I want to have about everything in my life. I never will, but I admire the f*ck out of it.
Okay okay. Back to the risotto. I was completely blase about the whole thing and added broth, gave a quick stir, sipped my cocktail, chatted with Groom, chopped some vegetables (never veggies, please, never veggies), gave the risotto a looky-loo, sipped my cocktail, and so on.
It was delicious. It doesn’t call for tomatoes, but I added some little baby guys to it and I didn’t put as much lemon as I think it probably needed because we ate the risotto with some scallops I had pulled from the freezer, left over from scallop season and purchased at Plant’s Seafood in Bath. I knew we would be adding plenty of citrus to those little white discs.
Typically, Groom and I eat our scallops sliced thinly with just some citrus and olive oil. But, since the scallops had been in the freezer for a while and neither Groom nor I were sure how much water they might leak if we seared them (it turns out, probably very little after all), we decided to poach them in wine and the extra vegetable broth from the risotto fixings.
I learned to poach scallops from a woman representing the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association at the Commercial Marine Expo (good show, you should check it out) when I used to run the seminar program for them. It was all quite by accident.
I needed a break from running back and forth around the New Bedford State Pier and sat down in a quiet section of the warehouse. After a few moments of very necessary deep breathing (not in the yoga, cleansing way, but more in the “I can’t legally get away with murdering some of these people” way), I realized I was sitting in on a cooking demonstration. This little woman was standing in front of a big pot with plastic fish bins around her. She reached into one bin and pulled out a handful of scallops. She reached into another bin and pulled out a handful of garlic. Next bin: parsley. She poured in some lemon juice, olive oil, and wine, turned on the heat (yes, she started with a cold pot), waited a few minutes, and voila. Scallops poached in wine. And they were delicious.
For our scallops, Groom (come on, man, I made the risotto) used the broth, some lemon slices, some sliced garlic, about half a bottle of wine, some black pepper, and a hint of thyme. If I were to make this entire meal again, I might use fish stock (not vegan, I know) and maybe some saffron, which I hate, but in this? I don’t know. I might like it.
And you know what? By the time dinner rolled around, I had forgotten entirely about the pot roast and cheesy scalloped potatoes.