One day last week I had a beautiful episode of kitchen serendipity. The day before, while rooting around in my freezer, looking for SOMETHING ELSE, I found a package of what I believed was beef of some ilk. It was, of course, unlabeled. Even though I’ve been trying to be very, very consistent about labeling things in my freezer, *and* keeping an inventory list (with dates the stuff went INTO the deep-freeze, ooooh-ahhhh), so I don’t get unpleasant surprises later and end up throwing away what had been good food, this baggie had somehow slipped through the cracks. It was starting to look a bit frost worn, so in addition to what I was actually after (a pound of hamburger, which I found, by the way), I pulled out the mystery-meat-probably-beef baggie and tossed it in the ‘fridge to thaw.
I’ve already told you that I’m not a hugely intuitive cook, nor am I the most creative person on the planet, so my meals are not usually made by “winging it”. I’d never make it on “Iron Chef” or “Chopped”. I am hugely appreciative (and envious) of those cooks who can look at tapioca, liver, snicker doodles and cilantro and come up with a main dish. Me? Give me a recipe (and even better, a menu) and I’m ready to go. Usually, I plan my menus out the day before I go shopping for the week or so. I pull recipes from stuff I’ve clipped, found on the Interwebs or remember fondly, and check to make sure I have what I need. Then I think of sides to go with the main. Then I make my shopping list. Lately, that’s been challenged a bit by my having joined a CSA (community supported agriculture group, sort of like a food co-op). Since I never know what produce I’m getting every two weeks until I actually pick up my share, menu-planning’s become a bit more off-the-cuff. But I still like to have some sort of road map about where I’m going for each shopping trip.
Since I’m single, I also have to deal with the blessing (or curse) of leftovers. I actually, most certainly, do NOT love leftovers. Especially if I can’t “repurpose” the food into something different. Once I’ve had lasagna, I don’t want it again for another several months. Once I’ve had chili, I don’t want it again for a long while. It was easier when I was working….I didn’t have a problem eating leftovers for lunch, even exactly the same iteration of the food (weird, huh?). But serve it again for a dinner in the same near-time frame? Not gunna happen. No problem with taking a roast chicken and turning it into chicken salad, or enchiladas, or stir-fry. But beef stew twice in a week….not so much. That’s part of why the freezer labeling is critical ! Each plastic bin of “reddish stuff” sort of looks like the next.
So I also try to plan my menus around my leftover aversions. And I’m a pro at cutting recipes down to make only one or two servings. So if I need a pound of chicken breasts for a recipe to serve 4, and I know I’m only going to use half that pound for just me, I try to find another recipe for chicken that I can make in the same week (or shortly thereafter) to utilize the balance. Long story short, impossible at this point, I know, I usually work to a menu list and a fairly set plan of what I’m having for dinner over the course of a week or two between major grocery hauls.
So, the day after I discovered the mystery-meat-probably-beef-of-some-ilk package, I was trying to pull dinner together, and nothing that I had pulled recipes for sounded like what I wanted. By now, the mystery-meat package had defrosted enough for me to realize it was a three smallish pieces from a package tri-tip steaks I’d bought a while back and not used. SCORE ! That sounded like what I wanted. I also realized I had a HUGE, about soft-ball sized artichoke (one of the first of the season, yay) in the crisper that was really needing to be used. Hmmmmm….sounds like dinner to me. Seared tri-tip steaks, steamed artichoke with garlic mayo and the focaccia I’d wanted to make for months (see the previous post).
So I decided to sprinkle the steaks with a bit of Cajun seasoning mix, and “grill” them off on my stove-top Le Creuset grill pan. I figured about 2 minutes per side would be fine. I let the steaks sit a bit with the seasoning on both sides while everything else got ready. Trimmed and cleaned the ‘choke, and dealt with all the bread prep. Put the ‘choke on to cook, and about that time the bread came out of the oven. Almost time for lift-off…
I was about to tart up the Best Foods mayo like I normally do for my artichokes (Best Foods, lemon juice, Italian herbs and garlic) when I thought….”you know, I’ve got a bit of time before the steaks need to go on, I think I’ll try to make homemade mayonnaise”. Now, I’d tried to make mayonnaise a couple of times before. Never worked. I think because I was making a small quantity, and trying to do it in a large Cuisinart, the friction from the spinning of the blade started to cook the egg and I could never get an emulsion. I just got oily goo. But I just bought a new KitchenAid mini-processor (3 cup quantity), and thought I’d give it a go in that.
Et voila ! One egg, one cup olive oil, about a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice, some salt and pepper (and I threw in a garlic clove and those Italian herbs). Blitz the egg, 1/4C oil, the lemon juice and the S&P in the processor, then drizzle in the rest of the oil. You have mayonnaise. I MADE MAYONNAISE ! It was sublime on that supermodel artichoke. Sublime. It took all my restraint to not just eat it out of the bowl with a big spoon. The only thing I would change would be to make it 50/50 olive oil and a neutral oil like canola the next time. I felt the olive oil was a bit heavy, but worked with the artichoke. Who knew mayonnaise (which is the single best substance on Earth) is yellow, not white? Not to diss Best Foods, but homemade blows it out of the water. Completely. Best Foods, I’ll always love ya, but when I have artichokes from now on, you can stay in the ‘fridge.
I MADE MAYONNAISE !!!
Oh yeah. The rest of the dinner was outstanding as well. Great way to deal with the tri-tip steaks. Artichokes, of course, never disappoint. And the bread, the bread, the bread……..simply rocked.
Sometimes, the unplanned route is the best one.