Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Lessons from the Bachelor Kitchen 

Any cookbook, such as Rocco's (my mother swears he's being touted on daytime television, but I think he's a fraud after tonight's experience) that promises delicious meals in five minutes is not telling the truth. I might, maybe, in an offchance, could prepare some of these meals in five minutes if I had (a) someone helping me, (b) all the ingredients already measured out in little bowls, (c) all chopping, grating, dicing, and other time consuming cutting jobs already done, and (d) 7 hands. Now, last week, I tried his guacamole recipe. It took me about 10 minutes to prepare, but I chalked that up to my lack of experience with avacodos. Getting those huge, slippery pits out becomes sort of a game. But, the guacamole was delicious, so it was all good. And really, 5 minutes behind is nothing.

So, this week, I decide I'll be preparing all my dinner meals from Rocco's cookbook, which I got for Christmas. I sit down and select my meals, writing a grocery list. (Rocco also lists the approximate price of each meal, base on 4 people eating it.) Some of the things I'm not entirely sure what they are, but I write them down on the list anyway thinking I can find them easily enough. Ok, what the hell is a shallot? Oh well, write it down anyway. So, I go to the gym and then the ghetto Jewel, where shopping is an adventure. I find some easy items fairly quickly. Then, I come to "chives". I know what chives are. I even know what they look like. Does the ghetto Jewel have them in the fresh produce section? Apparently not. I wander around some more. Oh, there they are. Vacuum sealed in a camoflaged plastic bag. Ha, fresh. I look down at my list and cringe. Shallot. Right, so, it's a vegetable I'm pretty sure. This means it'll be in the produce section. I cooly start cruising the produce looking for anything that might be the elusive shallot. No luck. A produce man approaches. Uh oh, shut up or put up time. "Can I help you find anything, sir?" I swear to you, faithful reader, in my mind I told my mouth to form the lips in such a way and push out the breath in such a way so as to make the sound for, "Yes, I'm looking for shallots." But that devil, the inner man who bleeds confidence, took over and I calmly said, "No, I'm good." Good? Good? I'm not good! I don't even know what the hell I'm looking for or what the hell it is or even looks like! Hell, the idea that it's even a vegetable is just a hope and a prayer! Now I'm in a pickle, sticking with food metaphors. Cause now I have to find it on my own. Even my rational mind won't allow me to stick my tail between my legs and go back over to the produce guy, humbly admitting my shame and asking for help. Oh no, can't do that. I wander some more. I swear, I've been on each of these produce aisles 10 times each. Maybe a shallot isn't a vegetable. Maybe it's something that comes in a can. Maybe it's a spice. What the hell do I need it for anyway? Oh yes, Rocco's mushroom soup. (Side note: The soup recipe called for "wild mushrooms". I found them easily enough, but I had to stand there for five minutes and convince myself that because these odd and very poisonous looking things were packaged and in a grocery store, they had to be edible - they wouldn't kill me. It took a while, even for this button mushroom lover. Some of them looked like they had gills.) There it is. In a small, red bag. Two of them. Complete with a sign, "Shallots". I inspect it. Closely. It's a gul-durned mini-onion! A $3.50 pair of mini onions. This "shallot" better do amazing things for a soup. And Rocco, next time you write "shallot" in your ingredient list, write in parantheses next to it "(this is an expensive mini-onion, you'll find it in a small red bag next to the larger, more recognizable and economical onions)". Exhausted by my shallot search, I quickly look for the next item, "lentil soup". Ghetto Jewel doesn't have lentil soup. I check back over by the onions to be sure, but it wasn't there either. I was too tired and almost defeated, so I made an executive decision. Lentil soup in my version of the recipe will be read as "1 can great northern beans". Ok, counting shopping time, I'm already 45 minutes past the promised 5 minute flavors of the book's title.

I get home and shower; when I get out I am both clean and hungry. Rocco promises 5 minute flavor, and I'm gonna need it. I set about grating the cheese I need for the recipe. 1 minute down. I get out the box of scalloped potatoes and see how to prepare them. I scan down to stare in astonishment at the cook time - 35 minutes! Rocco's recipe simply says, buy pre-cooked scalloped potatoes. Who sells those?! I know who, restaurants. But I'll be damned if I'm gonna roll up to a restaurant and order some scalloped potatoes to go just so I can make a recipe in a time limit! Ok, so I set about cook the scallopped potatoes, resigned to hunger. I call my mother to complain, and it's a good thing I did. We went over the recipe. The next step was to broil the steak. I saw a broil setting on my oven so I figured that's all there was to that. I even recalled that I needed to move one oven rack up to the top, because broiling heats from the top only. Now my mother says to me, "Remember when you broil," as if I knew how to do this and forgot, "to leave the oven door open or you'll explode." Handy advice. I do all this, stick the steak in, and set the time to 2 1/2 minutes (per side says Rocco). The buzzer goes off and I take the steak out to flip it. It hasn't cooked one iota. I leave it in there longer and eventually it begins to cook. I flip it and cook the other side. The potatoes are long since scalloped. When I finally sit down to eat it has been over two hours since the adventure began. To hell with you Rocco, and your five minutes. That's a crock. The steak was tough, too. But golly, those were good potatoes!

I'm looking forward to more adventures later this week when I reacquaint myself with the shallot and make some wild mushroom soup. If I die, you'll know why.



Ryan, I am proud of you for your culinary prowess and persistence. Sounds like you're way past "man with a can" days...the ironic thing is, here in NE TN a local grocer's radio commercial offers help for this guy who's trying to put together a recipe and asks "what the heck's a shallot?!"...his next question for the helpful grocer is "what's gor-gon-zoola?" I'm sure you know...that's a cheese.
Peace and love from the MRS. Hudd.

By Blogger Hudd, at 11:41 AM  

Progresso makes a good lentil soup that I've never had a hard time finding, even in ghetto stores. Look for a blue label with a red "vegetable classics" ribbon on it. (That's a graphic ribbon, not a real ribbon.) It's called "Lentil Soup"

By Blogger Beth, at 1:43 PM  

Three words, Ryan - that's all you need to know.

Campbell's Firehouse Chili.

It's a breakfast, it's a lunch, it's a supper, it's a topping, it's a side dish, it's a meal, it's the answer you're been looking for.

ZAX out,

By Blogger BrotherBeal, at 2:20 PM  

Even tho we talked, when I read this I laughed till tears ran down my face!!! Life is always an adventure with you!! Mom

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:37 PM  

Oh man -- LOL -- this is too funny!! It reminds me of an e-mail I sent to friends upon my arrival at seminary about our trip from WA to Chicago (let's just say that 'fire, wind and mud' are about all you need to know).

Thanks for the laugh.

By Blogger Reverend Ref +, at 12:17 AM  

Man, five minutes isn't enough time to cook ANYTHING - not even a sandwich. Didn't your mom teach you anything??? (Just kidding, Mom.)

At least you don't burn water. I did that once. Melted the bottom out of an aluminum pot, I did.

By Blogger Dawgdays, at 1:58 AM  

We are on a serious, Boy-driven Food Network marathon over here, now into about its 30th day. Catch Emeril evenings at 7 central, Ryan! Buy a Rachel Ray cookbook! Make "book" on the winner of Iron Chef sunday evenings!

I think Michelle is greatly relieved to sometimes be greeted, at the end of the day, with spaghetti and homemade meatballs, or cornmeal-fried porkchops, rather than cut-up hotdogs and frozen fries.

By Blogger G. Brooke, at 10:36 AM  

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