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Chris Amirault

Cooking Tasks That Reward Patience and Calm

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So, yeah, we know that Hung can blaze through four hundred onions in ten minutes, and that Ruhlman's discovery of efficiency in Making of a Chef is a big epiphany. But aren't there kitchen tasks that you embrace precisely because they require slow, steady attention? I was peeling eggs yesterday and realized that I really enjoyed the deliberateness the task required. Ditto produce shopping: I want to linger over that lemon and see if it's really what I want.

Surely there are such tasks for you. What are they?


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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For me, it's working with chocolate. It takes a lot of time, at least for me, it's messy and there is always a big clean-up. But, oh, it's so satisfying!

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I will second produce shopping, or really any food shopping; great free entertainment. Also second peeling, but in my case it is shrimp, including pulling the veins out. I get the concept of no-knead bread, but I enjoy the kneading process. Along the same lines, any dough that requires work can be rewarding like puff pastry, layering phyllo, rolling and cutting out and re-rolling cookies, and pasta including the cranking. With a good group I also enjoy rolling and folding tasks like stuffing leaves or pleating dumplings. One of my favorites is taking the seeds out of the pumpkin, getting all the gooey strands out, and soaking and roasting the seeds.

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For me it's when I make pastry crust--for a couple of reasons--both for personal and practical.

I use a very old-fashioned method for preparing my pastry crust, pie crust if you will. I cut the dough and butter and crisco by hand using a pastry cutter that is older than I am. And I'm getting pretty old. I love the beauty and symbolism of cutting the fat into the dough, the time it takes and the reflection and appreciation of knowing that is exactly how my Grandmother and Great Aunt Bertie made pie crust, by hand. They didn't have the convenience as some now call it, of using a food processor to pulse the ingredients. Yet somehow I suspect were they both alive today, they would still take the time, like I do, to cut the pastry by hand. So for me, the extra time spent on this simple kitchen task is very personal and well worth it. Hung can chop eighty onions in 3 minutes. I'll take 10 minutes to cut my pastry for one little pie.

I've tried making pastry crust using a food processor. Yes, it took a few mere seconds to process the ingredients into a dough ball, but from a technical standpoint, the finished pastry crust just didn't have the same flaky, crisp texture of pastry cut by hand. So from a practical standpoint I think taking that extra bit of time results in an incredibly delicious pastry crust.

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Smoking meat, although you have no choice but to be patient

tracey


Edited by rooftop1000 (log)

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

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It's peeling for me too. Eggs or garlic. During the holidays, when it's really crazy at work, I always ask that they leave the garlic peeling to me. Peeling 2 lbs. of garlic relaxes me -- everybody thinks I'm crazy, but I'm always happy to do it.

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Currently for me, it's been teaching Peter (now 13!) to cook. Carefully teaching him how to cook the roux for gumbo (san's a beer). How to chop an onion. How to season. How to pay careful attention to the produce -- the squeeze of the lemon, the snap of the beans, choosing the best meat -- be it a steak (a lesson in marbling) or knowing where the best brats can be found in the state, patting out a perfect burger, how to slice a tomato without making mush of it. Sitting on the deck late summer and shucking corn, and just how to time everything. I know I'm late in teaching him, but her has the interest, so I have the time. And, proper grilling, on the Trusty Old Weber. Although we now own a gas grill, where he got his grilling legs, we haven't bothered to get a new tank of gas, but he knows how to fire the chimney, pour out the coals, and get things going, and he's also had his first lessons in smoking a pork butt :-). (note: a gas grill top makes a nice work surface.)


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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Onions. Sweating slowly with other veg for a great pasta sauce base, or, even better, frying gently for 20-25 minutes until you have the perfect Indian curry colour and taste - the smell is just superb. You can't really hurry Indian cooking anyway, and I love nothing more than starting at around lunch time for an Indian themed dinner party :smile:

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To me, ALL cooking requires patience and calm. Or maybe it IS patience and calm.

Patience and calm is the point of cooking for me. Otherwise, I would just get take-out, or microwave leftovers. If I hurry, or I'm not focused, it all ends in tears...

- L.

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For me its making a long slow bolognese. The longer I simmer the happier I am. On any given Sunday in my house you will find a pot on the stove with bolognese or marinara simmering for at least 5-8 hours. Hand making ravioli comes a close second. But nothing is a total bliss out than pick 6-10 different baking projects and just spending the whole day with the music cranked and baking till I drop.


"I eat fat back, because bacon is too lean"

-overheard from a 105 year old man

"The only time to eat diet food is while waiting for the steak to cook" - Julia Child

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I find puff pastry, croissants, and such satisfying for that reason, as well as things that get wrapped and garnished with pastry like Beef Wellington. I also enjoy doing things simply with a knife, even when it might be easier in some sense with a mandoline or a food processor. The knife is easier to wash. I also find knife sharpening very satisfying.

There are things that take a long time like stock and braises and stews and slow roasts, but I don't think of those as things that require a lot of close attention. They just cook for a long time.


Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)

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For me its shucking corn. Every summer I buy dozens of ears and look forward to sitting on the porch with my corn and shucking it to put in the freezer for winter use.

Browning butter requires patience for me.

I'd like to agree with you on peeling eggs, but its more of a frustration for me. If I'm making deviled eggs, they come out horrible and if I'm making egg salad they come out perfect!


Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality. Clifton Fadiman

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All the veg prep.

I work at home, with a very very busy schedule, but I love having an excuse to ditch the office to go chop a bunch of veg for whatever is happening in the next meal. A couple days ago, I wasn't paying attention and chopped several things we didn't even need because I had gotten so absorbed in the process!

+1 on the Roux, as well...


PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

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I enjoy calm, leisurely grocery shopping, though it's not possible every trip, of course. Mostly produce, meat, fish and fowl, but in Asian markets especially I like to take time to explore frozen and prepared foods, too. All part of my food education. Central Market here in Texas has the best customer service I have seen in a grocery store: if I ask what's the difference between three or four types of pears and which taste the best right now, one of the produce guys offers to sample them. What's this new melon? - Let's try it and see. Poking around in the deli section, I ask what's the difference between these four types of capers? - Like to sample them? Nice way to spend an hour or so.

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Planning the menu for family gatherings. I literally take months to do it, and draft up time tables and guidelines for myself so everything comes together at the end.

Babysitting a nice pot of stock, checking and skimming all afternoon while it just barely simmers. Planting a tomato seed and nurturing it for months, with the final salad or pot of tomato soup in mind.

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Candying fruits of all kinds. Takes days, but wonderful days. :smile:


Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

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Making tamales. Smoking or braising the meat. Making salsa and masa. Sitting down at the table with family and assembling. The aroma of steaming tamales.


Edited by Hombre (log)

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Puff pastry and croissant for me as well.

I usually curse myself for making 2 or 3 batches at once, however.


Edited by fooey (log)

Fooey's Flickr Food Fotography

Brünnhilde, so help me, if you don't get out of the oven and empty the dishwasher, you won't be allowed anywhere near the table when we're flambeéing the Cherries Jubilee.

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I just made dumplings (asian, savoury) last night with a friend, and it occurred to me that this is a perfect task to linger over, particularly with another person. It was great to spend a good half hour (i'm slow, and it was his first time) filling and folding a whole lot of dumplings, watching them fill the trays in neat lines, seeing our technique improve, till in the end we had a tray full, a feeling of satisfaction and a good appetite!

Great chance for some relaxation and conversation. I know that experienced people can do it a lot quicker, but even then, it's something that deserves to be done at an enjoyable pace... doesn't have to be slow, but I think it can't be enjoyed when you're deliberately rushing.

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This is what I was going to say. My family and my best friend's family used to get together and make dumplings, egg rolls and crab rangoons. We'd spend a long afternoon making dozens and dozens, moms cooking the filling, kids rolling, guys tending the oil, and then eat ourselves silly on only the side dishes we'd normally order with a full Chinese dinner! :wub: It was always one of our favorite things. More fun than Thanksgiving because it was with friends and you didn't have to eat green beans.


"Life is a combination of magic and pasta." - Frederico Fellini

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that sounds like such a great time, Emily!

I think side-dishes or little nibbles are often more enticing than a 'regular' dish, maybe because you can eat a lot of different ones :)

It's cool that everyone got involved too, i can imagine the great atmosphere with everyone buzzing around, and getting along with each other!

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Hmm, for me it has to be making gumbo, making risotto, and especially boiling/cleaning/picking boiled crabs. The ultimate though is making my wife's spaghetti gravy recipe. I haven't made that forever, I really need to make a batch.

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I'm another one that likes to take my time leisurely shopping for groceries. It's like a touchy-feely museum. :laugh: Making risotto also sprang to mind -- I think that's one reason I've resisted all the strategies for faster and/or no-stir risotto strategies: part of me doesn't want to give up that ritual of stirring and adding and stirring and adding.

About a month ago I made a big batch of Vietnamese salad rolls for a party. The process of wetting each rice paper, quickly laying in all the fillings, and wrapping it all up before the rice paper got too soggy to work with was at first kind of frantic, but as I fell into a rhythm it became a kind of zen thing. I was still tired and ready to stop by the time I turned out 25 of those suckers, but I was also feeling like a well-oiled roll-wrapping machine.


Edited by mizducky (log)

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