Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Cooking for 26!


jrshaul
 Share

Recommended Posts

StanSherman's post just got me thinking about my college days, when I was probably the only one amongst my theatre major buddies who actually knew how to cook (a little bit)...

My mom once sent me home with a ham bone and a couple of cabbages out of her garden. I made a HUGE pot of soup with ham bone stock, whatever frozen veg was on sale at the market, a can of V8 and chopped cabbage. I also made biscuits or cornbread. I think that meal fed at least 25. After that, it became a bit of a ritual... Pam's makin' soup, everybody gather round!

I only had 4-6 bowls... so, it was BYOBowl or wait until somebody else finishes and we can rinse out the bowl for the next person!

Somebody usually brought "brownies" for afters... Then, we needed more soup!

It was the 70s... just sayin' :raz:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I helped a co-op resident with his cooking today. (Photos are sadly absent due to camera going kablooey.) I ended up dumping an enormous amount of roasted garlic and caramelized onions in his tomato sauce, which seemed to mellow the flavor a bit. I tried adding a bit of baking soda (1/8tsp) to speed up the caramelization, though I didn't really notice any difference.

Due to the low protein quotient of the dinner, I also prepared a somewhat hasty three-bean salad. Actually, because the only canned beans on hand were garbanzo beans, it was a one-bean salad, but people seemed to like it a lot. Next time, I'll prepare it in advance and let the flavors mix a bit, but for something prepared in ten minutes it came out pretty well.

I'm still a little nervous on the bolognese ragu for Monday. I've never made a sauce quite like this before, and cooking a pork shoulder in the pot then shredding the pork halfway through may or may not work. On the other hand, everyone really likes meat, and pork shoulder is $2/pound...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Everyone likes meat?

Yes. I suppose even vegans like it.

There's actually just the one.

However, the vegetarians are getting pasta y fagioli. To be honest, were it not for the fact that a large percentage of diners will be eating beans, I likely couldn't get away with it.

Edited by jrshaul (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

jrshaul, if I may, I suggest that you get your hands on a copy of a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. It's the one with the gingham checked cover and three ring binder style. It's easy to use, covers a lot of different food ideas, is divided into sections devoted to different meal items, e.g., Meats, Vegetables, &c. I still use mine occasionally and it was purchased three decades ago. If you have a lot of used bookstores (and I would imagine you do), try looking for the old Time-Life series called The Good Cook. It has many volumes and each is devoted to a different topic: Poultry, Fruits, Classic Desserts, Beef and Veal, &c. It also has a lot of color photography in the first half and gives an overview of the topic with the recipes in the second half of the book. The recipes are collected from around the world and substitutions are given for hard to find items.

Many of us collect cookbooks (I have hundreds) and the main difference I have found is that newer cookbooks do not value menu planning and the use of leftovers in creative ways. I have cookbooks from the '40s that tell you how to shop for newlyweds, families with small children, groups of up to 20, how to set a table, plan a menu and the order in which to cook various courses that involve multiple steps. Julia Child in her "Mastering" set, also gives useful tips for places where you may stop cooking the dish and hold it until later when it is finished with __________.

Again, good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And, speaking of all these soups, and long stewing of inexpensive proteins, has anyone mentioned a crockpot? (Can't remember and don't have time to re-read the entire thread.)

Don't know how busy you are with classes, studying, etc., but I'll bet you could pick up a crockpot pretty cheaply at your local Goodwill or other second-hand store. Or maybe somebody has a mama that no longer uses hers and she'd like to donate it to the cause.

But in the morning, you could put your pork shoulder in there with a couple cans of Herdez Salsa and head out to class or the library or whatever and by dinnertime, it'd be all broken down. Then shred some lettuce, get that supermarket cheese you spoke of, and some beans and tortillas and open a can or jar of pickled jalapenos and you'd be all set. The vegetarians could have tacos with just some veggies, cheese and beans.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Calipoutine could probably speak to the crockpot issue, as well. If I recall correctly, she used them quite a bit when she was cooking for the seniors, if fact, she had several in different sizes.

I loved (still do!) my crockpot when I was working a lot and my kids were small. The newer ones have removable ceramics that allow you to prep everything the night before, refrigerate, then pop it into the warming unit before you zip out the door in the morning.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have hard water where I live so dried beans won't soften no matter how long I boil them. The only way to cook them is by using a pressure cooking or adding baking soda to the boiling water. That said, I prefer using dried garbanzo beans to canned because they are much cheaper at the Indian grocer, and I can also use them for falafel, which doesn't work so well with the canned beans.

Agreed about the hard water issue.

I live in a household of garbanzo haters, so I buy the canned beans and make small batches of hummus for myself. The Philistines here wouldn't eat a falafel if I paid them. I can't even get them to eat three bean salads in the heat of summer.

You gotta love those Philistines! (else you'll kill 'em.I have raised four children, three of them confirmed Philistines.) For my money, you fix a big ol' pot of white beans and ham hock, with some beans with something else for the vegetarians.

Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Today, I made chicken soup and roast potatoes!

(Pictures to come shortly. Camera went kablooey.)

It wasn't actually my day to cook, but the guy whose responsibility it was didn't show up until quite late and had intended to serve pasta for the third day in a row. I ended up getting roped into the whole thing, and then proceeded to do something spectacularly stupid: Use a cooking technique I hadn't spent much time on in far less than the recommended time period with poorly defined ingredients. Bachelor cooking in a one-room apartment doesn't make for much time spent on stocks and broth, and I pretty much broke all of the rules on this one.

I ended up throwing a pile of (mostly) meatless chicken carcasses and some chicken skin in a big pot of water and boiling it hard for a little over an hour, adding some bay leaves towards the end. After removing the nasty bits and skimming, it wasn't quite chicken-y enough (partially due to the large volume of water), so I added some boullion cubes.

I added a big pile of an onion/celery/carrot/garlic sauteed sofrito I had been cooking away to goo in an adjacent saucepan. I then threw in sweet potatoes, more carrots and celery and onion, and a few pounds of chicken chicken I had hacked into individually-sized lumps with a cleaver.

After another twenty minutes or so of hard boil and a little salt, pepper, and ginger, the end result was actually pretty good - not perfect, but better than what my mother makes. Adding big pieces of chicken towards the end and cooking it in the broth turned out very nicely, and didn't give the chicken-y rubber often found in many soups.

I also discovered that you can completely botch the procedure for par-boiling roasted potatoes and the end result will still be pretty good, and that using a shallow-sided pan does in fact make a difference. More important, however, was the issue of work and pacing - by starting the boiling water for the spuds and chicken simultaneously, I was able to prepare the potatoes during the slow part of the soup preparation and stagger the remainder of the chopping as needed during the cooking process. I didn't stop moving for ninety minutes, but at least they were efficient!

Edited by jrshaul (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You gotta love those Philistines! (else you'll kill 'em.I have raised four children, three of them confirmed Philistines.) For my money, you fix a big ol' pot of white beans and ham hock, with some beans with something else for the vegetarians.

I'm holding off on killing them since their college is already paid for. We'll see if my ROI was worth it or not. :laugh:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After removing the nasty bits and skimming, it wasn't quite chicken-y enough (partially due to the large volume of water), so I added some boullion cubes.

As many skilled and experienced and dedicated cooks will tell you, what you should do is to spend those days when you have extra time making rich, flavorful stocks with chicken carcasses, and beef and veal bones, and lobster shells. When your chicken, beef/veal/seafood stocks are flavorful enough, reduce them to their absolute minimum consistency. At the point just before they're about to dry completely and burn, pour them into ice cube trays and freeze. After they're frozen, put the cubes into heavy ziplock freezer bags. That way, when you need a flavor boost, all you have to do is to drop one or two of your frozen stock cubes into whatever it is you're making.

If, on the other hand, you have not time, energy, nor appreciative-enough audience to make any of that worth it, you'll find that powdered bouillon will be your most reliable workhorse, your dearly beloved culinary BFF.

But peeling all those little bouillon cubes is a real PITA.

Buy some loose powdered bouillon in jars. Then sprinkle it in in lieu of salt. Remember that most of the commercially-prepared dry bouillon is primarily salt (unless you're buying a specifically low-salt version), so sprinkle accordingly, and judiciously.

For my money, the best powdered chicken bouillon is KNORR CALDO DE POLLO

You should be able to find it at any Mex/Latin market in Madison. You can bet your last peso that the Mexican restaurants in Madison are all using it.

But if you cannot find any (and I'm dead serious about this), PM me your mailing address and I'll send you some.

Along with some of this: Tex-Joy Steak Seasoning, which I think you'll find is an excellent all-purpose seasoned salt, and particularly good sprinkled over those roasted potatoes. At least that's how we like them - cut up, parboiled, tossed with olive oil, spread out onto a baking sheet, dusted with Tex-Joy and a few leaves of rosemary or Italian Seasoning, and roasted until the edges are crispy.

Honestly, I think in your situation, good seasonings are going to be crucial and I'm happy to help you out, if I can. You remind me of my son, who often cooked for his fraternity house on weekends. I can't begin to tell you how many phone calls I got from him during those years that began with, "Mom...how do you.....?"

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh, and PS - Here's another terrific seasoning mix to have at the ready in your culinary holster:

Cavender's Greek Seasoning

We do a lot of Greek and Med-inspired cooking in our house. A hefty shake of Cavender's Greek seasoning mixed with some red wine vinegar, olive oil, and a dash of Dijon mustard makes a wonderful dressing for Greek salads. My daughter likes salad dressings a little on the sweet side, so she adds a spoonful of honey, too. And I've got to admit, it's darn good, especially with the salty feta and kalamata olives.

And to go with our Moussaka, Spanakopita, Lamb Kebobs, dolmas, pastitsio, etc., and Greek Salad, we do those roasted potatoes we were talking about upthread but, but instead of Tex-Joy or Italian seasoning, we dust them with Greek Seasoning.

Oh, what the hey...I'll toss a can of that into your CARE package as well.

:biggrin:

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Honestly, I think in your situation, good seasonings are going to be crucial and I'm happy to help you out, if I can. You remind me of my son, who often cooked for his fraternity house on weekends. I can't begin to tell you how many phone calls I got from him during those years that began with, "Mom...how do you.....?"

The ingredient selection is a little weird, but there's an absolutely massive spice rack. The potatoes were seasoned similarly to your suggestion - adobo and rosemary - and the only real flaw was that I hadn't made enough. Even odds says I can probably fudge a decent simaraculum of what you recommended, especially if we stop running out of paprika all the time.

I wouldn't describe myself as a bad cook, but a lot of the difficulties are tied to limited time and resources - I just can't do things properly in the allotted time. I can't really justify the hours required for proper stock reductions, and the end result was (in my opinion) pretty good for the cost.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The ingredient selection is a little weird, but there's an absolutely massive spice rack.

That's terrific, as herbs and spices are expensive. And it's understandable, because most likely everyone that passed through that kitchen brought in a few favorites, which they left behind.

But on the other hand, herbs and spices lose potency over time, some more quickly than others. I'd wager that a great many of those in your "massive spice rack" have been sitting there since God was a boy.

One of the first things I'd do if I were going to be cooking there regularly would be to go through that spice rack and take inventory. And throw out any that are too old to be of much good.

Using old herbs and spices can really undermine your efforts and you won't know why.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's a great suggestion, Jaymes. Elderly spices are like throwing dust into the pot.

I like to buy spices in packets at the Hispanic markets where you can get just about anything for next to nothing. I don't feel too bad if something gets pushed to the back or goes unused too long if I only paid a dollar or two for it. Not only that, but many times, things that cost a fortune at the regular market can be bought for a song at the ethnic markets: whole spices, star anise, cinnamon sticks, zataar, &c. I even buy the cheapo saffron since I can't afford the other stuff and seldom use saffron for anything other than color.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with Jaymes & annabelle, it's better to ditch old herbs and spices rather than use them. Taste a pinch of each, and if it's faded and dusty, throw it out. Perhaps the powers that be might be willing to spend some extra money & replenish your spice rack just this one time? It sounds like it will need it.

Green herbs, like dried oregano and thyme, taste faded even after 6 months. To best preserve herbs and spices, keep them in jars in a cool, dark place, like a cupboard. Spice racks on the wall are handy, but if the herbs and spices are exposed to heat and light they will expire even faster.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with Jaymes & annabelle, it's better to ditch old herbs and spices rather than use them. Taste a pinch of each, and if it's faded and dusty, throw it out. Perhaps the powers that be might be willing to spend some extra money & replenish your spice rack just this one time? It sounds like it will need it.

Green herbs, like dried oregano and thyme, taste faded even after 6 months. To best preserve herbs and spices, keep them in jars in a cool, dark place, like a cupboard. Spice racks on the wall are handy, but if the herbs and spices are exposed to heat and light they will expire even faster.

I couldn't agree more, but am also realistic on the expense of replacing a spice/herb collection. I remember being in a ski cabin and buying a small bottle of dried tarragon and having the other aa4 couples practically go on strike because of the unnecessary expense. Or the shock of stocking the kitchen when we bought a week-end place. It's not a small expenditure.

Maybe replace very basics, several each week?

eGullet member #80.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The spices are circulated more quickly than you'd think. In a house of 26, most of the spice collection - including foodservice-size jumbo shakers of garlic and oregano and such - are drained with impressive frequency. There's also a five-gallon jerrycan of tamari soy sauce, which is filled every few months or so.

It might be worth replacing some of the more infrequently used spices, though. The basil smells a bit whiffy, and I suspect the cayenne has had better days. The dried kelp smells like wet dog, though this may, for kelp, be an indicator of freshness.

Has anyone made a bolognese sauce in a slow cooker? It seems as if preparing the sofrito in a pan and then combining it with the meat in a cooker would be a more efficient production method than monitoring the stove for hours.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The problem with the slow cooker as noted above is that you need to leave the lid on or you can end up with a watery result - little reduction. A simple bol on a nice low flame (maybe a flame tamer if needed) just needs the occasional stir and I have gotten decent results in an hour or so.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another good thing about that slow cooker is that you can just let folks serve themselves right out of it. So, for example that bolognese sauce will stay warm without everyone having to monitor it as closely as they would have to if it were sitting over an open flame.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

:unsure:

The problem with the slow cooker as noted above is that you need to leave the lid on or you can end up with a watery result - little reduction. A simple bol on a nice low flame (maybe a flame tamer if needed) just needs the occasional stir and I have gotten decent results in an hour or so.

I believe that the lid needs to stay on for heat retention.

The lid also retains moisture, so recipes written for a slow cooker often contain LESS liquid, so the results are not watery.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's right, baroness. If you keep lifting the lid to stir things or "get a better look" you are letting the heat out and defeating the purpose of the slow cooker.

I'd be reluctant to leave a pot unattended even over a low flame in a houseful of novices. Boil over and gas everyone or set a tea towel on fire and whoosh! I wouldn't take the chance.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...