People think that just because you are a good cook that you can't get in a rut. It doesn't matter if your fallback meals are meatloaf and mac and cheese or roast peking duck and fois gras poutine, if you find yourself making the same set of dishes, the same way all the time, you are in a rut.
I am sure that somewhere, right now, Susar Lee's kids are whining "not sea urchin with kombu foam AGAAAAIN dad!"
My friend and fellow blogger in this challenge, Dianne, announced her intention of never repeating a recipe for an entire year more than four months ago. Most of our friends thought she had lost her mind but I was so exited for her. In fact, it inspired me to do my own modified version and I vowed to make something totally new at least two or three times a week. This was met by lots of enthusiasm by my 11 year old, Little Shack and his father, Shack. In fact, every time Shack would see Dianne he would thank her and say he hadn't seen my this excited about cooking in years ( I was in a rut, remember?)
I told my other friend, Jen from Piccante Dolce, about this adventure and she was as enthusiastic as I was. She asked me if I thought that Dianne, who has never blogged but is a fantastic writer, editor and cook, would like to join forces and do this thing together. Luckily, she said yes, so, here we are!
My own situation is this : Shack and I both work freelance so our schedules are all over the place. We both love to eat and to cook and I even started my own food blog a few months ago called The Yum Yum Factor. We share cooking duties but during the winter I tend to do at least 5 of our 7 dinners a week and Shack either does the other two or we go out to eat for at least one of them. I have told him that if he MUST have one of his comfort foods made exactly the way he likes it, HE will have to make those meals himself. I also go to Supperworks , a food prep service approximately every six weeks to stock the freezer for days that we are both working and don't have to time to shop or cook. Our 11 year kid is a budding foodie already and a very adventurous eater, so he will not be a huge problem. I think.
The other caveat, for me anyway, is that I will allow myself to eat the leftovers from a meal but I will always serve them in a different way or with different sides etc. With a small family of three who eat meat often, but don't eat huge portions of meat at each meal, I can't make stews or roasts without having enough for two, sometimes three meals and so I always freeze at least one dinner portion for use later on.
My personal goals are to start using more recipes, stop just winging it all the time, branch out of my comfort zone and to start menu planning a bit. I have a thousand cook books and I NEVER cook anything from them anymore. I read them from cover to cover and I love each and every one of them like they are my children, but I can't recall the last time I actually made a recipe from one. I figure I will have no choice but to turn to my cookbooks after a few months when I finally run out of ideas on my own.
I also shop every day for whatever I feel like cooking that night but that gets expensive and that is when I tend to get lazy. It's so easy to just buy brussels sprouts and roast them with a pork tenderloin again.
So, our menu for the first ten days of January has looked like this:
Jan 1 fresh fettuccine with a pork ragu
|Jan 2 prime rib roast|
Jan 3 Turkey Scotch Broth and salad
Jan 4 Mushroom risotto (big thumbs up on this one)
|Jan 5 pork dinner|
Jan 6 a crockpot roast beef with a mushroom cream sauce (supperworks - cleaning out the freezer) and rice
Jan 7 homemade angel hair pasta with olive oil/tomato/garlic
Jan 8 green onion-black sesame Tilapia with miso butter sauce (recipe below)
Jan 9 leftover roast with mushroom cream sauce from Jan 6 served with potato/yam/bok choy cakes (leftover from last night's dinner) and a big salad
All the dinners were met with enthusiasm except for the prime rib. None of us even like that particular cut of beef but we bought one by mistake (DON'T ASK) and I had never made one, so it seemed like a good thing to make to kick off the year of new dishes. At least I did it and I won't be sad that I can't make it again all year.
Ten days into the challenge and it's all good so far. This coming week will be more challenging as I have to work tomorrow, Wednesday and Friday and those will be the days where I really want to just fall back on one of my old faithful dinners like pasta with a plain marinara sauce, or grab a rotisserie chicken or something, so we shall see how the rest of this week goes when I check in again this Thursday. I am not anticipating any tantrums or foot stomping or whinging for the first month, but look forward to drama by mid February when the only way I can make Shack spaghetti bolognese is to use ground turkey and add fennel instead of onions to change it up. THEN there will be drama, but for now, everyone is happily eating whatever I put in front of them.
So, now to share one of the recipes. I adapted a recipe for catfish from one of my favourite cookbooks,
Dinner At The Authentic Cafe by Roger Hayot. I am using tilapia because, honestly, I wasn't going to pay $25 for three small portions of halibut, my preferred fish, and I don't love catfish. I am going to make a miso butter sauce that I found on Kahakai Kitchen to go with it. The catfish recipe calls for a green curry sauce and his is not a recipe I love plus I didn't feel like green curry today :
Green Onion-Black Sesame Tilapia
2 bunches green onions, white and light green parts only, minced (1/2 cup)
2 tbls black sesame seeds, toasted
1 cup pankow bread crumbs
1/2 cup rice flour
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbls chopped garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
a 3/4 inch piece of ginger peeled and minced
Four 6 oz skinless fish fillets
1 cup rice flour, spread in a bowl
4 lrg egg whites, lightly beaten in a shallow bowl
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
4 tsp toasted black sesame seeds for garnish
Combine the crust ingredients in a shallow bowl and mix well. Dredge the fish fillets in the rice flour, shake off the excess, dip them in the egg whites and then dredge them in the crust mixture. (note: this makes way more coating than you need and you can easily cut the recipe in half. I made three fish fillets and used three egg whites with quite a bit leftover as well)
Heat a large nonstick sautéed pan or medium heat, add oil and heat it about 2 minutes. Add the fish and cook, turning once with a spatula, until the crust is golden and the fish is opaque or about 4 or 5 minutes per side. Remove the fish to paper towels and pat dry.
Ladle the sauce onto plates. Place 1 catfish fillet on each plate, sprinkle the black sesame seeds onto the sauce and serve immediately.
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 Tbsp White Miso paste
1 Tsp freshly grated ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup white wine or chicken stock
1 tsp shoyu
In a small saucepan, over low heat, melt butter and stir in miso paste and other ingredients until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Spoon over cooked fish or vegetables.
(I left out the shoyu because it was plenty salty without it, used red miso instead of white, I used about 1/8 cup mirin,1/8 cup white wine and a total of about 3/4 of a cup of chicken stock, let it reduce by about 1/3 and then whisked in a tbls of cold butter right at the end, off the heat)
I made simple mashed yukon golds with sweet potato and pan steamed some bok choy. I don't have the prettiest photo of this finished dish because sometimes life just doesn't allow a beauty shot but trust me, this was really good and I am feeling sad because I can't make it again until next year. It was loved by all but, of course, Hank thought that the miso butter sauce would be even better with bbq sauce - he still has a ways to go, poor little bugger.