Cooking Withdrawal

I think I must have had some kind of cooking withdrawal when we were out in California. All we had were a few pans and bowls with which to work, and our culinary creations were usually pretty slim. We never suffered for wont of food. We ate out at all sorts of restaurants all the time, and at each one, I was always curious as to how it was done, eager to get back to our full kitchen back home where I could try out a bunch of random experiments.

Now that we’re home, I’ve been cooking a lot, making up for all the lost time. Jen and I team up a lot of the time and make things that leave the house smelling like an Indian or Asian restaurant for weeks. Butter Chicken and Pad Thai are great for that just-walked-out-of-Bombay scent.

Last week, we made an amazing tomato sauce from scratch, disassembling twenty-some tomatoes and simmering them with spices for five hours. The results were amazing. We used it on some Chicken Parmesan, and it’s hard to go back to the store-bought sauce once you’ve made your own. Well, that’s not entirely true. It’s too time-consuming to do more than once a year, and you need a ton of tomatoes to get any kind of yield. It simmers down to less than half of its original volume. It makes me curious about the process they use in the giant sauce mills. I’m sure there are teams of red Oompa Loompas running around, simmering countless dutch ovens of tomato meat.

And then I bought a charcoal grill. I’ve been wanting one for a while, having always lived off of a gas grill. Now I can get that smokey charcoal flavor in my meats, but even more exciting, I can use it as a smoker. I made some killer baby back ribs last week, smoking them with some hickory chunks for five hours. It’s worth the effort. The meat just falls off the bones. We’ve got a few friends coming over this Sunday, and I’m gonna try it again. I love the smell that it gives off; it permeates the house and you can smell it from all over the neighborhood. The neighbors are either envious or annoyed. I’ll choose to believe that their mouths are watering just as much as mine.

I’ve never gotten into the whole Food Network thing. The internet is a better tool for me for learning how to cook at your own pace. I’ve stolen recipes from all over the place, and there are youtube videos for every culinary niche, so there’s always something new to learn. Some of the things I find are great and some of them are crap. The trouble is, I sometimes forget where I found a certain recipe and then I have to start over, but then, the fun is in the experimentation.

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