I have to pack up my kitchen equipment today. Woe.
netweight wanted me to extrapolate on cooking and thus, I don't shut up about it.
I like to cook.
(I also enjoy stating the obvious. FYI ignited likes cookies. But does not like cheese. 95% of the things I cook involve cheese. Stef hates freedom.)
Self-reliance is a huge thing instilled by my family. Ignore how I’m barely handi-capable when it comes to technology, machines, math, and um an insane array of subjects, because I am damn good at cooking. In truth, my start at cooking was not at the side of my mother, learning all the tricks of the trade by watching her cook. I actually started cooking thanks to Hamburger Helper.
No, really. I swear.
I started making food for myself and by cooking for myself, I got really interested in figuring out how to cook based off of actual recipes. I bought a cookbook from the Disney store (seriously!) and started practicing using their recipes based off of restaurants in Disneyland and Disneyworld. I was around 13ish, I think? But that can't even excuse my behavior, I am a dork for Disney to this day.
One of my oldest “modified” recipes comes from that book—and it’s one that my family will request for birthday parties because I only make it for special occasions—Citron Chicken. That’s not the actual recipe name. The actual name is “Breast of Chicken Citrus” but my family called it Citron Chicken and that’s what stuck. I altered the recipe to up the citrus (lemon and orange) and the sherry (I love cooking with alcohol; it adds a nice complexity to the final taste) and it’s baked so the chicken itself becomes incredibly tender. I'll make a huge batch of it and every time there's barely enough to reheat for the next day.
I’m a notoriously picky eater, I have a laundry’s list of food I will not eat, and cooking on my own has helped me explore what I do like. My affection for zucchini would have never been discovered without cooking as it’s just not a veggie I grew up eating, nor would I have turned into such a fiend for fresh herbs. There’s something just right when parsley and mint are thrown together.
That "something just right" is stovetop cooking any variety of foods with parsley and mint. I have done many variations on a theme, usually my star ingredients are chicken breast, zucchini and/or bacon. Bacon is a godly food.
I grew up in a family of really good home cooks. My mom learned all kinds of traditional Puerto Rican cooking from my paternal grandmother and I know cooking for her was a matter of pride; her mother warmed up canned food and my mom hated eating that stuff when she was a kid so much she swore she’d learn how to cook on her own. Weirdly enough it’s my grandpa who was reliable when it came to cooking and I say “weirdly” because my grandparents are really traditional, for example, my grandma never learned how to drive. But my mom has mastered cooking some things I know I'll never be able to pull off the same way: arroz con pollo, cheesecake, these things I could attempt to make but it would never taste as good as Mom's.
My dad can be entrusted to the barbeque (as can my mom, there is no gender-specific cooking instrument in the house) but I am not a fan of grilled meats (I don’t eat steak; I don’t like barbequed chicken—see? I am a weird picky eater). He rocks at making pancakes, something of which I’m still only decent at but that’s okay because I can make my mom’s French toast exactly how she can and that’s all the decadent breakfast I need.
I tried to figure out how to make a perfect, classic omelet but I have no patience for the technique necessary so I just turn it into a frittata. Besides my eggs are never just eggs. I'll add milk to the eggs and then cracked pepper, maybe oregano, smoked paprika, garlic powder (in my house I put garlic powder in everything except for sweet foods), etc.
Cooking is a good stress outlet for me as I am not a neat cook and the process of destruction is invigorating even when I wind up doing something stupid like when I burn myself or hurt my back by leaning over too much, because the end product is worth it. The pain is fine because I can be comforted that I've made some delicious food.
And then I stand around hoping it’s good enough to merit praise. Oh, I will ask those eating if they like it and I do kind of record critical feedback, I like knowing how to cook for certain people.
Cooking is like writing fic in a way.
There’s the obvious reasons why I love cooking. It’s a link back to my family traditions although I personally do not make pasteles by myself because I’m not fucking insane (you need a team to make pasteles), it’s a great way to discover new foods and figure out how to use it in a way that’ll please my notoriously picky palate, and ultimately it’s way to improve on my existing repertoire, as no recipe I currently have is a final version and there’s always a little alteration waiting to be made.
This past Christmas Eve, I made what my family decided was the best paella I've ever done. The recipe itself was spun off a Rachel Ray recipe. (Look, I know she's awful but her 30 Minute Meals 2 book is a great kick off for some basic, interesting recipes. Also I highly recommend her line of pots and pans, again she may be annoying as fuck but she selected a great company to do her line, and um, I may have "inside" knowledge on that front.) The new alteration involved using medium-grain rice instead of the always-encouraged long-grain rice (every recipe I've found for paella says to use long-grain which is wrong).
When I was in Puerto Rico last year (and literally almost to the day, I went there last February), I was in ecstasy over the rice. It didn't taste at all like the rice does in the states, it had a real texture and bite. My cousins actually bought extra luggage so they could bring rice home.
I did not do that but what I did do this past Christmas was go to a supermarket that specifically caters to a Central American clientele and find a rice that proclaimed itself "el mejor en Puerto Rico". Oh it's el mejor all right.
The rice was outfuckingstanding. I cooked almost all the seafood to perfection although the shrimp defied me. Probably because I had to buy jumbo sized shrimp and it threw off my cooking time.
But that's okay.
It’s an ongoing work in progress. Now feedback plz or I won’t cook part 84567/? subtitled The Paella Man Cometh.