A disturbing number of spring buds and bulbs are sprouting in this very mild winter – disturbing because we must fear that a colder February could kill off most of next spring’s flowers. Nevertheless, there’s not a lot of gardening going on in Zone 5, so for now I will change the topic to cooking.
As a stay-at-home dad with a working wife, I tend to do most of the cooking. With pre-school children demanding their bland favorites, while my wife and I want more flavorful foods, it’s hard to please everyone, and easy to get into a cooking funk. (It doesn’t help that I like rich meaty dishes and only like a few vegetables, while my wife wants low-fat vegetable options, and hates ham and mushrooms.) I think a dinner has to include a meat/protein, a starch, and a vegetable, so I usually have to have more than three dishes to cover everyone’s needs. So it helps if the recipes require a limited preparation time, include more than one of the three food groups, or are palatable to all of the family.
Since my wife and kids got me another old cookbook for Christmas, I have been inspired to find/alter and create several entrees. The inspiration came from the Time-Life Foods of the World series 1971 book American Cooking: The Melting Pot. (Like the rest of the series, it’s a collection of travelogue vignettes, with goofy photos of very square pre-1970s characters breaking bread together.)
For the first recipe, Chicken Paprikash, I had to go online to find various versions since the book only alluded to the dish. From previous experience, I’ve found that mixing a chopped onion with flour and spices, and then frying it, is a lot quicker than making a separate roux, and makes for a thickened and flavorful sauce or stew. So I incorporated this method into the core of the various recipes I found. The next day, I realized that if you eliminated the paprika, replaced the chicken with beef, cooked the meat for longer, and added a couple of sliced vegetables, you would have a very successful Beef Sofrito. Either dish can work for the kids if I go light on the hot pepper; they can eat the meat and sauce with ziti or penne pasta. Here goes [optional ingredients are bracketed]: