Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Casserole Queen

Funny how our cooking focus changes over the years.

  • In college... I was trying to master Mac and Cheese and Spaghetti Sauce
  • Just after college... I was learning how to cook with olive oil and feta cheese in an effort to eat healthier
  • In my mid-twenties... I was learning the art of entertaining - making pasta from scratch and trying recipes from gourmet cookbooks
  • Once I got married... I was trying desperately to look like I knew what I was doing (sometimes I succeeded)
  • And now that I have kids... I'm learning to make it fast, and often to make it in one pan

To this end, I purchased the most recent America's Test Kitchen cookbook. It has a little of everything (really... everything... even cocktails I think), and it is well marked as to what is quick and easy and what will take all day. So just before Marcus arrived, I picked a few recipes to try out of this book and sent my mother-in-law out to buy the ingredients.

Unfortunately, Marcus arrived THAT NIGHT, so none of the recipes got tried. But tonight, I made a chicken recipe that is basically pizza, but substitute chicken for dough. Sounds weird, I know, but it had only a few ingredients, and it looked tasty.

I now know what makes a really good recipe. If you can mess up every step of the recipe, and even be a little short on one of the main ingredients, and the meal STILL turns out to be one of the tastiest quick meals you've ever made... THAT, my friends, is a good recipe. I accidentally put the cheese and pepperoni on before I started cooking the casserole. I knew this meant that they would be burnt once I realized the instructions had me adding them after the chicken was cooked, about five minutes before the dish should emerge from the 450 degree oven. However, we cooked it anyway.

Yes, the toppings burned. But let me tell you... that was a freaking tasty meal. I can't wait to have it when I actually do it right! Yum!

Oh, and an update for those of you curious about my baking... I haven't been able to do much of anything. My mother-in-law noticed that I hadn't yet used the way-cool rolling pin she gave me, and asked if I didn't like it/want it. NO!! NO!! NO!! I love it! Please don't take it away. I just haven't been able to use it yet. I will, I promise.

Today, I made a pie. Still couldn't use the pin because it was a graham cracker crust. And I believe it was a total disaster. I chose to make a lemon chiffon pie because it seemed appropriate for Easter dinner. Alas, I don't think the lemon part turned out thick enough, and it may have curdled. I tasted it, and it was okay... but I'm just not sure.

Fortunately, the only people who will be at my table tomorrow are close family and friends, so if it sucks, they'll just laugh at me and move on... no harm done.


Amy said...

Something has to turn out REALLY bad for me not to eat it. I can remember only one time I made something and actually couldn't eat it - I can't even remember what it was so it must've been really bad. Even if your pie is messed up, it's still dessert. Nobody will care if it's goopy or runny. I am making a strawberry tart that I saw on Emeril Live a few weeks ago. We shall see.

Happy Easter!

Chris said...

Mm.. sounds good.

Jessey said...

I am with you on the fast and in one pan technique of cooking. I've been getting recipes from this website and they are all fast, easy and tasty. They use some fresh and some packaged ingredients. Everything I've made from this site has been requested to be added to the rotation by my hubby. I'm also a fan of the crockpot (I have THREE) and recipes for leftover, of which I have many - both leftover recipes and leftovers themselves.

I also make my own spaghetti sauce and can's very therapeutic.