"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ropa Vieja and Melissa Gets Nostalgic

Readers, when Georgia was baking last Sunday, she asked me a question I get from time to time, which is: "Were your parents good cooks?"

I have always answered that question very specifically: my dad is experimental and makes great pan sauces; my mom relies on old standbys that she loves (Brunch Casserole, Seven Layer Salad, Hong Kong Ribs).

But finally I realized that what she was really asking was more of a "nature or nuture" question. What and who were my influences? Did I learn at somebody's knee? And at this I burst out laughing, and told her how terrible of a cook I used to be.

How terrible?

This terrible.

When I was a senior in high school, I dated a basketball player, and I thought it would be fun and a girl-friendly thing to do to cook him his favorite meal, which happened to be steak slathered in a concoction called Ah-So Sauce.

So I went to the store and got this stuff, came home, put a frying pan on the stove, opened the freezer and pulled out a steak.

I slathered it with Ah-So Sauce, and put it in the pan, where it refused to cook, just sort of eventually made a saucy puddle, and turned a little grey on the bottom. At which point, utterly discouraged, we abandoned the cooking project (with Drew saying, "I think my mom thaws out the steak first.") and went on to some other teenaged activity--probably driving around looking for something to eat, preferably accompanied by free and illegally procured alcohol.

My point is this: if I can go from attempting to pan-fry rock-hard frozen steak to tutoring somebody on the finer points of making pastry cream, so can you.

All I have going for me is burning desire, the ability to read, and the capacity to learn from my mistakes. Someday I'll tell you about the time I caught the bottom of my oven on fire. That was exciting.


Ropa Vieja is a Cuban dish that is so-called because it resembles shredded rags in the pot.

This isn't a typical meal that I would make at Sea Meadow (I tend to shy away from peppers and onions for digestive reasons) but since the family was still in the house I wanted a big, one pot meal and this was what I picked. I also had been spending a fortune on groceries, and using a cheap cut of meat (flank steak) was appealing to me.

I was a little worried about the tenderness factor (flank steak isn't really known for that) but you do braise it for almost two hours, and then shred it.

Do you know how long it takes to shred 3 pounds of flank steak? Seemed like eons. I had a mountain.

I loved the way it looked--very colorful.

And when I tasted it the next day I loved the flavor--the cumin rounds it out nicely. Actually, I ate it ice cold out of the fridge, since we've been having hot, sticky weather lately.

I'd recommend it to anybody looking for an inexpensive family meal. You don't even have to use the colored peppers, but hey, maybe you've got some in your garden by now and won't have to shell out $3.99/lb. for them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your steak story elicited another round of giggles!

I came home to a huge tomato plant with lots of flowers (= lots of future tomatoes) and a healthy looking squash bush. I think I might actually harvest peppers. The plant was puny when I left Berkeley three weeks ago.