Among the many skills that I have been eager to hone lately, there is cooking. I’m not much of a cook, for all of my bachelor years I stated that I knew how to ‘prepare food,’ but not cook as such. It’s basically true. I can make simple food that was sufficient to stave off scurvy while I lived alone through my late 20s and early 30s. Lately though I have been looking for new things to learn and Mrs. Portmandia is more than appreciative that I might be willing to cook meals for her for a change.
Last weekend I attempted to make a couple of meals. My plan had been to cook a meatloaf, as we would both like to find a good recipe for this, on Friday and a macaroni and cheese on Saturday. I spent a few days thinking about these dishes and trying to decide what recipes to use. Of course, I waited until Friday morning to thoroughly examine the recipes and make my shopping list.
This is where my frustration began. The website that I was planning on getting my recipes from was on the blink. It required a subscription to view the complete recipes, but every time I tried to log in, it bounced me back out or just choked. I spent an hour trying to get it to work, to no avail. Eventually, I had to fall back to another plan and get a physical copy of the book. This lead to a trip downtown and some other chores while we were at it and a half a day passing before I finally looked at the recipes in their entirety.
So, I’m finally home with the book in the early afternoon. I crack it open and read the recipes all the way through. They won’t work. The meatloaf recipe requires a bunch of equipment that I don’t have, including a working broiler. The macaroni and cheese recipe wanted me to have a food processor, which I don’t. Oh, and a broiler too. It was like some cruel joke that I was playing on myself. I got petulant and stomped around and tried to figure out a plan C.
Eventually, Mrs. Portmandia gave me a good slapping and helped me get my act together. We decided to fall back from the meatloaf and simply make burgers. I am good at burgers. They are easy to improvise, I have a great pan for them and they never fail. Done. For the macaroni and cheese, she offered to write down the recipe that she uses so that I could adjust that to make the dish that we had originally intended. Disaster averted for now.
Friday night I made burgers. I mixed spicy mustard, chili flakes, garlic powder and salt and pepper into my ground beef. I kneaded it together and made three patties. A fat one for me, and littler ones for the Mrs. and the Jr. I smeared a dab of olive oil on them and tossed them on my cast iron grilling pan. I cooked them to each of our likings and we ate them up. A great meal, if not as adventurous as originally planned.
Saturday night, a friend came over and I was prepared to make macaroni and cheese with blue cheese and bacon. Thanks to the wife I had a simple recipe that even I should be able to follow. It went together pretty well. I managed to make a bechamel without blowing up the kitchen. Our friend assisted a bit, but my fail was in the multi-tasking. I waited too long to cook the bacon and while trying to get it done, I boiled the bechamel. Now I had cheese sauce all over my stove and nasty smoke through the apartment. Lame.
Luckily everything salvaged. I finished the bacon, chopped it up and combined it with the cooked macaroni noodles and crumbled blue cheese. I poured the remaining bechamel (thankfully there as more than enough left) over the noodles and popped everything in the oven. By the time that Mrs. Portmandia came home from work I had a tasty mac and cheese coming out of the oven. The apartment was only a little cold from having the windows open to disperse the smoke. Though it wasn’t perfect, dinner was great.
I’ll try again next weekend. Maybe with a few more successes under my belt, I won’t be so quick to despair when preparing to cook. After all, most of my attempts at cooking have actually turned out pretty good. Fingers are crossed for the next experiment.