Monday, March 30, 2009

Should He Like All that I Cook? - a recipe

Unless otherwise noted, all materials on this blog are (c) 2009 by Madeleine Vedel

My beau doesn't appreciate my muffins, nor my biscuits, nor my soda bread, nor my carrot cake. He doesn't really like the chocolate tarts either, nor the panna cotta, nor my yogurt. He likes store-bought brioche -- when I made one from scratch it didn't stay soft and sweet for days like his, and the rich buttery texture was too much for him. He likes Fjord brand fromage blanc and nutella. He does like my bread (though not for breakfast), sablet cookies, quiche, fish en papillote and stews. But he doesn't like sticky rice or risotto, and puts up resistance at the thought of duck. He likes his meat cooked all the way through, and minimally seasoned. He's not a fan of sushi, nor shell fish (I indulge my these cravings at restaurants whenever possible). Cooking at his house is not easy -- the fact that the kitchen was designed by non-cooks doesn't help things. And smoking up the house is strongly discouraged (therefore no pan frying meat or sausages). He adores salads, but I can't put any protein into them. Thus I must keep my hand back and not put hard-boiled eggs in the tomato salad, nor bacon in the green salad, nor a slippery poached egg to glisten and glide in the spinach salad.

This is very weird. In my house in Avignon, my kids eat anything I bake and with glee (good children they). But here too I am culinarily limited. I can't cook spicy, blend vegetables with meat, nor leave chunks of tomatoes in the tomato sauce. And Leo flat out refuses to eat brown rice, spelt or quinoa.

What is a food-oriented woman to do? I'm feeling rather stifled. I've crossed more than a river, going from the abundance and culinary experimentation that resonated in Arles (excepting pumpkin pie, never a favorite there), to the Protestant reserve that reigns in Vauvert (which no doubt contributes to my vintner's slender and elegant physique). By necessity, I'm cooking more than ever, but not experimenting, nor leaping into new territory.

The kids are thrilled when I make lasagna --as long as I stick to the basic recipe of a hamburger laden tomato sauce, pasta sheets and a cheesy béchamel. If I vary from this formula (say add sausage, or spinach leaves, or ricotta, or herbs) a rebellion foments. I do admit, a 45 minute lasagna, start to plate is a handy recipe to have on hand. But there are times when I'd like to toss in shredded chicken, up the spice factor, play with the cheeses, add vegetables. Apparently, not in this particular lifetime.

Being surrounded by picky eaters is either a punishment of sorts, or yet another life test?

My lasagna recipe (easier would be difficult to do).

Ingredients:

tomato sauce (home-made or from a can, if the latter, extend it with water)
some hamburger
lasagna noodles (thin ones that don't require prior cooking)
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
3-4 cups milk
2 cups grated gruyèse cheese
a touch of salt
olive oil

If you've the time, chop an onion, smash and chop a garlic clove, grab some olive oil and a can of crushed tomatoes and make your own tomato sauce (the recipe is earlier in the blog).

If not, then cook up your hamburger in the olive oil (or not if you're vegetarian). When it is nicely browned, add the tomato sauce, and extend with water. Taste, season, set on a very low flame and let simmer.

Start your cheese béchamel. Melt the butter in a thick bottomed sauce pan, add the flour and whisk to form a paste, add 1/2 cup of the milk, stir, and let thicken before adding the rest of the milk. Let heat up for a couple of minutes. Add the cheese and whisk till it melts and all comes together. You don't want it too thick, so if necessary, add some more milk or water.

Turn the oven on to 375F/175C. Take out your deep dish pan and drizzle some olive oil on the bottom. Place a layer of pasta sheets, cover with the tomato sauce which is still quite thin. Lay a layer of pasta sheets, cover with the béchamel, continue, and finish with the béchamel. Check to be sure that there is sufficient liquid in the lasagna as it is the cooking liquid that will soften and cook the pasta sheets. Bake for thirty minutes, or till brown and bubbling on top. Serve to happy children with a green salad alongside (or broccoli, or beans, season depending).

If serving to a more experimental friend, have fun playing and altering the recipe.

1 comment:

Dean W said...

M,

I believe that there are few things better than having someone cook for you and few things kinder than to cook for someone else. You demonstrate your care for others as well as providing a meal. That being said there is a hierarchy of acceptance that needs to be understood.

First, when ever someone makes a meal so you don't have to cook; it's a good thing.

Second, you are not obligated to enjoy what is cooked but you are obligated to appreciate that is was cooked for you.

Third, you are not at a restaurant. You eat what is made for you and don't judge it based on the outstanding meal you had somewhere else.

Fourth, if you can't appreciate what someone else has cooked for you than buy your own groceries and make your own damn meal.

The caveat to all this is ethical. If you (the cook) use your subjects (kids, significant other) as culinary test subjects, while they are still obligated to eat the stuff, they are also allowed to critique it. This is the social contract between the experimenter (cook) and experimentee (kids, significant other).