Cooking Through the Pandemic
I have gone through several phases during the pandemic where cooking is concerned.
First was the panic cooking. Are people hoarding yeast and beans? Really? How can I make room in my freezer for the 71 lbs. of pork tenderloin my wife just bought at Costco? Can I pickle that? Should I pickle that? Why did I pickle that? Can I pickle pork tenderloin? Should I pickle pork tenderloin?
Meanwhile, my garden was going bonkers at least as concerns okra. I have never cooked as much okra in my life as I have for the last few months. It got to the point that I had to pull the plant over to pick the pods. Lately, I’ve just given up and I have huge pods of okra about 12 feet off the ground. It is now decorative okra.
I was never a fan of okra, but a decade or so ago my wife made it for me stewed with tomatoes and I was converted. It’s a “Southern” dish, and since we were cooking it pretty often, we fell into a pattern of making similar dishes. I’m talking about things you’d see at a “meat and 3” place like green beans with bacon and potatoes; turnips in cream; cornmeal-fried fish; all sorts of greens simmered with ham hock or bacon or sausage; roast chicken or baked macaroni and cheese. You get the idea.
Then I stopped cooking for a while. I think it was because of the uncertainty about what’s going on and how much longer it will go on, but it was a brief period.
Recently, I have gotten back into the kitchen on a regular basis. I have the pickling thing under control and I have chicken stock in both my refrigerator and my freezer. I am considering making enough tomato sauce to can and I have made enough hot sauce that I could share with neighbors and friends. (Secret ingredient: roasted banana).
And now and again I spend a good bit of time making something that pleases me to no end. The most recent example was a seafood sausage, which is one of those things that seems intimidating, but isn’t really. It’s really no more complicated than making meatballs, though there is some finesse involved in the late stages.
I’d made it a few times before and only once without success, but I still felt like I should look up a recipe. Boy howdy are there a lot of opinions about seafood sausage! From the seafood to use, (shrimp, lobster, white fish, scallop, etc.) to the binder (egg white, panade, cornstarch, bread crumbs) to the method of cooking (grilled, poached in stock, steamed, boiled) it was a clusterfrump of choices.
My choice was made easy because I had salmon and some frozen scallops. I ended up using about ¾ of a pound of each, combined with a panade of one egg white, a slice of bread and ¼ cup of cream in the food processor. After 30 to 45 seconds in the Cuisinart, it was more or less the paste consistency I wanted.
I transferred that to a big sheet of plastic wrap and rolled it into a log. I had planned on making sausages that had around the same circumference as smoked sausage, but as it turned out I made more paste than I had cellophane, so the sausages were around three times that size.
As it turns out, that’s ok, because after you steam, poach or boil them, the best way to finish is to slice the sausage and brown it quickly on high heat, and the larger the sausage the more surface area is available to get brown and crispy.
Have you been trying things in the kitchen that you hadn’t before you were forced to stay home all the time? Have you pickled anything interesting? Have you pickled anything uninteresting? I would like to know. Please and thank you very much.