Thursday, May 30, 2013

One True Ingredient

The meal started with rice. And I’m talking long grain brown rice, no white Minute Rice or Rice-A-Roni here, my friends. I’ll admit to keeping Rice-A-Roni around for emergencies, but there’s no monosodium glutamate or hydrolyzed corn gluten in this food story.

I let the rice cook while taking care of the baby in another room and almost burned my One True Ingredient before the food story really started. (Stir before fifteen minutes are up, and use low, not 2, for realsies. Just a warning.) Luckily, The Prince of Fuss (as my father has dubbed my dubious dairy low-tolerant offspring) and I made a quick save on the rice. I added more water and when it finished cooking, added some frozen peas, letting it sit covered on the cutting board to prevent further scorching. While that settled, I chopped onions to caramelize while taking out the trash and writing intermittently on a short story. (This really has nothing to do with the meal, I’m just using it to set the scene. Most days don’t go this well but His Majesty was content to chew on his giraffe and watch from his bouncy chair.)

The key to good caramelized onions is patience, low heat, a generous amount of salt, and a good talent for keeping a screaming baby occupied while flipping onions with the other hand.

The Prince soon tired of his chair-bondage and decided being a barnacle on mommy was much better. I like that my son is part of our kitchen experience, and usually also a part of our food story. I like that he puts his hand on the bottle of olive oil I use to sear asparagus. Since its hot and he’s naked except for his diaper, I should probably wrap him in Saran Wrap from toes to neck in order to keep him safe from getting splashed by hot oil or grabbing a hot pan.

I’m just not one of those kinds of mothers.

I believe in letting kids figure things out, do what you can to keep them safe, don’t get me wrong, but the sooner you realize the stove is hot, the electric fence is on, and no one is responsible for your attitude or happiness except you, the better off you’ll be in life. As anyone whose cooked bacon topless knows, (male or female, I don’t judge), cooking is pain. (Cooking here being a metaphor for life.) My trick is grabbing hot cast iron pans out of the oven either bare-handed (“How can that be hot? It’s a pan.”) or with a wet kitchen towel as a potholder. Some people never learn.

Cooking, I find, helps you find out what kind of parent you are.

I scraped my lovely, rich caramel-colored onions into a bowl and reheated the pan for asparagus, searing it lightly before turning the heat down to cook the veggies all the way through. In also goes salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder. This last is the key and why, I finally discovered, my Spousal-Type Creature’s seared asparagus trumps mine. But no longer!

I felt like drinking a beer for the first time since our First Family Stomach Virus Extravaganza some days earlier, and selected a smooth porter we’d used to baste a brisket on Mother’s Day. I deglazed the asparagus with a little of the porter, and when that cooked down, added it to the onions and rice with peas, letting it all cook together and harmonize for a couple minutes. I had enough for quite a generous dinner and more than enough to reheat and scramble eggs into after work the next morning. 

So while The Prince fussed, alternatively kicking me and showing me how he could now grab both of his feet (serious stuff), and the cow grazed in the backyard, I drank my beer and ate my supper.