September 14, 2009

Breaking in the New Kitchen

At the very end of August, I moved to a new apartment. When I first saw it's floor plan online, I was intrigued enough to book an appointment. Almost from the very first moment I walked into it, I was smitten. Lots of windows. Great space. High ceilings. And, most important, a kitchen designed for entertaining and cooking - much more so than my last apartment.

I love the new place. I couldn't wait to move into it - even though I was in the midst of a ginormous work project and loads of travel.
Somehow, I managed the move and the work travel with only the occasional lapse in sanity.

What I did not manage so well was a timely approach to unpacking. I managed to create a semblance of order in my bedroom; found the necessities for the bathroom and kitchen; and hooked up my brand new, fancy TV and cable.

And then I hit a roadblock.

My new kitchen is much, much bigger than any kitchen I've ever had (my parents' kitchens do not count). There are acres of counters and unfathomable depths in my cupboards. Overwhelmed by the prospect of needing to organize my stuff in this much space, I spent several days rummaging through the organizing sections of multiple stores looking for the magic things that would ensure that my kitchen would make sense and that I'd be able to find my stuff in the midst of all this space. A Container Store in Omaha might have made my life a little easier. Alas, no such store can be found here.

And this is where I will call a spade a spade - right before my parents or one of my friends does so.

I was stalling. I was procrastinating.

But thank goodness for Twitter. I made a public promise to make chorizo and maybe even some pate knowing that if I told the world I was going to do something so specific, I'd have to do so.

And I did.

Well, I did make chorizo. I did not make pate. However, I also made roasted tomato soup. I'll try making pate some other day.

Prior to the move, I'd been pouring over Robb Walsh's "The Tex-Mex Cookbook" and remembered there was a recipe for chorizo that seemed relatively straightforward and easy enough. This recollection was confirmed when I finally found "The Tex-Mex Cookbook" in the third box of unpacked cookbooks.

Robb's recipe for El Chico's Chorizo is pretty simple. Not having a full-size food processor though, I cheated and bought ground pork into which I mixed the chili powder, paprika, salt, garlic powder, cumin and red wine vinegar
by hand. Robb's recipe calls for buying a cut of pork and grinding it yourself along with the spices. But let's be honest kids, it's way more fun to use your hands to mix ingredients together than a food processor. It's okay to disagree with me, but I'm not sure I'll trust you quite so much anymore if you do. Just saying...

Anyhow, once the spices had been mixed in, I set the chorizo aside to allow the flavors to combine for a bit and turned my attention to making something out of the fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes a coworker gave me.

What I really wanted to make was one of Ina Garten's tomato soups again, but that would be repeating a cookbook and a recipe. Not good since I'm so far behind on accomplishing my goal of making at least one recipe from each of my cookbooks before the end of the year.

Lucky for me, my Mom gave me "Sunday Soup: A Year's Worth of Mouth-Watering, Easy-to-Make
Recipes" as a gift last Christmas. This little collection contained a number of tomato-based soups. However, I struggled to reconcile my waste-not rule with my new-to-me rule. Eventually, I settled on Roasted Tomato Soup because it involved actually roasting the tomatoes myself - something I've not done before.

Aside from being time consuming, this too was a simple enough recipe. First, the tomatoes (cut in half and seeded) were roasted after marinating for about 15 minutes in olive oil, salt, pepper and crushed, dried rosemary. Once roasted, I put the tomatoes and some chicken stock in the blender and pulsed them to a slightly chunky texture. This was then set on the stove in a sauce pan and brought to a boil and then left to simmer. Taste tests proved that the salt from the marinating process wasn't quite enough for my tastes, so I added just a bit more.

While the soup simmered, I finished off the chorizo by browning it with a bit of veggie oil and some chopped onion. Once browned, I removed all but a couple of heaping tablespoons of sausage from the pan and cracked a couple of eggs into the pan to make Chorizo y Huevos, a
recipe suggested by Robb in "The Tex-Mex Cookbook."

At this point, you might be asking, "How did this all turn out, Steff?"

Well, I'll be honest. By the time I finished making everything, I was tired and cranky. I'd spent all afternoon cooking not because I was making anything complicated, but because I had to remember where in the freaking world I had put my cooking utensils, pots, pans and whatnot. It was irritating and I just kind of snarfed everything down that night. I guess this is part of the process of breaking in a new kitchen.

Fortunately, I made enough chorizo and soup for leftovers. The next night, I made the Chorizo y Huevos again and put them on top of a slice of country bread with some shredded cheese
and salsa. Very delicious. Plus, I think the sausage was better for having had a day to allow the flavors to combine instead of just a couple of hours. The soup was good too. But, I have to say, I like the soup I made from Ina Garten's recipe better. Perhaps that's because of the basil and cream though. Just a guess.

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