Tuesday, February 15, 2011

As promised, local ingredients and compromises.

I love cooking. I have been cooking since I was six. I was in the first grade and my mother was always at work. My father was in the US at the time. So my two-hour lunch breaks usually involved experimenting with different things we had in the kitchen and making my own concoctions. During winter months, we would only have potatoes, carrots, bok choy (aka Chinese cabbage), and the occasional pork. Some days my mom would stir-fry carrots and meat, my favorite, and some days she would stir-fry potato strings. I love combining the two into one pot and add some rice and some water to cook it down. It made a perfect lunch on those cold days when I had to wear thick sweaters in-doors.

Yesterday I promised a Shepherd’s Pie recipe. I helped Lauren make this last night. It’s my variation from the potato, carrot, pork concoction. I figured this would be something helpful I can write for the community. Here it is.

You will need:

1 lbs of ground meat from your local farmer who cares about his/her animals.

1 potato

1 carrot

½ onion

1 can of cream of celery soup (you can substitute any cream based soup, or you can boil some rice and cook it down to make rice based cream soup)

Bread crumbs (you can also use corn bread to add a soulful flavor).

Salt and pepper

Hopefully you got these from your local farmers as well, but we were bad and got everything but the meat from Kroger. This is our compromise and we apologize. We are still transitioning to the local economy.

To begin, chop the potatoes and carrots into small or medium cubes. Heat a medium cooking pot on high with some olive or vegetable oil. Add the onions to the pot and let it caramelize. Add the ground meat and cook for a few minutes until the juice starts to cook out from the meat. Add potatoes and carrots and stir continuously so the potatoes don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. This is a pretty good exercise for your arms and shoulders. Lauren often misses this point about Chinese stir-fry: it’s about constant motion and care you give to the food. If you put things on the fire and walk away, you are not loving your food. You have to watch it constantly and watch it achieve that perfect balance.

Oh sorry, ADD kicking in…

After five minutes or so, add the can of cream of celery soup and a bit of salt and pepper – taste to desire. Cook for another ten minutes or so. When you can break the potatoes with your spoon easily, you are done here. Turn off the fire and put the content into a medium size baking pan. Cover the top with bread crumbs and cover with foil. Cook on 375 degrees for another 15 minutes.

The best part about this meal: health meat! leftovers blended into scrambled eggs the next few mornings and leftovers to make other dinners.

The worst part about this meal: we are still mostly depended on industrial foods and some even made from processed corn by-products.

The lesson: it tasted good because you have made it and you loved it. You are developing a closer relationship with your food. It tasted good because you wanted it that way. Taste should matter. But you can also substitute any or all of the ingredients with locally grown products if you happen to live in a place where that is readily accessible. You don’t have to substitute all of the ingredients all at once. It will be a transition, but we have started.

- jin & lauren

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