A Tribute to Bakerina:Comfort Food
I am giving homage here to Bakerina because I am going to steal, let's be honest, yes steal, her usual format. I am going to write about food and then I am going to supply you all with a recipe, but I wanted to make it clear where the inspiration came from.
When I was growing up, when my parents were still married, we had family dinners, the everyone sit down and talk about what happened during the day type of dinners. My mother supplied lovely meals. She made swordfish with a spicy tomato sauce, lamb chops, roast beef, spicy tomato soup, and pasta with maninara sauce. Her specialty was chinese food. Don't ask me how a girl from rural PA who married a Jew for NJ developed this excellent skill, but go with me on this one. My mother makes spicy chicken dumplings that could make angels weep. Really. I enjoyed my mother's cooking a great deal, the spicy sesame noodles, the chicken with walnuts, the snow pea stir fry.
When my parents got divorced, my mother stopped cooking. The reasons, she was now a single mother working a very demanding executive job, were legitimate enough, but I missed the meals and so my mother gave me her recipes and got a subscription to gourmet magazine and told me to learn how to cook.
I lived in rural CT. I mean RU-RAL. There was nothing to do after nine pm ( except maybe loiter outside the 24 hour store which was a 25 minute drive away and aside from the slush puppie machine not all that exciting). So I started cooking late at night. Often I would start cooking at eleven, eleven thirty at night. As I insisted on making gourmet food, often I would finish at one or two in the morning. My mother would wake up to find dishes in the sink, but also her dinner in the fridge.
First I tried my mother's recipes, but I didn't have the flair she did for chinese. I discovered, through effort, that my talent lay in french food. Chicken in white wine, steak with mustard cream, potatoes in heavy cream, carrots drenched in butter. If it was high fat, I could make it. Later I discovered I also did very well with Mexican and Italian. Over the years I have experimented with dishes-played around until I have perfected a dish. ( One of my favorite dishes is a refried bean dish that can be used for vegetarian tacos, bean dip, or bean spread for chicken quesedillas-it's also a floor wax-no no sorry that was this spread)
One dish I discovered I could make well very early on was a minestrone altered from the NYT Bread and Soup Cook Book. It takes about three hours. I would start at eleven and start the two hour simmering around 12:30 or 1 am. Often I would lie on the couch while the soup simmered and watch crappy two am Joe Bob Brigg's rejected sci-fi channel movies (ie the ORIGINAL Attack of the Eye Creatures -called Attack of the SaucerMen which is not to be confused with the Attack of the Eye Creatures featured on MST3K-that was a remake). Occassionally I would get up and stir the pot-listen the crickets in the backyard-half an hour before it was ready I would taste for salt (did it have enough?) and add the pastina.
That minestrone was a signature dish. My mother and I tried minestrone in almost every restaurant we come across and I haven't found a restaurant that comes close. My mother often gets frenzied when I announce that I will be making the minstrone. I made it often through high school and college, but I haven't made it in years. Honestly, I haven't been much of a cook lately. ( Lately in this case being the last three years.) But then the last two weeks I have experienced a rennaissance. I went and purchased all the elements for my famous minestrone, and I spent saturday night slowly simmering the leeks, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, peas. In keeping with tradition, I started around eleven, watched Hurly Burly while it simmered ( nothing like watching Sean Penn engage in unending semantic argumentation with Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Spacey, and Gary Shandling to inspire good soup-in keeping with tradition I chould have watched my DVD of Pitch Black, but well that film hardly inspires hunger while the constant cocaine binging in HB at least kept me awake until 2), and finally had a fresh steaming bowl (it's always better the next day, but I can't resist having one bowl immediately) at two in the morning.
It's well worth the three hour wait.
recipe to come tomorrow...

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