Monday, January 12, 2015

Making cooking suck less, part one: Be Your Own Prep Cook

There are some fundamental truths in life, and one of them is this: If you never eat, you will quickly die. Even the dumbest dumbass you can think of has to figure out a way to feed himself.

It’s for this reason that cooking will be part of all of our adult lives. But contrary to what food porn would have you believe, not everyone orgasms at the sight of a perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet.

In fact, a lot of people really, really hate cooking. They find it stressful, boring, and tedious. All the planning and chopping and cleaning totally sucks. Although some people might enjoy parts of the chore, cooking is still a chore. But unlike doing laundry or cleaning the toilet, cooking isn’t a chore that can be put off for very long. True, if you never do laundry, you’ll eventually become Smelly Guy. But that’s small potatoes compared to the consequences of not eating. If you don’t eat, you’ll become Nutritional-Deficiency Guy and eventually Dead Guy.

I conducted a very scientific Facebook poll of my friends and found out there are three things that people who hate cooking (and even people who love cooking) hate the most: Planning, prepping, and cleanup.

My biggest tip for those people, and myself, is BYOPC: Be Your Own Prep Cook.

In a restaurant, the prep cook is the dude who does all of the suck work for the bigwig chef: Chops veggies, grates cheeses, etc., so the fancy chef can do the magic fun parts.

Do your weeknight self a favor and spend an hour or so on Sunday doing all the prep work for the week, since that’s the biggest time sucker for making meals. Grate all the cheese you’ll need for pizza or lasagna. Wash and cut all of the veggies. Chop onions and garlic and herbs. Do it all at once. Just power through it. It might be unfun in the moment, but you will thank yourself later in the week.

I did this last weekend and wanted to make out with my Sunday night self the entire rest of the week. When it was Monday at 6:00 pm and time to roast broccoli, I wasn’t wasting time chopping. I dumped the already washed and chopped broccoli onto a sheet pan, drizzled it with olive oil and salt, and roasted it in a 425-degree oven for 20 minutes. That weeknight veggie prep took 1 minute.

On Tuesday when I wanted to add carrots, onions, and bell peppers to black beans and rice, I took the already diced veggies out of containers and dumped them in the pan. This took 10 seconds.

I did the same thing later in the week for green beans, asparagus spears, Swish chard, sugar snap peas, garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Store your chopped, diced, and grated everything in plastic containers in the fridge. The only foods this doesn’t work for are fruits and veggies that will turn brown, like apples, pears, and white potatoes. It’s perfect for everything else.

If you can faithfully find the time to BYOPC every week, you’ll save yourself so much time when you’re hurrying to make dinner after work. The prep time will be less, and the cleanup time will be less, too.

Stay tuned later in the week for more ways to make cooking suck a little less, but until then, what are your favorite kitchen tips? Tell us in the comments below.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Deviled pompous ass eggs

I was at the grocery store the day after Christmas and saw the cutest stinking thing: A box of 18 teeny tiny speckled quail eggs! I floated over to them as if in a trance, wearing a foggy, dazed smile. Quail eggs! At the grocery store! It was a Christmas miracle.

I picked them up and hesitated: Why would I buy quail eggs?

Then, a better question occurred to me: Why wouldn’t I buy quail eggs?

I put them in my cart and skipped off to the register. So surprised, so happy. At home, I flourished them at Brian, Chloe, my grandmother, my sister-in-law, anyone who’d pay attention. Look at them! They’re so little! And speckly! My brother-in-law, Chris, accused me of buying them in the pompous ass section of the grocery store, and although that’s a good guess, no, no. They were just sitting there, looking so dang cute, among the regular ole’ eggs.

But what to do with them? It seemed a tease to fry them, a waste to simply scramble them. These little suckers needed to be showcased. I decided, then, to devil them for a belated Christmas party the next day.

Before I get to that, though, the basics: What the fuck is a quail?

Basically they’re just little birds, but don’t they sound so fancy? I imagine that they look—even in the wild—like 18th century zoological lithographs or Audubon prints, like something you’d see at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

Also a few quail facts, too: Some quails have a feathery little flourish jutting out of their foreheads. Quails are found around the world, from California to New Zealand to India. A group of quails is called a flock, a covey, or a bevy. A bevy. Isn’t that delightful?

Now, a word on deviled eggs: As much as I love them, they present something of an eating conundrum: They’re a bit messy for two bites, but too big for one.

Deviled quail eggs present neither problem. They are one-bite wonders. Chloe and I popped toothpicks in each of them for easy eating.

Since quail eggs are half the size of chicken eggs, I boiled them for 7 minutes instead of 15. Next, I cooled them down in cold running water and peeled them. This was a little tricky; the quail eggshells weren’t as brittle and easy to peel as chicken egg shells. Instead, they felt a little more rubbery. They were also absurdly tiny in my hulking, giantess hands. Seriously, quail eggs will make you feel wild with power.

Once the eggs were all peeled, I cut them in half, wiping the yolk off of the knife blade after every egg to keep things tidy and clean. I gently popped out the yolks, and mashed and mixed them with mayo, salt, mustard powder, and a bit of apple cider vinegar (add what you like until it looks, feels, and tastes good to you), I put the yolk mixture into a homemade pastry bag (a gallon-sized zip-top bag with a teeny piece snipped off the corner) and filled the eggs. It was really easy. Chloe actually did a few of them, too.

Later, at the party, there were two reactions to the deviled quail eggs: “Cool!” or “Eeeewww!”

I can kind of understand both reactions, but in reality, there was nothing earth-shattering about the way they tasted: Like deviled eggs.

Which is to say delicious!