Cooking by hand

Okay, so this was not a typical meal for us.  It was way more food than I’d normally put on a plate for one meal.  But, it was delicious.


I realized, as we were sitting down to it last night, that I have reached that point where I rarely follow a recipe.  I wanted to share how I cooked that delicious squash, but what is in my mind applies to it all.

Mostly, instead of looking things up in a cookbook, I can envision how I want them to taste and make them come out that way.  That works, except for new stuff, like learning to cook Indian or Thai food…there I still need my cookbooks.  but, for the stuff we normally eat, it’s all in my head.

Unfortunately, it reads like Aunt Lucille’s cornbread recipe.  My Mom wanted to learn to make cornbread like my Aunt, and when she tried for the recipe, it was a handful of this and a pinch of that and a little of the other.  One day, they measured all those hand gestures out and my Mom ended up with a recipe that is as good as Aunt Lucille’s cornbread.

So, what’s the chicken recipe?

Three large, bone-in, chicken breasts, skin removed, because that’s what I could get cheap at the grocery the other day. 

Enough potatoes and carrots so that we didn’t run out of vege while there was still chicken left, or vice versa.  I think that was 4 carrots and 5 small potatoes, red, not peeled.  (This ended up making dinner for two, plus three smaller lunches for me to take to work).

A sprig of fresh rosemary.

Salt and pepper the chicken and vege to taste.  Spray a glass baking dish with non-stick spray, put in the chicken and pack in the vege between the breasts.  Cover and bake until it’s done.  Oh, about an hour and 15 minutes in the toaster oven at 325*.

No cookbook is ever going to want to publish that, and every cookbook has a roasted chicken breast recipe that makes it look much more difficult than it is.

And, the squash?  That was just as easy and just as inexact.  Three squash, cut into chunks, and a handful of onion, salt, pepper and about a tablespoon of olive oil.

Put the oil in a non-stick skillet and let it get hot.  Add the squash and toss to coat it with oil.  Toss in a handful of chopped onion.  Yes, a handful.  Add the salt, pepper and some water.  How much?  I don’t know.  Enough to steam the squash.  Cover with a tight lid and let it go until most of the water has evaporated (if you put in too much water, pour out the excess just before the squash is done.  remember that the squash will render out some water during cooking, so don’t go nuts with the water.)  Reduce the heat and remove the lid and continue to saute the squash, moving it around with a spoon until it starts to brown all over.  Don’t let the onion burn. 

If you want, this is great with a strip of cooked bacon chopped up and added with the onion and some parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. 

I used similar recipes for a lasagna and for a pot of chicken soup on Sunday (I bought a LOT of cheap chicken). 

My grandmother always cooked like that.  I only saw one cookbook in her house and she only used it for baking.  She had some recipe cards for Christmas goodies, but for the most part, she cooked “by hand” and I remember that her cooking was the best. 

I especially remember fried chicken from my childhood.  My Mom and my Grandmother both made delicious fried chicken.  About once a year, I’ll pour a bottle of vegetable oil into my deep, cast iron chicken frying pan and deep fry chicken like they did.  But, for the most part, I don’t cook like that either.  I don’t use nearly as much salt as they did and I might go through one bottle of vegetable oil a year.  Mostly, I use olive oil, or peanut oil when I’m cooking Asian. 

Funny thing is, I can taste how the food is going to come out.  Except for once in a while, when we sit down to table, and I start with an apology…”this did not come out as planned.”

Sydney’s team won their game last night.  Yay, team!

Be well and have a great Wednesday.  Lane


qltmom9 said...

My kids say that cooking like that is cooking with love. Yep. I can't bake like that, except muffins. I've never made squash with bacon...may try that. I have a lot of cookbooks because I like to read them, but I can't follow a recipe...just get ideas.
Happy cooking, Lucy~

Seraphinalina said...

I have my Nana's cook books. In reality, she was a pinch and a handful person too, but I think (like me) she liked her books for ideas. She would mark up her books a little, maybe marking where there was too much salt, or just a tick because it was good. She also wrote out her menu plans for parties and used them as book marks, so I know what she made for New Years Eve in 1972 (their parties were legendary). At her funeral, you would not believe the number of people who talked about my Nana's cooking and my grandparents parties. It was wonderful.

Carla said...

I use the recipe on new but then start altering on the next attempt to achieve the flavor I want. Some of what I cook is a pinch of this a dash of that. I have make Mommie Surprise goulosh and it's always tasty but a tad different each time.
One I haven't been able to duplicate is my mother in laws fudge. That recipe went to the grave with her. ;o(
We miss her and that fudge every Christmas now.