Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Cooking on the Road

One of the hard parts about cooking at someone else's house is that you don't have the larder of staples that you always have on hand at home and take for granted. So, you are halfway into making a dish, and realize your host doesn't have real butter or keep a big vat of stock in the freezer. And that means you have t0 think thoroughly through the meals you cook and make sure that, first, you have every little ingredient and, second, that you don't break the bank buying all those spices and herbs and bags of carrots and celery, which aren't too expensive if you buy them and use them over the course of weeks on many meals but are pretty darn steep to cook one dinner.

I usually cook a lot at my mother-in-law's house over the holidays, which works out great for everyone because my mother-in-law would just as soon not have to make dinner for all those people, and I love to cook for a crowd. Here's my shopping list from the trip to the store, where I bought supplies for two large meals (for about eight people each):

  • ground beef
  • onions
  • garlic
  • tomato paste
  • whole milk
  • parsely
  • chicken parts (for making stock)
  • celery
  • pork chops
  • red potatoes
  • butter
  • green apples
  • french bread or dinner rolls
  • green beans
  • lasagne noodles
  • parmesan cheese (reggiano, if you can find it)
  • gouda
  • salad greens
  • walnuts
  • goat cheese
  • walnuts

The menu was pork chops with mashed potatoes and green beans one night, lasagne with salad the next, with a fruit and cheese plate for appetizers. This was augmented by a few things my in-laws had on hand (like wine and grapes), but the two meals complemented each other nicely in terms of shared ingredients.

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