Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Stovetop Cooking Challenge, Week 1

I moved into a new apartment a couple of weeks ago. It's all the rage because I really am just a born-and-bred suburban white girl who carries a Vera Bradley duffel bag on weekend trips, so the fact that one of my new neighbors played a leading character on The OC and I can practically see Mimi Marquez (clad only bubble wrap) singing on my fire escape gets me out of bed every morning. My new living situation is mostly fun and games once you walk up the five flights of stairs and into the shabby chic rooms held up by questionably crumbling walls.

Except for one thing: I don't have an oven. I knew this when I signed the lease and didn't think it would be too much of a hindrance until the whole absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder schtick hit me and I realized that oven-baked chicken pot pie is my favorite meal. And since my funds are generally limited and I'd much rather spend my money on bomb diggity new shoes (clogs = on my feet = right now) than "outside food" (to quote my mom), I'm committed to the cause in the kitchen.

I like the thrill of a hot skillet and the sound of sizzling water, but man, do you have to get creative when it comes to a stovetop-only kitchen. So, enter The Channeling Board's new angle: cooking. It's kind of like Julie and Julia but not at all, so join me as I document my self-imposed challenge to cook dinner every night without an oven.

Starting yesterday, Tuesday September 16:

I've been intrigued by caramelized onions since 6th grade, when my French teacher presented our class with an extra credit opportunity to make French onion soup. It seemed too complicated at the time and I preferred bookish projects because one of my life mottos until I was forcibly kicked out of academia by way of college graduation had always been #MoreHomework. Anyway, what better time to caramelize onions than when making dinner in a kitchen sans oven? I envision sitting down to an Instagram-filtered plate of browned onions with sauteed spinach and mushrooms and a side of lentils. In my mind it looks great.

I buy an onion the size of an American Girl doll head and start cooking it the minute I get home at 7:30. I skimmed through a recipe earlier in the day and thought it would only take 10 minutes to make but reading comprehension has never been my strong suit--as the College Board can attest to-- and it turns out that it takes an hour to caramelize an onion. It's acceptable to let a grumbling stomach wait an hour for a steak, but for a root vegetable? No. My roommate has already eaten her fried egg sandwich and moved on to her chocolate-yogurt-honey course by the time the natural sugars seep out of my onion. At 8:37, I make an executive decision to eat the onions as they are, which is like, 89% caramelized. Not great you guys, not great. The spinach and lentils never made it into the pan, but the mushrooms did and I totally crowded them despite Julia Child's warning not to but it doesn't matter because mushrooms don't contribute a lot of flavor to anything either way.

I eat an exotic pear that I bought because it was big and wrapped in that cute lil' fruit netting thing but quantity does not equal quality and the pear tastes like shit. I eat it anyway because I'm ten times happier when I'm chewing than not at all.

Wednesday September 17

Inspired by my French host mom's Sunday night dinners and the omelette scene in The Hundred Foot Journey, I decide to make an omelette for dinner. I like the thrill of a bargain when it comes to shopping and that includes groceries, so I go to the Manhattan Fruit Exchange inside Chelsea Market and buy a massive amount of spinach for a dollar. My omelette is pretty boring: it's just spinach and eggs. The excitement is more in the cooking technique (ie. how the eff do I flip this thing?) than in the variety of ingredients. Between you, me, the skillet, and my roommate realizing that eggs over easy aren't so easy next to me, it wasn't a simple task getting so-called omelette from the pan to my plate.

I can't help but think that the ingredients would be better baked into a quiche but that requires an oven so I'm stuck with my mediocre meal.

I eat a Bartlett pear (my favorite type of pear) but I mistakingly stored it in the recently-discovered Arctic corner of the refrigerator so it's frozen. It's gross but I eat it anyway because the only thing worse than a frozen pear is a frozen plum which I had last week and I never want to experience that again.

Lesson learned: the omelette would've been more satisfying had it spent some time in 350 degree oven heat. We all want what we can't have and I want a frittata.

No comments:

Post a Comment