Friday, October 5, 2012
Scratch Cooking Part II: The Three Main Meals
Let me start with a confession: for my entire life, I've wanted to be a housewife. I wanted that when I was a little girl, I assumed it was my right in life in college, I proudly proclaimed myself a homemaker while single (much to the confusion of strangers), and I am pleased to be a housewife now. However, the role of housewife in the modern era comes right alongside a full-time job and all the other commitments of life, so time in the kitchen is precious indeed.
Therefore, I have distilled my main meal cooking down to three main options, which comprise 80 percent of the dinners I cook. With variations, we don't get bored, and I am able to get by on a limited grocery list and garden harvest that serves our needs. The main meal categories are:
"Sunday Dinner:" This is some variant of a roast, a bunch of potatoes and onions, and maybe some carrots or a fresh salad. Sometimes it is a beef roast, sometimes a whole chicken. It sounds like a lot; people sometimes comment that it seems like I'm making Thanksgiving dinner. But really, I'm just making a good, old fashioned, country meal that requires very little tending. A beef roast will cook happily in the Crock Pot all day, and a chicken will make the house smell wonderful for the two or three hours it is in the oven. Generally, I make these meals on a Sunday, when I can putter around the house or sit and read a book while the cooking goes on without much attention from me. Then, I'm assured that Mr. FC&G has leftover meat for the coming week.
Soup: If you are going to cook roasts and birds, you are going to wind up with bones and trimmings. This means stock around here. Every couple of months, I can a batch of homemade stock (which, again, is something that simmers on the stove for hours while you go about your business). This serves as a base for a quick meal of soup, whether that be a cheesy potato soup, a chowder, or a simple broth with onions and greens that will be a great vehicle for homemade or boxed pasta. I make very few soups that require more than 30 minutes of prep and cooking, so this is a great weeknight option.
Pasta and Something: If Mr. FC&G loves meat, I love pasta. So, one of my regular meals for us is pasta and something. Think zucchini orzo, or mac-n-cheese, or rigatoni with garden tomatoes and fresh basil. Basically, almost anything on hand can be tossed with pasta, with perhaps a sauce of choice and some cheese. This is a very quick dinner that still usually includes lots of veggies for us.
What about the other 20 percent? This part of our dinner rotation is reserved for the one-off meals that we like, such as fried cod on a bed of garden veggies, baked salmon, student ragout, or some new recipe that I've decided to try to see if it deserves a place in the regular rotation. It also includes our occasional meals out, which tend to happen once a week due to either family get-togethers or business events, or just because we want a treat. We can budget that in, because the rest of the week we have spent so little and eaten so well.
Posted by Jennifer Lorenzetti at 8:55 AM