Comfort Food

27 Oct

Since I’ve been home, I haven’t let my newfound culinary skills go to waste. I’ve spent almost every day in the kitchen whisking, rolling, stirring, and boiling, to recreate some of the delicious things I learned in Paris, as well as trying out new recipes that just look too good to pass up. The most important thing I’ve realized since cooking back in Canada is that “I can”. And so can you! Yes, concrete skills and know-how help, but in the end a lot of what cooking comes down to is just getting over the fear of the unknown. How many times do you make the same pasta for dinner because it’s “quick and easy,” and how many times have you brought the same chocolate chip cookies to a potluck dinner because it’s your “signature recipe”? Well the truth is your pasta dish is no more “quick and easy” than some of the seemingly finicky meals I made in France, and we all know the secret that your cookie recipe is really just Pillsbury, but if you tried making a simple apple tart you’d realize that it’s really not that difficult and in actuality, infinitely more satisfying.

To highlight my point I’ll share with you a meal I made a couple weeks ago for my family. My dad’s on a rather particular diet right now, and trying to accommodate this I asked him what he’d like me to make him for dinner. “Roast chicken,” he replied. Roast chicken?? I’ve never made roast chicken before! Isn’t it fancy and time consuming and impossible and scary and something I could never do?! Well no, it’s not. It’s actually extremely easy and simple, you just need to find a recipe that suits your skill-set, time frame, and amount of effort you’re willing to put into it. After sniffing around some cookbooks and online magazines, I stumbled across a user-friendly Jamie Oliver recipe that requires only 10 minutes of prep and about 1.5 hours of cooking time. But remember that when a chicken is roasting in the oven, you can really just forget about it and focus on the rest of your meal as long as you baste and turn it throughout.

So off I went in true Jamie Oliver style, roughly chopping vegetables, forcefully shoving herbs and a poked-up lemon in the chicken’s bum, throwing it all in a roasting pan, and Voila! I was halfway through my fears of making roast chicken for dinner. The only part that really threw me off was when I had to rub down the raw bird with olive oil, salt and pepper, and was reluctantly reminded that I was in fact touching the skin of a dead animal carcass. How appetizing…

But about an hour and a half later, I had a juicy golden brown bird, along with some garlic and chive mashed potatoes, and the salade verte et haricots verts with the shallot French dressing that we learned to make in our first day of classes. I’ve made mashed potatoes countless times before, and I customized the salad by adding some walnuts. While goats cheese also goes nicely with this mélange, one of the restrictions of my dad’s diet is that he can’t have dairy, so I left that aspect out ,and used the dairy-free non-GMO spread of Earth Balance as well as almond milk to moisten up the potatoes.

Although I had wanted to make douillon aux pommes et cannelle from the post Crazy About Courgettes for dessert, my father doesn’t eat wheat as part of his dietary sensitivities, so I baked the apples, puff-pastry free, but with the same sweet filling of apple jelly, cinnamon, and brown sugar.

Instead of whipped cream, I mixed up a non-dairy almond-based whipped topping with some raspberry coulis, and served that along with the leftover coulis for an added side flavour to accompany our baked apples.

From the outside, you might think I had to overcome quite a few obstacles: no dairy, no wheat, and an unknown feature dish. But in actuality the dinner was rather simple and quite stress-free! The trick is incorporating your tried-and-true favorites with creative twists, innovative additions, and easy-to-follow new recipes, and you’ll have yourself one fabulous and extremely simple little meal.

So when people ask me what the most useful thing I learned at cooking school was, my answer isn’t choux pastry or an assortment of sauces. No, it’s that we’re all capable of culinary greatness, we just have to try new things, be OK with making mistakes, and get comfortable in the kitchen through frequent practice. Because when it really comes down to it, I’m sure you’re actually quite sick of your pasta, and tired of lying about your chocolate chip cookies, and would probably love to try something new.

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One Response to “Comfort Food”

  1. Bri 28/10/2011 at 6:53 AM #

    I love this! Loving your blog lady – keep it up!!!

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