True to my wedding vows, I made cream of potato soup last week. My vows (written by NewWifey(tm) ) stipulate that I have to make potato something at least once a week, and last week it was soup. It was really, really good soup, and NewWifey(tm) demolished all but about a cup of it by week’s end.
This morning, then, rooting around in the fridge for something to eat, it struck me that I hadn’t planned next week’s mandated potato offering yet. This was a real concern, as NewWifey(tm) takes this particular part of our vows very, very seriously. Even moreso than the fidelity vow. I was cutting it close here. NewWifey(tm) would be up in a couple of hours, and I knew I didn’t have so much as a Mr. Potato Head doll in the house to mollify her.
Thinking quickly I grabbed the cup of leftover soup, added some honey, and warmed it in the microwave for a minute. I poured that into a bowl of flour mixed with a pack of quick rise yeast, and basically just beat the snot out of it for ten minutes.
See, I have this 2-part theory about cooking, and both parts have so far held up to practice. The theory goes like this:
1. “Cooking is an art, baking is a science” is bullshit, a myth foisted on the rest of us by a cabal of bakers who want people to think they’re special.
2. You can make bread out of anything that doesn’t kill the yeast. And if it does kill the yeast, you can probably still make soda risen bread out of it.
So I put both parts of my theory to the test yet again this morning, making bread out of potato soup. No measuring, no instructions, not even worrying about how hot my oven was. I just dumped soup, yeast, honey (for the yeast) and flour in a bowl and started kneading. After 10 minutes I set it aside to rise, which it did spectacularly.
After that I pressed it down, rolled it into a long rope, and cut it into segments. Each segment I rolled onto a ball and placed it in a pan, then let them rise again. A quick brush of olive oil on top, and into the oven…until it looked like this:
Then I pulled them out of the oven.
Viola. Marriage safe for another week.
These were really awesome rolls, btw (as if I even needed to add that). Great, fluffy crumb with a taste that was subtly flavored with the spices I’d used in the soup. NewWifey(tm) downed half the pan. And that was before she even woke up.
Oh yeah, one more thing. See that roasting pan? My little old lady/personal physician/golf buddy gave me that. She got it at an estate sale for 5 bucks. It’s a solid heavy duty British made aluminum pan from the 1940’s, and appears to never have seen the inside of an oven since the day it was cast. Fantastic pan, but I did have to make an adjustment. Since aluminum heats so quickly and evenly – much more quickly and evenly than cast iron – I had to stay on top of things once the rolls went it. It’s a good thing too. Had I just “set it and forget it” with my usual ~40 minute baking time, these things would have been blacker and harder than Martin Shkreli’s heart. They were done after 25.
Oh yeah, one more one more thing. Despite what it seems, this whole entry is not so much an exercise in online masturbation as it is another salvo in my ongoing crusade to help people who are too intimidated to cook, cook. For various reasons (the rise of celebrity chefs, Food-TV, Pinterest and other social media sites, equipment whores) over the last 30 years I’ve watched my beloved avocation and one time profession shift gradually away from home cooking being an act of love and source of nourishment, to “OH GOD I ONLY HAVE DRIED TARRAGON AND MARIO SAYS IT HAS TO BE FRESH AND THE PICTURE IN EPICURIOUS SHOWS A GARNISH OF FRISEE TEMPURA AND ALL I HAVE IS ENDIVE AND CAN I EVEN MAKE A CHICKEN BREAST IN A PAN THAT’S NOT ALL-CLAD?”
This video sums up pretty well an aspect of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZ5Hn-5l2o4 (I don’t normally say this but…that video is NSFW. But funny as hell.)
Seriously people: Stop. Take a deep breath. Have faith in your skill as a cook. If I can make delicious bread out of week old soup without measuring or following a recipe, you can make dinner for your family without shedding four pounds of stress sweat. You are a lot better cook than you think you are. You’ve just been led to believe otherwise because you don’t turn out gorgeous and spectacular extravaganzas like they do at Chez Snoot, night after night after night. But you’re not supposed to. Get back into the mindset that cooking is an act of love, and meant to be shared with those you love. This may sound stupid and/or blasphemous, but really: quality is secondary. In this day and age where it’s all too easy to get pre-prepared meals at any drive-up window, gas station, drone delivery service, teleportation device, anyone – ANYONE – who goes to the time and effort to actually get in the kitchen and prepare anything – ANYTHING – no matter how humble, is to be applauded. As should their food be.
Just…don’t expect it to be as good as mine. Beyotch.