Patsy Porco

Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Three Rotting Bananas

In baking, Humor on August 12, 2017 at 12:13 am

I don’t like to cook. I do it, but I don’t enjoy it –– or attain a trance-like state while I chop, slice, and dice, like a friend of mine does.

“Chopping vegetables is so relaxing,” she told me a few years ago. To this day I don’t know if she was being serious, or lying to see my reaction. I just told her she was nuts.

Chopping onions burns my eyes. When I peel carrots, I always wind up peeling the skin off my index finger. Grating cheese always involves grating my fingernail along with the cheese, and then sifting through the pile of cheese to find the nail shavings. I now polish my nails bright colors so they’re easy to spot.

Most of all, I dread having to locate the necessary spices, because when I open the above-my-head spice cabinet, an avalanche of spice bottles roll out and fall into the sink, scaring both me and the dog.

By the time I manage to get whatever I’m making onto the stove or into the oven, the counters are littered with peelings, eggshells, onion skins, meat wrappers, and dirty pots, pans, bowls, and measuring cups. And the dog is underfoot, licking up whatever hit the floor.

As much as I dislike cooking, I thought I liked baking. Tonight’s attempt at making banana bread made me realize that I was thinking of someone else, maybe one of those cake experts on the Cooking Channel.

It all started with three bananas that were so ripe that they were going to liquefy if I didn’t do something with them fast. For as long as I’ve been alive, whenever someone complains that his or her bananas are brown, another person never fails to say in a perky voice, “Make banana bread!”

Up until today, I’ve always thrown out brown bananas (and steered clear of people who make upbeat pronouncements), because baking with putrid fruit never seemed honest. But, tonight, I decided to reconsider the ethical question of disguising rotten fruit as a loaf cake.

I looked up banana bread recipes and they all called for bananas that were well past the eating stage. Some of the recipes even gave instructions for transforming  perfectly nice bananas into sludge. All of the recipes demanded that the bananas be very brown, very soft, and very aromatic.

So, I made banana bread. The process was just as annoying as cooking, and easily as messy. Flour-drenched counters, a sugar-coated Golden Retriever, sticky bowls, and caramelized beaters awaited me once I slid the pan into the oven. It took me three hours to make one loaf pan of banana bread, not including the baking time. I blame the butter.

Who knew it took hours to bring butter down to room temperature? The recipe said to soften it naturally and not expedite the process with the microwave or hot water. Don’t you think that should have been mentioned right under the title, in all capital letters? But no, the author waited until I had mashed the bananas with sour cream and vanilla, mixed the dry ingredients, and tripped over the dog before mentioning that room-temperature butter had to be beaten with sugar.

Oh well. It’s done now. I have no idea if it’s any good. Nor will I ever know. I hate banana bread. I’ll probably freeze it, and one day when I can’t identify what it is, I’ll toss it in the trash.

Next time, I’m throwing out the brown bananas.

banana bread

 

 

 

Panko Schmanko

In Humor on April 5, 2012 at 8:36 pm

The other day, when I was trying to come up with a way in which to disguise chicken, I happened upon a bag of panko breadcrumbs at a local upscale grocery store. I’m not upscale, but I frequent the store because I like to see how the one-percent lives, and because it’s down the street from my house.

I picked up the bag of über-hip crumbs and detected tiny red and green specks in it. Always one to tackle a mystery, I read the label. The specks turned out to be sun-dried tomatoes and basil. The price was $4.99 for six ounces. At the time, that seemed reasonable, so I tossed the bag into my cart. Fortunately, sanity returned halfway down the aisle. Five dollars for breadcrumbs? I’m a person who refuses to pay $5 for a cup of fancy coffee, and I was going to pay that much for breadcrumbs? As I put the bag back onto its shelf, I remembered that I had sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, and bread at home. I could make my own fancy-schmancy breadcrumbs.

One thing I didn’t have at home was panko. I wasn’t even sure what panko was. I had heard Hollywood chefs talk about it, but nobody from Hollywood was going to be eating my chicken. Multi-grain bread was good enough for my audience of two.

Once I got home, I soon learned that the cost of the breadcrumbs was mostly for labor. After toasting a loaf of bread and cutting it into cubes, I put half of the ingredients into my food processor and hit “grind.” No sooner had I pressed the button than the top of the food processor popped off and red-and-green-flecked bread cubes exploded up into the air and landed on my head.

After cleaning the kitchen, washing my hair, and donning a hockey helmet, I reloaded the machine with the remainder of the bread, tomatoes and basil and hit “grind” again. This time, I was rewarded with beautifully flecked, perfectly ground breadcrumbs. Visions of gloriously prepared chicken breasts danced before my eyes.

Inspired by my success, I put the bags of frozen french fries and peas back into the fridge and decided to make fresh side dishes. While the chicken baked, I whipped up fresh garlic mashed potatoes and lightly sautéed asparagus as accompaniments. I had outdone myself. In all honesty, outdoing myself only takes putting down the take-out menu and turning on the stove. But this time, I had prepared a restaurant-quality meal that wouldn’t come with a Supersize option.

I called my family to dinner. At the table. When they saw placemats and flatware set out, they asked if they had forgotten my birthday. I made a silent promise to restrict eating in the family room, and presented the chicken breasts, glistening with golden breadcrumbs speckled with green and red flavor flecks. I stood back to accept my due.

“Ooh, aah,” my husband said without a hint of sincerity. “Can I help you bring the potatoes and vegetables over to the table so that we can eat?” I took a deep cleansing breath. “Sure,” I said.

Everyone started with the potatoes, which galled me. But I waited patiently. I couldn’t exactly say, “Try the damned chicken, will you?” It would have ruined the experience. Instead, I tasted it. The combination of the tart tomatoes, earthy basil, crunchy breadcrumbs and juicy chicken was perfection. My mouth watered for another bite. My eyes watered from success. 

Finally, my husband took a bite. Then he took another. Then another. The suspense was making me antsy. My son took a bite and said, “This is really good, Mom. Isn’t it, Dad?”

My husband nodded. “The chicken is cooked perfectly and the mashed potatoes are delicious. I’m just not a fan of the coating on the chicken.”  He then proceeded to scrape the breadcrumbs off the chicken into a pile next to the asparagus.

I could have gone on a tirade, and perhaps I did, but I’m not going to admit it here. All that I will say is that from now on, one of us is getting plain breadcrumbs. And tomorrow, when I experiment with flavoring mayonnaise, that person certainly won’t be getting any pesto mayo on his sandwich.

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