The Well-Intentioned Cook

On Friday, I wrote about Vivian Howard’s new cookbook, This Will Make It Taste Good, and resolved to try at least one of the recipes over the weekend. The weekend spilled over into today. I spent much of my Monday afternoon grocery shopping, cleaning up the kitchen, and preparing not one but two of Vivian’s recipes. The jury’s still out on the results, but I’m feeling hopeful.

The quickest and easiest of her ten “flavor heroes”–meal helpers or condiments or whatever you want to call them–is Vivian’s Nuts. Four cups of pecans are sloshed around in a mixture of whipped egg white, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and other spices. I would describe the result, in French culinary language, as gloppy. The nuts and their coating move to a cookie sheet in the oven, where they toast at 350 degrees for about twenty minutes. After about thirty minutes, my pecans seemed mushy and the coating gummy. Because they were turning brown, however, I removed them from the oven to cool, my expectations low. Now that they’ve been cooling for a while, they are in fact crispy and quite tasty. Vivian suggests eating them as a snack, adding them to pumpkin bread, sprinkling them on sauteed vegetables or baked potatoes, tossing in a salad, and chopping and adding to cookie dough. She also provides a few recipes that include them.

Vivian’s Nuts

Vivian calls my second flavor hero Community Organizer. It involves chopping a ton (approximate measurement) of bell peppers, onions, and garlic and cooking for a long time. About twenty seeded, peeled tomatoes join the party (I used canned), along with red wine vinegar and brown sugar. Then you continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half.

I know that according to the laws of physics a liquid mixture on the boil will eventually “reduce by half.” My heart sinks at that instruction, however, because I have never experienced this phenomenon. If a dish on my stove is soupy, it remains soupy, and even becomes soupier, as in this case, because the tomatoes are continuing to cook and soften.

I should mention here that I am an impatient cook. Sometimes I even suspect that this impatience contributes to my problem with sauce reduction. But I really think it’s some reduction-inhibiting vortex in my particular kitchen.

My Community Organizer is still simmering. I’m trying to ignore it, because it might not want to reduce while I’m watching it. It smells good and tastes good but doesn’t look right. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

How it’s supposed to look.

How it looks.

Today, as it happens, Facebook reminded me that my husband once commented that if I ever wrote a cookbook, I should title it The Well-Intentioned Cook. It’s true. I have excellent intentions.

Tell us about your recent culinary triumphs.

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4 Responses to The Well-Intentioned Cook

  1. Kathy says:

    It turned out pretty well after all.

  2. Kathy says:

    Aaaargh! Sounds tasty to me! I’ve thought of trying this one, but haven’t dared yet.

  3. Jewel Moulthrop says:

    Not at all sure about Vivian’s Nuts, but Community Organizer has potential.

  4. Sarah Becker says:

    Should have been a triumph. I haven’t found a frozen or pre-made chicken pot pie that is just right, so I had the great idea of making it from scratch. I used Joy of Cooking, 2019 edition (I own at least 3 earlier editions). Poached boneless chicken breasts; made veloute sauce with chicken broth and milk; used shallots, celery, carrots, and potatoes; made a half recipe of biscuits for the topping. Took 2 1/2 hours. This created two 9×5 pans of ready-to-heat casseroles. However, although I found it good, my better half decided that the chicken was tough and proceeded to pick out all the meat and ate only the veg, sauce, and topping! The best laid plans etc. If you don’t succeed etc. Plenty of etc. to go around!

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