Friday, January 16, 2009

friday night family dinner


D'you ever get the occasional whim to draw or paint something - say, a sailboat on the ocean at sunset - only to remember that your artistic skills are approximately those of a 7-year-old's? You've got this image in your head, and it seems relatively simple to render, and yet the execution just doesn't match your imagination? I feel that way about cooking a lot of the time. I'll come up with what seems like a pretty simple idea, and I know what the right ingredients are, but what comes out is just not what I pictured. I don't mean the dish comes out differently than I pictured; I mean it comes out amateurish or tastes only so-so. I made risotto the other night, and while it was definitely edible, I overcooked it just enough that it didn't have that beautiful, runny texture - it got kinda gummy. Nothing an extra ladleful of stock couldn't fix, but also not great.

I'm not a bad cook, really. I have a good repertoire of recipes I can execute well. But the experiments, more often than not, aren't memorable, and I'm not passionate enough, or interested enough, to expend the effort to try them again and improve them.

Josh and I actually like to cook together, and we talk a lot about trying new recipes, but these days, we don't do much real/new/experimental cooking. During the week, we have about two hours from when we get home until the kids' bedtime to decompress (approximately 15 seconds), cook dinner, and feed and bathe them. While they need dinner consistently, Josh's schedule and mine aren't always in sync - he ate a big lunch at 2:00, or I'm headed to the gym - so there's less incentive to make dinner for the whole family and it's much easier to just pull stuff together for the kids. And honestly, at 7:45, I'm not about to start cooking a gourmet meal.

That said, I only work three days a week, and I feel compelled, on the days I don't work, to occasionally produce something resembling a meal: a main course and one or two vegetables/sides. Guess what? Tonight's was a success! Not only did Bug Bug actually eat it, I really thought everything turned out well and could be repeated again in the future. Here's what we ate:

- BBQ pulled pork sandwiches
- steamed broccoli (I'm not giving you a recipe for that one)
- oven-baked sweet potato and Yukon Gold fries

Not only was it easy and tasty, it was even healthy! I cut up the potatoes and sweet potatoes in the shape of fries, sprayed them with Pam and sprinkled them with salt and a little oregano and roasted them at 425F for about 35 minutes, turning occasionally. The pork was super easy: took a 1-pound boneless tenderloin, cut it into 4 large chunks, and browned them for about 10 minutes (turning to cook on all sides) in a pot on the stove. Then I covered it with BBQ sauce - maybe 1/3 cup? - and simmered it, covered, on low. I checked it every 20 minutes or so, continuing to turn the pieces so they wouldn't brown too much on any one side. It took about an hour and 15 minutes total until the pork was starting to fall apart. After about 45-50 minutes, it looked a little dry, so I added a cup of water and let it continue to simmer. All the water got absorbed perfectly, the pork was simple to shred, and we piled some on whole wheat hamburger buns to make sandwiches.

Best of all, it looked so pretty all on the plate together! The colors really popped. I don't know exactly why I'm posting about this except that I was happy with the success and wanted to share. Everything's better with BBQ sauce, right?

OK, off to bed!

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