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Name:Tunafish & Rice & Thoughts on Cooking Contributor:Leigh Ann Hussey
Description:Tunafish & Rice & Leigh Ann's Thoughts on Cooking Posted:2005-11-01
Key words:tuna, rice, egg, butter Category:Main Dishes
ID:664 Updated:2006-04-09 14:53:42
Ingredients:brown rice (brown MJB box)
1 egg
1 can tuna

Non-traditional white sauce:
~1 stick butter
curry powder
~1 c milk
Preparation:Boil brown rice from the brown MJB box (the green box, still in the store, has white rice in it). This is kind of a whole sub-process in itself, but let's take it as done for the moment. Dish the rice out -- if you start the rice the same time as the white sauce (about which more in a moment), it'll still be hot for the last step. If not, you'll need to keep it warm in the oven.

Hardboil an egg. This has sub-steps too, which we'll ignore for now.

Make a non-traditional white sauce. Again, this has sub-steps, but they're worth illustrating, because the steps are expandable, as I'll note in a bit.

1) Melt some butter in a small skillet -- a quarter stick, maybe.
2) Sprinkle a couple big spoons of flour over the melted butter, and stir it up.
3) Here's the non-traditional part: sprinkle a little spoon of curry powder over it and stir it in likewise.
4) A splash at a time, pour a cup or so (maybe less) of milk into the butter-flour mixture, stirring to keep the lumps down. If lumps show up, don't panic, break them up with your fork (or whisk, or whatever; when I was learning, it was a fork) before you add the next bit of milk.
5) It'll be thick before you know it. Too thick is like paste; just right is like heavy cream (if you don't know what heavy cream is like, go buy some and see.)

Having made the non-traditional white sauce, open a can of tuna and drain it. Break the tuna up into the white sauce. Pour the lot over the cooked and dished-out rice.

Slice the hardboiled egg (we had -- and I still have -- a nifty multi-wire egg-slicer for this very purpose) and arrange the slices over the top.

Serves 3 hungry kids and their mom.
Notes:airyn darling wrote:
>cooking is so much chemistry that it scares the pants right off me,
> and i thusly have stayed fairly far away from it, convinced i would
> just Suck the Moose at it.

Not so. Cooking is chemistry in the abstract, sure, but in the concrete, cooking is art, and more to the point, cooking is human. Everyone can learn to do it, like talking or singing. Yeah, some people are tone-deaf, and corresponding people have trouble microwaving leftover pizza. But on the whole, food is a thing that we as eating creatures understand intuitively and viscerally, sensually. Intellect not required -- though it can be useful if you need to write it down for other people.

This is a really interesting thing to me, because I've lately been considering the idea of writing a cookbook, with the goal of pitching it to somebody like Chronicle Books or 10-Speed Press, for real live publication. And I've been trying to figure out what it is about me that makes the food I cook be something people like to eat -- and how can I teach that to somebody else?

I think a lot of the people on this list who're crackin' cooks probably already know this, in one or another level of consciousness, nearer or further from their forebrain, and the ones who know it nearer to their forebrain may (will probably?) disagree with me, or at least think I'm preaching to the choir, but irrespective of that:

Here's an initial stab at How Leigh Ann Got Where She Is Now:

TASTE THINGS. Never let the look of a thing put you off tasting it. If I have one thing to thank my folks for, it was that they encouraged me _never_ to refuse food just because it looked funny -- otherwise I'd've never eaten snails, or sushi. The chocolate-covered butterflies, now, I will probably not repeat them. But one of these days I want to eat bee brood (that's what the bears are really after when they raid a beehive, after all). I'm told they taste like ama-ebi.

TASTE LOTS OF THINGS. This doesn't mean gorge yourself, but it does mean try a little of everything.

HAVING TASTED, REMEMBER. Imprint that sensation. Experiment; taste and smell the difference between grains of paradise and coriander, or more subtly, between ginger and galangal. If it helps the way you think, think of tastes as having a color -- bright, dark, green, earth-tone, electric blue... your palate as palette.

TASTE ONE THING; THINK OF ANOTHER. Bite an apple. It's easy (probably) to think of it along with pie-spices like cinnamon & nutmeg; now think, "How would this taste with an onion? with chipotles? with eggplant? with couscous?" Don't just think it, taste it, in your mind's mouth -- if you can't do that, TRY IT. It might be miserable; it might be great. (One of my favorite things is a rice pilaf with orzo pasta, roasted pine-nuts, chopped apples, black Moroccan olives, et al). They've been doing fruit with savory in the Middle East for about a bazillion years -- maybe they're onto something. ;)

READ COOKBOOKS FOR FUN. I think, at the moment, I still have Mr Golding beat for total linear feet of house shelf space dedicated to cookbooks... ;) And I've read ALL OF THEM. I take cookbooks to bed -- my current volume is Eula Mae's Cajun Kitchen... Don't worry about proportions when you're just reading; think about how things taste together, and look at method -- try things out that appeal. My habit of broiling tomatoes and big peppers under the broiler and throwing them in a paper bag to steam before peeling them came out of a
Mexican cookbook.

FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE ONE THING REALLY WELL; EXPAND FROM THERE. The first dish I ever learned how to make, I learned from Mom. It's still comfort food to me:


Notice how this little thing has a bunch of things in it that you can expand outward from?

This list has already discussed the boiling of eggs and the kinds of things you can do when you do, not limited to: crack the shell and roll the egg some on the counter under your hand with a light pressure, and you get a crazed pattern all over. If you put it in cold water, it makes the egg easier to peel. If you put it in cold black tea, you get a hardboiled egg with a neato marbelized pattern all over it.

Supposing you boil the rice in broth instead of water? (You get tastier rice) Supposing you boil the rice in water-and-butter instead of plain water? (Ditto) Supposing you don't boil the rice at all, but heat butter or oil, stir raw rice around in that for a bit, and then add already-hot broth to it little by little until everything's toothsome? (You get risotto.) Supposing you heat butter/oil, throw in raw rice and raw orzo pasta, stir up until the orzo is brown, then throw on hot broth? (You get Rice-a-Roni that you made your very own self. San Francisco Treat indeed. ;)

Supposing you melt the butter for the white sauce and saute chopped onions in it before you add the flour? (You get tastier white sauce, but less traditional.) Supposing you heat oil instead of melting butter? (You get different-tasting but just as tasty sauce.) Supposing you heat oil, add flour, and cook both over a low flame stirring constantly until the flour is peanut-butter colored, and only THEN add chopped onions and celery and green pepper? (You get the beginnings of gumbo.)

See, the thing is this: everything you know, you can grow out of. When you have a foundation, you can build.

COOK WITH FRIENDS. They know stuff you don't. They grew up doing things you didn't, or they read cookbooks you haven't, or whatever. They've got tech you don't have; get it. You have tech they don't have; share yours. Food is about community. If you want to get linguistic about it (and I usually do), food is about commensalism. Co (with) mensa (table). Be at table with other people. There's peace in it. I live for it.

- LA

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