How time flies by in Hotel California, my version of staying-at-home. I find myself not doing tasks that are crying out – ironing and mending – and spending more time in the kitchen. I could blame it on the surplus of lovely vegetables (see 12 June post). But there’s really no excuse. And so the chores wait!
I’ve already written about National Food Days (see 1 May post). A while ago, this concept got into my head. I turned to my friend Google (we might share this your friend) and sought out the calendar of these occurrences. They create reasons to play with cooking and stretch the imagination, especially in these days of growing boredom. Of course, I choose those which Constant Companion and I would enjoy. National Leg of Lamb Day was the inspiration for a long-ago book club dinner when the monthly read, The Good Spy, was the Middle East-oriented. I also tried my hand with bouillabaisse and successfully made the accompanying rouille. Chalk it up to beginner’s luck!
A few weeks ago (week 10 of the seclusion if you are counting) we celebrated both National Hamburger Day (May 28) and National Coq au Vin Day (May 29). I rose to the self-made challenge to prepare hopefully delicious meals for the home-bound family.
Hamburgers are not really a staple in our household, but sometimes kiftedes (Greek meat patties) make an easy dinner. I decided to go the American way and use ground bison from the depths of the freezer (actually it’s in the basket at the top!). Our years in Oklahoma introduced me to cooking bison. My chili was well known, but Daughter does not enjoy the spices, so I’ve not made it for a long while. Hamburgers it was in honor of the day.
Usually, I just cook them in a pan, but for National Hamburger Day I fired up my counter-top electric grill. Some mixed herbs/spices were thrown into the meat – most likely garlic powder, oregano, salt, and pepper. Bison is a lean meat, so you have to be careful not to overcook it. For sides, I slow sautéed loads of onions, made a simple cucumber salad, and boiled some fresh sweet corn. A lovely way to celebrate National Hamburger Day.
Coq au vin was not quite as simple, but not difficult either. I turned to my trusty, New Basics Cookbook – a must for your shelf, now an oldie and goodie.
Start by sautéing chopped onion and bacon (turkey bacon in our case). Remove from the pan and add the chicken pieces, carefully browning both sides. Return everything to the pan and add the wine, stock, and tomato paste (one I’ve made a few weeks ago from cherry tomatoes). Cook as directed. We enjoyed this dish with boiled potatoes. A very satisfying meal.
A few National Days have managed to slip by me in the meantime … If you’re interested, May 9 is National Shrimp Day, June 3 is National Egg Day, and June 12 is International Falafal Day. I actually have a recipe for a baked falafal loaf that I’ve made once, but this year was not moved to celebrate. For now, it’s just cooking with what there is in the kitchen.