Twice Cooked, The First and The Last Times

When Constant Companion and I met, now many years ago, I had a friend who was a superb cook. She thoroughly enjoyed cooking. Her rule, however, was to cook every dish only one time – no repeats. CC and I joined her family for many tasty gourmet adventures. In fact, I’m eternally indebted to her. Inspired by a women’s magazine cover, and the desire to tackle marzipan, she made our wedding cake!

My family’s dinner desires return me time and again to several standard dishes: broiled chicken, whole roasted lemon chicken, broiled lamb shoulder chops, ground turkey transformed into keftedes (meat patties) or meatloaf, spaghetti with sautéed peppers and turkey sausage. Sides usually include undressed tossed salad (left-over from long-ago Weight Watchers habits), steamed broccoli, green beans, zucchini (with onion and basel) and more.  

Somewhere along the way, I veered away from these standards and have ventured out to add to my culinary repertoire. Recipes come from my expansive library of multi-ethnic cookbooks, food magazines (both hard copy and digital), and the odd google searches for recommendations of how to use particular ingredients on hand. Usually both Constant Companion and Daughter (and I) enjoy these excursions in cooking.

My mother had a saying she’d pull out from time-to-time. If she tried something and did not like it, she would reflect that she’d tried it twice: the first time and the last time. This maxim sometimes reminds me of our long-ago cooking friend who never repeated a dish. Although everything she cooked was well worth having again!

A recent excursion with an archived recipe waiting on the side to be tried will go the way of “twice” tried. In 2018, Food & Wine named Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken, from1998, one of its 40 best. It was, well, ok. I think the fish sauce was out of balance. Here’s the link to the recipe, perhaps your family will make this a more than twice cooked – https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/caramelized-black-pepper-chicken.

Ingredients
not quite caramelized

As I reflect now and review photos of other dishes I’ve saved in my CreativelyAnnette folder that might fall into the “twice” category. Braised Lamb with Herb-Scented Jus, another Food and Wine recipe, is another – https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/braised-lamb-herb-scented-jus. We’re a lamb family. After all, my mom was the daughter of Greek Jewish immigrants, the niece of Lower East Side butchers. On the other hand, no one would turn up her nose more quickly than she when offered mint jelly.

A Lamb Story from Long Ago. Many years ago, we flew to the East Coast for a rare family vacation. The friends we were visiting admitted they’d never cooked lamb. Being me, I packed a frozen leg in my luggage; destination, Connecticut!

The day came for our lamb dinner. I studded the thawed leg Greek style with garlic cloves and rubbed it with oregano, salt, and pepper. It went into a moderate oven for two hours. In the meantime, our host, Constant Companion, and I, along with assorted kids went to the circus. I instructed our hostess to just leave the meat alone. She got worried and tented it. The result was a steamed leg of lamb, not a crispy-skinned roasted leg.

The braised lamb, like our vacation lamb, was steamed. The family enjoyed, but I prefer my mother’s roast.

braising
dinner is served

In the past two years, I’ve tried to lighten our psychic load while sheltering at home with food adventures. Some recipes I’ve tried have entered my growing cooking repertoire. Others have not. These are just the two of the latter that I documented. These recipes have now found themselves in my proverbial circular file. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained and learn from your mistakes. It’s all in the process and learning new skills is really great.

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