Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Strange Bedfellows

     When I get tired of MSNBC in the background, NPR gets louder. The other day, the discussion was about a new book, The Science of Good Cooking by Bridget Lancaster and Jack Bishop. Although my multitasking was in gear—I think I was doing some research about selling our webcast about service dogs on the net, or maybe I was driving—see, multitasking doesn’t pay, it robs you of your memory, but I did hear a few words.

They were discussing anchovies, that hidden ingredient that really can remain under cover. No, I’m not like my husband. I don’t add anchovies to my pizza. I don’t open a can of anchovies and spread the contents all over my salad unless it’s named after Julius C. I don’t eat sandwiches of cream cheese and anchovies like my mother used to sneak into my school lunches.
But, my go to and very quick pasta dinner is a take off on Marcella Hazan’s broccoli with anchovies. It’s really quick if you use the pre-cut broccoli from Costco. The bag is always hidden in my vegetable crisper. Trouble is that sometimes it hides too well and gets smelly and slimy. I keep telling myself that it pays to shop at Costco even if some of the stuff goes into the trash because it’s such a bargain. The smelly broccoli, however, has to go into the garbage disposal or right outside or the whole refrigerator can smell.
The super simple pasta recipe, no it’s not a recipe because I have never measured anything is: in a wok or frying pan (big, deep one), stir fry the broccoli cut into pieces in olive oil until it’s partially cooked, add a lump of butter, a can or two of anchovies with the oil, some pepper (no salt), and a generous splash of white wine. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until it’s al dente, throw it into the hot vegetable mixture and add the best parmesan cheese you can find. I knew I was on to something when my 9 year-old granddaughter asked for a second portion of the leftovers. When I made the green and white pasta dish for my daughter and her friends, I buffered the effect with an alternate red and white one. There were no green and white leftovers and no one guessed what was on the broccoli.

So the discussion about anchovies from The Science of Good Cooking didn’t even catch me by surprise. The suggestion was to add anchovies to beef stew to add a savory quality. So, when I found some interesting looking beef at Target, I decided to give it a try. Of course, I march to my own drummer, so it was pot roast and ended up being a take-off on Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon. All my recipes seem to be “take-offs” because I refuse to return to the supermarket once I return with my ingredients and never make a list.
I used the really thick pieces of chuck browned in walnut oil then removed from the pan (I use an electric frying pan because I don’t like to clean up my stove top, a shiny black thing, what a mistake.) In the same pan went 8 big carrots, peeled and cut up, a head of garlic, cloves smashed and peeled, about 24 Brussels sprouts, cut in half, 4 stalks of celery, about 12 small red potatoes, cut in half, and a can of anchovies with the olive oil. When everything was lightly browned, the meat rejoined the mixture and in went a half bottle of red wine. The whole thing simmered for about 2 hours and was pronounced a winner by my super critical husband. He’ll eat anything, even help me clean up, doesn’t mind eggs or a BLT for dinner, but tells me when he hates my slimy roast chicken.
Thank you, Bridget Lancaster and Jack Bishop, for your anchovy idea. But, and this is a very BIG BUT, I’m certain that neither of you ever experienced a migraine headache.
The rest of the discussion had me wanting to throw things at the radio. It went on to tout their belief that there is nothing wrong with MSG, the kind added to food or the kind that is found in some foods. If I had either of their phone numbers, I’d call them a 3 AM when I am awakened and my always sympathetic husband asks what I’d eaten. 90% of the time I can trace the middle of the night monster to something hidden among the ingredients in my food. I hope there weren’t too many migraine sufferers who listened to the proclamations in the book and took them as the gospel because there was a lot of interesting information, but about MSG—NO!

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