Sunday, October 3, 2010

What's in Your Repertoire?

I just finished this rather grating book Cooking for Mr. Latte by food writer Amanda Hesser. In it we are treated to her special brand of snobbery which is equally applied to food and people. The one part I was interested in was this: building a repertoire. Amanda was feeling like she never knew what to cook for dinner parties or even every night cooking, because she was always chasing after the next best recipe, the next new recipe (of course, this was when she deigned to stay in and cook, which was not often). I know that feeling myself, because as a food blogger there's almost a requirement to keep cooking new things. If I don't, I have nothing to say to all of you and then you will go away and leave me and I would cry. Also, I like trying new things which keeps me from getting in too much of a rut. But I was interested in giving some thought to my go-to dishes. What do I make for special occasions? Several times a month? Which recipes do I know by heart? In Amanda Hesser's world of fine dining I got the impression that what you cook a few nights a week and what you cook for a dinner party were the same thing, all of which require at least 10 ingredients and formal cooking school training to execute, but in my world fancy and a few times a month rarely collide.

Here's my final analysis:

Fancy Dinner
Look, I don't ever have anyone to dinner except StellaCarolyn and she's often accompanied by her husband (who doesn't eat either of my fancy dinner options) or her mother (who always has a very specific idea of what she's read about here that she wants me to make - last time it was fried chicken) thus, this is only what I make for special dinners for me and Ry.

So, either it's duck with polenta or pommes anna

or a recipe for Sea Scallops I've adapted from Ming Tsai that I've never written about here, even though I've made it for New Year's Eve several year's running. Maybe this year I'll stop to tell you about it.

Clearly, I need more fancy meals! I do know how to roast a chicken, but I never do it the same way twice, so I feel like it doesn't count.

Potluck Go-Tos
Again, my friends are not Amanda's Hesser's (also, my budget is clearly not hers), and therefore canapes with fresh pate are not in the cards.

It's Tyler Florence's Sesame Noodles all the way. They always get rave reviews, and since they don't need reheating they're perfect.

If I know things can be heated, I might bring my mother's macaroni and cheese.

Do I need to point out that I'm not invited to potlucks often? I don't think where I live is potluck country.

Weekday Warriors
I cook most days. So what gets made over and over? A few times a month?

Truthfully, the dinner I make most is breaded chicken. And it's not on this blog. Mostly it's not on this blog because I could do it in my sleep. I probably have. But when I make it, it's often because I'm so tired, and so I can't possibly be bothered to time things or measure things. It's not incredibly special, so please don't feel like I'm holding out on you.

We also eat some form of turkey burger more than once a month. I make them regular, with leeks and bacon, asian style or greek style.

And once it's fall/winter, I definitely make baked shells and sausage a lot.

I really enjoyed mulling this over and definitely see some holes I want to fill. It may require more recipe testing, but it also may require remaking some things until I feel more comfortable with them.

What about you? Do you have a repertoire? Something fancy in case you have to cook for a snobby food writer? Something you cook dead on your feet after a long day at work because it doesn't require any thing? A dish everyone begs you to make for a pot luck?


mamacita said...

No fancy dinner repetoire to speak of, sadly. Maybe in another phase of my life. For everyday, I also love the breaded chicken, as well as pirate pasta (baked penne w/ mini meatballs).

Amanda said...

I'm sorry you didn't enjoy my book. Just to clarify, it was my job at the time to keep up with restaurants so I was required to go out a lot -- I wasn't suggesting that everyone should. And to be fair, most of the recipes in my "repertoire" are very budget friendly -- including my mom's oven fried chicken and a chocolate cake made with Baker's chocolate and chocolate chips. Also, one of the underlying themes of the book was to make fun of my food "snobbery."

Carrietracy said...

mamacita - you know how I feel about meatballs! There can never be too many.

Amanda - Thanks for stopping by. I absolutely understand that it was your job to go out all the time (I'm quite jealous in fact!) but it's definitely something that's not a reality for many of us. Thanks for pointing us towards some budget friendly recipes.

mom said...

Hmmm. Special occasions were often Pollo Bolognese (chicken with proscuitto and fontina) from Marcella Hazan or Osso Bucco (also from Marcella. Nowadays, I make the duck breast with polenta from your blog. For pot luck, I frequently make the same sesame noodles with the 8 pieces chicken from the old Time-Life cookbooks, featured earlier on your blog. (not that I get invited to pot luck suppers very often....) Weekday standbys are Marcella's meatballs, meatloaf, chicken paprikash, chicken with rosemary and white wine and oven baked fish of some kind or scallops


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