“Nobody is Cooking Anymore” – A Lament

via Esquire:

“And the reason they look the same is that their creators all pretty much think the same. A protein is pared down with the loving skill of a sushi master (and frequently with the knife of one, too); it is then prepared in some diabolically clever way, and put into the center of a plate. Some vegetable, prepared with equal virtuosity, is plated with like meticulousness, on the same plate. Finally, some third ingredient, and possibly a fourth, is added on top, with or without tweezers. These items were either cooked or cured or grown separately, and they are put on the plate separately, and when I eat them, I eat them separately, unless I manage to spear two or three of them on the same fork tine. Sure, one dish might have a fermented carrot, and other locally milled grits; otherwise they differ no more than Hef’s girlfriends.”

Read more: Nobody Is Cooking Anymore – Josh Ozersky Cooking Essay – Esquire

Here in rural New Hampshire we don’t have much of this kind of “composition”, and it certainly almost never appears in my own cooking, except maybe little tapas things (and I have never used a tweezers on food!), like these Southwestern Marinated Shrimp:

shrimp salsa and avocadoIs this what Ozersky is decrying? It may look like the type of dishes that he is describing, but it is intentionally constructed to be precisely the type of dish he prefers – everything to be eaten together – a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

No, nothing has been “transformed”, though the ‘salsa-fied’ vegetables under the shrimp might disagree, but I believe it is a good example of cookery, as the distinct parts of the dish are designed to be eaten together:

  • small, one-bite shrimp
  • thin slices of avocado
  • fresh salsa
  • sour cream
  • with a tortilla chip to help you scoop it all onto your fork!

Further, I believe that this very blog will be an answering call to Ozersky’s cry for help, as it is dedicated to the proposition that people can and should be cooking high-quality food at home.

Please share your thoughts.

How to Make Canned Soup Taste Delicious

I grew up with Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup, it brings back powerful memories of my childhood. Now, as an adult, these cream soups don’t seem to taste as yummy as they used to (probably because they are made much more cheaply!).

I still want to eat them, they make a quick, hot lunch on a cold winter’s day. So I have figured out a way to make them delicious without making the whole thing from scratch.

This technique works best with Cream of Chicken or Cream of Celery, for Cream of Mushroom you can substitute the diced celery with fresh or canned Mushrooms. Of course, depending on your palate, you can also add a little Taco seasoning or Creole seasoning…

onion, celery, leek, garlic

Dice one slice of onion, one stalk of celery

Mince a clove of garlic

Cut a slice off the white end of a leek, cut in half, then cut small slices from the green end

Cook the onion and celery in butter until the onion starts to brown, then add a splash of white wine, 1/4 cup of Chicken Stock, the garlic and the leek.


Cut some chicken meat into cubes, thigh works well (lots of flavor), add to the pan.

Add some salt and pepper and simmer on low medium heat until most of the liquid is gone.

Add the cream soup and stir in a can-ful of whole milk. Raise the heat until the soup starts to boil, then reduce and simmer for 3-4 minutes, the soup should get nice and thick. Kepp stirring occaisionally so the soup doesn’t scorch on the bottom of the pan.

cream of celery soup

Garnish the soup with a dash of Paprika and enjoy!

“Peacemaker”-style Fish Tacos

When I lived in New Orleans one of my favorite sandwiches was the Peacemaker, a fried oyster po’boy with cole slaw, cheddar and bacon (the best one was at a Streetcar-themed restaurant up around the corner from the Riverbend area).

fried oyster sandwich
via NOLA.com: “The fried oyster loaf – otherwise known as an oyster po-boy or peacemaker – has become the subject of debate. This one is from 2007 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.”

You can read some history of the sandwich at NOLA.com:

“When the New Orleans man returns from making a night of it ‘with the boys’ he provides himself with what is called a peacemaker and carries it home under his arm. The peacemaker is also known as an oyster loaf.”

It appears to be quite controversial!

In any case, while we were grocery shopping this week I spotted some “bacon and dill encrusted” flounder fillets in the fish case, and they reminded of this delicious sandwich. I asked the Lovely Bride what she thought about the idea of a flounder Peacemaker, and she suggested putting it into a tortilla for a fish taco (yes, she has been all about the tortillas this week!).

Grocery List for Southwestern Fish Tacos

“Southwestern” Tartar Sauce

Make this the day before you wish to make the tacos, to give the flavors a chance to come out fully.

  • 1 rounded tablespoon of Sweet Relish
  • 1 rounded tablespoon of Mayonnaise
  • 1 rounded tablespoon of Sour Cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Weber “Bold n Spicy Chipotle”

Mix well, cover and refrigerate until needed.

Pickled Salsa

Make your salsa a couple of hours before you want to eat it, so the yummy flavors can marry. The Lovely Bride and I like the bright, acidic taste of the pickled vegetables.

  • 1 small Yellow Onion
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper
  • 1/2 Red Onion
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1 Shallot
  • 2 Green Onions
  • 1 medium Tomato
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon Cumin
  • 1 tablespoon Taco Seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons Texas Pete Hot Sauce
  • Juice of one Lime
  • ? Red Wine Vinegar

Chop all of the vegetables and herbs into 1/4 inch pieces, combine in a bowl, add Cumin and taco seasoning, Lime juice, hot sauce and enough vinegar to submerge all of the mixture.

Cover and put the salsa in the fridge for an hour or so.

Shortly before serving drain the salsa through a fine strainer. Add more hot sauce and salt & pepper to taste.

Peacemaker-style Fish Tacos
fish taco ingredients

  • Cut two slices from a Red Onion
  • Cut two slices from a Yellow Onion, drizzle with the juice of 1/2 Lemon and 1/2 Lime
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cook bacon at Medium Heat in a non-stick pan to your desired level of done-ness. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towel.
  • fish tacos 004Sprinkle Mexican blend shredded cheese on the tortillas, then add some Taco Seasoning to your level of taste. Put Sharp Cheddar on one-half of the tortilla.
  • After removing the bacon, add enough Olive Oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Turn stove to Medium High heat.
  • Put the tortillas in the oven on the center rack to melt the cheese.
  • Fry the fish fillets in the oil/bacon fat, about 2 minutes on each side, until crispy. As soon as the fish is done, remove the tortillas from the oven and put on a plate.

Build the tacos by placing the fish fillets on the cheddar side of the tortilla, add bacon on top of the fish, then spoon on some Cole Slaw, finally add rings of Red and Marinated Yellow Onion.

fish taco with pickled onions and sharp cheddarAdd your salsa and southwestern tartar to taste (dipping is a great choice!).




Tequila – Ranch Chicken Thighs

Tequila-Ranch Chicken in a Tortilla

Makes two to four servings, depending on the size of the tortillas/portions. Prep and cooking time is about one hour, depending on how organized you are and how much you have had to drink.

Good side dishes include Yellow Rice, Spanish Rice or anything with a similar Southwestern, Spanish or Mexican theme.

Link to Grocery List

Marinate 4 Boneless Chicken Thighs that have been cut into finger-sized strips for one hour –

1/4 cup Creamy Ranch Dressing
1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 oz Tequila
1/2 cup Margarita Mix
1 Tablespoon Taco Seasoning
2 cloves of Garlic – crushed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dry Cilantro

While the chicken is marinating, make your sauce –

1 tablespoon Creamy Ranch Dressing
1 tablespoon (Weber) “Bold n Spicy Chipotle Seasoning” (or something similar with chipotle)
2 rounded tablespoons Sour Cream
Juice from 1/4 of a lime
1/2 of an Avocado, crushed with a large fork

Stir together and set aside for later.

For your garnish/topping –
Chop 2 Green Onions
Cut a couple of slices off a Red Onion and chop finely, enough for 2 tablespoons

Set aside for later.

(At this point I started the heat on a package of Spanish Rice, everything should be ready about 30 minutes from now.)

Prep the following to saute with the chicken –
Using a carrot peeler, shave down one small carrot
Cut 6 thin slices from a Red Bell Pepper
Cut 6 thin slices from a Green Bell Pepper
Cut 4 thicker slices from a Yellow Onion
1/4 cup canned Mushroom Slices
1/4 cup Fresh Cilantro leaves

Turn on the oven to pre-heat to 350 degrees.

Saute the vegetables –
Put 1 tablespoon of butter in a non-stick pan and caramelize the onions, once they start to get that nice, golden color add the carrot shavings, Red and Green Pepper slices, Mushrooms and about 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil. Turn down the heat and cover the pan.

Strain the marinade from the chicken strips through a colander, then add chicken to the pan, combine well and cover.

tortilla with cheeseWarm the Tortillas and melt the cheese
Sprinkle shredded Cheddar Cheese (or Mexican/Taco blend, whatever you like) onto your tortillas, along with the chopped Green Onion and chopped Red Onion, distribute fairly evenly. Place the tortillas in the oven on the center rack.

Uncover the pan and stir the chicken, it should be getting nice and firm. Add the chopped fresh Cilantro, stir.

When the cheese on the tortillas is melted take them out of the oven and start plating up –
Spoon the chicken and vegetables onto the tortillas and add sauce to taste.

You may wish to add some Black Olives, chopped Lettuce, diced Tomatoes or whatever to this.