One of the few things I don't like about my current lifestyle is how little cooking I do. I like to cook, but it's no fun to cook only for myself, and my apartment is not set up for entertaining. I'm looking forward to heading south for Thanksgiving, where I can get in the way while my sisters cook, and maybe chop some stuff up myself.
I've been too distracted to do much cooking lately, anyway. Last week I tried to do some baking for Gaslight's performances of Rabbit Hole; I forgot an essential step of a recipe I know by heart, and wound up with a pan of burnt shortbread covered with burnt chocolate. It came out of the pan in one big charred slab, and Dizzy was sad to see it go.
Here are five things I know how to make without consulting a cookbook:
1. The four basic sauces. For the record, they are Béchamel, Veloute, Brown and Hollandaise, and they all involve creating an emulsion of liquids and fats, with or without flour to bind them. My mother was no good at gravy, and decided when I was very young that the gravy would be my responsibility; years of trial and error have taught me that all sauces are just a matter of patience and paying attention. Some years this is harder for me than others, which is why the Thanksgiving gravy has sometimes had lumps.
2. Spaghetti sauce. If you can't figure out how to make a basic spaghetti sauce without looking it up, you have no taste buds.
3. Toffee bars. This was what I was trying to make last week. I got the original recipe from the Silver Palate Cookbook, but it's so easy I no longer need to look it up. However, the chocolate chips don't go on top of the shortbread until five minutes before the pan comes out of the oven. Just so you know.
4. Creamed spinach. See #1, above. Actually, this is cheating; once you can make the four basic sauces, you can make an almost unlimited number of things without having to consult a cookbook. I just like creamed spinach. It's important to squeeze all the water out of the spinach after you cook it, and before you add the sauce.
5. Potato-cheese soup. I love potato-cheese soup so much that I pretty much lived on it for a year or two right out of college, because it's cheap to make and it keeps well. I haven't made it in years. Might be time to pull the soup pot out again.
What are the "go-to" recipes that you know by heart?