Saturday, January 19, 2008

Futurama: Cooking for Tomorrow

"Futurama" always makes me think of think of the 'Jetsons' cartoon from the early '60s. One day, when there are no countries and we all live in peace, treadmills will whisk us from one point to another. Bubble-top vehicles will putter along silently, transporting throngs of commuters to destinations unknown. I always wished I had a robot that combined the efficiency of a computing device with that of a gingham apron-wearing, tear-shedding, never ending grandma-hugger like 'Rosie' from that show. Elroy was lucky...
'Futurama' also brings to mind the shoe pounding Nikita Kruschev being led around by the nose by a black haired vice-president Dick Nixon at an exposition in Berlin, 1958(?), showcasing the modern conveniences available to the average, American housewife.
Appliance garages, dishwashers, microwave ovens and push-button ease made life look pretty sweet for the pearl wearing mom in heels. Scary thing is, some kitchens haven't changed since then...

The 'Futurama' about which I speak, though, has nothing to do with space suits or communists' chagrin. It has everything to do with 'Cooking for Tomorrow.' I'm talking about 'Cooking Ahead' like, preparing today for the next several days. I love my weekends for various reasons, but, one of them in particular, is spending some quality time with Frank Sinatra, a glass or two of red wine and getting intimate with mire poix (diced onions, celery and carrots; the base of French cooking) and garlic over the 1947 O'Keefe & Merritt gas stove in our home. I can roast a chicken, cook off a 5-rice blend and get a tomato sauce on the low-n-slow in an afternoon while STILL having time to bounce our new baby girl and get spit-up upon.
Is Life great, or what?!

Cooking ahead is what we do in the restaurant biz; I prepare today for tomorrow and the next day. We don't re-invent the wheel everytime we tie on the apron strings. Therefore, things are in a continual state of preparation and execution. We cook today what we may need for the next couple of days. This constant flow keeps things fluid in the kitchen and at the table. Don't mess with the flow!

Below is a quick prep item that each home should have on hand. When you have it, you use it. If you don't, you make excuses and settle for less than your best. If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'...

Roasted Herb Chicken with Lemon.
1 chicken, whole
some salt, kosher
some pepper, ground
some paprika, ground
1 lemon, sliced
some herbs: thyme, rosemary and sage, whole

Method: Place chicken on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with an equal parts blend of salt, pepper and paprika from a height of 12" above the bird. This disburses the seasonings evenly. Paprika ALWAYS gives a great color to meat.
Place sliced lemons, and enough sprigs of thyme, rosemary and sage that will fit in the cavity of the yard bird into the critter. Place into a pre-heated 250 degree oven and cook till you have juices in the bottom of the pan. This signifies the extra juices of the bird are out and the protein is done. Give it the 'thigh test.' Grab the tip of the leg and pull away from the body; it it snaps back, the protein is still elastic and NOT done. If it kinda lays there, well, guess what...dinner's ready!
Now, you can serve this chicken as is...wonderful! Or, you can cool it in a window or uncovered in the fridge and pull the meat off the carcass when cold. Zip loc bags in the freezer keep things readily available. Save the meat for a chicken pasta, quesadilla or a light veggie broth with diced chicken. Reserve the bones for a pot of stock with onion ends and celery hearts with carrot tips.
Now, you have a protein ready to go for whatever dish you fancy.

The future is today, young man; not in plastics, as they said in 'The Graduate', but, in proteins. They are the foundation of our cooking. Cook ahead today and glide through your tomorrows.

Take care and God bless.
And remember: "Food, Faith, Family and Friends; the best things in Life aren't things."

Chef BQ.

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