90% of the meals I create are something that takes all day (or several days) to prepare. And I don't think I'm giving myself too much credit by saying that most of my food winds up tasting as good as, if not better than anything you could order in a restaurant.
Sometimes I think I actually like preparing the food better than eating it. In fact, it's not unusual for me to be so busy in the kitchen cooking that I forget to eat. I honestly suspect that I'm the only person on the planet who has that issue.....
Back when I could still eat wheat I would make my own pasta from scratch while my homemade spaghetti sauce (fresh roma tomatoes, y'all!) would simmer in the crock pot. I might be a food geek. :)
One of my favorite things to cook involves complex varieties of meats, beans and vegetables.
Tonight I'm making Cajun red beans and rice.
Now, most people would see the title and think that beans and rice are a relatively simple mix, and they would be correct. But add in a little imagination and an infinite amount of inspiration (thank you, internet) and you have the makings of culinary genius.
First, I have the beans which usually require soaking for a few days. Since I slacked off on the soaking regime earlier this week, I "quick soaked" them in my crock pot for about 2 hours. Genuine Louisiana red beans are a different variety of beans than your average kidney beans. I just had to use what I have on hand, which are the kidneys. The beauty of beans is their ability to be substituted. Ah, how I love beans!
Then it's time to scour the cupboards and the fridge for the vegetables to enhance the beans. I used celery, onion, bell pepper and garlic. (Some recipes call for carrots, but I'm not a fan so I left them out.)
Most beans credit a lot of their flavor and texture from some kind of fat, and my favorite thing to use is pork, either bacon and/or sausage. This time I used half a pound of bacon and half a pound of andouille sausage. (For those of you that don't know, andouille sausage is a spicy Cajun sausage that's a staple for Louisiana cooking.) I'm a nut for sausage. I absolutely love sausage and can't ever get enough of it. Beef sausage, chicken or turkey sausage, pork sausage, sweet, mild or spicy, smoked or flavored sausages with sun dried tomatoes and sweet basil; you name it.
Next I'll scour recipes to get an idea of what seasonings I'll want to use. I don't ever follow recipes because I'm a control freak and when it comes to seasonings and spices I like to "follow my nose" rather than someone else's. Also, I abhor measuring and only do it when absolutely necessary (ratios of water to rice, for example.) I have a few favorites that I like to have in bulk. Fresh garlic is a must, and most of the time if I cook with garlic I'll use it towards the end of cooking because it retains its *bite.* If I want something to have a garlic flavor during cooking, I'll use garlic powder to start, and finish with fresh minced garlic. Garlic never goes bad in my house because I used it for just about everything.
Cajun seasoning is also a "must have" for any Louisiana soul food cooking, but a lot of pre-made seasoning blends contain gluten as an anti-caking agent, so I need to be careful. Also some cheaper sausages contain gluten as a filler, so reading labels has become second nature to me. When in doubt, I consult Emeril. :)
Into the pot I have bacon, andouille sausage, bay leaves, oregano, garlic powder, Cajun seasoning, Celtic sea salt, black pepper, white wine, cider vinegar and a few shakes of tobasco sauce. I might cut up some tomatoes later on to throw in just for the heck of it. We'll see... :)
The mouthwatering aromas are already wafting throughout the entire house, and I have at least another 6-8 hours to go before I'll be ready to serve.
Let the suffering commence....