Thursday, February 11, 2010

I Need a Big Ol' Hotplate

I love cooking almost as much as I love eating; standing in the kitchen, producing something delicious and tangible is such a welcome respite from dissertation writing. But this year has been a test of my patience and skills in the kitchen, because I've had to limit (or expand?) my repertoire to mostly meals that can be pre-prepped and readied at a moment's notice.


Because being a first-year medical resident sucks. And being married to one, while not nearly as bad as being one, is still pretty tricky. My poor husband has little to no control over his schedule: one night, he can be totally hammered by an endless number of patients and issues, and not get home until midnight, and the next night, half of his patients will be discharged, and he could be home as early as 8 pm.

The one thing that doesn't change from night to night is that we have dinner together. Regardless of how disastrous the day has been, we know we'll have a moment to catch up and kvetch over something delicious. To make this favorite part of our evening happen, though, I have to be ready to make dinner at a moment's notice, whether that's at 7 or 10:30.  I've come up with some tricks to make this work: 

  • prepping all my ingredients ahead of time (creating a "mise en place" in fancypants terms)
  • purchasing my veggies from Trader Joe's, which has lots of pre-washed options that can be microwaved in their bags (shortcut for veggies that need parboiling, like potatoes or brussel sprouts)
  • using proteins like fish or beef that can be prepared quickly
  • cous cous.  ready in five minutes!  woohoo!

Even with these tricks, though, there are inevitable problems like when he gets held up at the hospital just as he's leaving.  On those nights, like last night, we end up with room temperature salmon, soggy broccoli, and limp haricot verts.  Vegetables no likey the microwave.

I know professional chefs and caterers have techniques they use to keep food warm, crispy, or otherwise delicious.  But I don't know any such techniques.  Do you?  Help!


violarulz/ducksandbooks February 12, 2010 at 12:21 AM  

my gramma used to put the oven on the "warm" setting and put tin foil poked full of holes over the platters. She'd plate dinner when my grampa got home.

Juliana February 12, 2010 at 1:31 AM  

I am sooooo hungry that looks great!

New follower. Come by and follow back if you would like. Happy Valentines Day! oxoxox Juliana from A Blonde Walks Into A Blog

Mrs. Hot Cocoa February 12, 2010 at 1:49 AM  

@ Violaruz: I'm definitely going to try that, esp. since both my oven and microwave have a "warm" setting. I wonder if it'll cause fish, etc. to become overcooked? Hmm.

@ Juliana: Thanks for stopping by - your blog is fabulous! Will definitely be checking in.

charms February 12, 2010 at 9:53 AM  

I don't really have tips but all that food looks great!

My husband is also a resident but I think radiology is much more predictable with less long hours. What I usually do is just have him call or figure out about 1 hour before he gets home so I can start cooking then.

In general our meals can be pretty basic (aka I'm lazy) so your meals definitely put ours to shame :)

ps - the word blogger is asking me to verify is gynatip. lol.

Cathleya February 12, 2010 at 12:30 PM  

I often use the toaster oven to rewarm things rather than the microwave. It takes longer than the microwave but the food always comes out better :) If I'm in a major hurry I'll microwave something for like 30-40 seconds, and then put it in the toaster oven on toast for 3-4 minutes. That way it doesn't take like---oven long to reheat something (30 mins)!

Mrs. Hot Cocoa February 12, 2010 at 3:07 PM  

@ Charms: LOL. I have a gynatip for you:

@ Cathleya: We got a toaster oven for our wedding, but we returned it b/c it was so bulky. Now you have me thinking that was hasty . . .

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