Tuesday, January 8, 2013
COOKING WILD AND WONDERFUL--LARRY J. MARTIN
I'm looking forward to talking cooking with y'all and hope you'll shoot me some of your favorite recipes from time to time.
I've been a cook all my life, starting, believe it or not when I was the ripe old age of eight, if you can call mixing up a box cake cooking, which was my first chore. My mom, a single parent, worked hard and had a thirty-mile drive, a long ways in 1947, and came home dog tired. My older brother, at twelve, decided we were going to have supper awaiting her, and we did from then on. I cooked my way through college, the only fry cook for 1,600 at lunch, and owned and cooked in a couple of restaurants. I've camp cooked since I packed and wrangled for a boy's camp at seventeen, and for lots of hunting camps since…including this year, fifty-five years later, with nine hunters in two sidewall tents.
And I've loved most of it, and here's why:
Somewhere close behind air and water is the need for food.
It’s a basic requirement of life, and when that requirement is met, then and only then, does art enter the equation.
A gruel of oats can satiate hunger, while a delicately wrought oatmeal cookie laced with walnuts and elusive chocolate chips can not only accomplish the same but also please the palate, the eye, the nose, the finger tips…and human curiosity. Sometimes, even an emotional need.
So great cooking, unlike all other art forms, fulfills not only the most basic needs and requirements, but also becomes art when it tantalizes and teases with smell, sight, taste, touch, and yes, sound that entices, entertains, even exhilarates.
And unlike all other art forms, it accomplishes all those things—but unlike most other arts, it’s transitory, and needs to be repeated over and over, in short order. Consequently the very repetition of the effort lends itself to becoming mundane. A menu repeating itself over and over, no matter how delightful at first, is soon boring. The trick is to tease and titillate and entice with new and exciting combinations and discoveries. There’s no need to bore yourself or friends and family…after all, there are hundreds if not thousands of ways to prepare even the humble potato.
There are many masters of the art of fine cooking all over the world, from every culture and country, from every race and religion, from every economic level. Great cooking is not a result of exotic and expensive ingredients, but more of sometimes delicate, sometimes rough, sometimes intricate, sometimes simple, combinations of flavors, textures, colors, and bouquets. The French have become internationally renowned for their cuisine, and it’s not because of expensive ingredients or elaborate preparation. It’s because of a respect for some basics.
There’s a time for all things, and all things in their time is probably the number one basic of good cooking. Spring is the time of awakening, the time for fresh asparagus, for fish fresh from streams and lakes newly reborn from winters ice, of lamb so tender it makes you want to weep and shout for joy simultaneously; Summer is rich, ripe tomato time, it’s earthy mushrooms from meadows recently kissed by warm rain, of seeds and nuts of hundreds of varieties; Fall is a celebration of stone fruit, of grapes, and sweet corn on the cob, and game from the hills and high mountains; and Winter is the time of the root and other late developing healthy, hardy vegetables—cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower—of meat from the smoker, and of warming stews and pot roasts.
Yes, even here in Montana we can get a tomato in January, probably with a sticker extolling its birth in Peru or Mexico, but its been picked green as the proverbial gourd and will never develop that wonderful mesmerizing flavor of the vine ripened fruit. The fruit from Peru, like you after a many thousand mile journey, will be tired. Not like the one you’ve watched mature on a vine in your garden while guarding against horn worms which value it almost as much as you, or even one from your local farmers market picked ripe that morning.
Thoughtful and respectful menu planning is probably number two in the roster of basics of good cooking. A meal composed of sharp tastes from beginning to end is not particularly pleasing to the palate. A spicy soup, salad, entré, and desert does not give the palate time to recover, to relax, to prepare for the next gastronomic pleasure. Rather a mild soup, a sharp flavored Caesar salad tickled by crushed anchovy, a slice of medium rare roast beef smothered in brown gravy accompanied by asparagus lightly poached in butter and wine and a crusty bread lathered with creamery butter on the side, all followed by a rich cream brulee with a beautifully browned, tenderly torched, cinnamon kissed top, is the pace of a great yet relatively simple menu—and a pace respected by the wonderful cooks of Provence, of much of Italy, and of many other places across this fascinating world of ours.
Looking forward to our next visit. Here's a great little recipe for you if you love a GREAT steak. This is a marinade, applied to the meat just before you take it off the BBQ. Lather it on one side, flip it and lather it on the other, flip it so the fire hits it for twenty seconds, and take it off. You'll love the flavor, and your guests will have no idea why that fillet tastes so damn good.
Simple Sauce (the best for red meat)
Note: I originally got this simple recipe from a place I frequented for steaks when I was just a pup. Oft times the very best is the simplest, and this is one of those times.
• 1 cube butter
• ½ cup soy sauce
• 2 beef bullion cubes
Heat until cubes are dissolved. I use this on steaks and chops, basting them just before I take them off the fire, and if the fire flames up, all the better. I occasionally add garlic powder, lemon pepper, or other spices, depending upon my mood.
See you soon for more from The Kitchen at Wolfpack Ranch and Cooking Wild & Wonderful.