My Pandemic Diary, Entry #13

My Pandemic Diary, Entry #13

Hello Fellow City Cooks,

Happy Sunday, and for those who can claim it, a day of rest. 

Mark and I spent much of this weekend cleaning our apartment, generating a little extra physical activity and making it more orderly and thus, more comfortable. Early this morning we took our walk and now I need to work on my French homework because I have a Zoom lesson tomorrow afternoon and I’m not yet ready (c’est dommage). I recorded some of this morning’s political shows which I might watch later, depending on my state of calm. Maybe only Fareed Zakaria whom I love for his rational mind and the quality of his guests. Or perhaps I’ll skip all the TV and just read. 

You have probably already seen this but yesterday, Dr. Deborah Birx made a somber forecast for the next two weeks, telling us that this was a pivotal time and we needed to be prepared. She also recommended that we be even more strict about staying indoors, specifically to not go to grocery stores or pharmacies during the next two weeks. I pass that advice along to you and I plan to follow it.

We should also try to prepare ourselves psychologically and emotionally because it’s one thing to hear that something bad is coming, but it’s always worse to then experience it. That may seem obvious, but even if we’re lucky enough to be witnesses and not victims, it will still be terrible. I worry that the stress of all this will be more than some of us can bear so let’s give ourselves and one another as much patience and support as possible. One way to do that is to continue to cook nutritious and comforting meals.

Cooking and Groceries

Last night’s dinner was a success, although I had my moments when I thought it would be a dud.  As I wrote yesterday, I took on a recent David Tanis New York Times recipe to pair deftly seasoned puréed white beans with roasted duck legs. I substituted two chicken legs for the duck, roasting them in a simple way – at 425° F for about 45 minutes (these were rather large duck legs) after seasoning them with only salt, pepper, and a bit of cayenne.  

For those of you who can’t access The Times’ cooking pages, Tanis’s method for cooking the beans required no pre-soaking, only a rinse, then into a big pot. To this you add two whole (not ground) cloves, an entire unpeeled garlic clove, a peeled but whole large onion, two bay leaves, and enough water to cover it all by about two inches.  Bring to a boil, add two teaspoons of kosher salt, and then with a cover ajar, gently simmer for ninety minutes.  Keep an eye on it, though, to make sure the simmer stays gentle and add (hot) water if needed. After an hour and half, the beans were tender but not falling apart and the broth was delicious. The recipe then calls for draining the beans (but save the cooking liquid), purée 3/4 of them – I used my immersion blender but you could use a food processor or a potato masher -- adding some of the reserved liquid as needed to keep things as loose as soft mashed potatoes and when done, returning back those whole beans you held aside. 

Finally, the beans are seasoned with a scattering of fresh sage leaves and rosemary needles that have been fried to crispiness in a little hot olive oil along with two minced garlic cloves and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Tanis also calls for pitted olives but I left those out.

A chicken leg with its crispy, spicy skin, plus a scoop of the pillow-y puréed beans topped with the crispy herbs, and a generous plate of a plain green salad with my usual bright vinaigrette made an almost celebratory dinner for a Saturday night. 

My advice to you after my cooking adventure yesterday is to cook tried and true favorite dishes, but also sometimes look at what’s in your pantry and refrigerator and try something new. If nothing else, it will, for a precious little while, take your mind off of everything else. 

Pandemic Tips

Yesterday morning I was listening to NPR’s Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me radio comedy, which is always highly recommended but especially now when we can really use some laughs. There was no audience and the host and all the panelists claimed they were broadcasting from their closets, but it was still fun to hear. They passed along one factoid that I thought was amusing which is that Walmart has released consumer buying data for the past couple of weeks and it seems that shirt sales are up and pants sales are down.  I’ll leave it to you to figure that one out (here’s a clue: Zoom).

Finally, as an example of how the mundane can be profound, this morning’s New York Times arrived at our apartment door and as I glanced at the front page, my eyes went to the upper right corner weather report and it said:  “Today, more clouds than sunshine.”  I could have told them that.

Stay safe and have a nice dinner.

Kate McDonough

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