My Pandemic Diary, Entry #36

  • Panko-Crusted Cod with Salad and Pasta Panko-Crusted Cod with Salad and Pasta
  • Panko-Crusted Cod Before Cooking Panko-Crusted Cod Before Cooking
  • Panko-Crusted Cod After Cooking Panko-Crusted Cod After Cooking

My Pandemic Diary, Entry #36

Hello Fellow City Cooks,

It’s Tuesday, although it wasn’t until well after 9:00 am when I realized it wasn’t Wednesday.

Mark and I took our walk on this gorgeous morning. We walked along the park and it was as if overnight, the trees had abruptly switched from flowers to leaves. It hadn’t been since going to Ireland that I saw so many shades of green. If you’ve never appreciated the difference between leaf green and grass green, this is the day when you can see it and you’ll say, of course they’re not the same.

So it was hard to come back indoors but I’ve got a busy day ahead of me. I’m writing to you, I need to pay the month’s bills, and I’ve got lots of cooking to do. More on that in a moment, because what’s really hanging over me is the continuing saga of my ailing computer. The Apple geniuses are now advising that I do a complete erase of the hard drive and then replace the operating system, all the apps, and my files.  Yikes. Am I anxious?  Since I call it the nuclear option, you can imagine what I’m feeling.

When confronted with situations like this, it’s my self-protecting practice to calculate the worst that can happen. That helps me get prepared both from a practical perspective and also emotionally. In this case I’ll do another manual back-up because yes, the Time Machine is again malfunctioning. I will also email to myself my most important documents so that I can access them independently on my iPad or on my husband’s Mac. I’m also going to organize photographs and other diary materials in advance and load them into my website’s architecture which is done at an administrative site I access online. I guess the absolute worst case is that I’ll have to get a new Mac and there are about $1,400 reasons why I don’t want to do that. But I expect we will end up somewhere between that and the unstable situation I have now and since it’s been my long experience with Apple that they know what they’re doing, I’m forging ahead with fingers crossed.

Cooking and Groceries

Last night’s dinner was panko-crusted cod, served with leftover bow tie pasta and a mixed green salad.  For tonight’s dinner I’m going to roast a whole chicken and I’m thinking of trying something I’ve seen Gordan Ramsay do which is to stuff the bird with garlic and lemon-scented chickpeas, producing a savory side dish that also seasons the chicken. It will be another experiment so I’ll let you know if it works. Along with the chicken and chickpeas I’ll make broccoli rabe and season it aggressively with red pepper flakes, salt, and garlic. The chicken will also produce leftovers for another dinner later this week.

I’ve got other cooking to do today. I need to boil and peel some eggs so that I have them ready for quick breakfasts. Peeling eggs is a tiresome task, and I would often wreck and waste much of an egg in the peeling process, but I recently saw an article on Epicurious about how to speed up the process and it really up-ended my decades of egg cooking. 

First, start with a pot of boiling water. Next, take the eggs directly from the cold refrigerator to the boiling water; I use a slotted spoon, adding them one by one, because this step is a bit precarious.  Here’s the science: it seems that by putting the cold egg into the boiling water the egg constricts within its shell, making it easier to later peel. Sometimes the shock of the heat will crack an egg just as you slip it into the boiling water, but if you just leave it and let it continue to cook, any of the white that seeps out will firm up and hold the egg together. Epicurious said to boil the eggs for 10 minutes but I like mine a bit more well done so I go for 12.

When done, transfer the pot to the sink, drain the hot water, and refill the pot – with the eggs - in cold water. At this point Epicurious says to shake and rattle the pot so to smash the egg shells but I just take each egg (I usually cook six or so at once) and give it a gentle whack to crack the shells. You goal here is to let some water get inside the shell. 

The combination of the egg’s shrinkage and the water seeping into the shell will let the shell almost seamlessly peel off. Since cooking them this way, I’ve had almost none of the whites stick to the shell and the peeling is a much faster task. I’ve also noticed that this method keeps the yolks nicely yellow with no grayish-green rings. 

I have more to do than just cook eggs. I have a bowl of no-knead bread dough doing its thing; I’ll bake it this afternoon. Like a lot of people, Mark and I manage our carbs, although I call pasta my crack, I could easily inhale a baguette a day, and I secretly think that the real reason I’m a Francophile is that the French serve bread, and usually also potatoes, at every meal. Pourquoi non?

Back to making bread. Instead of a baguette a day, we’ve found that a single loaf of the bread I’ve been making will last a week. It begins its life as something luxurious and satisfying, then it's toast, and by week’s end it’s been transformed into salad croutons or breadcrumbs added to meatballs. The next time I bake one I’m planning to add some rye flour that I found in my freezer. I went through a stage of dusting fish fillets in rye flour before sautéing them, a trick I learned from a Scandinavian cookbook that I had a romance with; it’s a particularly nice flavor with a pale, flat fish like sole as it adds a subtle tang. But I can’t buy sole right now (my local store only has cod, salmon, trout and tilapia and occasionally tuna) and since I love rye bread, I’ve been watching YouTube videos about how to introduce rye flour and caraway seeds into the no-knead technique. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.  

As I was finishing writing this, the Thunderbirds and Blue Angles flew overhead in their salute to NYC's health care workers. They announced themselves with a roar and seeming to come from nowhere, there they were, in today’s stunning blue skies, and flying shockingly low, with streams of white behind them – swoosh!  Even an unflappable New Yorker like me got a rush and patriotic shiver. I wish I could have been outdoors to see them….

Stay safe and have a nice dinner.

Kate McDonough

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