Throughout the lockdown, finding new skills and hobbies was almost a necessity to keep yourself sane, right?
This is how I discovered my love for cooking. Maybe more importantly my love for improvised cooking.
For me, cooking during quarantine became more than just a necessity to keep my appetite at bay. Like many others, cooking was an extra creative outlet and something to do other than binge Netflix.
Within the first few weeks, everyone and their mom became breadmakers seemingly overnight. For real, how many different banana breads and yeast starters did we see?
In addition to a distraction, I think it shows the communal nature of food culture even when that community might be just through phone screens.
While I didn’t fall into any of the trends, I did pick-up a few new recipes. I’ve always joked that my style of cooking is, “screw it, let’s see what happens,” and that is no truer than what I added to my repertoire during the first few months of lockdown.
Shopping & ingredients
Inevitably, even with a list, I would forget something at the store. It’s less of a problem now to run out to grab a few things, but “in the beginning,” it was a little more of a task. That meant I had to do a lot of improvising with what I had in my cupboards.
However, I did have my usual haunts. Radish & Rye‘s curbside was clutch for the freshest product. R.G. Hummer Meats & Cheese supplied my go-to pork chops, lunch meat, and various other cuts of quality meat. You know the other stops of GIANT, Karns, and I found Wegman’s to be particularly peaceful and clean.
What I Made
Garlic and Herb Roasted Cherry Tomato Carbonara
This might be my favorite dish I made throughout. It’s filling, packed with flavor and looks fancy AF. It was my first time attempting a carbonara but with the magic of IG videos, my worries quickly faded.
This recipe comes together in three parts. Roasting the veggies and prosciutto, cooking the pasta, and making the carbonara. Once all three are done, you just combine and serve with torn burrata on top.
Perfect Pulled Pork
Yeah, I’m pretty damn good at cooking pulled pork. You won’t find any sauce in my recipe. Just a dry rub. I have a dry rub base that I start with until my imagination takes over. Brown sugar, chili powder, an extra dash of garlic powder, oregano, and onion powder.
I like to cut the pork shoulder into pieces and brown all sides in the Dutch Oven. Once browned, I’ll deglaze the pot and put the meat back in topped off with an IPA for 3.5 hours on 275. It’s done when you can easily pull the meat apart with a fork. Pop it back in for 20 mins to let the juices set into the pork. Then you’re ready to roll.
Oh, and Martin Potato Rolls are the only way to go. You CAN put sauce out on the side, but I’m told it doesn’t need it.
Coming in at the worst-named dish of all-time is the Dutch Baby. We have to find a better name because this is an amazing breakfast dish. It requires just a few ingredients, most of which you probably have laying around.
Think of a Dutch Baby as a puffy pancake. You can add whatever toppings you’d like to personalize it, although I find a simple bit of powdered sugar to be sufficient.
Be sure to watch it puff up in the oven!
Cheese, cheese, cheese, butter, and cheese. Gibanica is a traditional Serbian dish that can be savory or sweet. I am partial to the more savory, so I went with feta cheese and ricotta in mine. I added a little lemon (probably sacrilege) to brighten it up. My first attempt went over great with the Serbs, but I have a few tweaks once I make it again.
This can be great to have on hand for late-night snacking or breakfast and it makes a great dish to have around during the holidays.
For a few months, I would pick out a culinary genre and cook from it. One weekend was Creole cooking. After Creole chicken on Friday night, I went with the bold task of trying out etoufeé for the first time ever as a date night dish. With a good amount of shrimp and heat, I think it won my date over.
Coq Au Vin
This is a recipe I had been wanting to take on for a while. I mean, it’s chicken and wine, what’s not to like? I didn’t see another choice other than to go with Julia Child’s recipe. This isn’t a difficult dish to pull off. Truly, the name might be more difficult to say than to put together this rich and hearty pairing of veggies, wine, and chicken. Keep it low and slow to bring all the flavors together and fill your house with wonderful aromas. It’s better than the Yankee Candle, and you can eat it.