Arroz de Pato and other experiments

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.”
― Laurie Colwin

I’ve been a bit bored with myself just of late.  A little underinspired by life in general.  It tends to happen to me in the winter-time.  Something perfectly explicable and largely owing to day length, sunlight on the retina and that kind of thing as I understand it.  Almost every year I am crash tackled by a somehow unexpected and ill prepared for batch of the glums.  Most years, after a few weeks of middle of the road mild misery, I come up with some kind of a solve for the situation.  Lots of years, big part of the cure/coping mechanism is cooking.

Perhaps I’m just looking for company.  It certainly does have a tendency to attract a bit of a crowd, once you start filling up your home with wafting savoury smells and the homely warmth that no heater can generate but that stove tops and ovens produce in abundance.  I think though that I am also looking for inspiration, excitement, and even some kind of challenge and sense of adventure.  It’s a very domesticated kind of adventuring – this exploring the world from your kitchen bench – but all the same, I like it.

We’ve been watching Master Chef, which conveniently screens at this time of year where inside evenings and the whispers of food dreams are more than welcome.  A few episodes ago there was a “classics” challenge.  I forget what the contestants had to re-interpret in the end.  Oh no I don’t.  It was Duck la Orange, which I have often dreamt of but never eaten.  Since then I had been pondering the concept of ‘classic’ dishes and thinking that it’s a bit of a crime, as a reasonably intelligent omnivore who is at least partially adept at following a recipe – to not put my mind to trying at least a lists worth of “the classics” at least once.

That lead to the whole thought train of wondering “what are ‘the classics’ anyway?” and that of course lead to a series of net searches, which were considerably less fruitful than I expected.  I really suppose that I thought I was going to dig up a definitive list of the worlds top 100 ‘classic dishes’.  Surprisingly, I did not.  If anyone has a link or similar to one, I’d be interested to hear from you!

In the meantime, I decided to draft a list of my own.  There’s nothing new about that.  Plenty of others have gone before me.  Here’s a blogger who has a list Girl and Apron: Cooking Bucket List which focuses on some skills she’d like to develop and some ingredients she wanted to become better/acquainted with.  And of course there was Julie and Julia – that wonderful story of one woman’s blog about her journey through the cookbook of Julia Childs.  In a way I think that movie was (rather than being the inspiration for me to cook anything much) one of the original seeds of thought that started me towards setting up a blog.  That’s something I’m thankful for, even if nobody else much is!

So anyway.  Back to the idea of lists.  I couldn’t find one that I thought worked.  In the end I thought that if I stuck to the ‘classical’ idea of classics, we’d be eating nothing but French and possibly Italian food, for months on end.  So – I started playing around with the idea of cultural classics from around the globe.  Foods that were from globally recognised cuisines and that were, by and large, pretty much instantly recognisable as being representative of their country/culture of origin.  We ended up with 30, after a rough draft that got us up to 27 and deciding to round the numbers up.

Once the countries were locked in I started searching for the dishes, and then recipes that I liked, and was mostly happy to follow (OK, so I adapt most things at least a little bit …. ) and also for the most part, hadn’t cooked before, or at least hadn’t cooked for so long that I could barely remember it.  Once the dishes and recipes were selected, I started looking for suitable dates – based on preparation time, any special ingredients that might need to be sourced and of course, my roster.  I also tried to arrange things so we didn’t get too much of one thing, or heavy, heavy, heavy – for days in a row, in the times where I have multiple days off and am planning to play in the kitchen on all of them.

So after a few days of plotting and planning, in what I think will be our order of experimentation, which will take us about through to mid-September if I don’t drop the ball (admittedly I’m the Princess of Half Finished Projects) along the way – this is my list:

  1. Cock a Leekie Soup (Scotland)
  2. Zuppa Toscana (Italy)
  3. Kung Pao Chicken (China)
  4. Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (America)
  5. Stifado (Greece)
  6. Widow’s Soup (Malta)
  7. Coq au Vin (France)
  8. Tamatie Bredie (South Africa)
  9. Harira (Morocco)
  10. Penang Curry (Thailand)
  11. Lancashire Hotpot (Britain)
  12. Adobo (Phillipines)
  13. Kibbeh (Lebanon)
  14. Chicken Tikka Masala (India)
  15. Sukiyaki (Japan)
  16. Arroz de Pato (Portugal)
  17. Fabado Asturiana (Spain)
  18. Sauerbraten (Germany)
  19. Bulgogi (Korea)
  20. Babi Pongteh (Singapore)
  21. Jerk Chicken (Jamaica)
  22. Rendang (Indonesia)
  23. Ayam Percik (Malaysia)
  24. Pozole (Mexico)
  25. Kotbullar (Sweden)
  26. Tourtiere (Canada)
  27. Feijoada (Brazil)
  28. Hunkar Begendi (Turkey)
  29. Bon Bo Hue (Vietnam)
  30. Carbonada (Argentina)

That should keep me entertained and the house nice and warm and full of good smells, for a while and I think most of those dishes fit the brief at least reasonably well.  If you have a better/more representative suggestion – leave me a comment by all means!  In some cases I avoided things because we eat them a lot, even though we don’t cook them (like Pho).

By the time we carry over into Spring, if I get that far with my game – I will have had enough (and be keen for simple salads, soups and steamed veg for a while) and need to go on a diet anyway!  We kick off on Tuesday night, with Zuppa Toscana.  In the meantime, I’m going to tick off what might be the start of another list “dishes I’ve always meant to try, but never gotten around to” (put lemon tart on there straight away!) with Duck Breasts a la Orange follwed by basic Vanilla Panna Cotta.

Wish me luck!

These were pretty good

Things I play with in the kitchen

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2 thoughts on “Arroz de Pato and other experiments

  1. Sal Doxie says:

    Thanks a lot for bothering to line all of this out for us. This kind of post ended up being very useful to me.

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