(Ed.'s Note- Every Monday (or, on occasion, Tuesday morning), Chicago's cheerful chum Jason Hissong writes Windy City Cooking, a column about eating and preparing food in Chicagoland. Enjoy! -Max)
By Jason Hissong
5 October 2009
Last Sunday I made tomato bisque. It’s a super simple dish, really. I started with rendering some bacon in my big saucepot and then removing the bacon for later. I then drained some, but not all, of the bacon grease and left a little to sweat my aromatics- in this case a simple onion, garlic, celery, and carrot. To this I added my whole, peeled tomatoes and let simmer for half an hour. I then added my bacon, a cup of milk, and blended with my stick blender and added some shredded cheddar cheese. I cracked the black pepper after ladling into a bowl, and served with a buttered, farmhouse roll. Delicious, satisfying, and comforting on cold autumnal evenings in Chicago.
On Monday I had another bowl of the same. This time I made a grilled cheese with my roll and the leftover cheddar.
On Tuesday I had too much bisque left and didn’t want to simply have yet another bowl. So I created something else.
I put some white rice on while I sautéed some basil tomato sausage in my cast iron skillet before adding the bisque to let it simmer. With the rice done, I added it to the cast iron and folded everything in on itself; another satisfying meal using the tomato bisque as a base.
And that’s one of the key things to learn in cooking well: ingredient stretching. When I cook I attempt to make something that can serve as the basis for something else during the week with easy manipulations or adds. It’s the joy of cooking that appeals to my creativity the most: taking raw ingredients and creating something. And then taking that something and creating something else. It challenges me to think about food in different, new ways.
Another example: stretching ingredients between dishes for the same meal. A few months ago I cooked the best meal I have probably ever cooked. That’s a column for a different week, but I want to use it as an example.
My dear friend Jonathan brought me two pounds of fresh North Carolina shrimp after he took a vacation to the state. Preparing the shrimp for their marinade a few hours before serving, I stared at my bowl of shrimp shells and knew I could not waste them.
So I grabbed the stockpot. I added the shells and covered them with water. I cut thick slices of onion, and celery, and lemon and threw those into the pot as well. I let it simmer for a couple hours and then strained. Voilà: shrimp stock.
I then used the shrimp stock to make my risotto. I will also, one day, write a risotto column, but for now I just want to highlight this example. The shrimp stock risotto went well with the shrimp and their spicy peanut sauce. I love using this as an example for ingredient stretching because it’s an example that was so obvious and came so clearly. That’s what happens as cooking becomes more and more frequent.
What I’ve Cooked, What Others Have Cooked For Me, Where I’ve Eaten
I cooked the tomato bisque last Sunday and then had it again Monday, but with a grilled cheese sandwich made from the cheddar and roll. I cooked the rice/bisque dish Tuesday and had that again Wednesday. Thursday I had scrambled eggs for dinner, because scrambled eggs are delicious.
No one cooked for me this week, which is fine. I appreciate their hospitality.
I received a late invite for dinner Friday afternoon. I went to Café Baba Reba for Tapas with Ashley and her friends Emily and Ian, and their daughter Natalie. Saturday I split a pizza with Tim, with a basket of fries to myself, at the Chicago Ale House. Kimberly had the hummus, Chuck had the Reuben. Saturday night I went to BD Mongol’s in Naperville with Kara, Mandi, and Michelle. It’s a Mongolian BBQ place- the only real disappointment of the weekend. Sunday I shared a pizza with Andy from Pizza Rustica. Sunday night I got the Snow White (chicken and shrimp with mushrooms in a mushroom sauce) from Always Thai while Ashley had the pad Thai.
Photo courtesy Shayne Bell. Thanks Shayne!
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