Recipe: One-pan roasted veg (per “The Plan”)
As I may have mentioned, I’m not one for complex, time-consuming, fiddly cooking. In fact, if I had my way, I’d never make another meal again. The bank balance being what it is, however, neither permanent-guest status nor live-in domestic help appear to be in my future, and as such the evening meal must be slapped on the table one way or another. Night after night after night.
Regular readers will recall that my dieting struggles are legendary, even in Hell, as they say. So what I try to do is leverage my aversion to all tasks culinary as a useful weight-loss strategy. Most days, Mr. Slattern arrives home to an exciting supper of grilled fish or chicken accompanied by a large salad, which, through the miracle of ready-washed greens, is as easy to prepare as it is to clean up. Fine. Of course when followed by half a cherry chocolate cheesecake and washed down with a bottle or two of white wine, even the most blameless of meals tends to lose its slimming properties. Still, labor has been saved and vegetables consumed, which counts for something.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, healthy meals, easy to fix. So the salad meal is great for summer; however, often, as the warm weather wanes, the body yearns for more substantial fare, and a cooked veg can be just the thing. Now I hate screwing around with vegetable prep, I won’t lie. The washing, peeling and chopping wreak havoc with my manicure, and you really do have to be careful when working with knives, which puts an unwelcome damper on the mid-afternoon cocktail hour. I have, however, partially solved this little dilemma by buying butternut squash and broccoli already cut up. These I mix with a chopped onion, a red pepper and some garlic (all of which have to be prepped, but really it’s not that bad). Just drizzle the whole mess with olive oil, salt and pepper and a couple of pinches of dried oregano, fresh basil or herbes de Provence, pop the pan in a 400 degree oven for half an hour or so, et voila, Lyn Genet’s Italian vegetables as detailed in The Plan, the latest diet I have failed to follow, but which I am certain would have wondrously transformed both my life and my figure had I but been able to choke down flaxseed granola rather than Boston cream donuts at breakfast for more than a week.
So anywho, what I do is make enough of this stuff for about forty people and just reheat it in the ‘wave all week or throw it into rice or pasta. If you have higher culinary standards than me — and really, except for Sandra Lee, who doesn’t? — this may not work for you; however, for the sufficiently slatternly this system can really take the sting out of being a hausfrau and put the zing back into sundown…speaking of which, I believe the portable bar is calling my name.
The end of bacon? Thankfully, another cuisine craze fades into obscurity.
I was pleased, no thrilled actually, when I recently read a comment from some chef in one publication or another — my reading time frequently overlaps with cocktail hour, so my recollections tend to get a bit hazy — saying something to the effect of “I’m sick of pig.” Now given the context, I think we can assume she was referring to swine-flesh meat products rather than the dog-wheelchair thief, the Real Housewives or that ass hat who keeps ripping the Red Sox stickers off the bumper of my car. Long story. Anyways . . . oh here, I found it.
God bless chef April Bloomfield is all I can say. Eh, who do I think I’m kidding? I have a great deal more to say on the subject, and when I’m done I believe I’ll don a red dress and stomp on the rapidly putrifying bones of bacon mania, because I don’t know about you, but if I have to excavate another goddamned hunk of thick cut bacon from between my crowns, I may do something I regret. And I’m not talking about making an uninsured dental visit.
See, I don’t want bacon flecks in my oatmeal cookie or pork scratchings instead of tortilla chips with my guacamole. What I’d really like is to find one freakin’ New York City eatery that offers a pork-free menu item, which immediately disqualifies any place with waiters sporting suspenders, ironic glasses and dirty beards. You know the joints I mean — rough communal tables, exposed retro light bulbs, shelves made of plumbing parts, artisanal every fucking thing and that unmistakable whiff of epicurean sanctimony that clings to the “farm to table” shingle. At the moment, this would account for roughly 95% of restaurants in the metropolis.
And FYI, kale is no better served glistening with bacon grease than straight up, or God forbid, in a salad. It’s still kale, and it still tastes like something you’d pull from the depths of a 14 year-old boy’s gym locker. But if you must put bacon in the greens, why does it have to be inch-thick slabs with the flavor and consistency of salted linoleum squares? This stuff cannot possibly be digested by normal human beings and once impacted between the teeth, the chunks fester, causing the unsuspecting diner to awaken in the middle of the night with throbbing gums, cotton mouth, a screaming colon and the unmistakable bloat that follows a meal consisting of three courses of processed pork followed by tenderloin profiteroles and fat back shooters.
I can’t stand it anymore.
If you live near, or frequent, a settlement of any size you have no doubt encountered one of these pig-mad flesh pits that serves such taste sensations as maple-lardon ice cream, pork belly speckled greens, and fat back chili. I have even seen an offering for bacon chocolate martinis. Yeah, that’s right bacon in your vodka. With chocolate. What’s next, folks? A beard and pasties on The Pieta? Steven Seagal for pope? Birkenstocks as club wear? You see where this is going. Gastric armageddon followed by complete worldwide social collapse, and I for one am glad there is hope of averting a total implosion of all we hold dear.
So to all you aspiring restauranteurs, here’s a news flash. It’s over. Bacon does not improve anything but eggs. It belongs on club sandwiches and BLTs in thin, crispy slices. It doesn’t make ice cream better; hot fudge does, GrapeNuts do and so do little chunks of peppermint stick candy. How come no one serves peppermint stick ice cream anymore, huh? It was so refreshing, like brushing your teeth and eating dessert all at once, and I miss it. What I will not miss, however, is sitting down to an overpriced plate of pork ten ways accompanied by the obsequious smirk that I know is hiding behind that rat’s nest of a beard.
Is it too much to hope that waiters might eventually start shaving again?
As I have previously documented in my cluttery, overfurnished, boozy little corner of the blogosphere, given even a glimmer of a chance, I would move into a hotel and eat every meal in a restaurant for the rest of my life. In a heartbeat. Alas, though we all have dreams, we must also live in the real world. As such I can cook, and of necessity I do cook; from time to time I’ll admit I even enjoy it.
Knowing how to prepare a basic meal is just one of those things a reasonably competant adult should be able to do, along with riding a bicycle, driving a car and swallowing the worm at the bottom of a tequila bottle without going all sissy and gagging.
Now I’m not saying everyone needs to be able to rustle up a standing rib roast or les nonnettes de poulet Agnès Sorel at the drop of a hat, but really the production of a simple omelette or burger should be well within the abilities of even the meanest intelligence. Hell, Guy Fieri has built a lucrative career as a cook, and he can’t even figure out which side of his head his fucking sunglasses belong on.
I don’t claim to have cornered the market on slattern-dom, and I certainly didn’t invent it. I have, however, done my level best to elevate the art form over the past twenty years or so, and as I look back on the cluttered landscape of middling meals, drunken dinner parties and neglected housekeeping that has been my life, it occurs to me that none of this could have been so easily accomplished outside the urban jungle. Let me explain.
First of all, the urban environment is easy on the domestic tippler. Let’s say it’s five o’clock and you and a couple of pals have been having a friendly chat over a bottle of vodka for the past few hours. You realize you were supposed to pick up your kids from soccer practice, but getting behind the wheel is no longer an option. No need to endanger the driving public, disturb your better half or give up your parking space — just call a livery service and send a car to pick them up. After three or four instances of this, most city teens will learn to take a twenty from your purse before leaving the house, store the car service number in their phones and call the ride themselves after waiting around for an hour or so. Kids these days!