Today was one of those days when I woke up with food on my brain. Not what I would eat for breakfast, or lunch or even dinner. Apparently, I’ve recovered enough from making wild mushroom cobbler for more than 150 people to benefit the Mid Klamath Watershed Council last weekend to begin obsessing over the next culinary project.
I’m part of a cooking commune, inspired by a similar arrangement I participated in during my college years. So, having committed to making a main dish for about a dozen people on New Years Eve, I was turning it over in my head, what wanted so badly to be made that it rose above other things. The process of figuring these things out for me is fairly intuitive, and infinitely fun. The food finds me more than the other way around. When I’m tired, however, as I was yesterday, my foodie receptors don’t work well. But today, I got up around 5 a.m. and just fooded out.
Roast pork marinated in soy-garlic sauce served with a shitake gravy. Or maybe roast pork rubbed in pepper and served with a vermouth sage sauce. Perhaps something with fresh crab because its seasonal and supports a local fisherman. Or could it be the time to make clams steamed in butter and wine? All the seafood ideas got me thinking about paella. And that got me going on saffron. Then I switched tracks again, surfaced from Smitten Kitchen and started down the Ottolenghi rabbit hole and started dreaming of making quails with burnt miso butterscotch and pomegranate walnut salsa. None of these are practical ideas – it must be something I can cook at home and transport to my friends’ home a half-hour drive away, then serve. But that’s never stopped me – just ask my friends and family. Still, none of these ideas feel quite right. I’m still searching, still feeling around for the thing that talks back, that says affirmatively, I want the job and here’s why.
In my casting around, however, I found this grilled saffron rack of lamb which has secured a central spot on my Christmas Day menu. I only need to start preparations a day before, as opposed to a month ahead with my brined duck eggs wrapped in red bean paste and two separate pastry casings, or a solid week ahead with the wild mushroom cobbler. So, I’ll call that practical, relatively speaking.
The last few years, lamb has made a strong bid to be part of my holiday cooking and eating plans. Butterflied rack of lamb has captured my imagination, I think because of a time in the meatpacking district of New York this country mouse was out bar hopping with friends. The whole evening felt like a spinning teacups ride, because of the imbibing, sure, but even more so due to the wildland-urban interfacing happening inside me the whole time. By far the most memorable part of the evening was a platter of this cut of lamb, seared, glazed and encrusted in something delightfully obscure. It put my stomach at ease and tickled my food feelers.
Coincidentally, all this food feeling-out has made me curious about how much of our lives we spend cooking and eating. The answer, according to this site: You spend 2.5 years cooking. You spend 3.66 years eating, about 67 minutes a day. That’s an average. I bet my data point ends up higher. At least, I hope it will.