Today, I thought I’d dive in to recipe development in a bit more depth.
Recipe development: that sounds so fancy, doesn’t it? It’s not fancy in my head. Really, it’s just playing in the kitchen — usually because we’re starting to get hungry and need something fast. So here’s how a typical dinner happens around here.
This one started, as they often do, with the realization that dinner needed to hit the table pretty darned soon, and I had no plan. Sigh. I spy some veggies in a wooden bowl, and think I should use that squash. The weather’s been cold and damp today; soup sounds good. I chop up the squash, and peel some carrots. Roasting is usually quick, and gives really good flavor. Roasting brings out the sweetness, so I’m pretty sure even the littles will like it.
Thinking I’d like something warm and Mexican-inspired, I pull out salt, pepper, cumin and cinnamon, and sprinkle those on the veggies. I quickly melt a bit of coconut oil, and pour that over them as well. Pop the trays in a 425 degree oven, and that’s underway.
I send a text to the husband, trying to convince him to pick up a rotisserie chicken on his way home. Husband says nope, can’t do it. Another dramatic sigh. I’ll pull something out of the freezer.
A quick dig around in our small freezer brings me to this chunk of smoked pork jowl. I figure hey, that’s basically bacon. I’m going to slice it up and fry it to go with the soup.
While the meat is cooking, I start thinking about the final dish. Since I’m going to puree the veggies in the Vitamix, I know the soup will be super smooth and silky. Crisp pork will make a nice contrast to that, but I want a bit of crunch (and color) as well. How can I do that? I pull out the hand grater and shred some red cabbage.
I think about adding some of the garlic I roasted last week to the soup, but am torn. Like the roasted veg, the garlic is sweet, but the flavor’s a bit stronger than I want. Instead, when the pork is done cooking, I slice an onion really thin, and cook the slices in the rendered fat. The onion slices start to caramelize as they cook, starting to develop a deep, sweet flavor, but also picking up a bit of the smoky flavor from the cooking fat. As I taste them, I think: Yup, that was the right choice.
When the onions are done, I pull them out of the pan and set them aside. By this time, the carrots and squash are fork tender, so I pull them out of the oven. I let them cool for a few minutes, but since we need to dish dinner up PDQ I’m handling them while they’re still hot. The carrots are already peeled, and just need slicing, but the squash needs the peel taken off as well. I toss the chunks into the Vitamix, and blend away. Because of the quantity of veggies, I do this in two batches.
Once the soup is blended, dinner’s basically done. I scoop a hefty portion into a bowl for each of us, topping it with the red cabbage, bacon and fried onions. No time for fancy plating: we’re starving, and it smells fantastic. We dig in.