March 9, 2011

living ad hoc

ad hock coffee, the homey comfortable kind of waking up in the mornings.

Yesterday and Today
Himself: Humming over his work this morning. “Cool!” He says.

Herself: They liked the much revised “Cobb Salad” piece. The teacher took me aside and said that my writing had improved greatly. Slept eight and a half hours. Books today; meeting tonight. Projects: Blue Quilt, Mexico Album, two tails for two wooden cats ongoing.

Sucked in by its beauty, last week I brought home “ad hoc at home.” It’s Chef Thomas Keller’s latest tome. Princeton’s dictionary tells us that “ad hoc” is: often improvised or impromptu; "an ad hoc committee meeting,” but there’s nothing ad hoc about this large, coffee table cookbook.

Propping it up on several lap pillows, I eagerly began reading….and it is an eminently readable volume. How the restaurant began, what were the goals and what they are now. “Be kind to your parents,” Chef Keller reminds us next to a picture of his father and himself together. Great stuff. And the book looks good too….a little designery, but a glossy kind of good.

Then came the roast chicken. Chef Keller is right. A good roast chicken is a work of art and provides chicken for hundreds of other recipes. Brine the chicken, he tells us. Brine? Isn’t that salt? Rub with goose fat/ Fat? I was set back, put off, and not at all charmed. I came to a halt, actually. This is not being kind to your parents.

Over the years I’ve gotten better at tap dancing on the head of a pin, but not with the addition of salt and fat, darn it. I closed the book, and made dinner from a three item cookbook that really worked out well. Tamale pie….popular in the 1920’s, the book told me. Delicious stuff, actually, with no additional salt, fat, or fuss…..

…though I had to make a second trip to the store for corn muffin mix because I bought the wrong muffin mix ad hoc.


  1. mmm! corn bread. When you can find the perfect package or recipe; it's perfection! Yeah, salt and grease....great start to a meal... Sounds like your 3 ingredient cookbook had the winner.

  2. I thought about this book for a good cook I know...but then I remembered, in her kitchen a roast chicken -- even not so good -- is one meal for her husband.

    It's a different mindset.

  3. I cooked last night and it was awful! I am in such awe of you!

  4. I bought 3 whole chickens earlier in the week and then in a fit of cooking made three different marinades (herb/wine, curry/mustard/honey, and a chile/tomato jerk brine). I cut each of the chickens down the middle and then put them in zip locks smothered in the various marinades. Have never done this before. They are now in the freezer and maybe day after tomorrow when rain is gone we will grill half of one and see how it goes. There is probably fat and salt in these as well.

  5. Oh yes, out with the salt and fat. The cost of a long, healthy life along with dragging ourselves to pool and gym. How exciting to hear your writing teacher's comments, no surprise I hope, love your blog.

  6. Gosh! I've never thought of brining a chicken, only turkey. This is very interesting.

  7. recipes don't have to be complicated and exotic to produce delicious meals. I love to take short cuts with my own cooking.

  8. I'm a sorta ad hoc cook and I just found out. Thanks. Now I can use a fancy term and impress everyone. Meanwhile, my ever wise SIL, who plans ahead, raises his own free range chickens and brines whatever he cooks in the fowl family. I swear he invented it. Soooo good. Dianne

    ps. Thanks for the tip about extra lap pillows. So sensible if you think of it.

  9. That's true. A roast chicken is a perfect meal. One that keeps on giving. No extra salt of fat necessary though. ;)

  10. Lovely, absolutely.
    Better writing? What a nice compliment!


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