Out of all those jobs, I probably liked cooking the most: love AND money. Cooking paid my rent for a lot of the 1980's. I cooked at a private school for kids with emotional troubles, and at a local winery. I cooked seven days a week for a while. I was a cook during the time of the Silver Palate Cookbook, the beginning of the chef-as-rock-star days. Recipes had a million ingredients. We were all trying to out-fabulous one another.
Now I write and I DJ. But I'm a better cook than I was in the go-go 80's. I love coming home tired and having the chops to fling together something good from a bunch of veggies and some scraps I'd trimmed off a beef tenderloin and thrown in the freezer. I've still got my knife skills, and I can get dinner together fast. I'm not bragging, just really grateful I developed the know-how.
Because I thought it would be funny, I started doing an internet radio music show with a cocktail component in it about six years ago. Here's what happened: all my Christmas presents from friends and family suddenly became cocktail books. I currently own four or five shakers, a pretty glass pitcher for stirring martinis, and there are eight different kinds of bitters in my cabinet. I'm not going to tell you I don't enjoy sitting with my husband and a drink before dinner. But I've grown a little tired of it being what people think I am.
In the immortal words of Zack Chaikin, the first-namesake of my YA novel's male lead, "Chris...have you ever thought of working...in a BAR?" Actually, I really, really don't want to work in a bar. I like making drinks. Just not. that. much.
And in fairness, I had just made Zack a Monkey Gland, a potent gin-and-OJ tipple with a dash of absinthe therein. He may have been a little...loosened.
So as of today, I'm changing the name of my radio show. No more Cocktails with Chris (although Chris will surely make you a cocktail if you want one). I'm calling it The Dinner Party now. 'Cause most of my show really is about a mix of good music, not spirits. The kitchen tip will be for FOOD now.
I'll be blogging about it over on the radio station's website when the webmaster makes me a space to do so. But for now, let me share with you this week's tip: if you've never learned how, learn to make a good old fashioned white sauce. You will always have dinner if you do that.
Recipe for White Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
What to do: Melt the butter over medium heat in a good, thick pan. Whisk in the flour until there are no lumps. Add the milk, whisking continually. Cook for about five or eight minutes, still whisking. You'll have something the thickness of heavy cream.
Why would you make this? Well, multiply the recipe by three, add grated cheese (LOTS, like half a pound, anyway--or more if you're a hedonist), mustard, tabasco, and a little steak sauce and mix it with maybe 2/3 of a pound of cooked macaroni--and you have mac and cheese, ready to be baked at 350 until bubbly (put some buttered bread crumbs, or more grated cheese on top. Smoked paprika is nice, too.)
OR multiply it by three and mix it with the mac--and some tuna. Flavor with sherry, grated parmesan cheese, and black pepper. Throw in a few sauteed mushrooms and frozen peas. Buttered crumbs over the top. Tuna casserole--and it's GOOD.
And the flour and butter to liquid measure? Makes gravy, too, if you sub out the milk with stock or broth.
Why, you're welcome. And you're invited to Radio Dinner--4 PM today at http://area24radio.com.