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weekend cooking projects

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Do you use your weekend to master a dish or technique?

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    I have a couple small dinner parties a month (no more than 6 people total, including my husband and me) and these dinners are always on Saturdays, so when that happens, I pretty much use all Saturday to prepare.

    I use Sunday as the day to make something that takes a long time, either in prep work or in cooking time. This time of the year, it's lots of braises, stews, etc. Or it could be a loaf of bread.

    I don't tend to make food on weekend days for reheating during the week. At this stage in my life I've realized that cooking a good meal for the two of us, any night of the week that I choose, is a priority for me, and I have altered my job so that I can do so (with a night or two left open for meals out!).

    2 Replies
    1. re: farmersdaughter

      This completely describes my own routine, with a few minor differences. Because I'm a freelance writer, I'm home a lot, and that makes it possible to make stocks and other low-maintenance long efforts all the time.

      We also entertain during the week, when not dining out. I *never* dine out on weekends.

      1. re: farmersdaughter

        You are very fortunate to be able to adjust your work schedule. You gave me an idea that maybe I should try the same thing even if I can do it for two nights a week.

      2. Yup...we do so. We set aside Saturday nights for trying new stuff. Mark is the king of bread, and I just cook everything else. I have gotten pretty proficient with Thai, Indian, Japanese, Chinese and Moroccan and I am an expert at French Cuisine - classical training and all that. I am taking a stab at real Mexican cooking this weekend, although I don't find that as interesting as some of the other cuisines. I know it is not at all one dimensional, but it appears that way on the surface...I just think it's always the same thing, just wrapped in a different kind of tortilla. How many kinds of burritos can one person make? I am looking forward to playing with some of the different chilies and spice variations and proving to myself that it's much different than just slapping some guac on a chip. I'm open to recipes, too, if you have anything good.

        9 Replies
        1. re: Cyndy

          You may also want to look at cookbooks by Diana Kennedy or Rick Bayless. They may give you some comfort that there is more to Mexican that just a filled tortilla. I don't cook a lot of Mexican food, but I do love really authentic stuff, as well as the big "Mission-style" burritos we get here in San Francisco. It's all good!

          1. re: farmersdaughter

            I agree with cookbooks by Rick Bayless. I took a culinary course a while back and we cooked many of his recipes. We are lucky here where I live to be able to go to his restaurants and taste his food as well. Once I was able to find all the fresh ing. as well as all the different mexican cheeses and chili's, this type of food became so much more than just a taco or tortilla or burrito. I think you will find it can be a real challenge with many steps and layers of flavors as well as a very creative outlet.

            1. re: farmersdaughter

              Also Zarela Martinez' Food From My Heart and her mother's simpler Mexican Family cooking. They are from northern Mexico on the Mexican border of Arizona, the town is Agua Prieta and they have some good Sonoran recipes. Food from My Heart is a little more comprehensive in scope. Another author to look for on Mexican cooking is Patricia Quintana. She is Mexican and has written several good books. Her Cuisine of the Water Gods is pretty comprehensive on the subject of Mexican cookery with seafood and fish and vegetables.

              1. re: Candy

                I have Zerela's food from the heart cookbook-any recipes in there you particularly recommend?

                1. re: D-NY

                  A friend who is lookng for some new dishes for her Mexican/Southwestern has my copy of the book. I would need it to be sure I'm recommending a recipe from the right book. Sorry

            2. re: Cyndy

              A "burrito" is not mexican. I'd suggest going to a bookstore, right now - look up Diana Kenedy. She focuses on real mex cooking, regions, etc. A true mole sauce is extremely complicated and will rival the espagnole and demiglace that we have had the pleasure of spending days preparing. I took a class from her years ago, and the cuisine gets more interesting every day. Especially when you fuse the concepts with your other experience. Post back if you do....

              Of course, I don't know where you live, and it may be hard to find achiote, epazote, true canela, banana leaves, nopalito, squash blossom, etc. etc.

              1. re: rudeboy

                I actually plan to get one of her books tomorrow! I know that the cuisine is a lot deeper than my experiences thus far. Fortunately, I live close to the US border, and right over the line is a big mexican community so I can zip across and get good stuff. I'm looking forward to having my misconceptions corrected!

                1. re: Cyndy

                  Please post some of your results for us all to enjoy!

              2. re: Cyndy

                Pati's Mexican Table is a great cookbook.

              3. I am addicted to slow cooked dishes so I have been using the weekends to try to master those techniques for years now. Since I live alone generally my concotions get me at least part way thorugh the week with lunches and dinners.
                I have a can of chestnuts that has been sitting in my cabinet for a while that I was thinking of turning into some sort of soup this weekend, but then I saw the post reminding me of the celestial shortribs. My first attempt at short ribs was a few weeks ago and I loved how flavorful the cut was so I might have to change plans.

                2 Replies
                1. re: mapgirl

                  I did that last year, lots of slow roasted brisket and stews and roasts, and we both gained at least 10 lbs. This year I'm making 2 soups each week, this week it's beef veg barley and navy bean with fresh ham hocks, sort of the same idea (comfort food) but we're doing much better weight wise. We have soup before whatever we're eating every night and it really helps cut the appetite.

                  1. re: mapgirl

                    Yo mapgirl, I'm with you! Slow cooking is best. Gives one thyme (sic) to think about what one is doing. Besides, real chili takes time and one should let it mellow in the fridge for a day before eating it.

                  2. I use it to cook new recipes or recipes that take longer than 30 minutes. This weekend I was thinking of making the celestial braised shortribs and marcella hazan's pasta with leeks that have been getting rave reviews here.

                    1. Yes, I like the weekends to experiment even if the recipe I try is quick and easy. It gives me a good idea as to how long a dish takes to prepare, which can be a huge time saver during the week. I also like trying longer cooking recipes that require more concentration and planning. I guess I am more rested and therefore have more patience and energy than during the week.

                      1. I'm retired so I can get involved with cooking projects any day of the week. Some projects take a long time. For example, baking bread starts the night before all the dough is mixed. A starter that needs 12 hours to work is started at least by 8 p.m. I do NOT do bread machine stuff. I do NOT use an electric mixer. Every thing is done by hand. Ain't retirement grand?

                        1. I wanted to revive this almost 10 year old thread! My husband and I made orecchiette this weekend and loved it -- it was so fun and satisfying to make, and yet very simple and rustic. What we needed was the time of a Saturday afternoon/early evening to knead the dough, let it rise, form pasta by hand, while slowly simmering bolognese sauce. Does anyone have ideas for future projects to share?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: edub

                            How lovely that you bumped this old thread! But I'm curious as to what you mean by letting the pasta dough rise.

                          2. I meant rest. The recipe (from a recent Bon Appetit) called for letting it rest while tightly wrapped in plastic for 1 hour.

                            I'd even be open to something multi-day - for Indian, maybe making a chutney on a Thursday night, doing naan bread on Friday night, and making the main curry on Saturday night ... I want it to be "event" cooking even if it's just for the two of us. Our kids certainly won't eat it so it's one meal all week that will be all about us!

                            1. My weekend "cooking" project was a batch of homemade Camembert. Results won't be ready for several weeks, though.

                              1. I work 10 hour days during the week (thank goodness I live close to work), so I spend the weekend trying new recipes and make ahead meals. Since it's finally cooled off here in TX, the past few weekends I've been making at least one soup or chili and I'm experimenting with making 2 or 3 serving meals that are assembled but frozen before cooking. Lasagna, enchilada casserole, meatloaf....things that can be thrown in the oven frozen & come out fresh baked. Tweaking cooking times and temperatures can be a challenge.