June 20, 2008

Bachelor Attempts Cooking Project

OH NO!
It's Time for an Installment of ...
STUCK IN THE KITCHEN WITH BEN

A new -- and occasional -- Rant feature

WITH THE ECONOMY the way it is, I've suddenly rediscovered the virtues of cooking at home. It's a heck of a lot cheaper than going out, I'm not half bad at it, and much to my surprise it actually is somewhat of a stress-reliever. (Of course, the fact I like spicy food helps).

Anyway, I had some success with a new recipe I dreamed up with ingredients on hand tonight, so thought I would share it. As such, here is my recipe for Bachelor Carnitas, so named because it's so easy to make that even a cookery-challenged bachelor like me can make it.

Bachelor Carnitas

Serves: 2
Time: Let's say 20 minutes

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Ingredients:
1 lb. pork, cut into strips
2 tablespoons cooking oil
3 heaping spoons of recaito
something green and crunchy (lettuce, cabbage, etc.)
jalapeño pepper slices (canned or bottled works)
proper tortillas (corn, dammit, corn)

Preparation:

1. Get out a skillet. Throw in the vegetable oil and recaito, and turn the heat to medium. While waiting for the skillet to heat up, slice the pork into strips.
2. When the skillet gets nice and hot, throw in the pork. Stir fry it.
3. As the pork is cooking, prepare the sides -- which in this case are your lettuce or cabbage, your peppers, and your tortillas. You can microwave the tortillas and get everything else ready as the pork is cooking, but don't ignore the pork lest it burn. You want steady heat on the pork, but nothing too hot, or you'll boil off the recaito and burn the meat.
4. When the pork is thoroughly cooked, remove it from the heat. Serve. Before taking the stuff to table, throw the skillet in the sink and spray it down thoroughly, thus aiding cleanup.

Cost analysis:

1. Pork. Pork is the other white meat. Also, it is inexpensive. The pork for this dish cost $2.18 at the store. True, it was on sale, but still. $2.18 for like a pound of meat. If you're clever, you'll cut it fine and get as much off the bone as you can.
2. Recaito. A bottle of recaito will cost you $2. You will get roughly six servings out of this, and so the recaito for tonight's meal cost perhaps $0.33. You will find this is an invaluable aid in your cooking. Recaito is a cilantro-based seasoning which also includes green pepper, onion and garlic. As a result, buying the stuff saves you from actually having to buy cilantro, green peppers, onions and garlic for use in the kitchen. Recaito is your friend.
3. Cooking oil. Negligible cost.
4. Lettuce/cabbage. Cost -- oh, anywhere from $0.25 to $0.50. After all, you're not going to use the whole stupid head of cabbage or lettuce on one meal. If you live alone like me, you can buy a seven ounce box of fancy lettuce for $3.29 and have it last the entire week. Since I used one ounce, we'll cost this at $0.47.
5. Jalapeño peppers. Let's say $0.10. A giant jar of jalapeños will cost, I don't know, $2 or $3, and even though I am an enthusiastic fan of jalapeño peppers, even I only used a few tonight.
6. Corn tortillas. Cost: $0.76. If you are lucky, you live someplace where corn tortillas are relatively cheap. Sadly, they're not cheap anywhere, not even Mexico. For my meal tonight, I was forced to pay $2.29 -- Dear God -- for 12 corn tortillas, which works out to $6.05 per kilo. That's just wrong. When I was in Los Angeles several years ago, I could get a kilo of fresh tortillas for $2 -- so I would like to think one could get a kilo for $3.50 or $4, even in Manchester, N.H. I must find a good Mexican grocery.

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Anyway, the grand total for my meal tonight worked out to $3.84, which ain't bad at all. (I was starving, so I ate the whole stupid thing). If you made this for two people, you'd need more of everything except the meat and recaito, so that works out to like $4.73 -- or roughly $2.36 per person.

However, I realize some readers may say, "But Ben! I need to impress my girlfriend with my cooking skills! What do I do? I can't just make one dish!"

The quickest way to deal with this is to cook some rice and black beans, which go well with anything. A package of this costs about 89 cents and can be made in about 20 minutes. Start these off before you start cooking the pork and you should be all set. Also, buy some ready-made guacamole -- the real stuff, not that soya-based industrial crap -- and have it handy in the fridge for serving with the tacos. It will cost you like $4, and reputable producers such as Calavo Growers Inc. are now packaging the stuff in tiny serving sizes. (Calavo is based in Santa Paula, Calif., and as such is Avocado Central. I know this because good friends of mine live in Santa Paula, and have an avocado tree in their backyard. God, I miss California).

Also, remember to cook the pork thoroughly. This does two things. First, it renders the fat on the meat. This is good, because it adds a lot of flavor to the final dish. Second, it prevents you from an unpleasant experience a few hours later. It is pork, not steak, so act accordingly.

That's it for this edition of "Stuck in the Kitchen With Ben!" Tune in next time, when your humble correspondent finally figures out how to boil water without it boiling over and causing a mess on the stove.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at June 20, 2008 10:41 PM | TrackBack
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