Soup of Leftovers and Throwing Stuff in the Oven

Let’s talk about how meals happen. Because we are sitting down to a nice chat, and you’re the most indulgent listener ever, just dying to hear whatever half-baked spiel that crawls out of my mouth. You see, dear reader, for the most part making food happens out of desperation for me. I am horrible at planning ahead, and when I’m busy as I have been recently, I do the cognitive equivalent of grabbing whatever is within reach. Or I literally grab the nearest things in the kitchen. At such times, some basic forms of cookery are necessary frames to keep it all from getting too unmanageable both mentally and logistically. The past two days indicate that apparently I have at least two such shortcuts on hand: make soup of leftovers, or throw things in the oven. Probably I don’t have them on hand or in head at all, but somehow, thankfully, they happened.

Soup is probably the most well-trod way of using up leftovers. A lot of various things suddenly become commensurate when thrown in a pot of water or stock. I made soup of leftovers because I saw refried beans, fried kale, cooked ground beef, half an onion, a tortilla, and some mushrooms in the fridge, and I thought “soup!” And of course because it’s me, before any water came into the picture I browned onions, mushrooms, and garlic in some oil. And there was quite a bit of chili powder. And some possibly ill-advised cumin. (I couldn’t help but think of the overpowering odor of Rufus’s chili.) I know, these details outside of a recipe have you rapt, don’t they? Little did you know I’m trying to snuff you out in a blizzard of Irrelevant Facts.

A tangent: I actually have no clue what I’m doing when it comes to seasonings. (Or, well, anything really, but seasonings especially.) I am either falling into strange habits, experimenting blindly, or being minimalist (salt, pepper). The thing is, I only understand how flavors go with other flavors in the negative. If I’m putting things together I’m thinking sure, I guess this might taste good together, maybe. But suggest to me a combination and often you’ll get a response of “ew,” or an extremely ill-masked dubious look. I apologize for this particular knee-jerk of mine.

Anyway, throwing stuff in the oven seems initially like a wonderfully lazy option. But I always end up babying the stuff. Tonight the stuff was pork chops, onion, red pepper, and mushrooms. Pork chops cook quickly, apparently, because they were done in about half an hour, at which point I thought nooo they must be browned! and turned the oven to broil for five minutes. Then I put them on a plate, and continued to bake the soupy vegetables. Of course, I may as well have put them in a pan on the stove for all the stirring I did. Must’ve opened the oven five or six times. The problem was that the vegetables released a lot of water, thus stewing the pork chops rather than roasting them, and thus no sear. Maybe pork chops roasted with vegetables is just not to be. The only viable method I can think of is to suspend the poor things on a wire rack above the roasting vegetables, and basting them in the vegetable juice a few times. But that just sounds wayyy to involved. Although it can’t really be more involved than what I did this time.

Sorry, no recipe. Come on, you don’t really want a recipe for Soupy, Overcooked Pork Chops With Roasted Vegetable Topping, do you? There was once a time when this blog was about perfecting techniques and recipes. It has since devolved into me babbling about whatever the hell I feel like, sometimes connecting it to what I happened to have cooked recently. The defining change is that intentionality has left. I no longer cook things to post them on my blog. I cook what I cook, and sometimes take photos to keep the possibility of blogging about it open. In this case I forgot to take a photo of the roasted things, and instead you just get these photos of the uncooked ingredients arranged in the pan to go in the oven.

4 March 2011