Scrounging for Dinner Again

January 4, 2010

The snow came down all day, the wind howled, the drifts mounted around the house.  Three weather advisories warned us not to leave unless absolutely necessary. I stayed put.

But a second day of scrounging through the refrigerator found it considerably barer. Happily I came upon a piece of flank steak in the freezer, a jar of kimchee (how old, I wonder?) and a single sad head of butter lettuce. Visions of Bulgogi danced in my head.

It was, perhaps, my favorite meal all week.  And simple!  Here's a kind of recipe, but use your imagination.

Take 1/2 pound beef of some sort – you could use just about anything – slice it across the grain as thinly as you possibly can, and plunk it into the following marinade.

soy sauce  – 2 tablespoons or so
a couple of cloves of smashed garlic
a small knob of ginger, minced
whites of 2 or 3 scallions, minced
a big spoonful of sugar
a splash of sesame oil

Leave it to soak up the flavors for 15 minutes or so while you separate the leaves from their head of lettuce, put a pot of rice on to cook, and rummage through your cupboards to see if there's anything that you would like to add. You're going to wrap the beef and rice into little lettuce packets, and many accompaniments suggest themselves: Kimchee is a good start, Sriracha sauce is imperative in my mind, sliced cloves of raw garlic would be nice, as would shredded carrots or toasted sesame seeds (should you happen to have some lying around).

Cover the bottom of a large skillet with a sheen of oil, wait until it shimmers and then cook the meat, stirring, for about 4 minutes.  Plunk it onto one platter, the lettuce on another and the rice into a bowl. Set them all onto a table, along with whatever else you've found, and let everyone make his own deliciously savory little wraps. No forks necessary.

This is enough to fortify a couple of people on a cold winter night. Eating it before a roaring fire makes it even better.

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Charmed Life

January 3, 2010

On Twitter, someone’s just sighed over my “charmed life.”  But everyone’s life is interesting, and everyone’s life is charmed; it’s merely a matter of editing.

At 4 on new year’s eve the FedEx man called to say that he had a box of perishable goods to deliver, but that he could not get up our road; would I please come meet him? The rendezvous was a 15 minute drive down icy, unplowed, unpaved roads, but the man was waiting with a huge box.  He handed it over with gloved hands, waved a cheery “happy new year,” and zoomed off to start celebrating.

At home I discovered that the box was filled with dozens of Kumamoto, Olympia, and Virginica oysters that Jon Rowley had harvested at Totten Inlet the day before. Modern life: oysters cross an entire continent in under a day.

When we set off for our party a few hours later the wind was howling, the snow swirling, but we drove through the woods utterly unconcerned, oysters snugly tucked in the back of the car.  Do we not have snow tires? Even when we turned onto a completely virgin road in the middle of nowhere, we remained confident.

Halfway up this untracked road the car started to slip. And slide. And finally stall. Attempting to back up, we lost all traction and ended up one inch from a tree. Michael went out to investigage and promptly slid down a hill. Attempting to get up, he fell again. And again.  And again. “Stay in the car,” he called, from somewhere behind me, “it’s a sheer sheet of ice. There’s nothing you can do to can’t help me.”

We were ten minutes from home, and we were in some nightmare version of Milton’s hell, stuck in the ice, probably forever.  They’d find us, frozen, in the morning.

Then we remembered that we had a phone, called friends, were rescued.

By the time we got to the party we were thoroughly wet, incredibly cold and extremely chastened.

As for my charmed life?  I wrote about opening the oysters and serving them on snow.
 

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