Found a new job; going to be working for West on their Qwest contract. I'm kind of fuzzy on what I'm actually going to be doing, but it seems to involve filing reports and filling out forms all day. The quintessential desk job. The starting pay is amazing (12/hr for this area is pretty high for nonskilled work) and the job looks pretty engaging. I start in two weeks.
If I can ever remember to update this livejournal I'd like to turn it into a cooking blog. To be perfectly honest, cooking has become one of my passions since I moved out of my parent's house and it's something I like sharing with others. The fiance and I are foodies to a point and we eat a wide variety of foods from all cultures. We've also taken plenty of attempts at cooking those foods. We're even collecting vintage cookbooks now, if only for the retro humor of it. (Hot dog crown roast, tomato aspic, cooking with diet shasta)
Since I lost my job I really learned how to tighten my belt and most of my recent cooking projects have been focusing on low-cost meals that are filling and interesting. The key weapon in this fight has been whole chicken, by far the cheapest per pound meat you can buy in this part of the country and easily the most versatile. We'll buy 2-3 whole chickens from the grocery store, butcher them down to individual parts, and then use those parts in whatever we're cooking over the course of that week. I usually use 1 whole chicken per meal, but if we needed to cut costs even more we could cut that down to 1 whole chicken per two meals and still eat well.
The culinary applications of a whole chicken, are, of course, limitless. Grind the chicken and make patties for chicken burgers, cut and chunk the chicken for curries and soups, boil down the carcass for stocks and bases, roast the whole chicken and use the drippings for gravy or yorkshire puddings, (my gravy is amazing, btw.) cut the chicken into quarters and braise in an Adobo, grill, broil or sear marinated thighs and breasts, cut the breasts into thin strips and stirfry for any number of applications (the tastiest being hunan chicken!) I could go on and on. Of course, butchering the chicken into managable pieces is fucking gross; this is an understatement, to be perfectly honest. I feel horrible if I'm not wearing gloves, the shit is slippery, slimey, and there's always the knowledge that you're one eyepoke away from horrible styes and salmonella. Having said that, paying 75 cents for a pound of whole chicken, or paying 4 dollars for a pound of chicken breasts ; the choice is pretty fucking obvious.
Of course, chicken gets boring, fast. I learned this when I lived with my dad, I got tired of chicken really quickly and couldn't handle eating it as often as we did. We did a lot of chicken wings and roast chicken and to be honest I was so tired of whole chicken that I never wanted to do it again. When we moved in here I shied away from roast chickens and whole chickens because of that, which is a shame because I feel now like I missed out on a lot of potentially good meals. The truth is, the only thing that makes food boring is eating it the same way all the time. If you shake it up a little you're going to have a lot better time. If we start to get bored, or want to do something different here, we just google up some new chicken recipes. We tried adobo recently and it was amazing ; Adobo, if you're unfamiliar, is a Filipino dish made up of soy sauce and vinegar. You braise the chicken in it for a reasonably long time and serve with rice. The flavor is amazing, the salty sweet flavor of cooked down soy sauce mixed with the tang of vinegar. An amazing dish that we can add to our rotation to keep chicken interesting longer.
We're not so poor that we're limited to chicken of course, and I owe a lot of this to our neighboring grocer. They frequently mark down meat far below the original sale cost, and as a result we're still eating beef more than two months after I lost my job. Beef isn't quite as versatile as chicken, of course - I don't believe in braising beef tbh and Michelle and I aren't roast fanatics. We still use beef for a lot of our cooking though. Stir fry has become one of our best weapons in combating hunger because it injects veggies into our diet and a small cut of beef, such as a single round steak or two petit sirloins can make up a huge, incredibly filling meal. For two bucks we can feed ourselves stupid, which isn't half bad all things considered - it's certainly cheaper than paying 12 dollars for beef and broccoli takeout. And while I'm not confident enough in my chinese cookery to say it's better than our favored takeout place, it's certainly not half bad and you can't beat the price.
Then of course there's the other meats. Pork is cheap as always, but we don't cook with it as much as beef and chicken because it's not as versatile. I really wish this wasn't the case, but most pork chops can really only be served as chops or occasionally added to stir fry. Pork as a whole is too lean and what fat is on the pork is usually inedible rind or the glue-like fat in pork loin which I find unappetizing to the point of inducing my gag reflex. Our best culinary weapon in the pork department is unsurprisingly bacon. I use bacon (or one of my big three cooking oils, bacon grease) in a lot of my dishes, most notably spaghetti and chili, and usually use it to flavor bland or bitter veggies like Asparagus, Broccoli, and Green Beans.
Lamb in this part of the country is... prohibitively expensive to the extreme. 90% of the lamb in tulsa is new zealand imports and as a result is never really fresh and always, always overpriced. We can usually get shoulder chops for relatively cheap, and that makes for a fairly good curry, but leg of lamb usually goes for nearly ten dollars a pound, and I've seen loin chops sell for more than Beef Fillet and Tenderloin. That seems ridiculous to me, given the vast expanses of grazing land in Oklahoma, and knowing that there's a large sheep farm in the greater Tulsa area! I'm sure there's some meat markets around town that carry lamb for relatively cheap, but I'd have to do some looking and I don't know if it's worth it. Lamb is not bad - I find the taste to be like richer, gamier beef - but to be honest, I don't feel that lamb is deserving of a price higher than fine beef.
Last but certainly not least is fish. We love fish, but this is Tulsa. Fish is fucking expensive. The cheap shit is 6 dollars a pound. Fish and chips and blackened catfish are favorites, but rarely enjoyed because of the prohibitive cost. Oh, how I long for the coast.
I find my cooking venue to be more restricting by the day; We really need to find an apartment that's more accomidating to our cooking needs, specifically, a kitchen with a LOT of counterspace. Additionally, I'd like an apartment where we can go outside to do some of our cooking. I'd like to try a hand at cold-smoking my own bacon, as well. Obviously we can't do either of these in our one bedroom upstairs apartment, so sadly our options are limited. See also grilling. No patio, no grill. We have a balcony, but the management have told us no grilling, and to be honest we're not going to make waves. We've been month to month on our lease for half a year now without a rent increase (they're having trouble filling the apartments and don't want to give us reason to leave) and the last thing we want is to damage that situation. Wherever we go next, I'm aiming for a BIG kitchen. Hopefully we can get that kind of setup.