Jennifer Maiser writes about locally and sustainably grown food. The Cooking with a Friend series chronicles her cooking and menu planning adventures with her neighbor, J.
This week, as I was preparing pork stew to be cooked, I stopped and laughed. "I'm glad we have similar cooking philosophies," I remarked to J. I was tossing the pork with my bare hands, trying to distribute the salt, garlic powder, pepper, and flour on the pork cubes. I was being relatively safe—water was running so I could rinse my hands right away to avoid contamination—but nonetheless, the contact with raw pork may have made some home cooks squeamish.
I really lucked out that it was J. with whom I started this project. We've known each other for quite a while, so we had a sense that we would probably cook well together. But it wasn't until we were several weeks into our meal preparations that I realized how good of a match we were. There are lots of ways that a project like this could go wrong, frankly. It could be big issues: Your cooking partner wants to buy the cheapest of the cheap, while you want to buy good quality and sustainably raised. Or it could be small issues: You don't worry too much about rinsing off clean herbs and never wash mushrooms, while she insists on triple-rinsing everything. I can't think of any issues where J. and I clash on a major level. We tend to agree, or to give in when we know an issue is important to the other person.
If you're thinking of meal planning with a friend, I think that your selection of that person is important. But until you get into the kitchen and cook together for several weeks in a row, you probably won't know whether the fit is exactly right or not. As this project goes on, I will try to identify traits to help you more specifically choose the right person—but like dating, you'll know when it's right, and you'll know when it's so very, very wrong.
This week was a short week for us. I was leaving at the end of the week, and we made our menu small with only three dishes. Still, the week's cost—$19 each was surprisingly low. Pork stew has made an appearance here before. This week, I roasted poblano chile peppers and we cut them into strips for the stew. The chile added a complexity to the pork meat without adding heat, which was just fine for this dish. We bought and avocado, and used the pork meat for tacos during the week.
I mentioned making a soup and J. suggested chicken noodle. It was really a perfect choice for the week—light, but comforting and delicious. We made it from a whole chicken and used egg noodles. During the week, to make sure it had a fresh flavor, I squeezed a bit of lemon into it. It didn't need much, though, and my half of the soup was eaten within a day or two.
J. did all the shopping this week, and came home with spinach for salad. We chose a very traditional option and made a warm bacon dressing. This was a great thing to have during the week, as the dressing just needed to be heated up before adding hard-boiled egg to the spinach and tossing the salad.
Final Menu, Week 12
- Tacos with pork stew and poblano chiles
- Chicken noodle soup
- Warm spinach salad with bacon
Cost: $19 each