Serious Eats

Cooking with a Friend: Kitchen Compatibility

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.

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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.

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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

Cost: $19 each

About the author: About the author: Jennifer Maiser is the founder and editor of the Eat Local Challenge website and writes at Life Begins at 30, her personal weblog.

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