A weekly guest post from GraFriend Kristy Klein, extolling the wonders of culinary spontaneity– i.e. throwing something together using only, well, the shit from your fridge. As you’ll see both in this post and in the general tone of this blog, SFMF doesn’t have to be a “fix”… eventually, if your goal is to keep things real, it becomes something of a lifestyle.
It was late Saturday afternoon at my boyfriend’s bachelor pad in St. Louis, miles away from my trusty extra virgin olive oil and herb cupboard. We had just returned, exhausted, from a lovely afternoon of laughing and frolicking (most likely somewhere uber-chic like Home Depot) when Mike turned to me and said, “So, what are you making me for dinner?” Panic set in. Like any true gra, I desperately wanted to impress with a sophisticated culinary masterpiece… but discussions of circular saws had rendered me too dazed to drag myself to the store. Not wanting to let the panic (or Imo’s pizza or terrorists) win, I swallowed my pride, took a deep breath and headed towards the potential biohazard that was the fridge to figure out what might work. Pause here for one shocking side note/little known fact: I like nice things and am kind of a snob. Why does this matter? Because at the point in my long-distance relationship where many people would leave a toothbrush at their home-away-from-home… I left a bottle of good balsamic. That’s right, I marked my territory with vinegar… and it was a brilliant idea. So I did it. I made a meal that is now often requested by Mike… and is lovingly referred to as Shit from My Fridge:
· Oil (preferably olive. Obviously)
· Chicken breast tenders- enough for 2 people
· A few tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
· 1 Red bell pepper (cut into strips)
· ½ onion (sliced)
· 4 slices of bread. If you’re lucky you’ll have something other than Wonder bread or hamburger buns… if you’re not lucky you should at least toast the Wonder bread.
· Cheese (Whatever you have other than Kraft singles. Sick. My preference is blue cheese crumbles)
Heat oil in skillet. Season chicken with salt and add to skillet, cooking until lightly browned (about 1 minute on each side). Add a couple of tablespoons of balsamic and cook until chicken is done and vinegar is syrupy. Transfer all of that to a plate and keep it warm. Clean off the pan (remember, you only have one pan in this house) with a paper towel and return to stove top and heat up more oil. Add peppers and onions and sauté until tender but still a bit crispy (5ish minutes). Add salt to taste and a couple more tablespoons of balsamic and cook about 1 minute. Arrange the chicken and bell pepper mixtures on two of the bread slices and top with cheese. Plop on the other slices of bread and place something heavy (I’m pretty sure I used a dictionary on top of foil) on the top to mash the Wich’s together and make sure the cheese melts before serving.
When it comes to cooking and to life, sometimes it’s important to Just Be Real. Forget about being fancy (read: snobby), forgo the best and make do with the lessons that you learned from your mother, grandmother (mine worked in the Kellogg’s test kitchen: REAL) or intuition. For me, life has changed a quite a bit since that Saturday just over a year ago– my throw pillows and I moved into the bachelor pad and brought our olive oil and herbs with us. Over the past few months I’ve had to learn to incorporate someone else’s dietary preferences (MEAT!) into my cooking and, surprisingly enough, it’s worked out just fine. Because sometimes shit from the fridge turns out to be superior to– not to mention more personal and comfortable than– anything you could have unearthed in the New York Times Cookbook.