At the end of 2016, it seemed like most people were commenting on what a terrible year it was; and indeed, the year ended with one of the most abominable jokes of a presidential election this nation has ever seen. There were hopes for 2017, like, how can this get any worse? And 2017 was all, “hehehe, HOLD MY BEER.” There is so much uncertainty and powerful politicians who seem hellbent on destroying our democratic ideals – it’s so hard not to feel helpless and even outright terrified for our future.
But here we are: 2018. And I don’t know that there are objective reasons to feel hopeful (although I think there are!), I just know that on a personal level, I want it to be a better year for me personally.
One thing I want for myself – that is relevant to this space – is to fully get my cooking mojo back. It’s so easy to look at the outside world, all the upheaval, and feel so crushed, so demoralized, and like the little things in our lives are pointless. I mean, if America is headed towards becoming the second-best kleptocracy in the world in a few years, does it really matter what I cooked for dinner? Well, in a way, yes. Infusing meaning and purpose in the little things in our lives does add up. Feeling inspired in any way is a good thing and rubs off on the people around you. So I’m beginning 2018 with some goals to better my cooking skills and repertoire, and to inspire me to get back in the kitchen with purpose and a sense of accomplishment.
- I will learn to make ravioli. With real pasta, not cheating with wonton wrappers as I have always done in the past.
- I will properly learn to make gnocchi. I’ve made gnocchi only once, in a cooking class, with a superb Italian chef supervising, and I was drinking wine the whole time. I don’t remember a damn thing.
- I will learn to make tarts with even edges and with crust shells that don’t shrink to the point of being unusable.
- I will master my fear of phyllo dough.
- I will master cooking whole fish. You know, the fish with the head still on that stares at you with one beady eye at a time?
- And last but not least, I will branch out of my culinary comfort zone of cooking so much American and Mexican food. Growing up a white girl in Dallas, I suppose it was inevitable that my go-to comfort recipes would be of these persuasions. But there’s so much great cuisine out there, and I want to learn more of it.
As such, we have a Thai staple today, one which is new for me because I am a boring person who ALWAYS orders Pad Thai in Thai restaurants. And when I say always, I do mean always. It’s gotten a little bit stupid. And while Pad Thai is delicious (frankly, even bad Pad Thai is delicious), Pad Krapow was a revelation for me. Clearly I have been missing out on a sumptuous, meaty, hearty dish with just the right balance of sweet to spicy, and the proper amount of slick made possible by coating everything with that almost-sticky, flavorful sauce in your screaming hot wok. This comes together so quickly – I love it on weeknights.
Happy 2018 everyone! And in the spirit of inspiring each other, I’d love to hear about your personal goals/resolutions/whatever you want to call them for 2018 too! Cooking or otherwise!
*UPDATE: I did not do any of these things in 2018. We bought and rehabbed a house instead.
- 3 tbs soy sauce
- 2 tbs hoisin or oyster sauce
- 4 tbs fish sauce
- 2 tbs sambal oelek
- 3 tbs canola or vegetable oil
- 1 ½ lbs. Ground lean beef
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- As many or as few fresh Thai chiles as you can handle, I used 5, sliced
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 medium red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 ½ cups Thai basil leaves, picked off the stem
- Cooked white rice, for serving
- Combine the soy sauce, hoisin, fish sauce, and sambal in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Heat your wok or large, deep skillet over high heat. Add the oil, then the beef. Use your wooden spatula to sort of flatten the beef out so more surface area gets nicely browned. Start breaking it up and cook it into crumbles. Once no more traces of pink remain, add the garlic and Thai chiles and cook one minute. Stir in the onion and bell pepper and cook 1-2 minutes, until they are softened a little. Now add the reserved soy sauce mixture and stir to combine. Cook at least 1 minute, maybe more, until the sauce thickens a little and coats the meat in a nice slick. Stir in most of the Thai basil (leave some for garnish). Shut off the heat and serve over the rice with extra Thai basil leaves for garnish.