Last July I don't think I was cooking much at all, and if I was, I was cooking to impress. It didn't work; I had lots of pretty photos of food, but I was almost always hungry. Now I am full, so full.
Dinnertime comes and I dash around the kitchen and somehow, I make something out of nothing. Last week it was pan roasted chicken thighs from the freezer with a sauce made from dried mushrooms soaked in warm water and wine. I added the mushrooms to the frying pan along with chopped shallots, butter, olive oil, and at the very end, a handful of peas.
It was pretty and tasty, but there was no recipe. I made it up, and it was good. We ate it with a big salad, and large chunks of bread to soak up the soupy bits and we drank a white wine from the Jura region of France called Arbois. I think the meal ended with a bite or two of cheese. It was perfect. It was a Wednesday night.
I have always dreamed of cooking like this. My mother used to tell me: "cook enough and you'll just know what to do." But I never did, and for years I was easily intimidated by the idea of standing in the kitchen with and serving dinner to someone who had worked in a professional kitchen. Someone who knew (or it seemed like he knew) everything at all.
Now my days are much more free form. I'm laughing more, writing better, and most days I don't care that 90% of my belongings have been in storage for almost an entire year. Turns out I don't need them.
Except for those cookbooks. Because today I wanted to make my Dad cookies for his birthday. But my cookbooks are still packed. So I googled "best chocolate chip oatmeal cookie" and I randomly found a recipe which looked ok, and I decided to make them.
And guess what? They were really good. The best part was that they were super soft, even with a little bit of wheat flour tossed into the mix. Their softness made them seem pretty damn near perfect to me -- I am not so fond of the overly crisped oatmeal cookie.
Along the way I took some photos. Not fancy photos where I clean the countertops and adjust the light and wish I had better dishes. Just photos of me and the mixing bowl making birthday cookies for Dad.
I'm beginning to think that if I kept cooking the way I have been for the past few months I'd be very content. It turns out cooking (and living) without a recipe is easier, and much more fun, than I ever imagined it could be.
The Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Around:
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tbsp half and half
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup wheat flour and 1 cup white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups oats (rolled or quick, not instant)
2 cups chocolate chips (about 12-oz.)Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugars until mixture is light in color. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the half and half and the vanilla extract.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Either by hand or with the mixer on low speed, gradually beat the flour in to the sugar mixture until just incorporated.
Stir in the oats and chocolate chips by hand.
Drop 1-inch balls of dough onto the cookie sheet, placing about 1 1/2 inches apart so they have room to spread.
Bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown at the edges and light golden at the center.
Cool on baking sheet for at least 1-2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 4 dozen.