CookOrDie Day 8: The Potato Misadventures

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Eric accompanied me shopping today. He was thinking about living on his own, so he was quite curious about my¬†CookOrDie¬†project. He seemed particularly flabbergasted by the fact that I’m not working from any cookbook or website. I haven’t run across a site that dealt with my particular constraints:

– Microwave and oven toaster – Cooking for one – Can’t have too many left-overs because I might forget to eat them

We checked out the meat shop I’d noticed on the way to school. It’s a small meat shop across the street. Quiet place. Unfortunately, they don’t sell meat in quantities of less than half a kilo, and I don’t trust my cooking or planning skills enough to get that much food at any point in time. So I guess I’ll have to get all my protein from the supermarket.

On my way to the supermarket, I remarked that this quandary would have me become a vegetarian out of necessity. Then again, sausages aren’t all that bad.

Eric carried my basket as I described my experiments. I read about a pita recipe involving lettuce recently and I’d always liked the nice, crisp lettuce in salads, which I eat on its own or with a bit of bacon and cheese, as I don’t like salad dressing. I picked a few leaves of yummy-looking lettuce and had it weighed. At 22.75 for three leaves, it was kinda pricey, but I figured I’m supposed to have leafy vegetables in my diet.

I peered at the marble potatoes rack and found that they were significantly cheaper than the regular potatoes I had been buying before. Although they came in rather large bags, the store personnel kindly opened a bag for me and allowed me to measure and weigh an equivalent portion of marble potatoes. The extra time spent washing the potatoes was time I could spend thinking about my class the next day, I reasoned, and the small savings would nonetheless contribute to my monthly bottom line. I was rather pleased to see this come to a total of P 3.00 for a decent number of potatoes.

At the meat counter, I described to Eric the sausages I’d tried – how Hungarian sausages pleasantly offset tomatoes and cheese in my first pita experiment but are lost when mixed with reheated fried rice, how the delicate taste of veal bratwurst went well with potatoes (although the potatoes might need a bit more seasoning).

Having sampled almost all the sausages and seeking more variety, I found myself drawn to the ground beef and ground round sections. Some inquiry revealed that I could get portions as small as 1/8th of a pound; for someone cooking for 1 with scant freezer space, this was very good news. I asked if I could cook this meat in the microwave or oven toaster, though, and the supermarket people thought it was not advisable – so back to sausages it was. I selected a Schu:blig sausage as I had not yet tried that variant.

I returned to the dorm and flipped through the microwave instructions, which informed me about the grill function of the microwave and cautioned that this must be used at least once a month to reduce the risk of fire. As part of the routine maintenance of my microwave oven (and to try out the grill capabilities which may prove useful in the future), I decided to try to cook the sausage in the microwave, heating it under the grill for around 10 minutes. While the sausage cooked, I washed the marble potatoes and pricked the skins with a fork.

Testing the sausage revealed that it was not as warm as it should have been, although parts of it were nicely browned. I popped it into the toaster for some quick and sure cooking, setting the timer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, I added a knob of butter to the potatoes and microwaved the whole for 4 minutes, reasoning that the whole marble potatoes would take somewhat longer than the thinly sliced potatoes cooked in a small container last time.

Small popping and fizzing sounds from the microwave alarmed me and I paused the microwave to check on the potatoes. Apparently, pricking the skins with a fork was not enough to prepare the potatoes for microwaving, and the expanding air popped out of the potatoes. Slicing the potatoes in half revealed a rather strange pattern of compressed potatoes, so I sliced all the other potatoes in half and returned them to the microwave for a few more minutes of uneventful cooking.

After the sausage was cooked to my satisfaction, I took one of the pitas from the freezer and toasted it. The bottom part of the pita was crisp while the top part was soft, which made a very interesting play of texture. I suspect this would be very nice with some kind of filling or dip.

The potatoes were acceptable, although not awe-inspiring. The sausage was pleasantly flavored, reminding one vaguely of hotdogs and frankfurters. It was a pretty filling meal for approximately PHP 55.

I nearly forgot the lettuce, but I realized I hadn’t used it while writing this blog entry. I washed the lettuce leaves carefully (there were a few bugs), and for lack of ideas for preparing lettuce, just ate it as is. In retrospect this was probably a bad idea, as the leaves tasted unacceptably (and quite logically) like plants. I suppose I’m used to lettuce being crunchy and tasting like, well, water; this was neither, and it left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. I diligently chomped and swallowed one mouthful, but my gag reflex kept trying to trigger on the second, and I gave up on the lettuce. (Update: Martin suggested returning it to the ref for a few moments in order to let it crisp.)

Conclusion: Sausages and potatoes can form a basic, inexpensive meal – just adjust proportions of potatoes and sausages to meet carbohydrate/protein ratios and budget constraints. However, I need to experiment with other kinds of food soon, and I suspect that I’ll need a pan for that. A simple skillet or other kind of pan that would fit on my electric stove would be very much appreciated; I suppose I can obtain one of these from home. I’ve added sausages and potatoes to my basic repertoire; I know that as long as I have an oven toaster and/or a microwave, I should be able to prepare myself an acceptable dinner. I would like to experiment more, though. I think I’ll try more vegetables next.

Potatoes P 3.00
Schu:blig sausage 52.45
Green coral lettuce 22.75
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