I come from a pretty small town where we don’t so much have a grocery store as a funeral home where costumers can come to pay their respects to deceased produce. About once a month I’ll head home to visit Papa Pete and after a couple of days of trying to collect enough to keep myself sustained and scurvy-free makes me feel as though I would do well to run off to the Ituri Rain Forest and join a hunter-gatherer tribe. By the time I have perused all the aisles of our local Sobey’s I’ll have accidentally smooshed tomatoes, fondled wilted leafies, and have scoured every container of yogurt in an effort to find one that hasn’t grown a gorgeous fur coat. At the end of my shopping adventures I’ll usually have a cart full of dusty cans, some boxes of cereal that look like they could have ads for the Jackson 5 on the back, and a carton of milk that, according to the expiration date, has to be drank… well, yesterday. If you think I am joking, I can assure you, I am not. I once found an avocado that wasn’t rotten and hid it under my jacket until I got to the check out in fear that someone would try to wrestle the little green gem away from me. If it’s hard to get a meal together in this town, it’s damn-near impossible to make a good one. Trying to work with what is available, it’s been my experience that:
Canned/frozen vegetables= mooshy, tasteless messes
A lot of pre-made frozen meals= salty as the dickens
Frozen fruit= often bitter and squishy
Your basic, everyday, easily findable produce= boring.
But, after a few days of soup and crackers I looked for help from my fav chefs in order to make edible meal using only frozen foods and basic, easily findable stuff. I did my best to make lemonade out of lemons…. Actually, how about orange-juice out of oranges, I don’t think I can find a lemon. Here’s my meal:
Recipe #1: Fabio Viviani’s Roast Chicken
Why: There’s no other reason why I initially chose this recipe except that it seemed easy and Chef Fabio’s hotness makes me weak in the old knees.
- I wasn’t joking when I said I couldn’t find a lemon. I used an orange.
- I couldn’t find fresh garlic, sage, or thyme. So, in a bowl I mixed a teaspoon of garlic powder and a tablespoon and a half of poultry seasoning. Instead of just pouring the powder mixture into the chicken, I rolled the orange slices in it so it would have something to stick to and season the whole bird from the inside out rather than just the bottom.
- When coating the chicken in oil I added some butter. Who needs arteries, am I right?
Here’s a before and after look at my bird:
I’m not going to lie, it was probably the tastiest chicken I’ve ever had. Notice Papa Pete’s hand in there? The man couldn’t even wait until I was done taking pictures. I’m not really tooting my own horn as it’s not my own recipe, but I’ll toot Chef Fabios horn any day of the week- ow OW!
Recipe #2: Martha Stewart’s Risotto
Why: Everyone loves risotto. Never had risotto? Welcome to the most comforting food in the world (aside from mac and cheese, of course). Oh, you have had it? Well, please, come to my house, we’ll have a risotto party and live like fucking GODS.
- I used a mixture of yellow onion and garlic powder instead of shallots. As I’m sure you guessed shallots were MIA within a 100 km radius.
- I skipped the parsley
Lastly, I literally threw together the last dish
Recipe #3: Nigella Lawson’s Green Beans and Lemon
Why: I had 1/3 of a plate to fill up and I had some frozen green beans in my fridge. I wanted to use them in something where their natural mooshiness would be welcome.
- I used frozen beans.
- Again, no lemons to be seen, however, I did find one of those little plastic bottles of lemon juice which did just fine. I also added some little bits of orange to give some texture.
Verdict: Over all, it was delicious, it was filling, the whole thing took less than an hour, and was pretty damn cheap. It was an elegant and simple meal which I shoved into my face like I was a beast who might never see food again. Now that I’m back to the city I’m considering sending Papa Pete a lemon… I wonder if he knows what it looks like.