Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fennel, Orange And Everything In Between.

Yesterday I made a saute of fennel with shrimp and spinach and since I had no white wine to deglaze my pan with I decided to use a splash of orange juice instead. Something told me fennel would go well with orange. I served the dish on a bed of orzo. This morning, watching Food Tv I learn that fennel and orange is a classic combination. Sedlak had grilled fennel with an orange marinade and made a prosciutto-wrapped halibut, served it all on a bed of lemon orzo.

This might not be thrilling for anyone else but I am very excited to discover that I am making good choices (instead of strange ones!) when combining ingredients. Also, my choice of serving my shrimp and orange fennel with orzo, instead of rice, appears to have also been an inspired one. My next choice would have been cous-cous, something tells me that would have worked as well. Checking wikipedia this morning to verify this information I learn that both fennel and orzo are common in mediterranean cooking. I thought of none of this when I was making my dish, I was guided simply by my palate and whatever home-cooking experience I do have. And I say home-cooking because so far I can attribute very little of my knowledge to working in a kitchen. I have not seen fennel in our club kitchen since I started working there, nor do we cook with orzo very often. Our club's cuisine is rather unsophisticated, serving a lot of sandwiches, pastas, burgers and pizza. Which is why I get irritated when someone attributes my good home cooking with having experience cooking professionally. I am sure a few years from now the knowledge that comes from having cooked at home daily for many, many years will combine with the knowledge received through culinary training and experience but it is not the case right now.

Being aware that a large majority of my meals have mediocre presentation I am currently shifting my focus from learning to cook to improving presentation and searching for my hidden but hopefully existent creative side. This can, at times, lead to rather unfortunate choices when it comes to presentation but I am determined to stick with it. Although I'm not a good photographer I try to take pictures of my creations and hope that they will be something to laugh at 10 years from now, much like I now laugh at the 19-year old me who thought she knew everything back then.

My mother says food is food and would never shell out hundreds for a dinner at a fine-dining resto. She goes out to eat maybe once a year if she's lucky (my parents have lived hand to mouth their entire lives, just their lot in life, I guess) and always orders the same thing: gratar cu cartofi prajiti (a thin cut of pork, seared, served with fries). I don't know how we can have such different tastes, seeing how I grew up with her cooking and thought it good back then, but we do. This is why I might give Auberge du Pommier my pay for a week for a memorable birthday and anniversary dinner. If that means putting my trip to Romania on hold till next year then so be it.


  1. I disagree - your experience on the line can influence you immensely. Did you ever see the karate kid? You're at the wax on, wax off stage, imo.

  2. Hahaha... That's a funny analogy. The unbiased observer always sees the truer picture I suppose. Thanks for offering a different perspective.