Editor’s note: Other than this week, Vic’s column will be regularly featured the last week of the month.
What a great opportunity it is to write a food column in Idyllwild. For the first time in forever, there are more choices of where to eat and drink than I can remember. New restaurants have opened, and more new ones are in the “on deck” circle.
The only drawback I see is that you have to be in the 1 percent group to pay your VISA bill after you have gone everywhere and tried everything.
Many thanks to Becky and Jack for giving me a shot at this writing task. Many years ago, Becky and Jack had dinner with Kate and me. I made pasta with a very heavy and complicated meat sauce.
Becky loved it and wanted the recipe immediately. I was reluctant to give out my trade secrets. Being the curious type that she is, she went on a personal quest to find out where I came up with the sauce. She did it! It was in an old book titled “Great Dinners From LIFE.”
Then I got to try Jack’s famous sauce. I have to admit it was great — very unusual as he cooks it forever. (Probably why they have enormous propane bills. I am hoping he will give it to me so that I can give it to you in this column. As far as the one I made, you will have to go on the hunt for it. The esteemed News Editor JP advised me I cannot include previously published recipes.
My goal is to help with cooking ideas that produce meals that are at once easy, affordable and tasting like you paid a lot of money for them.
Often, the best restaurant food is not difficult to make. It just has to be done with “finesse.” Practice helps, cleaning as you work helps and knowing a few shortcuts can open the doors to let your creative spirit fly.
So, for the moment, I am going to suggest a few items to have on hand that will make any cook a superstar.
Pick up some of a newer product called “Better Than Bouillon.” It comes in many flavors. including beef, mushroom, vegetable, chicken … You get the idea. It is like a paste you mix with hot water to make a broth. It just happens to be really good.
Also, pick up some corn starch, whole canned tomatoes (the best ones you can afford) and extra-virgin olive oil. These are all good things to start loading in your pantry. Buy or borrow a pizza pan.
The following is an easy and rich sauce to put on sliced beef or chicken. The meat is best served over egg noodles or rice. Place a generous amount of sauce on top. A green veggie on the side and you’re home free.
Simple and Rich Mushroom Sauce
3 tsps. (1 tbsp.) Better than Bouillon
24 oz. (3 cups) water
1 tbsp. min. olive oil 1-2 tsps. butter
to taste salt and peppe
10-12 med. sliced mushrooms
1 tbsp. corn starch with water (see below)
optional: Marsala or sherry wine to taste
1 tbsp. or so green onion
Dissolve Better than Bouillon in very hot water. Try to match the bouillon to the dish (ex: beef or mushroom for beef dish). Set aside.
Heat oil and butter in a medium sauce pan and sauté mushrooms on medium heat until they start to give off some liquid. They will. Keep stirring. Add a bit more oil if dry.
Slowly add the broth and bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes.
Add the corn starch to a few ounces of cold water in a glass and stir until lumps are gone. Note: cornstarch, like flour, can get all over the place, so work slowly and you will avoid a mess.
After the broth has been simmered, then add the cornstarch liquid and stir well. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. It will thicken.
Want it thicker? Add more corn-starch liquid. Thin with water if needed.
Taste it. It should be pretty good already. Add pepper to taste and more salt if desired. If you like the flavor of Marsala wine or sherry, add some while it is simmering. Be creative and toss in some finely diced green onions, if desired.
Plate the dish for your guests. Put the noodles or rice in a circle, then the sliced beef or chicken on top and follow with a healthy scoop of the sauce. There should be plenty for at least four to five people.
Thank them when they do the dishes. This simple formula will work for many types of dishes.
Vic Sirkin can be reached at [email protected]