Day 48: Flavor Variations

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Every couple of months we get together with frienmily (family who are also friends) to celebrate Lazy Sunday club. We eat, drink and do nothing. Most of the time I nap in between bits of food here and there, sharing the triumphs and woes of our lives with people we love. We plan trips we never take, make jokes, share plans for the future and did I mention that we eat?

After a pressure cooker of a week at work, I took to the pressure cooker in my kitchen on Saturday, creating a few variations on some traditional favorites. With Lazy Sunday Club pending for today, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to do some cooking and blow off some steam.

After a good one hour heart rate workout in the morning, I proceeded to create havoc in Yvonne’s kitchen. My mind was clear, my stress level was regulated and my spiritual frequencies were unjammed. Through sheer will, I summoned the culinary powers of my Hernandez lineage and proceeded to plan my dishes.

Pressure cooker on the stove, heat expanding the metal and the pressure regulator in place, the pot started to make its (chunga, chunga) hissing noise reminding us all that it was performing its magic.

I made Red Beans with Ham Hocks, Salt Pork and Smoked Pork Chops, infusing my Cuban seasoning with a little southern influence. I cooked my beans low and slow, bringing out their flavors while allowing the fats to render their necessary evil, adding delicious flavor to the completed dish. Adding Spanish chorizo chunks and baby potatos to the pot, I made enough beans to feed a small country.

Next, I watched as Yvonne created her incredible ‘No Lady Finger Here Tiramisu’. Coffee-laced mascarpone cheese whipped together with sugar, coddled egg yolks and dark rum to create the most delicious cream mixture which she then layered in between chocolate espresso soaked Stella-D’oro Margherite cookies. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Finally, I took the five pound eye of round I had marinating in a concoction of bitter orange, garlic, onions and spanish olive oil from the fridge and proceeded to see if i could replicate the flavors from my childhood. First, I seared it on all sides, cementing those juices along its meaty walls and then I braised it in the same marinade (and a nice merlot) for about one hour in the same pressure cooker where earlier I had made the beans.

Later, I roasted some potatoes in the oven, dressing them with some salt, olive oil and the drippings from the meat. The potatoes roasted beautifully and we made a nice reduction sauce (la salsita) which we later poured over the meat and potatoes since we were packing the dish for Lazy Sunday and didn’t want the meat to dry up once it cooled and was refrigerated.

My kitchen was reminiscent of the flavors, smells and tastes from a childhood where the affection delivered through food was always prevalent. It also housed the memories of all the kitchens from where I had derived some influence in my cooking. It was as if I were cooking with a crowd, remembering tidbits from here, taking a recommendation from there. It was, in short, a busy Saturday, where I was prepping the delicious love I was bringing to Lazy Sunday. And in that love there was, by far, absolutely no flavor variation – it was present, pure, genuine and unequivocally plentiful.

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