June 17, 2006
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Slow Speed

How My Cooking Has Changed : part 6

Sometimes in the kitchen, the right kind of speed is slow.

I've begun to set aside longer blocks of time devoted to cooking. With my schedule, this blocks have to be scheduled weeks, maybe months in advance. But I've had good luck with Sunday mornings at the market and afternoons in the kitchen.

Last week, I indulged in a brand new terrine mold, and today I've been working through what Charcuterie calls the easiest terrine in the book. It's a shrimp, spinach, and salmon mousseline. I'm going to garnish it with mushrooms and roasted peppers. The spinach alone took 2 1/2 innings of the baseball game to chiffonade.

I chickened out of the veal terrine, which left me with two pounds of stewing veal. So I've got a pot of Patricia Wells' veal stew going as a background task. That includes two pounds of carrots, sliced into thin rounds. Oh, my aching wrist.

I used to be a chemist, and this sort of systematic kitchen work takes me back to the lab. I often found lab work dull, when you come right down to it. There was always too much glasware to watch and too many beakers that weren't yet boiling. Yet sometimes I miss those cyclooctatetraenes.

Spending time with a long preparation that offers a good return on the investment -- stock, say, or even demi-glace -- is a pleasant break from wrestling with the code and balancing the books.