Pantry Note:
Not Eternal
4 April 2019

¶ For dinner this evening, we had steak and potatoes. We might as well have dined on cardboard.

The steak had been in the freezer for a while. Possibly since November or December. It was a rib steak from Fairway, the one cut that I expect to age well. A few hours of marination in olive oil, salt and cayenne, however,  did nothing for this one. Although the interior of the steak was still a nice pink, the meat tasted well-done, overcooked. Which is to say that it had lost all flavor.

As for the potatoes, they weren’t the russets that I’d had in mind. Those had sprouted, in the depths of a vegetable crisper. They hadn’t been around nearly as long as the steak in the freezer, I thought. But the sprouts were robust, more than a quarter-inch long. Time was when I’d have plucked them off and baked the potatoes anyway. I’ve since read that this is not a healthy thing to do, and, without further investigation, changed my ways. 

I had some small, “heirloom” potatoes that I’d bought at Schaller & Weber. Ordinarily, I would steam them, and then toss them in butter and parsley. But I decided to roast a few of them, tossing them in oil and butter and seasonings (but not parsley) before rather than after cooking. The result was a loss of flavor that matched that of the steak. Blindfolded, I could not have told you what they were; I might have settled on pasta so overcooked that it was disintegrating. I sprinkled them with salt. This made them taste like salt.

Kathleen insisted that it wasn’t as bad as all that. But I moved several squares closer to a decision against freezing meat other than chicken and seafood other than shrimp. Oh, and Agata & Valentina’s fennel sausages, which I wrap individually before cryolation. The ban will (eventually) encompass ground meat for burgers: if it’s not going to be used within its safe span of refrigerator time, don’t buy it. 

A few nights ago, I learned that even anchovy filets, sold “fresh” in oil by A & V for millions of simoleons per pound, are not eternal. Neither are the capers that the store sells from an adjacent tub. I found this out the other night with a puttanesca sauce that was anything but racy. 

Perhaps by the end of the year, I’ll be capable of shopping on Monday for a week’s worth of dinners, using up everything that I’ve bought before Monday comes round again. The difference between mere cooking and actually keeping house!

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