Tuesday, December 9, 2008

when one is up to one's neck in exams, there is nothing left to do but cook*

I cook when I'm stressed. Finals period makes me stressed. Studying for exams makes me very stressed. So, flying completely in the face of law school norms, I probably cook more, not less, during finals period.

Granted, I don't usually cook complicated food during finals. It's not the time to be fussing with multi-step, multi-day recipes, or test-driving anything that requires exquisite attention to detail. I don't go on quests for obscure ingredients, and I don't try to prepare anything I've never prepared before. Culinary brilliance can wait until I'm no longer having nightmares about the Chevron doctrine.

Finals period calls for comfort food, and I cook solely to please myself. Fried eggs with oozy yolks, served with crusty bread. Warm salmon-and-potato salad, drizzled with butter and vinegar and sprinkled with capers. Big bowls of polenta, flecked with sliced scallions and thick with cheese. I eat whatever I feel in the mood for, nutrition and balanced diet be damned.

The recipe for the following dish (or basic premise, at least) came from Joey, an old friend who prepared it when Matt and I took a road trip to visit him in Rhode Island, back during our college days. It's not particularly new or exciting, but it's excellent winter comfort food - rich and warm and filling, warding against the promise of snow. It's well worth making, even if you do (or don't) have final exams.

(No photos. It's not photogenic, anyway - do you really want to see pictures of lumps that look vaguely like sausage in pinkish sauce?)

Sausage Sage Tomato-Cream Sauce

Joey served this over fresh pasta, but I find that it also goes nicely with polenta.

(Serves one, with leftovers.)

Set a large heavy-bottomed pan over low heat. Remove the casings from two sweet Italian sausages and break them into small pieces. Drop them in the pan. Cook until the sausage has browned and releases its fat. Don't worry if any bits get stuck - you'll deal with that later.

Bring the heat up to medium, and add one diced white onion, a dash of red chili flakes, and several leaves of fresh sage. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent.

Pour in one cup of cheap white wine, and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits of sausage that may have stuck to the pan. Let the wine reduce until you can no longer smell alcohol fumes.

Add a sixteen-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped. Cook at a low simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and the mixture in the pan thickens up.

Pour in one cup of heavy cream, and stir well to incorporate. Cook for another five minutes or so, and add salt to taste. Turn off the heat. Ladle over big bowls polenta or pasta. Serve immediately.

*With apologies to Samuel Beckett.


Virgin In The Volcano said...

Your finals comfort food sounds way better than mine. I'm on a prolonged diet of cheese-its, soda, cottage cheese, and pickles.

adele said...

Well... at least you're getting your daily sodium intake?

Yulinka said...

I find myself cooking when I'm pressed for time. It's my way of procrastinating.

Googie Baba said...

I am living off of diet coke and popcorn. Good luck on the rest of your finals.

Cakelaw said...

Hope your exams are going well. I used to get a mad urge to clean at exam time (despite feeling no such thing at any other time). Oozy egg yolks for brekky - now that sounds super!

adele said...

Yulinka - It's productive procrastination!

Googie Baba - I'm starting to think there might actually be a business plan in preparing ready-to-heat meals for law and med students during finals...

Cakelaw - Oh, that was me during college. The night before I had a big paper due, I'd vaccuum, rearrange my bookshelf, do my laundry... and maybe get that paper started at 2am.

Philosofya said...

Ah you're the cook!!!!
Also, I love your recipes. A lot. I stalk your blog a little. Maybe it's time to subscribe?

adele said...

Philosofya - Hello! I'm glad you like the recipes. And like all bloggers, I definitely wouldn't say no to regular readers... :)

~~louise~~ said...

Hi Adele,

You know what they say about stress don't you? Stressed spelled backwards equals desserts!

Your comfort foods are a lot healthier than mine. Although, I know a pasta just waiting for that Sausage Sage Tomato-Cream Sauce. Mmmm...I don't need a picture! It's all in my head!

Thanks for sharing and GOOD luck!

adele said...

Stressed spelled backwards... huh. So it does. In that case, maybe I should eat more chocolate. :)

Julie said...

(I'm reading your recent posts in reverse order. I just answered my question in the last comment as to whether or not you were stressed by finals.)

This sounds really, really delicious. Just the sort of dinner for a cold night.

Family Nutritionist said...

I'm suddenly hankering for salmon with eggs, sunnyside. Tomato-cream sauce with sausage sounds like a nice simple main course, too.

I used to escape exam week with Science Fiction. Battlefield Earth in one sitting. Probably should have been reading Beckett instead. Food was plain yogurt, fruit, and tomatoe soup with spaghetti. I wasn't much of a cook then.

Thanks for the statcounter tip. My first few "came froms" are in and it's cool.