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.