Curiouser and curiouser

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Maybe, Gentle Reader, you’ve noticed that this weekly epistle is titled, “The Curious Cook.”

When we were getting ready to introduce these essays to the readership of the Chatham News +Record, the need to name it was discussed. My first choice, “Does this taste funny to you?” was nixed because of its unwieldiness and the connotation of the reference to spoiled grub.

Other names were bandied about.

Some of the early ones included “chef.” That was an automatic “no” from me. I am not a chef. Chefs train under other chefs, either on the job or in culinary school. I hadn’t put in the blood, sweat, tears and burned flesh to earn the right to call myself “chef.” I explained I was not a chef, but a curious home cook who is constantly learning.

That did it. “Curious Cook” it became.

It’s grown on me. I like it because I am curious about cooking, techniques, ingredients and doggedly persistent about asking questions to every cook, chef, or food producer I meet.

I am also curious in another definition of the word. According to, it also can mean “arousing or exciting speculation, interest, or attention through being inexplicable or highly unusual; odd; strange; a curious sort of person; a curious scene.”

And you know what, Gentle Reader? I am totally and completely OK with that. Who wants to be like everybody else?

In the spirit of curiosity and the search for new tastes and experiences, I’d like to share some recent discoveries I’ve made in the realm of food and drink.

When you’re having a horrible day, or you feel the need to reward yourself, or you want to make someone else’s day, but you don’t want to risk exposure, go drive-through.

In my hometown, there is a Krispy Kreme that’s open 24 hours a day. So, if you’re up at 2 a.m., need to get out of the house, and don’t want to run into a bunch of folks, go Krispy. Last time I was there, I got two doughnuts —one original and their new creation, a ring doughnut filled with their sweet fluffy cream.

As soon as I got them, I pulled into a parking space. The original was still warm. That first bite was so good I almost wept. The cream-filled was full of cream. I decided it was my reward for still retaining some shred of kindness even though we were about six months into this perfidious year of 2020.

My other drive-through delights are at Chick-fil-A. One is both healthy and delicious, and the other is just plain delightful.

They now serve a really tasty kale salad. It’s pre-dressed and a great side for a sandwich. But The Kid and I have found that two large salads topped with eight or ten of their grilled nuggets make a very virtuous dinner.

Then you can have dessert.

Frosted diet lemonade! It’s a mixture of vanilla soft serve and sugar-free lemonade. A large is only about 300 calories and it tastes like frozen lemon meringue pie in a glass. Everybody that I’ve forced to taste it, loves it. But they only get a sip or two, and then they have to get their own.

My wimpy palate is no secret. Sometimes black pepper hurts me. Poblanos are the hottest chile I can handle.

But horseradish is my jam. The heat works differently and I can not only handle it, I enjoy it. In my fridge at all times is a squeezy container of Inglehoffer’s. I add it to mayo for roast beef sandwiches, sour cream for hash, beef stock for gravy and potato salad.

The other night I split some fingerlings and roasted them until they were cooked through and caramelized. I was going to make either a lemon mayo or a horseradish cream as a dip. When I was trying to decide which, I wondered what a lemon horseradish dip would be like.

It’s like heaven, you guys. I whisked together 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup sour cream, the juice of one lemon, and a tablespoon of horseradish. Freshly cracked black pepper and plenty of salt because both lemon and horseradish need a ton.

This combo was bright with a bite. It was delicious on the fingerlings, but would be great on sandwiches, in mashed potatoes, or on pasta. Promise.

Another taste combo that should be a thing is pumpkin and peanut butter. I make dog biscuits with the two ingredients and when baking it makes the house smell like autumn heaven. It smelled so good I knew it had to taste amazing. It does. Try a pumpkin bread with a peanut swirl, or even peanut butter and apple jelly on another new delish discovery, pumpkin spice English muffins.

It might be basic, but there’s a reason Starbucks sells millions of dollars worth of pumpkin spice lattes.

My final discovery I read about online. It was so cool and so simple I figured it had to be bogus. But I tried it the other day and it was a rousing success.

Once you use a handful of green onions, don’t throw the roots out. Put them in a glass of water and stick them in a sunny window. Overnight, shoots will begin growing out of the cut ends and continue growing. In two or three days, you have a whole new crop of freshly grown scallions.

I’m not sure how many times they’ll regenerate. Mine are on their third cycle and still look happy and healthy.

Now if you have any of your own discoveries, Gentle Reader, drop me a line. I’ll check them out and share them in a future column.

Now get out there and be curious, you Marco Polos of the supper table.

Thank you for your time.


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