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March 27, 2005

There wasn’t much in the fridge tonight

A few leftovers, almost nothing fresh, no bread, onions but no carrots . . .

Here’s what I made: There’s almost no point to giving a recipe, it was what was in the fridge, the freezer and the pantry. But there is a point to this recipe.

Baked Gnocchi

Two 13-16 oz. packages potato gnocchi

2 tsp olive oil
½ tsp chopped garlic (mine was from the emergency chopped garlic jar)
2 T coarsely chopped purple onion (what was left)
3 oz smoked pork chop, diced (what was left)
1 13 oz can mushrooms and liquid
2 Tbs. frozen peas.
½ chopped tomato (from the freezer. I throw fresh vegetables that threaten to go bad in there for occasions like this)
2 oz spaghetti sauce (what was left)
4 oz. chicken broth (stored in cubes in the freezer)
2 oz heavy cream (half of what was left)
¾ tsp black truffle paste (thank you, Cynthia)
2 oz pepper jack cheese, diced (half of what was left)
1 slice bread, crumbled into crumbs (from the freezer. See the tomato, above)
½ oz grated Romano cheese (what I could shave off from the recalcitrant nub left at the back of the fridge.)
Salt, pepper, tabasco

Boil gnocchi according to package directions. Set aside. In same pot, heat oil on medium heat. Sauté garlic and onion until translucent. Add cubed pork, continue to sauté. Add mushrooms – reserving liquid. Add peas and tomato, then add liquids (pasta sauce, broth, mushroom liquid, cream) Bring to a boil, add truffle paste, incorporate, add jack cheese. Correct seasoning.

Spray a 9x13x2 inch deep oblong pan (I use a ceramic casserole) with cooking spray. Turn mixture into it. Mix crumbs with Romano cheese, sprinkle over all. Quickly spray with cooking spray (to help the crumbs brown).

Bake at 350 degrees until browned.

You’ll probably never want to make this recipe; it isn’t even a recipe. It’s a basic technique for making a baked dish that can be altered to suit the ingredients at hand. Different starch, different liquids, different meats or vegetables, whatever.

The point of this recipe is that this is how I function most creatively. There are people who have an idea and then need to control it from conception through all parts of the process to fruition. I rarely have ideas like that; I’m at my most creative when responding to parameters. I can take 13 girls who are weak on pointe and one boy who cannot dance and make, somehow, a dance.

There is a lot to be said for a grand, compelling vision. Certainly our contemporary vision of the artist has moved away from the craftsman and towards the auteur. And craft without vision is, well, baked gnocchi made from leftovers. It's a fine dish for dinner tonight, and there are leftovers, but would I serve it to company? Also, the person who can make a dance with thirteen girls who are weak on pointe is the one who tends to get stuck with them. Still, there is a lot to be said as well for the ability to open up the fridge and make something from what’s inside.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at March 27, 2005 11:21 PM

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I bet I can stump you... What can you make from the ketchup, cheddar cheese, diet coke, apple sauce, tomato and cranberry juice in my refrigerator?

Posted by: Steve at March 28, 2005 5:07 PM

Steve's list reminds me of a cooking competition in my university where the list of ingredients was chosen at random (actually it was organized by a club whose purpose was doing random things: random trips in Lyon and its countryside (using dice to choose the directions at each crossing), random musical evenings when everybody would brings CDs and the songs were chosen randomly, etc.) From what I've heard, the results were not very yummy.

"I’m at my most creative when responding to parameters."

Hey, that's the whole purpose of oulipian constraints !

Posted by: Estelle at March 29, 2005 4:19 PM

If it helps at all, I bought some eggs, milk, orange juice, bananas, bread and spaghetti-o's today. Or we could always order in a pizza or go out for mexican food.

Posted by: Steve at March 29, 2005 9:14 PM

I've been thinking quite alot recently about the virtues of working with what you've got. If you could take a monster-sized snapshot of the current dance repertory, I think much of it would fall in that category, especially much of the newly made work. Whether the artist is responding to financial constraints or is looking to make a work to nurture the dancers in the studio today, that kind of workmanship is a valuable tool -- in several ways, as valuable as the inspired, destined for eternity works.

Posted by: sandi at March 31, 2005 2:49 PM

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