RE: Lunch at La Casa Rohita...

Sally Khudairi (
Tue, 9 Mar 1999 17:58:10 -0500

Be proud, Grasshopper. You are an eager student when faced with delectible

Re: Step 0 -- from Larousse to Le Cordon Bleu to CIA, mise en place is the
mantra. i.e., make sure everything is in place and ready to go before you

Step 5 -- learn to love your roots. Stop buying that packaged stuff and keep
1lb. yukon golds or red bliss in the crisper.

Step 6 -- Consorzio roasted garlic oil is highly recommended

Step 8 -- bird won't squish around when knife is sharp [hint, hint!]

Step 10 -- thyme or marjoram would be a more delicate choice than oregano.
Think subtle.

Step 11 -- sense of saltiness depends on source. Try using flaked sea
salt...pure taste without that chemical tang from Diamond or Morton's.

Also curious, what did you serve to drink here?

- S

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Rohit Khare []
> Sent: Sunday, March 07, 1999 11:00 PM
> To:
> Cc:;;;
> Subject: Lunch at La Casa Rohita...
> Today was a fine sunny day, so I decided to invite a UCI buddy over
> for lunch. Cooking, unlike eating, is an *extremely* rare event for
> me, but when I want to, I want to do it well and with style.
> Earlier in the week, I had shopped vaguely on the hope of cooking for
> myself, but mostly by following the discount coupons. I decided I was
> going to prepare a meal purely from what was already in the house.
> For example, that means no oil or butter, no cakes, no shortcuts from
> the deli. Here's how I set the table... bachelor-style cooking:low
> muss, high fuss, relatively low-fat, and less than one hour and $20,
> total.
> Garden Salad
> Tandoori Chicken Breast Scallopini
> Garlic-Cheese-Garam Masala Mashed Potatoes
> Salt-roasted Asparagus
> Chocolate-Strawberry-Carmel-Praline Parfait
> Sandeman's Founder's Reserve Port
> --------------------------------------
> Step 0: Clean your house. For me, this is the most stressful part of
> inviting someone over. This took almost twice as long as the meal
> itself. Move one of your favorite orchids from the windowsill to the
> cheap IKEA end table you'll be serving on for a semblance of elegance.
> From there, you have to work backwards and forwards to pace the
> kitchen work properly. Prep first!
> Step 1: For dessert, I found a leftover chocolate bar in my souvenirs
> from San Francisco. No, not something gross: one ounce of
> Scharffenberger 70% cocoa bars (about $1 worth), the purest stuff
> made in America. About 4x stronger than Hershey's. **Put that in a
> glass bowl and microwave it for 90 seconds, pausing to stir the
> chocolate around, careful not to let it boil over and burn around the
> edges. [Strictly speaking, you don't have to do this first, but the
> smell of warm chocolate puts me in the mood..]
> Step 2: Put two cups of water to boil in a pot. I don't know what
> I'll need it for yet, but boiling water always seems to come in
> handy. Put three slices of sesame bread ($1.29) in the toaster oven
> at 350 degrees. They'll take a while to really dry out.
> Step 3: There were a dozen remaining strawberries in the fridge from
> a 2-lb snack pack ($3). **Cut off the tops and slice in halves. Put
> that bowl aside too.
> Step 4: Plate up some salad. Albertson's has their garden mix on sale
> for 99 cents a pound; a fourth is fine per plate. Arrange some baby
> carrots (also 99 cents a pound), then a few fingerfuls of whatever
> shredded cheese you have handy (in my case, four-cheese pizza mix).
> Store the plates in the fridge.
> Step 5: Side dish the first. Betty Crocker four-cheese mashed
> potatoes ($2). Add one cup milk and a fingerful of margarine. Don't
> let it boil over -- watch it closely once the milk's in there.
> Step 6: Side dish the second. Chop the lower 2 inches off of a bunch
> of asparagus (~$3). Preheat the big oven to 450 and lay out a sheet
> of aluminium foil on a baking sheet, spray with Mazola spray (or
> Pam). Spread the spears out in a layer two thick like a fence,
> drizzle with salt (about a tablespoon -- just use your fingers).
> Spray with corn oil again, then *cover with another sheet of foil*
> for now. Ideally, if you have the caloric budget, brush the asparagus
> with a flavorful olive or infused oil instead.
> Step 7: Add one packet of mashed potato flakes and "seasoning"
> packet. As usual, the liquid ratio isn't quite right, so add more of
> the second packet until it seems OK. Whip in garlic salt and garam
> masala (alt: parika and fresh ground pepper) with your fork. How
> much? guess... (note: I left the pot on the burner above the oven
> vent, so the steam from the asparagus kept it warm -- and cooked it
> down further to the proper thickness (listen carefully: your potatoes
> might whistle like a teakettle through little bubble holes!)
> Step 8: Take two trimmed, boneless, skinless chicken breasts ($1.86).
> One at a time, lay it down on a sheet of Saran Wrap. Butterfly it
> open -- this can be hard as it squishes around. Starting from up to
> half-an-inch thick, sandwich it with another piece of Saran Wrap.
> Take a flat-bottom glass tumbler and start beating it out from the
> center. Don't be afraid of bruising the meat, just of tearing it. It
> could take a few minutes to get it to a desired quarter-inch to 3/8
> inch.
> Step 8.5: Between pounding your meat, toss a few handfuls of water on
> the roasting asparagus, but leave the cover on. But don't you dare
> use your chicken-covered hands, though... Taste one, and it should
> still be stiff and grassy and fibrous on the inside.
> Step 9: stir some fat-free cholesterol-free egg beaters ($2) and some
> milk and tandoori masala into a deep, flat pan or baking dish. How
> much? guess, again. Measurements are for wimps! :-)
> Step 10: time to abuse another piece of glassware. Take your three
> pieces of "toast" and crush them into a bowl. It should be *very*
> stiff, but not burnt. Use a shot glass as a pestle and crush it down
> to a fine powder, with only a few crouton-size chunks remaining. (if
> you have oregano, this is a good time to add it in)
> Step 10.5: take the cover off the asparagus and really let it roast.
> [Your guest should be arriving just about... *now*]
> Step 11: after some small talk and offering drinks, pull the
> asparagus from the oven, taking care not to let the juices spill into
> the oven. Grab the whole foil sheet and pour the excess into a handy
> pan or bowl. Taste again: it may be too salty, which may be worth
> washing off. Roasted asparagus *can* be served chilled, too, so you
> could make this in advance.
> Step 12: time to make the donuts! For maximum ego-gratification, you
> have your guest here to watch your culinary genius at the climactic
> moment! Take the aluminum foil you used as a cover and place it back
> in the oven, spray it with oil, spread the think chicken breasts on
> it, and dredge the breadcrumbs over it. Turn, spread the remaining
> breadcrumbs and, what the heck, pour any excess egg onto the cutlet
> to coat it.
> Step 13: Serve salad, whisked out of the fridge, perfectly coiffed.
> The salad dressing I had around was Kraft fat-free Thousand Island
> ($3)
> Step 14: From the start, you should leave two little nuggets of
> chicken aside to coat and bake alongside the main cutlets as taste
> testers. It's a very thin cut by now, so the small and large pieces
> cook equally quickly. Taste one to be sure, but the whole shebang
> should be done in less than ten minutes. Turn the breasts and bake
> for one more minute to crisp it, draping it with a few more
> fingerfuls of shredded cheese.
> Step 15: plate up the meal. I did three vertical stripes:
> orange-yellow mashed potatoes, vivid green asparagus stalks in the
> middle, golden-yellow scallopini to the side.
> Step 16: zap the now-cooled chocolate another 15 seconds. Take two
> glass tumblers and spoon out a little pyramid of Healthy Choice
> low-fat caramel-praline ice cream ($3.50) or other flavor. Then fill
> to the rim with strawberry halves, and drizzle with melted chocolate.
> If you refrigerated the strawberries in the meantime, it should form
> a Magic Shell (TM) on the spot for added entertainment value. Serve
> with a small amount of port wine -- the sweetness complements the
> berries and cream.
> Step 17: Bask in the glory. Nobody thought you could cook, after all :-)
> Analysis: look, even I managed to do this without a recipe book. This
> is purely a post-mortem; I didn't even sketch out the menu. The
> really hard part is scheduling your kitchen activities, which I
> usually blow by working serially. That's why I took the time to lay
> out the steps that can proceed in parallel or separately. And as for
> spices, trust yourself...