On Friday, the butcher will deliver the Easter ham. The whole ham will have been first cut in half. I never can remember whether the sirloin or the shank is what gets reheated on Easter, but the other half arrives in slices, as ham steaks, nicely wrapped for the freezer. The larger steaks will feed four, if not over-generously. The little one at the end serves two. If it weren't for the steaks, I wouldn't buy the ham. But ever since I discovered the ham steak recipe in Julia Childs's The Way to Cook, it has been a favorite dish, and the ham steaks that are available in super markets just won't do. Why, some of them don't even have bones!
The incoming stack of steaks is a good reason to clean out the freezer, but it's not the only one. I would really like to have room for the ice-cube bin. I'd like to have room for a bottle of white wine that needs a quick chill. Most of all, I'd like to open the freezer door and be able to see everything in it at a glance. I am tired of conducting awkward and frigid excavations.
I am not a shut-in; nor do I need to drive to the supermarket. I only have to go downstairs and around the corner: it's in the same building actually. Two high-end shops, both of which sell excellent meat, fish, produce and cheese, lie within ten blocks of the apartment, with a third just beyond. There is no reason for me to think of "stocking up." I do not really have the house room for "stocking up." And because whim plays a large role in my menus, buying anything that I'm not sure to use right away is something of a gamble.
Ideally, the freezer would contain: ice, and plenty of it. A few packages of Eli's frozen croissants. A jar of instant espresso - essential for a lot of chocolate desserts. Neatly wrapped blocks of pancetta and Canadian bacon. Butter. Perhaps an extra pound of coffee beans. And the ham steaks. These things last indefinitely if they're properly sealed, and they come in handy when I need them. Oh, and a packet of my ragł (along with a package of sausages for the next batch). Something else that's very handy to have on hand is a block of mirepoix.
Here's what I'd like to get rid of: frozen vegetables. They might come in handy, too - for someone else. Aside from sweet peas, I never use frozen vegetables. And then there are the frozen berries that I bought for the Fourth of July but didn't need, because I bought too many. Why can't I throw them away? Why can't I thaw them and eat them? Why can't I be Holy Roman Emperor?
Then there are the leftovers. I don't keep leftovers as a rule. (Things that, like soup and ragł, get tastier with time are for that very reason not leftovers.) But every now and then, when I'm scraping plates or clearing platters, I weaken, and wrap up a piece of something, usually meat. Sometimes I save really tasty sauces and gravies, in the mistaken hope that they will be tasty in the future. Their moment will never come, however. They will become dried-out, crystal-speckled masses of absolutely indeterminable matter, and they will accumulate alongside a number of other mysterious small packages until I can no longer stand the litter, whereupon I shall throw everything out. It is a sign of modern perversity that few things give me as much raw, unrefined satisfaction as throwing away a lot of formerly edible food. It's much simpler than the dubious and complicated satisfaction of storing leftovers in the future, at least given what I know. (April 2007)
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