Thursday, 12 June 2014 15:32

Cleaning the (ugh!) kitchen

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 It’s midnight when I begin to clean the kitchen.

A few dishes and a pot could idle in the sink until morning. But considering the tenuous fabric that holds together the dawning moments of any day, it’s better if I don’t send today’s dried pasta sauce into tomorrow’s head space.
Minutes later, with dishes sudsed and rinsed and dripping dry in the rack, I should turn out the lights and close my laptop. Today has been productive. Enough. Though stories and their characters never really sleep, and I can almost hear them nattering to me from atop my desk.
Instead, I open the fridge and find it crowded with little bits of nothing that are past fresh.
Creamed corn sticks to the inside of a plastic storage container as though the two substances have formed an epoxy. A tablespoon of cooked rice sours in a four-cup container. There are fuzzy blue cranberries that should have been muffined long before now, along with half a container of recently-fresh pineapple spears that are now fizzing in their own juices.
I close the door and then open it again with a sigh. It's garbage day tomorrow. The black bin is outside already. It’s snowing. I don't want to put on boots just to visit the curb.
Besides, I argue with myself, leaving all this until tomorrow won’t change much. It’s winter. Not like July, when the garage (where the garbage can resides during the week) is muggy, and chicken bones and salmon skin have to be stored in the freezer until pick up day.
Again, though, I think of tomorrow morning, of unnecessary distractions, of nattering stories. And I and get to work.
Out with the liquefied cucumber in the crisper drawer. Out with rubber carrots and dried rosemary sticks, the smear of miso and its colonies of fluffy fungus. Out with the braised fennel, and last week’s potatoes. And out with the lettuce that was supposed to be the start of a turned leaf.
The freezer is next, though I only get as far as a carton of vanilla ice cream near the front. I fold back the flaps, dip a spoon into the box and lean over the sink. (The pose of sneak-eaters everywhere.)
 It’s not great ice cream. It’s gummy and a little glassy, and has taken on the staleness of having been forgotten.
Midnight, though, doesn’t encourage sound judgment. And it’s past that.
But then - Plop! - the ice cream slips off the spoon and into the sink, and I watch as it slides towards the drain. I rinse, then push the carton into the creamed corn and fennel and tie the bag.
 With the contents of the fridge now thinned, I can better see what manner of viable things remain.
Farfalle pasta and braised short ribs just need a shallot and a splash of cream to marry them into revised leftovers.
And in a container, just a day old, remains a quarter cup of rice pudding.
It’s the best rice pudding. It’s creamy and al dente, and there’s just enough for one.
 I dip a fresh spoon into the container and, in the pose of sneak-eaters everywhere, lean over the sink.

Arborio Rice Pudding
(2-3 servings)
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup arborio rice
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup whipping cream

In a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan combine milk, rice, and salt. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula.
Reduce heat and simmer until the rice is tender (about 25 minutes), stirring frequently.
When the rice is tender (al dente), add the sugar and cinnamon. Cook another 5 to 10 minutes.
Combine cornstarch with whipping cream and add, stirring, into pudding. Cook until mixture thickens
Remove from heat and add vanilla extract and raisins.
Serve warm with vanilla bean ice cream.
To serve chilled, transfer pudding to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.



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