So today is Monday, which means that according to the schedule it’s my turn to be cookie for the day. And by that I mean the chef guy, not the crew-member named Cookies, she’s always cookies, but squared on her day to cook. I genuinely am not much of a chef, yet, but would love to learn how to make all sorts of things and be one of those bachelors who can whip up a fine meal that didn’t even sort of include ramen, so learning how to do magical things with dehydrated foods is something I work at every day, and even more so on the day I’m supposed to feed everyone.
Full disclosure, our Commander (Carmel, e.g. Captain Snowballs) is a wizard of baking and other culinary arts, so I both get a lot of help, and try to learn a lot from her. All the stuff I made today is more me learning and her telling me what to do, but it was still my hands that made it and eventually I’ll be able to do it solo! Han Solo! I went there.
The first grand accomplishment of the day was an attempt at making “Italian Spicy Bread” out of Bob, our local starter that we base all our bread off of. He’s a yeast based devil who tried to take over the telemetry room at the start of the mission, and must be handled with care. Give him some warmth and flour, and you’ll be battling a voracious blob of dough that wants to eat you as much as you him. While the name of the bread sounds fancy, it’s really taking a nice giant loaf of Bob and mixing in Parmesan cheese, garlic, basil, and a few other things before letting it rise over our batteries (which are warm) for a few hours. You basically end up with amazing garlic bread that comes pre-garlicked.
This actually turned out to be a huge success. Lately all our bread has been that kind of super dense, heavy old world bread where you feel like you’re eating lead. Good lead, don’t get me wrong, but one slice of this stuff could sink the Titanic. We painted an egg glaze onto it, then got distracted with making the next loaf (zucchini bread!) and promptly forgot it existed. This made us leave it in longer than we had intended. Disaster? Surprisingly no! It rose all fantastically and cooked just right to be light and fluffy and actually the closest thing we’ve had to real bread since getting here. It was freakin awesome! Bigger than my head too, still have half a loaf after being picked at by snacking vultures all day!
And here we come to the distractor bread. We had a bunch of dehydrated zucchini that wasn’t being used, and an already messy kitchen…why not right? The recipe called for like two cups of sugar, but I was assured that zucchini is sweet enough already, and I feel SO guilty pouring that much sugar into anything so we just did barely a half cup in this whole giant loaf. Somehow, that too came out just delicious as anything. I can be picky, unfortunately so at times, but this stuff was fantastic! Sweet and crispy on top and even though it almost made us burn the spicy Italian bread, everything turned out perfectly, shazam!
Of course, you can’t have a lunch that’s just bread. We’re not chilling with Jean Valjean in a French prison after all, you need something to go with it! Here we miraculously succeeded again with…I’m going to call it summer sausage stew, but really we had a lot of stuff in there. Extra zucchini, sliced sausages, corn and peas, a broth of our own devising that took a smaller powdered soup packet meant for four and gave it super powers. I feel like letting anything simmer for three hours is going to turn out well, but even with that this stuff was great! The Italian bread soaked it up, the sausages were amazing, and despite being full of veggie (that classic bit of soup that so many leave in their bowls) every plate was shockingly clean. Oh and there was rice in there too! A hearty country stew, and somehow it was partially made by me!
Now that lunch was soundly defeated, I got to work on dinner. Being cookie for a day takes hours, make no mistake. My prior times cooking I’d made my shepard’s pie, which was a huge hit, and this English potato stew full of corn and chicken….call it a rich chowder. That was awesome too, but that’s basically my repertoire. With the help of Captain Snowballs though, we managed to start assembling what would become a very respectable chicken pad thai. Oh we smashed peanuts, got lime garlic sauces mixed, created a rub for the rehydrated chicken bits, totally legit. And while it didn’t sauté up just like an authentic pad thai (I miss you Chiang Mai!) it was actually really good as well!
We made mixed vegetables to go with it and had a nice, vintage fall of 2015 glass of water to round out the meal, and everyone cleaned their plates again. that whole wok only had barely enough for my breakfast tomorrow in it! Super good job me! I’m going to have to get Carmel to write some of this down on my arm so I don’t forget anything.
Now, we had only one last grand move to make with the magic of this cooking day that seemed to know no limits. It was time to try our hand at dessert. As Carmel had made coffee ice cream for my birthday (that I unbelievably didn’t notice somehow, who misses a blender going off three times while people shout ice cream?) I was intent on learning how to do this. It was really good, and being able to make your own ice cream is just…such a cool little skill. For the record, it’s totally not any healthier than store-bought, but you get the chance to mix lots of love into it, which corporations are incapable of doing. They’re not people. Oh I said it!
What did we go with? Earl Grey Tea ice cream, from gently sautéing milk and eggs with several tea bags for over half an hour, some sugar, and once everything had cooled a bit, a whole heap of cream. Even just sipping a bit of the sauce…oh man, it’s crazy good! It’s what Captain Picard would have with his classic “Earl Grey, hot” to finish off a long shift on a Friday night. Currently, it’s in the freezer, having been blended once and with two more times to go. Gotta make it all nice and creamy before we eat it! I know it doesn’t look like much now…but when this stuff is done sometime tomorrow afternoon it’s going to be epic.
And now I know how to make my own ice cream! That’s just….legendary! I’m so doing this when I get back home. Hopefully by the end of this, and helping other people on their cooking days to quicken the process, I’ll actually be a respectable little space chef. We’re out here for a long time after all, and you can’t get by on “chicken bar, flavor 7” without going insane after awhile. Any expedition that goes out for a long time, or perhaps permanently, and be so far from home as real Mars would be, should be well stocked with good foods, a sassy but skilled chef, and the means to grow more of their own delicious delectables. Or I’m just not going!
Wish you all could have had some, it really turned out quite well, I’m ever so mildly proud of myself! I should start a club, the Society of the Crossed Spatulas or something, ah that’d be cool.
Till next time! -burp-