One world, one love, one recipe

Tuck’s one-page cookbook

Photo by star5112 (via Flickr)

I recently read a newspaper article about cooks who like cookbooks. Each cook had 1,000 to 3,000 of them.

I’ve never understood this sort of behavior. I am a fairly conventional American male, which means I own two pairs of shoes—one brown, the other black. I wear T-shirts every day in the summer, all stored in a ball, never folded, in the drawer. In the winter I rotate among three different sweatshirts. Some days I throw caution to the wind and wear the red one.

I approach cooking with the same wild daring and lust for experimentation. I’ve cooked for myself for the last 50 years, and in the beginning I would check out The Joy of Cooking now and then, but as time passed it seemed I was just making the same dish, with variations, over and over. I’m still making it. I’ll share it with you. Think of it as a shelf of cookbooks reduced to one essential page.

I call it Tuck’s Slurry. It requires no skill, and it’s relatively cheap, relatively fast, tasty, healthy, open to endless variation, and (most important) long-lasting—that is, it’s as good a week later as it is the day you make it. Single males cooking for themselves have to consider these things.

You need one item from each of the following four food groups:

A protein: Chicken, turkey, beef, tofu if you’re vegetarian. If you’re thinking lobster or calamari, I’m not sure you’re in my demographic.

A starch: Rice and potato are the normal choices, but I won’t throw a fit if you go quinoa or couscous.

Veggies: Absolutely anything goes here. Onion and garlic are my sine qua nons, but the entire produce section is available to you.

Spices: You can actually think about this, but I never do. Instead, I simply save half the “flavor packet” from every package of instant ramen I eat (tell me you eat ramen). A ramen flavor packet is twice as much flavor as the ramen needs, so use half with the ramen and save half for a later slurry. Don’t fuss over the “flavor” of the flavor packet—it just doesn’t matter. Be sure to use the flavor packet within 10 years of opening.

Instructions: Dice the protein into bite-size pieces. If you’re using potatoes, dice them into bite-size pieces and half-cook them in the microwave. If you’re using rice, cook the rice according to the instructions on the package. I like Trader Joe’s three-minute brown rice packets, because I never think about dinner far enough ahead of dinnertime to cook real rice. Chop up all veggies. Sauté (fry) the veggies in a large pan (we’re going to eat this for days, remember) in a little oil for a little while, so they can get a head start on the protein, unless you like your veggies al dente (chewy). Add the protein and cook the ensemble until done. Add the cooked starch of choice and the flavor packet. Cook a little more, to let the spices come to life. Eat for the next six days.

With all the options, you’ve got several hundred different slurries here, enough to keep you eating for a lifetime. Want more? You can vary the liquidity: I usually add no water, but you can add some and get stew, or add a lot and get soup. You can add other flavorings: pico de gallo salsa, soy sauce, Louisiana hot sauce. You can add a couple of eggs (probably not with rice). A little sour cream couldn’t hurt. A splash of wine at the beginning is a wonderful idea.

You’ll never have to open a cookbook again.