Sitting at the other end of the pandemic cooking spectrum
May 20, 2020
When people look back at the COVID-19 pandemic in the future, one of the takeaways will likely be that the incident resulted in people using the time at home to brush up on their cooking skills.
The fact that a lot of people started experimenting with recipes and techniques they were interested in, yet didn’t think they had the time for, is undisputed at this point. People sharing the sourdough starters they concocted over social media has become almost a joke in itself because of how common that particular activity grew to be. Others have dug out old family recipes and savored flavors not experienced for years, or even decades.
While much of the United States has been impacted by shelter-in-place orders and the like, it’s also important to note that with few exceptions, Wyoming hasn’t seen the severe response to COVID-19 other states have initiated. Yes, government buildings and most businesses were forced to temporarily close or alter their operations to limit the spread of COVID-19, but most of the state’s residents haven’t been forced to stay at home either. Speaking personally, with a few exceptions, it’s been business as usual here. The newspaper still has to go out after all.
While the lure of honing my cooking skills remains, I find I have little time to devote to doing anything overly complicated. Despite that, I’ve come across a few new recipes that have been great additions to my foods repertoire and best of all, involve a minuscule amount of effort.
I learned of both these through Thetakeout.com, a foods blog I enjoy reading from time to time. Calling them recipes seems to be a bit much, especially since one of them only involves a single ingredient, but they’ve both become quick favorites I’ll probably continue to enjoy into the future.
The first item is known as a frappe and is a simple combination of instant coffee, milk water and sugar. This concoction is very similar to the viral and relatively-recent creation known as dalgona coffee, a whipped-coffee drink from South Korea named because it allegedly tastes very similar to a type of candy popular in the country. I’ve never had either the candy or this style of coffee, mostly because it seems like an awful lot of work to make without a hand mixer and the amount of sugar needed tells me it would be much too sweet for my tastes as the recipes I’ve seen call for equal amounts of the all ingredients to be combined.
The frappe, on the other hand, intrigued me when I first read about it.
According to Elena Bruess’ article on the website, the drink is of Greek origin. It was created by a Nestlé representative named Dimitris Vakondios in 1957. In the decades since its creation, it’s become a national coffee drink and commonly enjoyed in the afternoon. It isn’t hard to see why either. A few ounces of a chilled coffee liquid sits beneath a delightful coffee flavored foam that can be eaten with a spoon. Sugar isn’t major concern either, as it can be enjoyed with a varying amount depending on taste.
I made mine following the instant coffee’s directions for a 4 ounce cup of coffee, following the measurements for water and instant coffee needed. I added a half teaspoon of sugar. Using an old travel mug with sealing lid, I added the ingredients, a couple of ice cubes and sealed it. I then shook the container for about a minute. Following that and a horrible James Bond impression, I opened the mug and found it filled with a light foam that instantly put a smile on my face the moment I sampled it. The liquid coffee at the bottom didn’t disappoint either. All in all, it was a great experiment I’ve enjoyed recreating.
The second treat I’ve tried is dulce de leche, which sounds complicated simply by name alone, but the method I learned is practically fool proof.
Using one can of sweetened condensed milk, remove the label and drop it into a large pot of water, completely submerging it. Turn the heat up on the pot to simmer the water and cook it for the next three or four hours. That’s it. The only thing to worry about is making sure the water doesn’t boil down past the can and add more as it evaporates. Once you remove the can, wait for it to cool and open it. The inside will be filled with the syrupy treat.
In Nadia Berenstein’s blog post, she credits her Argentine grandmother with this method of cooking dulce de leche and delves into its history and why this cooking method works in the first place. Amongst the potential uses she mentions, I decided to try it with apple wedges -- which is as tasty as it sounds.
I don’t see myself creating a sourdough starter from scratch or devoting an afternoon to making a lasagna, but I’m happy to have learned these simple recipes. Especially with Greek frappes, they’re treats I’ll likely enjoy in the future.