FLS reporter Katie Thisdell serves up news on local food finds, tales from home cooks and inspiration to help you have fun in your own kitchen.
Home Cooking with Emily Battle
Yep, my turn. Keep those questionnaires coming! Home Cooking is a regular feature on The Front Burner that offers a peek at how home cooks around the Fredericksburg area work in their kitchens. If you’d like to answer our questionnaire, download it here and return your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org with a digital photo of yourself, or pass it along to anyone you think would like to participate.
Name: Emily Battle
Tell us who you are and why you cook.
I am a mom, wife and reporter at The Free Lance-Star. Not many things make me happier than sitting down with my husband (and our daughter, when she graduates from baby food) to eat a balanced meal that tastes good. I also like the creative outlet that cooking provides. I like to challenge myself with a new recipe when I have time, but I’m also interested in developing a steady repertoire of recipes I’ve made my own so that we can eat eat well on a regular basis during the crazy workweek.
Describe your cooking style in three words.
Comforting. Nourishing. Imperfect.
I have two big shelves of cookbooks that I’ve been trying to weed out, but every single one of them has a recipe I love and use with some regularity in it. The book I pull out most often, though (usually at least once a week) is The Joy of Cooking. I often use it just to look up a basic recipe or technique that I can then incorporate into something I’m trying to construct with the ingredients I need to use in my fridge (which may or may not turn out well).
I have also become a big fan of the Epicurious app on my iPhone.
What is one dish on your menu this week that you’re excited about?
I love making pizza at home because I know my husband loves it, it’s easy and I can easily incorporate vegetables or whatever random ingredient I have too much of and need to use. It always leaves leftovers for lunch the next day, too.
What is one thing that must be in your pantry at all times?
I keep a close eye on my flour supplies because I do a fair amount of baking, between pizza, breakfast breads and desserts (I also like to be able to make pancakes when I wake up on a weekend craving them.). I always keep both white and whole-wheat flour, and usually have a few others, like buckwheat, barley, etc., to play around with.
What one kitchen gadget could you not live without?
Instant-read thermometer. I got one while I was pregnant and obsessed with avoiding eating undercooked meat. Now that I am back to eating medium-rare steaks, I have found it takes a lot of the guesswork out of getting them right.
It’s 6 p.m., the people in your household are hungry and you just walked in from work and need to get something satisfying on the table as soon as possible. What’s your favorite thing to whip up in this situation?
Lately, I like to make a salad from the various vegetables I have hanging around, lay it on top of a pita with some hummus on it, then top it all off with a gooey fried egg or two. Eggs are a go-to for last-minute meals like this, but if we’re doing omelets then I have to defer to my husband, who is a much better omelet chef.
It’s a snowy Sunday, you’ve just done the grocery shopping and have the rest of the day to spend in the kitchen cooking a meal that will bring comfort. What’s for dinner?
I usually make a batch of chili each winter on a day like this. Lately I like this recipe (not a bean fan). Chili must be eaten with cornbread. Once every four years or so (I say this because it has happened once and I have been married four years) I use a day like this to work on my fried chicken technique. But you really have to be in the mood to deal with a big cleanup to do that, and with a baby around I don’t see that happening any time soon. But I love fried chicken.
What is your favorite dish to make for pot-luck dinners?
I usually make a cake in a Bundt pan with some sort of glaze or icing drizzled over top. I find the Bundt pan to be an easy way to make a dessert that looks decent without going to the trouble of actually decorating a layer cake. But I love any excuse to make a cake.
Do you have a favorite food source in the Fredericksburg region?
My car tends to take me to Wegmans even when I don’t really need to go. Olde Towne Butcher is another favorite. I love the area farmers’ markets, too, and my favorite in terms of variety would have to be the Spotsylvania market at Five Mile Fork.