Thomas Morris is one part lawyer and one part foodophile, something I thought was an odd combination. Thomas set me straight, though and let me in on his foodie life. Read on to learn more about our resident lawyer/cook and his blog, Thomas the Accidental Gourmet.
How does a lawyer wind up in writing a food blog? What is cooking to you – a hobby, an outlet, or a passion?
You’d be surprised about lawyers! Just like anybody else, we all have interests outside of our profession. My wife, Jenn, also likes to cook, but she’s more of a follow-the-recipe type of person.
I’d have to say that cooking is a mix of all three things you mentioned. I’m certainly no professional, so I guess it’s a hobby. It also is a great way to unwind after a stressful day/week. Finally, I’m very passionate about my cooking. I critique everything I make, and always try to improve. Friends who come to dinner are usually uncomfortable the first time because it sounds like Jenn and I are tearing apart each other’s cooking. Actually, we’re just figuring out how to make it better the next time.
As for writing the blog, it started more as a personal recipe repository, but I had some friends and family that said they enjoyed it, so I started trying to make my posts (i) more interesting and (ii) more regular. Life does, however, get in the way sometimes…
Have you always lived in Texas? What are other food influences in your life?
I grew up in the little apple, Manhattan, Kansas. My mother is from west Texas, and my father from northeastern Georgia. So, I’d have to say that southern cooking has always been in my household. (The folks used to have to special order buttermilk to make cornbread.)
It wasn’t until I moved to Texas in 1986 that I really started to get into the spicier side of things (there simply isn’t a good Mexican restaurant in Kansas).
As far as other influences, I’ve spent time in southern France, Tuscany and the Caribbean. So I’d have to say that I’ve got a lot of Mediterranean dishes, rustic Italian, and then Caribbean fare, using ginger and fruit with a lot of spices. Stuff I’ve made includes couscous; panini with tomato, basil and mozzarella; and “goat water,” which is what they call curried goat stew in St. Lucia.
What would a day in your kitchen look like?
Morning or night? In the morning, I boil water for coffee in the French press, grind some coffee, then come up with something interesting for breakfast. My wife would be content with cereal every day, so I do the breakfast cooking. (Recently, I’ve become a fan of spreading avocado on toast and topping it with tomatoes and bacon.)
At night, we usually get home from the office about 8:00. I get the protein I took out of the freezer from the night before, and make something happen with whatever vegetables we have while Jenn cleans up.
On the weekends, the mornings are the same, but we typically cook something fairly involved together.
An unexpected guest stops by for dinner and you had nothing planned -what’s your secret for a quick fix?
Stick my head in the ‘fridge and come out with dinner! I rarely cook anything using a recipe (some sauces are the exception, but that’s only because I don’t do a more complicated sauce such as a béarnaise or beurre blanc very often.) So, making a nice dinner on the fly for guests is about the same as any other meal at our house, just for more people.
That being said, if I’ve got it on hand it’s hard to go wrong with a good steak on the grill. Barring that, a pasta primavera with shrimp or chicken is always a crowd pleaser and super easy to make. Can’t forget the wine of course! (We have a wine fridge, be we can never seem to keep it full for some reason…)
Name a handful of ingredients you couldn’t live without.
Onions. Garlic. Oregano. Cumin. Kosher salt. Limes and lemons. Tomatoes. A hard cheese, such as parmesan or pecorino toscano. I also usually have ginger, bell peppers and serranos on hand.
Do you use cookbooks? What is a favorite?
Rarely. My mother in-law gave me “Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making” by James Patterson that I really like. Sometimes we’ll crack open “The Joy of Cooking” for a reference. I’d say this is a must-have for anyone serious about cooking.
How are you liking Half Hour Meals so far? What would you tell others about the site?
I think it’s great. There are a lot of talented people out there. It’s nice to see that quick meals have moved away from the simple to real gourmet. I’d tell anyone that needs a little quick inspiration to check it out!
Thank you, Thomas – and I’d like to tell anyone reading this to head on over to read Thomas’ blog or page here at Half Hour Meals – both very worthy reads.