Dorm Room Cuisine: Illegal Equipment + Scavenged Ingredients = Best College Grub Ever

By Cathy Huyghe

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"I have a hotpot stove thing."

“The breadmaker works well too.”

“The George Foreman grill is usable.”

Eventually, my friend confessed, “I basically have a kitchen in my dorm room.”

Spurred on by the cornucopia at Russo’s in Watertown – it’s like the civilized offspring of a Chinese and Parisian open-air market or a homier Whole Foods – we decided to cook in her room the next day.

Cranberry beans, which I’d only seen in pictures, looked even more beautiful in person, and although I had no idea what to do with them, I still scooped up half a pound. We also took home some sugar snap peas and Asian pears.

Later, standing in front of the meat section at Shaw’s and wondering how to slice the meat thin enough for Korean barbecue, my friend casually mentioned that her parents had bought a deli slicer precisely to solve this problem. A rather extreme yet admittedly admirable act, I thought to myself. We grabbed some ribs and marinade and teetered home on bikes with handlebars laden with produce.

The next day, we convened in my friend’s dorm room. A couple plates of rice, salt, pepper, sugar, and oil had already been foraged from the dining hall. My friend had warned me during the day, when we had been exchanging recipe ideas via email, that her Foreman grill was “tiiiny.”

“How tiny?”

“Like the size of one burger patty. Ideal for a dorm room. I guess.”

She also mentioned that her roommates were slightly skeezed out by the raw meat marinating in their fridge. The results, however, were impressive and absolutely worth any doubts that we, or her roommates, might have had.

The Foreman grill did its job, no oil, no smoke-sucking hood needed. The meat was smoky, juicy, lightly charred with tones of peanut and soy sauce.

We sautéed the sugar snap peas with garlic and slivers of rehydrated shiitake mushrooms and dropped in bits of prosciutto at the last minute.

As for the gorgeous cranberry beans, I decided to simply boil and sauté them. While waiting for them to crisp up, I spied a jar of chili-lime popcorn seasoning on the shelf. I dropped a pinch of it on the beans, tasted, and then dumped in more. In the end, I wished I’d bought more of these beans at Russo’s.

Halfway through eating the Asian pears for dessert, we realized that we’d created a major faux pas. In Chinese, fen-li (splitting pears) is a homonym for fen-li (separation). Did this bode ill for our friendship? We were determined to ignore cruel fate and meet again for another delicious meal of dormitory cooking.

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