As of late, my whole “teach myself how to cook” thing isn’t really moving any gears. I’ve had a lot of failures, and honestly, I don’t really have time for this shit. I’ve been neglecting my poor little blog and just throwing up a recipe for something I happened to make and photograph. There are too many blogs out there, and if my unfocused, labor of love blog is going to benefit anyone than I have to really utilize it.
I’m not complaining: I love my blog. It’s a part of me now that I can’t imagine losing. But honestly, my recipes are OK, my photography is OK, the food-styling is OK. I’ve found that my writing has improved a lot, but their are a lot of unemployed writers out there. Sure, I’ve taken photography E-Courses and read article on how to make money on your blog, but what good does that do me? Why work on these skills when they aren’t going to amount to anything more than foodgawker traffic? It’s just silly for me to work on my blog layout and my photography when that’s not what really matters to me. I’m not here to be a professional blogger; I want to make food count.
It’s time for cooking school.
But between my full-time job, unpaid writing gig, freelance video work, and actually having a life, I don’t have time for that shit either.
America’s Test Kitchen is the best resource for the home cook, and that’s just layin’ down the truth. Ain’t no other reference guide that gives you the dirt on cooking it right like the ATK. Today, I enrolled in their online cooking school, and at 20 bones a month (first two weeks free!), I aim to actually do it! So I’ll be posting tips and tricks that I learn in “class” and collecting great recipes and articles that I find online in a weekly roundup. Don’t worry: I’ll still post some recipes when inspiration strikes, wouldn’t want to disappoint my readers! (Hi Adrienne and Jake!)
Without further rambling, here is what I learned today!
Thicken sauces by adding corn starch, first dissolved in a little cold water. You can also soak bread in the sauce and puree it together, or simply add a pat of good old butter.
Keep butter from burning by adding a little canola oil, which has a higher smoke point.
Seasoning secrets: Too salty? Add a little acid or sugar to cut down the flavor. Too acidic or spicy? Add a little fat or sweetness. Too sweet? Add a little acid.
Never cut garlic or onions in advance: this will cause the flavor to become over powering because these veggies release sharp odors once cut.
To speed up the browning process on lean proteins or vegetable, add a pinch of sugar.
The large grains of kosher salt distributes more evenly than fine table salt, making it a choice for seasoning.
Lower the intensity of your gas stove with aluminum foil. If you’re trying to reach a slow simmer for stocks or stews, cut a ring of aluminum foil and pierce it with rice-size holes. Place it over the burner.
Read all the way through a recipe and execute exactly. Once you know and understand the recipe, you can mix shit up the way you see fit.
Set up right and prepare. Before you start cooking, everything you need should be washed, cut and at your fingertips in an organized fashion. Did you know your oven needs 15 minutes to preheat? Cause that explains A LOT.
Monitor and taste! Look at seasoning and cook time guidelines in a flexible manner. All kinds of factors can mess with your end product, so pay very close attention to what’s happening during the cooking process. Always check your food 5 – 10 minutes before the suggested cooking time is up.
Don’t be afraid to fail. Everyone messes up. Just take a mental note, make adjustments, and move along.
Brown everything, except chocolate! Proteins, vegetables, pies and breads are best with a brown crust. When it comes to chocolate desserts, those are best underdone.
- Cook en Cocotte: to pot-roast without a braising liquid; everything just chills in it’s own juices.
- Cook en Papillote: to make a packet out of parchment paper or aluminum foil and let the food steam in its own juice.
- Grill Roast: to cook large cuts of meat using indirect and moderate heat from an outdoor flame.
- Poach: to cook food in liquid below the simmering point. Clearly I’ve poached before, but I always thought it was past the simmering point. You just want itty bitty bubbles though, no rolling bubbles that break the surface.
- Saute: this is always done foer moderately high heat, allowing the food to move quickly instead of staying stagnant to brown or scorch.
- Sweat: to cook over gentle heat with a tiny amount of fat. I usually do this when I prep veggies for lunch or breakfast… so now I know what to call that… cause it’s not a sauté.
- Mince – 1/8 “ pieces
- Fine Chop – 1/8” – 1/4″ pieces
- Medium Chop – ¼ – ½“ pieces
- Coarse Chop – ½” to ¾” pieces
- Chunks – ¾”pieces or larger.
- Diced– uniform cubes