November 1, 2013

Things I NEVER (or almost never) do in the kitchen

Over the years, I can say that I’ve actually grown into being a good cook. People who have had my cooking can vouch that the things turned out by my kitchen are now pretty consistently good. This was not always the case and Big Daddy and I still remember the ill-fated cheeseburger loaf.

Look, in theory it should have been good. A meatlof made with extra onions, pickles and cheese! In reality, it was like a rancid White Castle. It’s literally the worst thing I’ve ever cooked and served, though I do admit to having misses from time to time. Last weekend, I tried to make gnocchi from scratch, but they pretty much ended up being glue in the pot.

As a new cook, I followed directions and ingredients exactly, but now that I’m more seasoned, here are some things that I never do.

1) I never add salt. Big Daddy prefers his food cooked without added salt and the best way to accommodate his preference is to not add salt at all and then salt to taste for myself later. I’ve found, over the years, that I consume less salt too and sometimes it never even makes it to the table.

2) I never mince garlic. I have a garlic press. My first was given to me by my in-laws and I bought a sleek, new easy to clean one recently from Ikea. I don’t see the point in mincing up garlic, when I can get tiny pieces with minimal effort.

3) I (almost) never use soap on my cast iron pans. My cast iron is a great tresure in my kitchen. My skillets sit out on my stove and they are my go-to pans just about every day. Well seasoned, they’re perfect for cooking everything from eggs to pizza.

 

I do have to say that it is NOT true that soap will ruin your pan.  If you wash, dry and re-oil your skillet, soap will have no effect, BUT if you have a well seasoned pan there’s just no reason to wash it.  Well seasoned cast iron wipes clean easily.  If I want to make sure my cast iron is squeaky clean, I’ll boil some water in it and then oil it to prevent rust.

Also, if you’re in the hunt for cookware and are low on funds, while cast iron can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be  and for a low investment you will have a great, multipurpose addition to your kitchen!

Also, Cast Iron can easily transition from the stove to the oven and I’ve not hit a temperature yet that has been a problem with my pans.  Your mileage, of course, will vary, but the Internet reports it should be safe for at least 500 degrees.

4) I never flip an omelet in a pan.  Nope.  I do not. Using a technique I learned on Cook’s Country years ago, I start my omelet on the stove to cook the bottom and transfer it into a hot oven (about 375 degrees for 5 mintues) to cook the top.  No more broken omelets inside the skillet nor trying to guess when the bottom is done so you can cook the top.  Watch for your eggs to pull away from the pan and then pop it in the oven.  You’ll have a perfect omelet every time, just be generous with the butter.

 

5) I never cook separate meals.  I’m going to start by saying that I’ve been really lucky to have three kids who really aren’t very picky with Littlebit leading the charge in her love for asparagus, crab and shrimp.  Littlebit can pack AWAY the shrimp.  If you’re making shrimp and inviting Littlebit over, better make double.  And, what did you intend to eat?

I work hard to plan menus that contain food that I think my family will like.  Of course, the Princess doesn’t like peppers, so if I serve her a salad I omit raw peppers on her serving, but cooked peppers are fair game and she’s free to eat around them.  We have very little foods that my kids refuse to eat, but even if you don’t love everything there is still something I served you can eat to make it until morning.

I do think that our general belief that kids will eat anything probably helped create three, not picky eaters.  They’ve been served things with strong flavors since they were babies and both Littlebit and Baby Bee had passing affinities for black coffee during their toddler years (we only ever allowed them sips.  Don’t worry.)

6) I never make gravy from a mix or a pouch unless a recipe specfically calls for it.  Listen, folks, gravy and roux (which are very similar) are NOT hard to make.  In fact, if you intend to up your cooking game, knowing how to thicken nearly anything is a great skill.  Lumpy gravy?  No fear.  Instead of adding flour to your broth/drippings straight, mix it with water first and stir until smooth.  Your gravy will be lump free and you’ll be amazed and how very easy it is to make homegrade gravy AND roux on your own.

My Mom never made gravy, having a disastrous encounter with a lot of lumps when she and my Dad were first married.  She never made gravy again and I was convinced that gravy was impossible.  It’s not.  It’s really easy!

7) I never let turkey intimidate me.  Thanksgiving is coming (and has already come to our Canadian friends!) and somewhere someone will be terrified of roasting a turkey.  I love cooking fancy meals for Big Daddy and on the scale of “how terrifying is a turkey to cook” on the fancy food scale?  It’s a one.

Turkey is so simple to cook and if you’ve ever roasted a chicken, all you have to do is increase your cooking time.  If you haven’t roasted a chicken, why haven’t you?  You wash it, dry it, stuff it, salt and pepper the skin (one of the few times I break my cardinal no salt rule), drop it in a pan (breast up, for me, legs untrussed) and let it bake until done.  It’s that easy.

Since Big Daddy started smoking (meat!) we have an instant read thermometer in the house and I’d highly recommend it if you’re afraid of an underdone bird.  We have one similar to this model, and I use it a lot around the kitchen now.  It’s easy and if you have to stick your hand in the oven and can’t see the display, it has lights so you can tell at a glance if your turkey is underdone, getting close or ready to go.

I think Turkey gets a bad reputation for smoking or creating oven fires.  You can easily and inexpensively prevent this, too!  You can either choose to roast your turkey in an oven bag or be sure to choose a roasting pan that is WELL larger than your turkey as they DO put off a lot of cooking juices which, if spilled over, could cause smoking or an oven fire.  The awesome thing about the oven bags is that they contain all of your lovely drippings for gravy and they don’t mess up your pan!

8) I never save fancy recipes for fancy days.  My family deserves good food every day and your does too.  Don’t wait for Easter or Christmas to trot out the fancy food.  Make Monday fancy.  Or Sunday, if you need more time.

9) I never cling to a small group of recipes.  Don’t get me wrong, we have recipes that all of us love and I do make more than once a year.

I think it’s important to have a group of family favorites. It’s comforting.  My Mom made meatloaf regularly.  It’s something that I still love to eat and I feel a connection to her when I make it, but we probably only eat meatloaf a time or two a year.  Part of having adventurous eaters, I think, is that the kids don’t have an expectation of what’s going to come out of the kitchen.  Except for a tendency to have pizza on Friday, I love trying new things.  You never know when you’re going to find your new favorite.

10) I never make succotash.  Sorry Dad.

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Jamie

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One comment on “Things I NEVER (or almost never) do in the kitchen

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    What does vouch mean?

    You had to know that was coming!

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