August 23, 2011

It Doesn't Have to Be Complicated to Be Good

This is a response to the previous blog post by BeyondWittgenstein

I was born and raised mostly in Kentucky, while it might not be the deep South of the country its close enough that we cook like Southerners.

While I agree with BeyondWittgenstein, that people should have a basic knowledge of how to actually cook food, I do not think all food must be of gourmet quality to be considered edible. Some of my fondest foods were cooked by my Grandmother and didn't use a recipe one, although she did know her way around a kitchen. On weekends to my grandmothers house, one of the meals that we all loved for her to cook was her burgers, simple beef patties, formed with her hands, sprinkled with salt and pepper and a little Worcestershire sauce and fried in a cast iron skillet to a perfect medium light pink center.

This was no gourmet meal, but there was something about the way she cooked a burger that made it the best dang burger. I could sit there next to her, make the patty up out of ground beef, and then let her fry it and it still would come out tasting different, so I am to this day convinced that there is something magical about my Gamoo (our nickname for her) and her hands that just seemed to make food taste better.

I admit it is essential for every who plans on living alone to be able to at least make food that doesn't need to be microwaved or cooked in the oven. But then some people do not like real home cooked food and would rather warm some fishsticks up in the oven and deep fry some french fries rather than take the time and effort to season some cornmeal with a few spices and coat a piece of catfish with it, then fry it up themselves. They would rather take some frozen french fries out of a bag, rather than take the time to slice a potato then deep fry it.

There are really not many that skills one needs to learn how to make a good meal.

One: There are more spices out there other than salt and pepper, don't be afraid to use spices. A simple mixture of spices can turn an ordinary batch of sliced potatoes into yummy potato wedges. As well as add flavor to just about everything.

Two: A roux, simple flour and butter mixed together, can be used to thicken just about anything and makes it oh so yummy

Three: Frying, it is no more than being patient and refraining from cooking things at too high a temp so you don't burn them.

Four: Meat Doneness: This trick while it may take a little time to master, could be the best trick you will learn. Different meats need to be cooked to different states of doneness. When you over cook meat it can make a train wreck out of even the simplest meal and is often the biggest mistake new cooks make, overcooking any food is a sin of the kitchen in my book.

Five:Slicing, dicing, chopping and mincing. While it sounds simple enough, most lazy cooks (the ones who simply just microwave and bake) seem to be afraid of doing this. Its simple prep work, can often be zen like to slice and dice ingredients for a meal and really isnt that hard once you get the knack of it.

The Sixth and most important thing about being a good cook is patience. Don't be in a hurry to get the meal done. Prep before hand so you are not in a rush. Make sure you have enough time to cook the meal with patience before starting.

I will go further into the Fourth most common mistake in the kitchen, meat doneness

Simple meals can taste good, they do not have to be gourmet to taste mouthwatering. A nice and simple meal of mashed potatoes, pork chops, and corn can be a great meal. Its simple to prepare, and is way better than hot dogs.

People also seem to feel the need to take a piece of meat and kill it again by overcooking it. Its not a hot dog, it can't really take being boiled or fried till its black and still manage to taste halfway decent. I have known many a person who will take a perfectly good ribeye steak, and proceed to ask you to fry, grill, or broil it to death. Why don't I just get you some beef jerky, which is meant to be dry as hell and just serve that to you as steak. People who eat well done steak often wonder why its dry, tough, and hard to chew, no matter what cut of meat they use. Hmm well lets see, you cooked all the juices out because you didnt like that red stuff on your plate (which is not blood by the way its simply just juices from the meat). Ok, people you do realize that's how they make beef jerky right? They suck the moisture out of the meat. Thats basically what you are doing when you over cook red meat, you suck the moisture out, and tighten up all the muscle fibers in the meat. This will make it tough and chewy. Cooking a steak or burger to medium rare or even just medium will make for a juicy and tender piece of yumminess.

The same goes for any piece of meat. There is a difference between cooking chicken or pork till its done and overcooking it. There is such a thing as overcooked pork or chicken.

So its simple, learn how to use spices, cook a piece of meat properly, and use patience in the kitchen and every meal can be great without being gourmet.

Get a couple cook books. Learn the basics. Once you have the basics any recipe you try can turn out great, even the gourmet ones, and now you will no longer be what BeyondWittgenstein calls a lazy cook.

Also watching Alton Browns Good Eats wouldn't hurt either. He explains each cooking process right down to the molecular level of why things cook the way they do. Its very educational, entertaining, and also has great recipes.

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