Sunday, October 25, 2009

What Not to Do in the Kitchen

(green beans cooked the right way, with tarragon lemon creme fraiche from New Flavors for Vegetables)

I know, it is always better to teach as an optimist-telling people how to do things right as opposed to dwelling on what they do wrong. Honestly, there are just some things you should not do in the kitchen and they warrant their own "glass is half empty" post. This list is a start...think of it as part one of many to come.

-Never oil your water when cooking pasta. Oil clings to your noodles, creating a slippery surface that doesn't allow your sauce to cling. You'll end up with naked pasta swimming over a pool of sauce instead of a cohesive dish that feels like it all comes together.

-(almost) Never rinse your pasta. Same basic theory-when you rinse the starchy exterior off your pasta, you get rid of the best starch. This starch is what helps sauce cling to each noodle perfectly. Exception: some Asian noodles will need to be rinsed to remove this starch but make that the exception, not the norm.

-Never cover your pot when cooking green vegetables. It's great to cover a pot of water to help speed up the boiling process. But, once you've added that asparagus or broccoli, leave the lid off. Covering it up keeps the natural acids from dissipating, causing your vibrant green beans to turn that nasty shade of khaki. Yuck.

-Never wait until
the end of the cooking process to season your food . Food needs to be seasoned throughout the cooking process so it absorbs the flavors that make each ingredient stand out. By salting only at the end, the seasoning coats the exterior of your food but wont penetrate beyond that, making for some damn bland dishes.

-Never heat a non-stick pan when it is empty. The coatings on these pans should always have something in them whey they are conducting heat or they can release toxic gasses.

-Hot pan+cold oil=food wont stick. Since most of your cooking should not be in non-stick pans, use this rule for everything else. Heat your saute pans empty (again, not for a non-stick pan) until it gets very hot. THEN add the oil followed by the food you're cooking. The combination of a hot pan and the cold oil will keep food from sticking.

-Never turn a steak the instant it hits the pan. It's such a natural tendency to want to move a steak, chicken breast, or pork chop all over the pan right after it goes in-DON'T! Allow your meat to sear, creating a golden brown crust and eventually releasing itself from the bottom of the pan. Moving it around too soon will only tear the meat to shreds and you'll never get that nice, crunchy exterior.

-Never buy black pepper already ground. Invest in a pepper mill and fill it with good quality black peppercorns. Grind them as you need them and take in the scent of the fresh stuff-it packs much more of a punch.

-Never dress a salad until you're ready to eat it. No one likes soggy greens. And while you're there, use your impeccably clean hands to give it a toss-they are the best kitchen tool for judging the right amount of vinaigrette.

-Never go to the market without checking to see if you have 1) chicken broth 2) canned tomatoes 3) olive oil 4) eggs and 5) onions/carrots/ celery. A pantry is not a pantry without these very simple basics.

-Never admit to mistakes that you correct along the way.
Cooking is not an exact science and when things go wrong with a recipe they can almost always be fixed. When this happens, keep the secret safe. Who cares? In fact, some of the best recipes are invented by making mistakes along the way.

-Never forget that food is love.
Cooking for yourself or other people is the most satisfying thing you can do. Food brings people together, creating a sense of community the way nothing else can. Get yourself in the kitchen and see how it feels. You'll never regret it.

Anything you'd like to add?


Mmm....that's good said...

Oh, and never leave a half-eaten Gingerbread birthday cake from Miette on your counter all wknd...

Deana said...

Why what happened to said cake?

Mmm....that's good said...

The cake mysteriously disappeared and I can't possibly imagine where it went (ha!)

SallyB said...

Great to be reminded and/or to learn something new!! Thanks.. passed it on to nieces just entering the wonderful world of cooking

Sally B

Angie said...

Love, love, love these great tips! I've been slowly learning many of them as I go along on my cooking journey but having them in black and white is just perfect for me!

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