Monday, October 19, 2015

The Best Advice for Cooking

I've been wanting to get this out there for a few weeks now because it's one of those things nagging me with, "If I only knew about this YEARS ago!"

I'm old.

I've seen fads come and go.  Use butter.  Don't use any oils.  Use vegetable oils.  Don't use vegetable oils.  Use butter.  My conclusion in regards to cooking and eating is--if it tastes good, eat that but don't be a gourmand.  Can you stand steamed vegs?  I can't.  For 30 years, I flat out never cooked a vegetable, never ate them if I could help it.  Disgusting!  Sure, I read about blanching, but isn't that an ugly picture.  You want to eat something blanched?  And it's common knowledge that you never boil a vegetable because that cooks out all the vitamins.

But it's better than not eating vegs at all, isn't it.

Besides, blanching isn't boiling vegs to mush.  Matter of fact, it really makes the colors of the vegs pop!  So blanch your vegs, they become delicious and you will WANT to eat them.  You want to know more?  Buy Julia Child's book.

I don't even know if I would have listened and read that cookbook back when I had my first apartment at 18.  Maybe.  But it would sure make a great wedding gift along with my most favorite tool in the kitchen.  It's not my Cuisinart nor my Kitchenaid (with all the attachments), both powerhouses that I can't live without and use several times a week.

You know what my most useful kitchen tool is?  My Dutch Oven.  Why?  You can buy the cheapest cut of meats, and who can afford the price of food these days?  Sheesh!  Small dried out steaks for as much as I pay at a restaurant.  Chicken breasts worth their weight in gold.  Nope, I can buy those big cheap dark meat chicken thighs that no one wants.  I heat butter in the Dutch Oven and sear the chicken, then I add tomatoes and vegs and a little wine or even water, put that heavy lid on (it seals all the steam inside) and pop it right in the oven to cook.  It's big enough that I can make a lot to freeze for later.  Back when we had teenagers in the house, it was big enough to feed a family.  There isn't any meat too tough or too stringy for a Dutch Oven.  It will save you money every week.

My second go-to tools of the kitchen?  My cast-iron frying pans.  I threw away all my non-stick frying pans after I got these.  Why?
  • My cast-iron pans are better at non-stick than my non-stick pans.  Fried eggs do not stick to a properly seasoned cast iron pan.  What happens when you fry eggs in a non-stick pan?  It makes a glued on mess, is what happens.  You have to soak the pan for days.  Then ever so carefully scrub it lightly.  Which leads me to my next point.
  • Cleaning cast-iron is a snap.  On it's worst day, I fill it with water and let it sit a few minutes, then I can use a metal SOS pad to scrub the holy hell out of it (it's never really needed that much of a scrubbing though).  It won't scratch.  Better yet, if you can find an old one somewhere, filled with years of build up, you can even clean it by throwing it in your self-cleaning oven.  That's my next point.
  • Cast-iron lasts forever.  You buy a pan when you're young, you're done.  Never have to worry about the heat of use rounding the bottom of your pans so they eventually cook unevenly.  It is what it is forever.  Hand then down to your kids.  Your grandkids.  Your great grandkids. 
  • Don't be afraid of seasoning.  It's dead easy.  You use your pan.  You can either wipe it out with a paper towel or rinse it or, if you want, use soap and water and scrub down to the metal.  I rarely use soap.  Afterward, most especially if you've used soap on it, wipe it down with oil.  Vegetable oil is crap and makes it sticky.  Coconut oil or bacon grease are splendid!  At that point, you can be done OR you can heat it on low heat and melt the oil or whatever makes you feel good or you can put it in your oven and the next time you preheat it, the pan will heat up too.  Take it out before you put in whatever you were going to bake.  You barely need any oil.  You don't need to get a 2 inch thick coating of build up on your pan.  It's just not that difficult.  Honestly, I usually have a frying pan on the stove top everyday, all day because I cook.  

Speaking of stove tops, my stove is dying.  Guess what the new stoves are now?  Induction ranges.  You can only use magnetic pans on these stove tops.  There ya go!  Cast iron and Dutch Ovens are perfect.

Regardless of the stove, 1 more thing I would suggest is a solid steel saucepan, not a non-stick saucepan.  How else are you going to make Hollandaise Sauce for your vegs?  A saucepan you can whisk in while heating is imperative!  So many things are made this way.  Lemon curd for your scones, for instance.  

So if you need a smart gift for a wedding shower, a baby shower, or a gift for a Millennial with their own kitchen, I would get them a good sized Dutch Oven or cast-iron pans AND Julia Child's cookbook.  These are thoughtful, meaningful gifts that will last a lifetime. 

If anyone has any questions about how to use these pans or needs ideas about how to get started cooking with them, go ahead and ask me.  I've been using these kitchen time-savers for years.  Too bad I didn't start when I was 20 something! 

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