Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Successful Failures

Ahhhh the road to culinary enlightenment is a long one, that's for sure. I have failed...yet again. When I say failed, I mean- I wouldn't have fed last night's "dinner" to death row inmates. That bad. I know I preach about healthy cooking, and rave about my latest great cooking encounters-- but after last night, I realized that in order to get better, you have to mess up. It started off as a mouthwatering day dream. Dijon chicken, with Giada's smashed fried lemon potato cakes. I bet your mouth is starting to was mine. I mentally rummaged through my fridge to see what I needed for the dish, and with the help of my mother who happened to be at the grocery store, I had all I needed for what was sure to be a home run meal. An hour later, I was looking at what can only be described as sludge. I may as well have prepared ordinary hashbrowns, with a side of chicken shaped rubber. If it weren't for my loved ones, who happen to have also been the victims of this last supper, I would have crumbled at the sight of my fallen meal. It got me to thinking....are we born with natural talent in the kitchen? Is it something you can learn? If so, how do we actively hone our abilities? And then I turned to my good friends at google. It seems that other people have pondered this same question. Upon polling the audience, if you will, I have come up with the following tips that will assist you in your quest to be the best chef that you can be: 1. Look at several different recipes for the same dish. Pick the least jazzy. Use this basic recipe as a way to learn the main architecture of a dish. Along the road, you will learn by trial and error what you can add, eliminate, or modify. 2. Less is more. You can always add more seasoning, (salt especially) but you can never take any away. 3. Use Youtube. It is a great tool for learning technique. Many of us are visual leaners, so it is much easier to see how to do it, than read a monotone recipe. 4. Avoid overworking your food. Flipping it too much, kneading it too much may make you think you are really cooking, but overworking your food may result in it being too tough, or not evenly cooked. 5. Sometimes the best meals are the meals that you create from ingredients in your fridge. A lot of times, you have everything you never knew you needed, right on those cold shelves. Get yourself a base. A pasta perhaps. Open your fridge and see what you can add to it. I got this idea from another blogger, who put it perfectly; almost anything can be made into a delicious soup, springrole or casserole, as long as you enjoy the ingredients. Be spontaneous. 6. Keep fresh herbs around at all times. They add pizazz to any dish. (remember- less is more.) 7. It's just like the age old question; "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" Practice, practice, practice. Make a dish, and then make it ten times again until you perfect it. Then, the next time you're entertaining, you will have a delicious recipe that may not be new to you, but certainly is to your guests. 8. Use flavorful cooking liquids. I always try to substitute water when I can- because it has no taste. I love using chicken broth when baking chicken, or cooking rice instead of water. ] 9. Tang it up! I believe that any dish is automatically better, when a splask of wine, lemon, or vinegar is added. It really brings out the flavor of the meal's components. 10. Don't be afraid of using real butter. Your hips will forgive you. Cooking with butter makes everything creamier, and tastier.

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