How to cook well
Anyone can learn to cook with these tips.
The phrase Anyone Can Cook recently made a breakthrough in Disney's animated feature "Rattatouille." The star of the movie was a rodent gourmet. Most who cook, however, are not from a different species!
We all feel somewhat intimidated by cooking at some point in our lives - possibly even our entire life. Is it impossible to create gourmet feasts on our own? Of course it isn't. Will their taste be worthy of praise and recognition? Not all the time.
The problem is that most people feel that they can not cook anything without a list of instructions, also known as a 'recipe,' to follow step by step. Closing the cook book and adding our own ingredients, or slightly adjusting the means of preparation, is seldom done by the average person. What is left on the proverbial kitchen floor is all the fragrances and flavors that we have grown to savor and enjoy.
Improvisation happens often, and in every aspect of our lives: at work, with our families and friends, and in emergency situations. It may not be as drastic, but improvisation with cooking can open up a world of flavors. It may be scary at first, but with a little perseverance, you too can whip up something special at the drop of a hat.
The Learning Process
Here are a few tips that can help begin your journey to becoming a master of culinary arts:
Use Your Cook Book as a Reference Only
First, despite what was said earlier, do not throw away your cook book! Instead, use it for reference only. Insuring that, for example, a roast is fully cooked - without poking one hundred holes in it - is one of the ways your cook book can help you. It is also beneficial to have a cook book that will help you determine whether or not meats, cheeses or vegetables that may look questionable have, indeed, expired. Having a cook book that is not just about recipes will be your most valuable asset in the kitchen.
Work Your Nose
Next, you need to sniff. Those of us with nasal allergies may think they will have a hard time with this, but the majority of ingredients, when simmering, will fill the air with a vivid fragrance.
Always take a sniff of the spices you add to a dish. Make sure that they are fresh and vibrant. Those spices that have been sitting in the rack you received as a gift may not be as tasty as fresh-from-the-market ingredients. Check out your supermarket's fresh spices, or go to a farmer's market-type of environment to get the freshest choices. Oregano, basil, garlic, dill and rosemary are best when they are not in their dried form. It is also better to shed the tears chopping fresh onions instead of using onion powder.
Pick Up Some Marinating Magic
After you've decided on a dish and gathered all of the ingredients, it is now time to set yourself in motion. The easiest way to tickle your taste buds with the least amount of effort is marinating. This can be done with anything; beef, pork, chicken, fish, and - yes - even vegetables. There are tons of already-prepared marinades on the shelves of your grocery store. You can choose one or two, or create your own. Most marinades are compiled of spices and a vinegar mix.
There are books dedicated to making your own marinade, and - if you choose to get one - you now have the opportunity to improvise a bit, with the comfort of the provided guidelines. For example, take a lemon pepper marinade recipe, and add some lime to it. Depending on the type of meat you are preparing, you could go even further; lemon pepper honey barbeque chicken; lemon lime pepper thyme pork chops; lemon cayan pepper shrimp; lemon pepper dill green beans. The possibilities are endless!
Employ the Taste Test
Finally, the hardest part: the taste test. Don't get frustrated the first time if your creation makes your family make funny faces, or excuse themselves from the table in a hasty manner. Get their input. Find out what there is too much of, or not enough, in the dish. Take their criticisms and suggestions and consider them part of your learning process. You will not be banished from family get-togethers simply because you tried. Try again. Try something different, if you would prefer.
The important thing to remember is that each time you embark on a cooking adventure, you are becoming more comfortable in the kitchen. You are on your way to success!