What you need to be a gourmet cook
Finding what you need to be a gourmet cook starts with passionUnless your goal is to become a professional chef, it doesnít take years of culinary school to be a gourmet cook. It does take a passion for food and ingredients, as well as a desire to be the best cook you can be. Here are a few tips to get you started on achieving your goal!
The more you cook, the faster youíll improve. Great cooks are great because they cook often. Cooking as little as three times a week can greatly improve your skills. This practice gets you used to the basic techniques of cooking, from sharpening knives to proper seasoning of dishes. Sure, you may be repeating the same dish fairly often. The practice is worth it and you will master the dish.
Donít worry about the dishes that donít come out perfectly Ė this happens to everyone.
Get the right tools
Basic tools, such as quality knives and pans, can save you a lot of time and effort in the kitchen. Donít get memorized by the tons of available kitchen gadgets Ė you only need the ones youíll actually use fairly often.
For instance, that lemon zester makes great slivers of citrus peel that can be used in a variety of ways. But, if you only need these succulent slivers one or two times a year, save yourself the space and expense. A paring knife can accomplish the same result, it will just take a couple of extra minutes. On the other hand, if you often stock a home bar or candy peel for use in desserts, the tool is necessary.
Cook what you like
Make food that you like to eat, youíll enjoy the process more. This is especially true for new cooks. Is pizza one of your favorite foods? Then make that Ė from scratch. Learn about creating yeast doughs and the perfect sauce. If you build the pizza, the toppings will be exactly how you want them. Once you have the perfect combination, youíll wonder why you never made your own before.
Keep experimenting and trying recipes of many of the foods you enjoy. There is a reason that the highest paid, most well-renown chefs in the world got their reputation Ė they cook food that they love.
Go for great ingredients
Great ingredients result in great dishes. Get the freshest produce and check expiration dates of all packaged goods. Get to know the butcher and/or fishmonger at your local grocery store or meat market. They can help make sure you get the freshest cuts. Likewise, minimize the amount of processed food in your dishes. These foods typically contain preservatives, dyes, artificial flavors and can be full of sugar, fat and salt.
Cooking with raw ingredients lets you control exactly what youíre feeding you and your guests. Farmerís markets can be your best ally, since youíll know exactly what is in season. If itís from a local farm, youíll be supporting businesses in your community and have the peace of mind knowing that itís fresh and not been on a boat or in a truck for days or weeks.
The Holy Grail of cooking
Now that you have your tools, know what you want to prepare and are ready to get started, here is the Holy Grail of any gourmet cook. Itís called mise en place. A French term, it means putting in place. For cooking, it means having everything you need, from recipe and tools to ingredients, ready to go.
As you assemble your dish, it will all be close to hand and ready for use. Chop, measure or weigh ingredients and place them in containers. Sure, youíll feel like the star of your own cooking show, but that isnít so bad, is it?
Most of all, have fun while you cook. Enjoy the process, both successes and failures. Without a doubt, every time you make something, youíll learn along the way. Whether itís about yourself or gaining a new skill.