site stats WhizGidget Wonders...
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Back Away From The Saucepan...
...and put down that double balloon whisk. If you don't know how to properly whisk a sauce, then don't make one.

Wait, what? Since when am I against adventuring in the kitchen?

I'm not. In fact, I'm teaching my daughters some more basics in the kitchen during the summer every Tuesday afternoon. They know a few things, but they've never had knives in their hands and cut up an onion before into a perfect dice. You're reading someone who always wanted to know how to bake well and then was told by her DH (a week after finding out she was pregnant) that "Mommies always can bake the bestest chocolate chip cookies from scratch". Well, the first batch wasn't so great. And the next few batches were better when I hit on a recipe that worked for me. Now, 13 years later, I have a killer recipe or two that I've adjusted for me and can back you nice chewy thick chocolate chip or the slightly crisper flatter type.

Very little scares me off (that's why I have my own Applesauce Oatmeal with Cherries cookie recipe and no, I'm not sharing it) and that's why my daughters diced an onion under their own steam on Tuesday.

But on Wednesday is when the food section of the newspaper comes out, and that's when I read a very interesting article about the things that make cooks stop and back away from a recipe. The things that scare them off of making something that could be incredible.

Sometimes it's an ingredient, like cauliflower or asparagus. Or what you have to do to the ingredient. Perhaps you need to butterfly a turkey breast or blend something until it's the consistency of something else that you're either really not familiar with or is a consistency that varies between cooks.

Maybe it's a technique that stymies you - you don't know how to butterfly cut something. Or you don't know how to turn a chicken inside out in order to remove the bones without cutting (that's referred to as "gloving a chicken").

Plucking, poaching, braising. These are things that scare people too, although there isn't much call for plucking birds anymore in the modern kitchen, unless you or your SO is a hunter of birds.

But reading this article made me think for a moment. I don't think that there's been a recipe in my recent run through of the cookbooks that made me back away from it because of a technique or piece of equipment. I don't need a special boiler in order to make couscous - I've figured that technique out in my own saucepans. I won't make recipes with seafood because I'm notoriously hard on it and it doesn't turn out - that's not being scared of it, that's being smart about not ruining and wasting food. And if I'm looking for something to make for dinner, the only reason I won't make something is that I'm under-prepared for it; either I need to make something a day ahead of time first for it or I don't have all the ingredients.

Perhaps it's that I don't have enough high brow recipe books that have made me back away from something? I don't keep Martha Stewart or Thomas Keller in my kitchen and they either have outrageous instructions or notoriously insane techniques to follow. I keep Alton Brown, and Cook's Illustrated and Giuliano Hazan's (he's Marcella's son) Italian cookbooks around along with Bittman's 'How to Cook Everything' and a copy of Corriher's 'Cookwise' (I bought it before it won all the awards).

So I don't see the sense in being scared of things in the kitchen when you can always try and be adventurous. Try to do something at least once after reading up on it when it's one of those wistful "I wish I could do that" sorts of things. Or, if you're clever about it, smartly substitute things if you know it will work or at least be a reasonable facsimile...

...and by the way, tempering chocolate? Not hard at all.