Saturday, July 20, 2013

Well that was fun, now what?

Feels like forever since we last saw each other. I missed you.

Alright, where were we? Oh yeah, you just made spaghetti for the hot redhead and managed to not send yourself to hospital or majorly offend her which of course made the night a  lot more memorable in the long run *wink wink*.

What to do for an encore? You cant make her another simple pasta dish or she’ll suspect that you’re a one trick pony and ordering out after showing you can at least cook something would seem off. Hmm… you need other cooking methods that will seem more impressive than they really are to keep her coming back.

Lets start with mans number one food cooker, the BBQ. Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes you feel more like a man than cooking meat over fire *insert toolman grunt here*.  Most guys learn to BBQ at an early age as it is usually a right of passage handed down from father to son. That said, there are a lot of dads out there that suck using a grill. The basic principle is simple, you put food on the grill which is made hot by the fire underneath and sear the outside which seals in juices and slowly cooks the inside. Not as simple as it sounds as you need to learn cooking speeds and whatnot and there are some higher level grilling techniques to learn but most guys can pass themselves off as moderately useful on a BBQ which is good as it makes you seem more manly if you can do it. In short, girls like guy who can burn tasty meat on fire.

Slow roasting or braising is super easy and makes delicious and tender food which will impress almost anyone. The basic idea is that the slow roasting method breaks down the connective tissue of the meat which makes it fall apart tender. Whatever you make this way can also be served in different methods. For example a beef roast can be served as just a pot roast (using the juices to make gravy) or you can shred it to make beef on a bun (again, use the juices to make the sauce) or you can pre make the roast and shred it to put in a chili or pasta dish which will kick said dish up at least one notch from the ordinary.A way to cheat at this is to use a slow cooker. You can set it early in the day and just let it do it's thing without paying much attention to it.

Rotisserie is SO easy and for some reason impresses people a lot. This qualifies as one of the “higher level grilling techniques” but in reality is ridiculously easy. All you need is the $30 attachment for your BBQ and a recipe. I cooked a ham this way which I dry rubbed with brown sugar, cumin, chili powder and garlic powder. The sugars crystallized and candied the ham… oh my god… Give this idea a try. When you tell her that you have something cooking on the rotisserie out back, she’ll melt right there.

On to the more basic but very useful pan-fry. Anyone can put food in a pan and add heat. It takes skill to make the food tasty and not overcook it or make it greasy. Extra virgin olive oil is your best friend here, do not use butter. I generally use pan-frying in conjunction with other methods. Like I’ll grill steaks and pan-fry some veggies to go with it.

Stove-top methods are generally simple to do. By this I mean things like chili, stew, pasta or whatever. Things you just make by cooking on the stove top. No real mysteries here but man you can make some delicious food by doing this. Remember to stir often as most food made this way are made in large pans that are fairly deep and the food on the bottom can get burned very easily if you ignore it.

Ok, on to some minor things you can do to make your food better.

Deglaze pans. This is an amazingly underused cooking too. So you’re making beef stew and you’ve browned the beef in the big pot and now you have a bunch of brown “bits” cooked to the bottom of the pan which you cannot scrape off. Hit them with about half a cup of liquid while they are screaming hot and the liquid flash boiling off will lift the bits from the bottom and add serious flavor to whatever you’re making. Just remember to add other things to the pan once they lift so you don’t re-burn them to the bottom. When I make my calm linguine I deglaze the pan with white wine after I cook the bacon. That actually brings me to my next thought.

Make your own sauces. Many people are intimidated by this notion but it is really really simple. Instead of buying that jar of Prego, buy 4 roma tomatoes, an onion, some garlic and go home and cook them down and spice them yourself. It seriously is that easy and telling someone that you made the sauce from scratch is sure to impress. This is also something that can be done in advance and stored in the fridge for a few days so don’t give me that nonsense about not having time.Making a delicious sauce is also a great way to hide an unfortunate kitchen mistake like overcooking something so give it a try.

Pay attention while you cook. No that isn’t a cooking method but it is important. It really doesn’t look good for you when you burn the steaks because you HAD to kill the ancient dragon on Skyrim. And that isn’t even addressing the safety aspect of not paying attention in the kitchen. Cuts and burns can be serious and even life threatening so watch what you’re doing.

And finally, less is more. I’m sure I’ve said this before but you don’t need to add 400 ingredients to a dish to make it taste good. Keep it simple and be creative.

Ok, I’m done for today. Class dismissed.

Pulled Pork

1 three-pound pork roast                                          1 Cup Ketchup
¼ Cup Cider Vinegar                                               1 Med Onion Chopped
3 Tbsp Brown Sugar                                                 2 Tsp Dry Mustard
2 Tsp Chili Powder                                                   2 stalks celery

  1. Place tenderloin in slow cooker or oven roaster with about a cup of water and some salt and pepper. Slow cook (slow cooker on “low” or oven set at 185F) for 4-5 hours. Remove from slow cooker and shred using 2 forks.
  2. Add cider vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, dry mustard and chili powder to water/roast drippings left in slow cooker and put on high to heat through or if using oven put juices and spices in a large saucepan and bring to a boil on stove.
  3. Add shredded pork, onion and celery and allow to simmer in sauce for about an hour.
  4. Dish up on buns or rolls.

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