Adventures in Cooking

First let’s get something straight – I don’t claim to be a good cook, I just like to experiment with things. I don’t follow recipes, or write them . Most everything I cook is different every time. I don’t measure anything, I just eyeball and toss it together. If something sounds good at the time, it will probably end up as part of dinner in some way shape or form.  Also, this post isn’t about a certain food recipe or to show you what I had for dinner. I want to talk about some things I’ve learned in the kitchen and some of the tools I’ve learned to use.

In the past couple of years in my kidney sickness and dialysis, I’ve spent a lot more time at home than I ever have before. I used to eat out a ton… now I rarely do. I’ve learned that I really like cooking for myself, and have become pretty good at it most of the time.

I’ve experimented with different cooking tools, kitchen gadgets, you name it I probably bought it from Amazon to try it. I’ve kept a few and thrown a few away.  One thing I did learn in the past year years, is that my knives I bought at Target 15 years ago had to go.  I wanted to up my knife game but not break the bank too much.  In recent experience and web research, I decided that I didn’t need a fancy giant knife set.  Sure it looks pretty in a block on your counter, but it’s overkill. You don’t need to spend a month’s rent on a block of quality knives.  I decided all I needed was a good chef’s knife, a paring knife, and some good steak knives. (which almost did cost a month’s rent haha… but it’s worth it).

I did some research and decided on Wusthof Classics.  These are German knives, forged from a single piece of steel. They are tried and true, a top quality brand name.  I didn’t buy them all at once, it took a few months but I ended up with this small collection:

Wusthof Classic forged knives and honing steel.

Talk about a culture shock on cutting ability! Man these things are sharp. They’ll slice through anything like butter. I use the big chef’s knife every night. I cut, chop, slice, dice, you name it. Meats, vegetables, fruits, anything, everything. It’s the ultimate “super tool” for your kitchen.  The paring knife gets less use but has a vital role. I peel skinned fruits and vegetables when necessary, it’s also good for cutting small items like garlic, herbs, roma tomatoes, etc.   The steak knives are my most recent purchase. I cook a good protein every night – chicken, steak, pork, etc. I must say that having a good quality steak knife with your dinner plate is a true luxury.  The act of cutting through my entree is just as much a highlight as eating it now, hah.

Sticking with the “less is more” mantra, I have the same strategy for my cooking vessels. The only two frying pans I own now are right here.  I have a 10″ cast iron, and a 10″ carbon steel frying pan. (oh yeah, I do have a 6″ cast iron but it’s rarely used – I make silver dollar pancakes or cornbread with it on occasion). Anything I fry or saute on a burner, or roast in the oven is in one of these two pans.   Meats, vegetables, sauces, breads, pizzas, anything, everything. I make it all in these two pans.

Lodge 10″ cast iron skillet, and Lodge 10″ carbon steel skillet

I guarantee you these two pans are superior to any of those fancy chemically treated non-stick pans you see everywhere.  It’s a different kind of heat with these guys, it’s hard to explain. It’s so “even”. Everything cooks the same on every part of the pan, even the sides.  I’ve built up a good natural seasoning on them in the past several months. At first they were a chore to clean, but now even charred bits fall right off with an easy swipe with a chain scrubber rag.  After every use I gently wash with hot water only (no soap), completely dry it with a dark rag, then coat it with a light squirt of olive oil, rubbed all over with a paper towel, and hung back up on the hooks.  The carbon steel pan has become my “breakfast” pan – I cook a lot of bacon, eggs, etc on that one.  The cast iron is my “dinner” pan, it never disappoints.  My favorite thing to cook on it is steak.  I coat each side with salt and pepper, then sear each side on very high heat for a minute, then pop it into a 500 degree even for 6-9 minutes (depending on thickness) for a perfect juicy medium rare. Then to cut through it with one of those Wusthofs above? OH MY so good.

Jenny loves my new hobby, she says that “she benefits too” haha. She loves when I cook for her. I must admit, when she’s over I usually cook something I know I”m good at – I usually stick with the “experiments” when I’m home alone.  Hey, if it’s a bomb, oh well, I know to alter it next time or just scrap it altogether hah.  Anyway, for Valentine’s Day this year she bought me the Gordon Ramsey Master Class.  You’ve probably seen it popping up on Facebook ads. It’s very interesting, he shows you how to cook 4 or 5 of his signature dishes, as well as advice on kitchen tools (I took his advice!), how to pick out meats, fruits, vegetables, and some general advice on cooking and business in general.  It was worth every penny of the $90 she spent on it – thank you Jenny 🙂

The Science of Good Cooking, and Gordon Ramsey’s Master Class booklet

As part of Gordon’s class, he has some recommended reading.  One of the books he recommends is the one on the left – Cook’s Illustrated’s “The Science of Good Cooking”.  This book is amazing! It’s the result of a group calling themselves “America’s Test Kitchen”.  They explain the science of different cooking techniques. From temperature control to cooking tools, to types of food to temperature ranges.  Sure, it’s chock full of recipes like any other cookbook – but it goes beyond that. Each chapter focuses on a different scientific “lesson” in what’s really happening when you cook something.  They do experiments, cooking each dish using different techniques, and along the way reveal the optimum way to cook everything they show you.  Each chapter focuses on one topic, and gives several recipes to try using their proven methods.

I currently have this book on loan from the library – however I am going to buy it somewhere once my string of renewals runs out.  This book is a keeper, I highly recommend it! It reads like a college textbook – but it’s not too dry – very informative and practical.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my “Adventures in Cooking”, or at least the tools I use in that endeavor!

Terry

— March, 2017

3 thoughts on “Adventures in Cooking

  1. Kathi Malin

    You might check out old episodes of Good Eats (I think they’re available on Netflix) – if you like The Science of Good Cooking, Alton Brown’s old show is similar…he explains the science behind cooking and each episode is a different topic.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Dead on with the knives and the pans. Both are my core selections and the steak recipe is also how I do mine. They come out better than I could do on a grill or any other method. I will confess I use my 5 inch lodge for eggs most mornings. I also have the drip lid for the 10 inch skillet. It is great for anything that you want those juices dripping back down across the entire food surface vs running down the edges or worse losing to steam.

    I also have my grandmothers 8 inch Wagner cast iron skillet that has multiple decades of use on it. Very different cook surface than the lodge. Look at flea markets and you can find these older pans out there for a song. Build up the collection in an affordable manner.

    Now to get you into dutch oven cooking……

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