Culinary Arts 101 or: How You Need To Stop Worrying And Embrace Real Cooking

The current state of home cooking is, in rather quick fashion, becoming abysmal. Gone are grandma’s tried and true recipes. Instead folks are tuning into the Semi-Homemade channel for culinary inspiration. In the past 5- 6 years a proper home cooked meal has been replaced in many homes by 30 minutes to an hour of short cuts to a meal. Taking ques from folks who are, at their peak, best suited as a line cook at your local Chile’s has dealt a blow to the quality of the food people are eating at home. While more folks are headed toward the semi-homemade meals, Dylan Thomas comes to mind:

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

So folks lets rage against the semi-homemade, and once again strive to revive the light that is true cooking.

Ok that’s enough quasi-political ranting for now, onto the food. I offer up a simple meal to help get folks back on the path to proper cooking:

Perfect Roast Chicken

Brine

1 small sweet onion, quartered
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 bunch of fresh thyme
2-3 stalks lemongrass – pale green and white parts only(1 small lemon quartered may be subbed)
1/2C kosher salt
1/4C white table sugar
3 cups – 2 bottles – dark malty beer – Bocks, Brown Ales, or dark Belgians work great
5 cups ice cold water

Combine everything except the water in a pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Simmer until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and add ice water.

Roast Chicken

1 Roasting Chicken
2 quarts brine, cooled
1/2 TBSP cracked pepper
1/2 TBSP kosher salt
1/2 TBSP Smoked salt – optional
Butchers twine, or string

Submerge the chicken, in the vessel of your choosing, in the brine. Brine chicken for 6-8 hours. Preheat oven to 450F. Remove the chicken from the brine, and pat dry. Combine the salts and pepper in a bowl. Sprinkle the chicken liberally inside and out with salt/pepper mix. Truss* the chicken. Place the chicken in a roasting pan or oven safe skillet. Place the chicken in the oven. Shut the door and forget about the bird for 45 minutes – 1 hour. To pass the time you can do any number of things. You can read a few chapters from a book, watch five minutes of stand-up from Larry the Cable Guy, or you can even go to the wonderfully illogical extremes and pick something from the wonderfully ludicrous Ruth Bourdain culinary kama sutra. Pull the bird out of the oven when the thigh registers 160f w/ a thermometer. Let the bird rest for 15 minutes, then carve and enjoy.

This is the beautiful bird your minimal effort will grant you:

Beautiful roast Chicken, crappy photo

*How to truss a bird:

Take a two foot section of twine. Starting with the center of the string under the chicken’s keister, pull the twine up over the chicken legs and pull tight in the opposite direction under the legs. Take the string on either side and pull up over the thighs and wings. With the string taught, flip the bird over. Keeping it taught, tie the string off near the chickens neck. Flip the bird back over and tuck the wingtips underneath. By trussing your bird, you help promote even cooking. The legs get pulled towards the thinnest part of the breasts, protecting them from drying out. Wing tips are also prone to drying out, and tucking under the wings helps prevent that as well.

Green Beans tossed with bacon and garlic

1# fresh green beans, ends snapped off
1 cup kosher salt
1 gallon water
3 slices bacon sliced into small strips
2 cloves garlic, minced

Bring water and salt to a boil. Add the green beans, working in batches to avoid over crowding in the pot. Cook for 5-6 minutes. Remove from water and let dry. In a saute pan render the bacon. Add the garlic and green beans. Cook for an additional one to two minutes, then serve.

Gruyère Potato and turnip Gratin

1# baking potatoes – peeled and thinly sliced
1# turnips – peeled and thinly sliced
2.5 cups cream
1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg – the pregrated stuff in a bottle should be avoided at all cost.
1 cups shredded gruyère cheese

Preheat oven to 450f. In a pot bring the cream and milk to a boil and remove from the heat. Add the nutmeg. Arrange a layer of potatoes and turnips in the bottom of a 1.5 quart baking dish. Cover with some of the cream and shredded cheese. Repeat the process till all the potatoes and turnips are used up. Top off with remaining cream and cheese. Bake covered for an hour. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until top is bubbling and golden brown.


This whole meal takes a little bit of prep and about an hour or so of cooking. When all is said and done you can have a tasty meal that is simple to make, and devoid of shortcuts. I hope these recipes help inspire you to once again embrace real cooking.

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~ by thebrewgeek on Tuesday, June 29, 2010.

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