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Kitchen Assistant Blog

The Secret to Great Food!!

08/05/2020
Are you familiar with the phrase “bean the batter”? It's when you throw that wild pitch that whacks the batter in the side of the head. Your performance is so bad, both dugouts clear out and there is a giant brawl. Well, occasionally I "beaned the batter" with a dinner that I serve. You know what I’m talking about, that awkward silence when everyone takes their first bite, there is a pause…., a funny little pursing of the lips and then suddenly the weather becomes a topic of absolute fascination!! I have also served many so-so, meals. You know the dinner where you cannot remember what you cooked only 12 hours later. Yet on occasion, I have even served a dinner that I am truly proud of. A showstopper. One where your guests brag and compare you to someone who has actual skill.
There is a methodology for cooking great meals on a consistent basis. This methodology is based on a set of rules. When I cook, I try to both remember and more importantly try to follow these rules. When I do keep to my little list, I cook better, the outcome is better, and the people I cook for appreciate the food more. This blog is an attempt to pull these rules together and get them in one place.
The Rules:
1. Ingredients – Do not try to cook what you don’t have. If you decide to serve shrimp and your grocery store has a poor selection, change your plan. Do NOT Let your plans force you to serve bad ingredients. Don’t be afraid to make sure your ingredients are worthy of your efforts. Unless I personally know the fish monger, and even if I do, I will demand to smell a piece of fish. Smell the actual piece of fish that you intend to buy! Sometimes piece by piece there are great differences in freshness. When I smell a piece of fish, if I don’t get the clean aroma of nothing but ocean in my nose, then that fish is better suited for doing the Mayflower pilgrim thing. Dig a hole in your back yard, drop it in, and plant some corn. Remember that Seasonal cooking helps you keep to ingredients that are at their peak.
2. More about Ingredients – Allow that beautiful ingredient to stand on its own. Yes, do add a sauce but the scallop should be the star. The sauce gives your guest something else to enjoy, but the scallop is what should be raved about.
3. Less is never more – A great recipe never gets better by cutting corners. If you are missing something, then go back to the store and get it!!! If you are missing onions, you know, the onions that are critical for your stock, how much time will you really waist by zipping back to the store for them. Is that little bit of time worth more then how bad your stock will be when it is missing a key aromatic? Some ingredients are used to add richness or deepen a flavor. Adding more of an Ingredient that is used to build flavor, if it is done proportionally, will improve the flavor of what you are cooking. So…. Its stock. Do add twice as much chicken as the recipe calls for. make sure that you double the aromatics as well. If you add, make sure that you keep things in balance. While adding depth do be careful of strong ingredients. Adding too much of a dominant ingredient (rutabaga, hot peppers, fish sauce) may throw your dish into a bad direction. The best Glace de Viande’s are made from a ridiculous about of meat and bones. Ten times more meat and bones then you would ever consider putting into a stock or a sauce. But…. That is why the sauce is so good!! And expensive!! 😊
4. More is NOT more – Do not muddle a dish with too many ingredients or too many sauces, or too many garnishes. They may tend to confuse the dinner, and nothing will stand out. Some of the greatest dishes have only 2 or 3 flavors or ingredients.
5. Organize, organize, organize – You can not over-plan a dinning event. Every aspect of an event can benefit from planning. Write lists and decide how to do something before you try to actually do it. Write out the menu. Write a master shopping list. Organize it by grocery store dept. Write out a prep list. Decide what china and what flatware you will use for each course. Decide what pans are needed for each course. If you already thought it through, you will not forget or make a bad call in a moment of stress. Having planned on what you will need next will force you to clean that pan now, because you need it in 3 minutes. “Complex dinners are mitigated by proper planning”. The more complex, the more planning is needed. Better chefs plan more and plan better.
6. Taste everything and taste it just before it goes out the kitchen door. Save seasoning for the last minute. Remember that sometimes it will take a little time to really impact the flavor. Confusing? Yes, it is. How late you season depends on what you are seasoning. A cold soup will take a couple of minutes for the salt to dissolve and be tasted. Salt will immediately change the flavor of Consume.
7. Keep your mistakes in the kitchen. If you blow it, either re-do it or throw it the hell out. No one is going to enjoy a rack of lamb more when it is being assaulted by the presence of a funky assed, broken down, nasty, old crap sauce that was neglected, forgotten and given up on.
Well that is about it. My other little pearls of wisdom are hidden in the depths of Kitchen Assistant. I look forward to writing more as well as enjoying the writing from other contributing Chefs.
Wine
Wine reviews are from Kitchen Assistant and other professional sources.
The wine section teaches you about the complexities and ranges of the world's wines.
Wine of the Day is a review featuring a newly discovered vintage.
Wine of the Day
Jean-Jacques Vincent Pouilly-Fuisse
Marie Antoinette - 2014
$18.00
This bottle of Chardonnay does cost a little more--but it drinks like a $75 Chassagne Montrachet. IT IS LUXURIOUS!! Balanced with a mixture of many different fruits, ranging from apple to lemon and melon, it is definitely old world with minerality but balanced with a suggestion of oak. Once in a while, go out and get a bottle that costs a little more. This White Burgundy is worth the extra little bit of money. To improve on this one you will need $70 to $100. Stop, breath, pause, fill your nose with its essence, take a sip, close your eyes and just savor.
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