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    Elephant Froody Blue Gem's avatar
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    Default Cooking

    Does anyone here like to cook? What kinds of things do you like to make.? I'm kind of still learning the ropes but I do enjoy it. I also love enjoy trying the things that I make. I like making chilli, tacos, and kielbasi. I want to get more recipes in there. Pizza is fun to make as well.

    I also love to bake. I find it so much fun.

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    Oliphaunt Jizzelbin's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Froody Blue Gem View post
    Does anyone here like to cook? What kinds of things do you like to make.? I'm kind of still learning the ropes but I do enjoy it. I also love enjoy trying the things that I make. I like making chilli, tacos, and kielbasi. I want to get more recipes in there. Pizza is fun to make as well.

    I also love to bake. I find it so much fun.
    Actually, yeah.

    During the final phases of my grad school career, me and my partner invested WAY too much time and money in basically doing everything in the kitchen.

    Even before that, I'd developed some excellent skills as a baker and, basically, worked my way through a dozen or so cookbooks based on various national/ethnic cuisines. I got pretty good just as a single bachelor.

    But when my girl at the time came along, we went nuts. Stainless steel industrial work-platforms. I'd already had the KitchenAid, but she brought from her mother's discard pile a shit-load of All-Clad cookware (of which I still have many), and all kinds of crazy shit.

    I think as far as baking goes, my best effort was making a perfectly-shaped ciabatta. I've always made bread, but it's really a trick to make the loaf be the way it's supposed to be when it's done cooking.

    I may have used a thermometer at that time, but certainly, I became attached to the oven thermometers with the steel cables, the rubber mallets for cracking treyf shellfish, everything.

    Meh, I gave it all up a few years ago — it seems to me that I no longer desire to stuff ground pork into natural casings, I'll just get some Hot Pockets from the store.

    Sad, but true — it's more fun cooking with another person, although I did enjoy in early college/uni days just preparing simple, correct fare.

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    Oliphaunt Jizzelbin's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Froody Blue Gem View post
    Does anyone here like to cook? What kinds of things do you like to make.? I'm kind of still learning the ropes but I do enjoy it. I also love enjoy trying the things that I make. I like making chilli, tacos, and kielbasi. I want to get more recipes in there. Pizza is fun to make as well.
    Well, for pizze, one gadget I found pretty neat was a circular steel (thin) plate with a bunch of holes punched in from top to bottom.

    But, honestly, I couldn't say it made better pizze than just a regular jelly-roll pan or a sheet pan.

    ////////////

    If you're already good at chilies, taco fixins and sausage making, I would say IMHO baking breads is probably the final frontier.

    On the one hand, it's very easy to get something good.

    On the other hand, it requires a good deal of art to get something top-notch.

    I think IMHO making a great pizza dough is the best start. You learn about how to ferment the dough, do the slow-rise, how much to work the dough.

    From there, a foccacia is a next fool-proof step.

    From there, experimenting with shortbreads, like cornmeal-based or others.

    From there, the boule-style breads would be next — big step up in terms of patience and equipment.

    And, finally, the traditionally-shaped breads like a ciabatta or even a baguette (direct on the oven rack).

    But there's a fork there, because you can do sandwich breads in the special pans — TBH I could never make them work and have the right texture.

    At least for the last, you need a thermometer to watch the internal temperature of the dough from outside the oven.

    At least I need one, since I'm not an old-world grandmother.

    The BEST thing about learning to cook is you learn to sense or smell when things are ready — it becomes an intuition.


    ////

    ETA And the final proof! Roasting a chicken or a duckling to perfection. I wouldn't say it's "advanced," but it requires some close attention.

    ///

    EETA BIG shallow cast-iron skillet. IMVHO that's a baker's best friend. Just don't drop it on your foot.
    Last edited by Jizzelbin; 29 Sep 2018 at 05:21 PM.

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    Oliphaunt Jizzelbin's avatar
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    Oh, the food author John Thorne (sp?) had a good anecdote in one of his books about his massive failure at trying to impress some girl with his abilities at cooking rice.

    Cooking rice, you know, in a regular saucepan with a good lid, such that it turns out correctly cooked, can be difficult.

    I believe that's the best example of where one's sense of smell, awareness of timing, and probably some other stuff, comes together perfectly.

    I'm not trying to brag, since one billion Chinese can't be wrong, but once you know how the cooking rice is supposed to smell and sound when it's done, you'd never forget it — you just know.

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    Oliphaunt Jizzelbin's avatar
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    Oh, and forget about making croissants and more delicate pastries.

    My father is able to make croissants better than anything I've seen commercially available in my town, but he's super into cooking, baking, anything kitchen-related, plus he's been doing it for a long time.

    I can't even think about it without having my head hurt from the amount of labor and attention to detail required — that's like Jacques Pépin type shit.

    Although I do recommend Pépin's cookbooks, especially his two "fundamentals" books, Method and Technique. Well, they're worth looking at. He does have other books.

    Also, aside from one of the earlier editions of The Joy of Cooking, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking really is the only "cookbook" one needs. No, I never saw the movie or read that lady's blog, but Julia Child is an outstanding example of how a good cookbook is to be written.

    The nice thing about French kitchen-work is its emphasis on all basic techniques — once the good foundation has been secured, I find it's no trouble to adapt the methods to all kinds of other cuisines.

    They do like their knife-work, though, which I find is not worth the trouble for home-style cooking. Aside from being able to handle a chef's knife reasonably well, and safely. TBH I never use a paring knife, ever. One big ten inch and a little six inch, and a serrated knife is I think covers everything for home cooking, plus a good potato/carrot/etc peeling device.

    But if one is a fan of the Gallic-style "extremely methodical, everything prepared in a grid for quick reference," learning, then IMHO it's the place to go. I say, even as most of what I cook are variations on SE Asian stir-fries, rice-based meals, and some general American melting-pot-type things.

    ///

    ETA And, everyone should make a cheesecake at least once from scratch, with the springform pan. Those can be tricky, but barring a catastrophe in leakage, even a mediocre result is still better than none.

    Also there is an Italian approach to cooking that is almost opposite to the French "fundamentals-first" style, but I think that's well-represented in the TV shows and things. I definitely learned some tricks from this school of thought in cooking — it really does work, especially for practical, home-style cooking. But I don't have any specific references, just various tricks and techniques that are invaluable.

    Such as, making a bread using the "volcano" approach — put a mound of flour on a clean surface/cutting board, and sort of work the liquid in from an indentation you form in the center. Very much a good technique, extremely reliable.
    Last edited by Jizzelbin; 30 Sep 2018 at 10:52 AM.

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    Oliphaunt Jizzelbin's avatar
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    And a whisk/whip. And a heavy meat cleaver is nice — easily doubles as a dough-scraper for baking. And a rubber mallet. <insert line from Steve Martin in The Jerk>

    Equipment? Large cast-iron skillet. 2-qt saucepan and/or 4-qt saucepan, each with tight-fitting lids. Stockpot. Cutting board or just a scrupulously-cleaned surface. Sheet pan is nice, but not necessary. Food processor or stand mixer? Not really needed. Stick blender? VERY handy device. ALSO, aluminum-core smallish frying pan for eggs.

    Thermometer? For me, essential, but not strictly necessary.

    Plus an abundance of clean, dry towels, large bowls/containers, and all that.

    Oh, and a good spatula—rubber-ish, heat-resistant, is ideal. And the kind of "flipper/turner"-type spatula you might see the fry cook using at a diner is handy/

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    Oliphaunt Jizzelbin's avatar
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    Oh, and for good-quality batterie de cuisine/cookware, I seem to recall that ... I think it's still "Ross" but one of those type stores. You can find some boss shit in stores like that.

    And, why is cast iron skillet a baker's friend? Well, numerous reasons. You can us it as a heat sink in a hot oven, you can use water in it to ... well, create steam. AND, it's convenient for doing foccacia, short breads, or anything where you need a flat surface that can handle bitching-hot heat.

    Plus, no better tool for doing meats or poultry (spatchcock, please!).

    I just keep at least one in the oven at all times, for the perhaps dubious idea that it helps regulate the heat in my crappy oven. Yeah, if you cook steaks in them often on the stovetop, they can use some attention, but if you keep it nice and seasoned, it can do just about perfect for breakfast-style eggs as well as anything else.

    No, basically not much equipment is required, although they can be fun.

    Experience and a flair for experimentation is far more important, IMHO.



    HOWEVER, I'm not joking about a BIG stack of clean, dry (DRY!!!) towels. Need that. ETA Note how I said "dry"? Yep. I'm like Quint from Jaws in that I'll never, ever use an oven mitt as long as I live. Damned good way to burn the shit out of your hand. Never touch any cooking equipment unless you can drop the pan safely or remove the handling device with a flick of the wrist. Easiest solution for me is to have a stack of dry towels handy.

    Also, easy way to squeeze out water if you're making latkes. Yeah, I know you can use a ricer, but those never work so good for me, and I happen to own a very good ricer.
    Last edited by Jizzelbin; 02 Oct 2018 at 12:54 AM.

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    Oliphaunt Jizzelbin's avatar
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    Oh, for cooking rice such that it comes out perfectly 100% of the time.

    NEVER use the directions on the bag. Those are wrong. I still use (roughly) the ratio of water to dry rice Alton Brown gave in some article/website/book. There's some leeway — I don't actually own a measuring cup, I just eyeball it.

    But the idea is to starve the rice of water, and...well, I don't want to give away all my secrets, but just use the pilaf method.

    And it depends on the exact saucepan you're using and your oven range.

    Results may vary.

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    Also, no cats in the kitchen.

    Ever.

    Fortunately I think if you're cooking the right way, any kitties are going to be scared away and go hide in a pile of clothes or something.

    It's not really cooking unless you're loud, fast, and abundantly cursing to yourself under your breath or to your partner.

    And if you're slow cooking, which is a legitimate way, then the kitties aren't going to be a problem.

    Just don't step on kitty.

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    HEY!!!!

    You bunch of non-hackers who do not pack the gear required to serve in my beloved Corps!

    Like the OP, I've enjoyed making sausages (stuffing into natural casings, not so much — basically I sold my KitchenAid and I never had the sausage-stuffing attachment).

    But I've had a bunch of "pink salt" (no, that's not fancy salt, it's, like sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite used for producing cured salume) in a cupboard for a long time.

    Ehhhhh.

    No, I'm content with fresh sausages, although without the mixer, I'm not too enthused about noodling around with pork and marjoram and everything by hand/spatula.

    Well, I guess the mixer went to a good "home" — some lady a few years ago wanted to buy it for like $150, which is about what I paid new for the 5-qt KitchenAid on some deal from Amazon, like, a lot of years ago, so I figured, meh, why not.

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    Related cooking question.

    How do you people clean your kitchen?

    I might be old school, but I think regular bleach in some kind of solution with water is nonpareil.

    My dishwasher died on me a while ago, so while I hand-wash dishes and tools, I don't bother bleach-soaking them, just a thorough scrub + air-drying.

    But countertops, definitely bleach.

    Definitely bleach.

    Wapner is on, definitely bleach.

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    Quote Originally posted by Jizzelbin View post
    ... I think it's still "Ross" but one of those type stores. You can find some boss shit in stores like that.
    "Ross Dress For Less" or "TJ Maxx" (sp?). I think those are national chains.

    Also, easy way to squeeze out water if you're making latkes. Yeah, I know you can use a ricer, but those never work so good for me, and I happen to own a very good ricer.
    Also just hashbrown potatoes — OK, so maybe a food processor makes those easier, but IMHO, skillful use of a combination of a peeling device + whatever sharp knife fits your hand is OK, too.

    I note: a good peeling device is sharp as shit, so if you ever had a papercut, magnify that times like a million if you're not super careful.

    And, to restate, of course, the key to a good latke or hashbrown is squeeze ALL the water out.

    Clean dishtowel's the best; IMHO the ricer is better for getting to the rough stage of puréeing potatoes, but it won't get all the water out, and your results won't be like you want.

    Also, of course, ascorbic acid + potatoes is a good combination.

    DAMN YOU!

    Starting a cooking thread.

    Just when I thought I was out....you pull me back in!!!!

  13. #13
    Oliphaunt Jizzelbin's avatar
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    Canned beans.

    Cans of powdered cheese.

    Pasta/Ramen/Rice.

    Olive oil/beurre noisette.

    Occasionally four hamburgers to-go from MacDo.

    Beer.

    And sometimes flank steak or ground beef.

    I'm living proof that a bachelor diet not only keeps the kitchen tamed, relatively, but is more-or-less satisfactory.

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