Tag: cooking

Bjorn Koch - 5 Tips for Cooking Like a Pro

5 Tips for Cooking Like a Pro

Whether you’re cooking for yourself, your family or somebody you want to impress, it’s always nice to feel confident in your culinary abilities — no matter how much experience you have. Here are 5 tips that will help you cook like a pro:

1. Always Prepare Before You Cook

No matter how simple your dish, it’s important to take the time to lay out all of the necessary tools and ingredients before you even flip on the stove. Otherwise, you could run the risk of burning something while you turn away to retrieve that bulb of garlic you forgot to pull out of the fridge.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Your Hands Dirty

It may sound taboo, but using your hands in the kitchen is entirely natural and acceptable — after all, they’re the best tools you have. Use your hands in measuring portions, applying marinades and seasoning to meat, and even toss salads. These methods not only save you time during preparation, but in the clean-up department as well.

3. Don’t Waste Food

…Unless it’s moldy and entirely unsafe for consumption, of course. According to head chef Abra Berens, however, there are several ways you could use to get rid of the older food in your fridge without being wasteful, including: turning your wilting lettuce into a delectable soup, making chicken or another form of stock from your leftover bones, and zesting your oranges before eating them.

4. Shop Smarter

It may be tempting to just go to your local grocery store and pick up your necessary ingredients in one fell swoop, but many chefs recommend you hold out on purchasing your fruits and vegetables until you get to a farmer’s market. More often than not, the produce sold at farmer’s markets are fresher and have been exposed to fewer pesticides and other toxic substances than their supermarket counterparts.

5. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Sometimes, it’s good to branch out from rigid recipes and test out a few ingredients of your own choosing — though this isn’t recommended when you’re cooking for somebody other than yourself.

Or, if you feel comfortable in your ability to choose complementary seasonings and garnishes, try a new cooking technique. Many master chefs recommend testing out methods like sautéing, French frying, and poaching, as these are some of the easiest to learn. Please don’t experiment with methods that incorporate an open flame, like flambéing, as these take a decent amount of professional training to safely perform.

Examining The Meteoric Rise of Avocados

bjorn koch avocados

We spend quite a bit of our lives crowded around a table shoveling (or gracefully forking) food into our mouths. This time we spend–about 70 minutes a day according to Tempo really adds up over time, consuming about 3.66 years of our life.

Understandably, then, we often put a good bit of time determining what exactly it is that we’ll be eating on a daily basis. One of the most popular places to see recipes is, of course, Pinterest. I myself am guilty of browsing the site for images of appetizing food, then heading to the kitchen to whip it up.

When you use online guides like Pinterest to help dictate what you’ll be eating, you begin to notice trends emerge. If a food becomes “in,” you begin to see it in more and more recipes, while foods that have fallen out of favor–often for health reasons–tend to show up less and less.

One food, however, has seemingly exploded, going from few and far between to a staple in a healthy number of Pinterest recipes.

That ingredient is the avocado.

 

Where do They Come From?

Avocados are often grown in Mexico and imported to the United States. The necessity for a Mediterranean climate void of frost and with little wind makes the cultivation of avocados elsewhere somewhat difficult. Despite some being grown in America (Florida, Arizona, California, etc), about 45% of the world’s supply comes from Mexico.

Unfortunately, due to California’s drought issues, the US-based avocado market struggled recently, driving up prices across the country. Apparently, eating those Pinterest recipes isn’t as cheap as you might have thought.

 

Why Are They So Popular?

In the last five or so years, the popularity of avocados has skyrocketed. In fact, the market for the healthy snack has gone up fourfold in recent years. That’s four times as many avocados being consumed across the country, thanks in part to lifted restrictions.

One reason is simply due to availability. Before the 1990s, the US was unable to import fruit from Mexico. As I mentioned above, Mexico is the world’s largest avocado producer. The ban forced consumers to get most of their avocados from California, which can’t grow year-round. When the ban was lifted, avocado imports, naturally, went up.

Perhaps the biggest reason that avocados have jumped in popularity recently is due to the benefits to those who work it into their recipes. Studies have shown that people have recently become more conscious of what they’re eating, striving to eat healthier now than they have before. The health benefits of avocados can’t be understated–they’re nutritious, offering good doses of various vitamins and healthy fats.

 

What You Can Make With Them

 

Avocados, having their roots in Mexico, are used in a number of Mexican dishes. The obvious one being guacamole. However since their explosion, the tasty fruit has been worked into a number of recipes both simple and extravagant from deviled eggs and soups to main dishes and meals composed around them. To explore a few visit AllRecipes.com or peruse some of the suggestions here.  

Tasting Table: Cooking Perfect Porkchops

Our friends at Tasting Table have turned out a great video for cooking the perfect pork chop every time. I’ve already reviewed in the past how to cook the perfect steak and how to order it at a restaurant (if you want a good steak, that is). But pork chops are a whole other ballgame, so to speak.

Cooking pork isn’t an incredibly easy task, but it’s well worth the payoff in the end; few things can beat a perfectly cooked, juicy cut of pork. Similar to what you’d expect cooking steak, cooking a piece of pork for just a bit too long can result in a dry piece of meat–the enemy of what we expect when we indulge in pork chops.

Tasting Table recommends four key aspects to cooking a good pork chop:

  • choose one with about a one inch thickness for optimum flavor and juice.
  • Get a cast iron skillet, if you don’t already own one.
  • Use oil before you use the butter. The oil is great for searing the chops to begin with, while adding the butter later helps add to the flavor.
  • Shoot for a medium finish on the chop.

Want to Cook at Home? Read This First.

Bjorn Koch home cooking

Going out for dinner takes a lot of pressure off of you, the consumer of the meal. Weighed against cooking at home, going out to dinner means no cooking, no cleanup, no time spent cooking and table service. When it’s put this way, it seems like dining out should be the unquestionably better choice here.

But sometimes cooking a nice dinner at home is just a better option. Maybe you don’t feel like spending money on dinner one night, or maybe you just want to hone in your cooking craft. After all, anyone can pay for a meal cooked for them, but not everyone can actually put in the work and cook one themselves. Plating a beautiful and delicious dinner yourself is a sense of pride and accomplishment second only to the satisfaction you get from devouring it.

But not everyone can cook a dinner or prepare a dish as well as what you’d get from a restaurant. If you’re one of the people who falls into this category, consider these four tips.

 

Read the recipe All the Way Before You Start

There is nothing quite as disheartening than getting two thirds of the way through a recipe and then realizing that you lack a fundamental ingredient, or come up a little short in quantity. Rather than forcing yourself to rush to the grocery store for another stick of butter or onion, jeopardizing the entire meal, sit down the night before and read through the recipe.

Why the night before? It’s simple: some recipes require that you let something sit overnight before cooking. While this may seem to be an entirely skippable step, it’s not. If a recipe calls for something to marinate overnight, you’ll want to let it marinate overnight. This is particularly true of tougher cuts of meat, as marinating overnight facilitates the breakdown of muscle fibers and allows for a juicier steak the next day.  

 

Buy Nice Cutlery

The difference between a good knife and a bad knife could be the difference between having two thumbs and having one. The better the cutlery you own, the sharper your knives are, the safer you’ll be when using them. Theoretically, this sounds counter intuitive; a sharper knife however ensures that you’ll have to apply less pressure to cut your food than a you would have to with a duller knife. A sharper knife makes for easier cuts and less slipping and fumbling with your foods.

 

Cast Iron is Your Friend

Cast Iron skillets can be a lifesaver and make cooking much easier and much higher quality. Cast iron skillets are fairly cheap and last almost forever. They’re durable and can withstand higher levels of heat than standard glass or cookware. They’re also fantastic for heat distribution, and the “seasoning” aspect of cast iron means they don’t need to be washed with soap. They’re also non-stick by nature and incredibly versatile, you can cook anything from scrambled eggs to biscuits and gravy, all the way to baking a cake!

 

Practice, then Tweak

While you’re still homing in your cooking skills, follow recipes. It may seem too “standard” or “unoriginal” to simply follow a recipe you found online or in your cookbook, but following advice of the professionals to a T will guarantee good results at first. Then, when you’ve mastered the recipes you should begin experimenting with tweaking them to meet your specific taste.  

Get to Know the 5 Foundational Mother-Sauces of Classical Cuisine

Any true fine-diner can speak to the power of a great sauce. Whether that sauce arrives atop a steak in the form of a flavorful glaze or plays center-stage to a bowl of homemade fettuccine noodles, sauces are key to many of the world’s greatest dishes.

Did you know that most sauces can be broken down into five categories? Just like wine, understanding the type of sauce will help you make a more informed decision whether you’re ordering out or testing your hand in the kitchen. Referred to as mother-sauces–these simple bases act as the foundation for thousands of classic meals.

 

Béchamel

 

What it is: A creamy, white sauce that’s thickened slowly, over low heat

To make this sauce, a chef combines a roux (butter and flour) + dairy item, usually cream. This super-sauce is the star of favorite dishes like lasagna and macaroni and cheese.

 

Véloute

 

What it is: A thin, lightly colored sauce flavored by chicken stock

If you’re a lover of roast chicken topped with gravy, you have this sauce to thank. Created using a roux + chicken or fish stock, this sauce accompanies everything from chicken pot pie to shrimp scampi.

 

Espagnole

 

What it is: A basic brown sauce flavored by beef stock

 

Made similarly to the véloute, simply substitute the chicken stock for beef and you’ve got yourself an espagnole sauce. Perfect to make glazes and gravies, you’ll find red wine and mushrooms as common additions to this delightful sauce.

 

Tomato

What it is: The foundational sauce for all tomato-based dishes.

 

The classic tomato sauce accompanies traditional dishes like spaghetti and pizza. It’s flavor is created by combining a roux and tomatoes on the stovetop. Additions like garlic, basil, and onions provide that warm and delicious flavor we cherish.  

 

Hollandaise

The perfect topping for eggs and asparagus, hollandaise sauce may be time consuming, yet completely worth it. A close relative to mayonnaise, this sauce is bound together via an emulsified process using butter, egg yolks, and lemon juice.

An accomplished diner can parse a complicated menu with ease by simply understanding the root of each dish. Why not explore the educational aspect of dining out? It’s a great way to understand the foods we love and try out less familiar foods.

 

For the highly motivated, test your hand at home:

Béchamel: To create the best mac & cheese

Véloute: For any chicken dish

Espagnole: To top a perfect filet

Tomato: For classic dishes

Hollandaise: To impress brunch guests

Three Recipes to Wow Just About Anyone

Hosting a dinner, whether it’s for a group, your family or a potential date, can be nerve-wracking. Everything, in essence, should be perfect. You want the dish to taste good, of course, that’s paramount. But you also want to make sure it’s a delicious meal for everyone, not just you. It should also be adequately filling–no one wants to be forced to make a stop at McDonalds on the way home from dinner just to fill up. Presentation, as well, is a key facet of any meal. A meal that looks like something you’d find in a gutter won’t be overly appealing no matter how good it tastes. And, if you’re not the best cook in the world, nailing a dish can be difficult.

Choosing a dish is an entirely different matter. Cooking can be difficult, but recipes can be easy to follow. There is no recipe, however, that tells you what to cook for your guests, only how to cook it.

Luckily, I’ve chosen three recipes that are sure to wow just about anyone you bring over–each recipe is a signature dish from a world-renowned chef and none are overly complicated, convoluted or incredibly difficult to make.

 

Gordon Ramsay’s Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington is an absolute classic main dish that will impress the eyes and noses of your diners, and delight their tastebuds. There is certainly a reason that the dish is a mainstay on the television show Hell’s Kitchen–while it’s not a particularly easy dish to perfect, even a slightly over cooked or not properly cut Beef Wellington is a perfectly palatable dish.

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 x 400g beef fillets
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 500g mixture of wild mushrooms, cleaned
  • 1 thyme sprig, leaves only
  • 500g puff pastry
  • 8 slices of Parma ham
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten with 1 tbsp water and a pinch of salt
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 200g beef trimmings (ask the butcher to reserve these when trimming the fillet)
  • 4 large shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • Splash of red wine vinegar
  • 1 x 750ml bottle red wine
  • 750ml beef stock

For the full recipe, click here.

Follow Ramsay’s recipe to a T and you’ll find both you and your guests impressed with the aesthetic and the taste of this classic filet dish.


Mario Batali’s Bucatini all’ Amatriciana

While the name may be a bit of a mouthful, you won’t be spending too much time talking once you get a taste of the finished product. According to Mario Batali’s site, the dish is named for the town of Amatrice, Italy, where some of the country’s best chefs call home. Once you’ve cooked the  surprisingly simple dish, you likely won’t spend much time arguing that fact, as the simplicity shines through and creates a fantastically hearty and filling pasta-based dish that will delight everyone.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces thinly sliced guanciale pancetta, or good bacon
  • 1 red onion, cut lengthwise in half and then into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce
  • 1 pound Bucatini
  • Freshly grated Pecorino Romano

For the full recipe, click here.


Emeril Lagasse’s Double Cut Pork Chops

Pork chops themselves are an easy dish to make, but Emeril “kicks it up a notch” with this recipe, which adds a Mexican influence to the dinner staple to create a unique–and fairly simple–dish for your next outing.

What You’ll Need

  • 2 tablespoons seeded tamarind paste (Available in Latin, Indian or Indonesian markets)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons dark cane syrup or corn syrup, if cane is unavailable
  • 3 tablespoons dark molasses
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Southwest Seasoning
  • 4 1-pound loin pork chops, each about 2-inches thick
  • 4 teaspoons Southwest Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

For the full recipe click here.

 

Gordon Ramsay & The “Perfect” Steak

Perhaps there isn’t a “right” way to cook or order a steak. Perhaps it ultimately boils down to the eater’s preference–perhaps a well done steak is just as “good” as a perfectly cooked medium-rare filet. Or perhaps it’s not my place to say how you should cook your steak, how you should season it or how long to leave it on for.

For that, I’ll turn it over to the man who has perhaps become one of the most well-known chefs around the world thanks to his foul-mouthed television persona, Gordon Ramsay. Check the video below for a quick (as in, less than three minutes) breakdown on the perfect steak.

And there, in just two and a half minutes, Gordon Ramsay has turned the layman from steak novice to steak expert.

As Ramsay noted while he was cooking the steak, he prefers his rare, though the same cannot be said for all viewers. For this, Ramsay used a spin-off of a common trick that allows anyone to use their hand to determine how cooked a steak is without having to slice into it.

Though Ramsay uses his arm (and we’re inclined to side with a celebrity chef known for his ability to cook delicious food), the more popular version involves using the palm of your hand, and can be found in the photo below.

steak cooking with your palm

While there may not be a “correct” way to cook a steak, I recommend that you give Gordon Ramsay’s method a shot and let the taste determine whether you believe the hype.

 

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