10 Tips to Improve Your Game When Cooking at Home
Excerpt from How To Host A Dinner Party by Corey Mintz
Whether you love to cook and have been doing it for years or you are just starting to learn, here are some basic tips that can be very helpful for any occasion.
1. READ RECIPES THOUROUGHLY BEFORE COOKING.
You don’t have to memorize them, but if you know them well enough that you could tell a friend, it will save you time when cooking. It’s maddening to keep running back and forth to the book or computer while you’ve got something on the stove.
2. GO THROUGH YOUR LIST INGREDIENTS AND ORGANIZE BY CHRONOLOGY.
Sort the ingredients by how long it will take to cook them. Some can sit a long time once prepared and others need to be as fresh as possible. Ingredients like grains, beans and potatoes need a longer cook time, so start these first. Once cooked, they will sit well while you cook the other ingredients.
3. LEARN TO COOK DRIED BEANS
Beans are delicious, nutritious, inexpensive and so easy to prepare. Soak them overnight and then boil them at a low simmer. It’s good to have some ready-to-go to add to salads or soups throughout the week.
4. ONLY PUT COLD THINGS IN THE FRIDGEs
When grains, beans, potatoes or any boiled item is cooked, strain and cool it by spreading it out on a flat sheet And do not refrigerate until completely cool. Hot things poured into a bowl continue to cook. Hot things placed into the fridge steam the foods around them.
5. BE EASY ON YOUR HERBS
Cilantro is a hearty herb. Chop it up at 9 a.m. and it’ll be just as vibrantly green at dinnertime. Mint, parsley and dill are resilient as well. If you are using fresh rosemary as a garnish, you will want to wait until the end to chop it up so it remains green. The same goes for Tarragon, which will darken rather than turn brown. Oregano and Thyme leaves are small and should only be separated and not chopped. But basil will bruise and wilt easily, so it’s best saved for the last minute. If you do slice it earlier, make sure to use a sharp knife and cover it with a damp cloth.
6. CITRUS JUICES TASTE BEST WHEN THEY ARE FRESHLY SQUEEZED
Citrus juice is an acid and it’s used to bring out the brightness and cheery notes of ingredients. You can use it on fish, in salads, and marinades. Fresh, just-squeezed lemon or lime juice does wonders for a pan sauce. But if you've ever added it to a sauce too early, you know how funky it tastes when it cooks. Avoid discoloration and a bitter flavor by only adding the juice after you remove the sauce (or stew, or soup, or whatever) from the heat.
7. DON’T OVERCROWD YOUR PAN
There’s an important reason why a recipe says to brown the meat in batches. Yes, it takes longer, but the result will be much better than overcrowding your pan. To brown meat, the surface area of metal must be on a high heat to achieve the proper coloring and flavor. It you put too much in the pan at once, it will make the temperature drop and boil the meat instead of browning it.
8. AVOID OVERLY FLIPPING YOUR PAN
It can be tempting to show off your cooking skills like you see on television by flipping the pan over and over. However, every time you move the pan, you are removing it from the heat. Move it only when you have to, especially when searing a piece of meat. When you place a piece of meat with some fat onto a hot pan, it will stick to the surface. Once seared, it will release. If you attempt to move the meat before then, the flesh will tear.
9. MEAT SHOULD REST AFTER COOKING
Whether it’s a roast or a single steak, you should always let the meat rest before slicing into it otherwise the juices will run everywhere. The residual heat from cooking continues to cook the meat after being removed it from the grill, pan or oven. Cover it loosely with foil for a few minutes to let the juices redistribute to keep it moist and flavorful.
10. TASTE EVERYTHING AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY
Short of raw chicken, you should use a new spoon and taste everything you are cooking regularly to make sure you are on the right track and that it tastes as it should. If you do this as you go, you will have a chance to adjust seasonings and ingredients if you went wrong somewhere along the way.
FRENCH ONION SOUP
Our delicious French Onion Soup is a family favorite. Discover creative new ways to personalize this tasty classic at home for a variety of occasions.