Friday, August 13, 2010

Good Food


I've had an epiphany of sorts this week. It all started with that movie I watched on Saturday. Really, it did. I have always longed to be a good cook. I love food and I want to eat it...all the time. The problem is, I can't cook good food.

Oh, I can get by, don't get me wrong. I can follow a recipe and sometimes they turn out and sometimes they don't. The flops? They, more often than not, cost a lot of money and that fact alone frustrates me and causes me to rethink my cooking regime. I am then left in a puddle of frustrated tears and sighs and a "let's just order a pizza".

I can do better. I know I can.

I recently purchased a subscription to E-Mealz. I thought it would be a wonderful way to cook every night and I wouldn't have to think about meal planning or grocery lists and it would be easy. Some meals were okay. Others worse. I bravely fought my way through the canned biscuits on top of spaghetti. I muscled my way past water chestnut chicken bake. But I lost my nerve the night I was instructed to open a can of peas, heat in a saucepan and serve. Ugggg! Canned peas? You've got to be kidding me! How did I fall to such depths that I could serve my family canned peas? Am I really that terrible of a cook? I am waiting for the day I am told to make "chicken noodle soup" and the instructions will tell me to boil a package of top ramen and dump a can of chicken into it. It wouldn't surprise me.

Back to the picture above. I spent some time yesterday researching Julia Child's cookbook on the internet. I ran across this article titled "Don't Buy Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and the title alone launched me forward. (Rebellious spirit that I am.) I took to the nearest library and immediately checked out the cookbook. I spent the next hour reading through the introduction and the section on how to buy meat.

I believe this is the book that will teach me how to cook. Those hamburgers you see in the picture above were the absolute best hamburgers I have ever eaten. They didn't even have Worcestershire sauce in them. Just simple ingredients cooked right. And they were delicious. No need for cheese. No need for bread. The meat stood on its own and boy was it good. (Of course, the stick and a half of butter helped too. Butter always does.)

I am thinking I may want to learn how to roast a chicken tonight. The right way. (One of my husbands biggest complaints about my cooking is that the chicken is dry. Let's see if I can learn to cook moist chicken.)

I must be off to school now. We skipped school yesterday since Chloe was running a fever. And on another side note, I am 3/4 of the way done on my very last square for my sampler afghan. WOOO HOOO! I cannot wait to show you all.


LadySnow said...

Oh wow....sounds like a horrible meal plan! But you have been making me hungry with your last few posts. :-) Hope Chloe feels better soon.

Anna said...

It WAS horrible. James loved it though as he was raised on processed food. I couldn't stand it and in order to make it work for my unprocessed nature it would have taken me just as long if not longer to change the plan to include unprocessed stuff as it would have taken me to completely make my own menu plan. It was not worth it, in my opinion.

Now, for a family who eats McDonald's every night of the week and the like, it would probably be a huge step up. For us, it was sort of the lowest step before McDonald's and I just can't do that to my family. Especially after having eaten unprocessed, un-chemically enhanced food for as long as we have.

The Shrone said...

My sister gifted me with the two Julia Child cookbooks last year. All of the swoon and hype regarding her Boeuf Bourguignon is well deserved. I took photos of my cooking the stew to show that it isn't too difficult.

I have found that making soups are a good way to practice cooking and learn how to develop flavors by using seasoning & spices instead of salt and butter.

There is something to be said for enameled cast iron cookware. But the good brands are an investment. I love my Lodge cast iron cookware (non-enameled), and plan to try out there enameled cookware in the future. Lodge is very affordable--a great way to transition from Teflon.

Cooking is both art and science to me. I'm passionate about it, and consider it to be an adventure. If you get stuck or need help, I'm only an e-mail away.

Anna said...

Thank you Lori. I will certainly be asking help in the future. First on our list of investments will be some good knives. I am using the same set I bought when we were first married at 19 years old. They were a $10 set and can't cut a tomato slice no matter how carefully and willfully I try. More than likely, I will make investment purchases one at a time so it won't be a huge cost all at once.

Do you have any suggestions for good knives that I can purchase one at a time and not in a set?

The Shrone said...

I've been thinking about cutlery now that you've mentioned it. Many years ago, like 5 or 6 yrs, my mom wanted to know what she could get me as a gift for our house. I said a good set of knives that could be sharpened. Nothing extravagant, just a good sturdy set. Turns out the set she got me is still sold at Bed, Bath & Beyond ( We've not been kind to these knives--they have been put into the dishwasher (big no-no), but I sharpen them and they work perfectly. The pair of scissor went dull, so I have replaced them just a couple of months ago.

For other needs, I buy those cheap paring knives--the kind that are 4 for $1 with color plastic handles.

I've not spent a lot on cutlery over the years as you might tell. One thing I recently bought that I think is wonderful is a simple mandolin slicer. It's a $10 plastic cheapy, and yet I find I use it all the time. How did I live without one? LOL!

Anna said...

I ended up buying a starter set yesterday. Dear husband chocked when he saw the prices of the "good stuff". I also found the set of pots and pans I would like. All-Clad. We will be saving up for those.

But for knives, I ended up purchasing this set of three and a sharpening tool.

Funny you should mention the mandolin because I actually picked one up yesterday too. I would like to try Julia's scalloped potatoes this weekend and thought it might come in handy.

The Shrone said...

We bought a set of All-Clad with some Christmas money my dad gave us one year. I do like them, but find I prefer cast iron and enameled cast iron to them.

If I had to do it over, I'd try out the All-Clad by getting a basic fry pan to see if I liked it, instead of the set. There are pieces to the set I have never used, and I've had it for 5-6 years.

I was skeptical about how I'd like the Le Creuset pot. I got a basic 4.5 qt. at the outlet store. (Some great savings at those outlet stores if you have one near you!) I can marinade it in, fry in it, bake in it, saute in it. It is wonderful for browning meat and easily de-glazes. And as for simmering--out of this world!

Anna said...

Maybe I will try the Le Creuset pot first. I did have my eye on them as well.

The Shrone said...

I checked out the knife set you got and it looks awesome! I find you don't need too many knives, just good sharp ones.

I hope you'll post about the scalloped potatoes. I've wanted to make them but John isn't big on potatoes prepared that way.

Sometimes people will sell their Le Creuset cookware on Craigslist, which would be one way to get a piece more affordable. However, at the outlet stores they have had pretty good discounts--up to 40%. The clerks in the store are so helpful, too.

Bon appetit!

(((((HUGS))))) sandi said...

I have been drooling over The New Best Recipe cookbook from America's Test Kitchen (Cook's Illustrated Mag)~all tried and true recipes with great pointers! (((((HUGS))))) sandi