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Old 09-19-2015, 04:40 PM   #41
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Back to the original question:
I'm asking for your input/suggestions on how I can go about learning to make better it skills, recipes, ingredients, spices, or what?
Sheesh... am sympathetic...
Am no connoisseur... in fact had to look up how to spel it....
a person who is especially competent to pass critical judgments in an art, particularly one of the fine arts, or in matters of taste:
Anyway... as a latecomer to cooking, am not into reading recipe books... to find that the 1/4 teaspoon of cumin essential oil and a sprinkle of cinnamon... the preheat to to 325degrees and cook until the thermometer reaches 170 in the thigh or 180 in the breast... the "let rest" for 20 minutes and serve with essence of braised barley toast... and a fine courvoir de vivre wine... is not my thing!

It just ain't me...

Too late to learn and too stubborn to take advice...

I go to the internet and ask for "simple recipe" for whatever... check to see if I have any... any of the spices... (sub for what I don't have, with garlic salt)... then put it in the oven or on the stove until DW says "I smell something burning!"

Ya oughta taste my "Turkey Soup ala Whatever". Whatever was left in the veggie bin...

It's all okay, though... as I age, so do my taste buds... DW settles for Marie Callender frozen when It's my turn to make the meal.

Oh yeah!... one more thing... I bought an english muffin egg sandwich maker from Aldi's two weeks ago, when the price went from $24.99 down to $7.99 when they cleared out the overstock. ... Same as this one from Hamilton Beach...

A fun project... Would recommend to everyone who likes this kind of breakfast.
***** five star...

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Old 09-19-2015, 05:18 PM   #42
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Originally Posted by Rustic23 View Post
A friend has a Green Egg. It cooks well, however, he has not been able to get it to smoke well. It traps the heat, slow cooks, but does not generate a lot of smoke. As he also has a smoker and a grill, I'm not sure what purpose the Green Egg serves other than a slow roaster.
I suspect your friend just hasn't thought through his use of the BGE. It's a terrific smoker (among other things).

When many people try to get smoke flavor in their meats, they typically let the smoking wood get too hot and after putting out minimal smoke it simply burns up.

The BGE lets you control the temperature so you can keep your smoking wood (chips or chunks) at the right temp to continually produce the desired smoke.

You have to understand what you're doing, but please don't blame the BGE for problems it doesn't have. It's a smoker, a grill, an oven, and any combination. But it's just a tool and any tool can be used effectively or haphazardly.

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Old 09-20-2015, 09:26 AM   #43
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I cooked for a family of four until the kids grew up and moved out, so now it's just DH and I, although the sons show up occasionally for whatever we are having.

I'm a fairly plain cook and had gotten into a rut of making the same things the same way for far too long. A few years ago I started watching cooking shows on tv and I've picked up some great new ideas. Sometimes I follow a recipe, sometimes I'm learning a new technique.

When I was a kid my mother used a pressure cooker. I had one when I was first married, using it mostly for soups. I bought a new one a few years ago and I use it often now. I borrowed a few pressure cooker cookbooks from the library and bought a few cookbooks that I wanted to have on hand. I still make soups but I've learned to use the pressure cooker for many other things and my husband loves everything I've tried.

From what I've learned from the pressure cooker books and on tv I've learned how to make up my own dinners/soup/stew/side dish based on the techniques and ideas I learned from following a recipe. So now I can look at what I have on hand and create my own thing.

It's been fun and I've been enjoying learning new things. The pressure cooker that I have makes enough for 4 or more so I have leftovers or freeze things for later. There are smaller pressure cookers if you are just cooking for yourself.

One of the techniques I tried last week was not a pressure cooker recipe, but a grilling idea from PBS's America's Test Kitchen. It was for a "Spatchcocked" Rosemary Lemon Chicken and it was the one of the best things we ate all summer. I never spatchcocked a chicken before and it was not hard at all, just a little messy!
Married, both 61. DH retired June, 2010. I have a pleasant little part time job.
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Old 09-20-2015, 02:51 PM   #44
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+1 on spatchcocked chicken - it cooks much more quickly and easily and isn't hard once you've done it a time or two. For the OP and other singles - if you get an organic/natural chicken, they are usually much smaller than the behemoths in the grocery store, so the leftovers are manageable (and yummy).

I very rarely make anything so bad that it isn't edible. I don't bake much, so there's lots of room for adjusting along the way in case things aren't quite right. Most recipes I save in Evernote and make my adjustment notes there - both what I actually did and ideas for next time.

One trick I learned from watching Chopped is to add a little vinegar just before serving if the flavors seem a little "flat". I keep a large selection of small bottles of specialty vinegars so I can pick one to match (or highlight) the dish.

If you like to cook healthy, pick up an issue or two of Cooking Light - the recipes are generally well-written and not too complicated, and they also highlight new techniques and ingredients frequently.

Finally, I second the recommendation for cooking classes. In particular, the one class that improved my cooking the most was knife skills (two sessions, one veggies & fruits, the other meats & fish). The techniques there, plus keeping my knives sharp, make good cooking so much easier and more fun.
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Old 09-20-2015, 06:46 PM   #45
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As far as cooking for a single, my husband has kind of lost his appetite as he's going through treatment. I freeze everything in single portions and as flat as I can make the package. It's easy to thaw the package quickly in cold water for when he is hungry. I've found I like having things fast and easy to cook, fish, boneless chicken tenders, very thin burgers. You can dress these up or down depending on what you're making. Then again, my husband wasn't hungry tonight so I'm sitting here eating a chocolate/strawberry/yogurt smoothie for dinner that I froze yesterday. Yay, Vitamix!
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Old 09-24-2015, 05:09 PM   #46
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Old 09-24-2015, 07:47 PM   #47
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As a Southerner, our native diet is the food at the Cracker Barrel restaurant. Good food starts with great recipes, and you can Google any recipe in the world and have a printed copy in seconds. I also like to take the menu's of my favorite restaurants and use them as my household menu. Much of the great restaurant food is remarkably easy to cook. We Southerners are also big on barbeque, and we cook out on the grill many times per week no matter what the weather is. Every time I travel to far away places, I long for the food "back home." Nothing like good home cooked food, like the cast iron skillet of cornbread my wife made tonight.
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Old 09-24-2015, 07:51 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by omni550 View Post
Thanks everyone for the many suggestions and recommendations. Now I have an idea on where I need to start focusing my attention.

This may sound odd, but how do you remember what "tweaks" you made to raise the taste level a notch, etc.?

I write them down, even the bowl to use, and what cabinet it is in. Just a little problem when we moved, and bowls were relocated Some of this is to entertain my family.
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Old 09-24-2015, 08:01 PM   #49
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I somehow found a couple of good cookbooks and started following the recipes. After a couple of years I had a lot of things "down" and could girl out how to make something taste good.

Check out "How to Cook without a Book" - but you do need the book. Practical yet creative. It gets to the essentials.

Same with grilling - I found a couple of good cookbooks and stated following the directions.
Well, I thought I was retired. But it seems that now I'm working as a travel agent instead!
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Old 09-24-2015, 08:07 PM   #50
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In my mind by far the best cooking is classical French cooking, as well as French bistro cooking. Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set): Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck: 9780307593528: Books

You cannot go wrong with these. My former wife learned on these books, and she can really cook. I was hunting and fishing all the time, and we were crabbing and clamming and harvesting mussels and overall, we ate like l a lord and his lady. (Except that wife had no kitchen staff to do all the work.)

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Old 09-25-2015, 01:34 AM   #51
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Originally Posted by omni550 View Post
Thanks everyone for the many suggestions and recommendations. Now I have an idea on where I need to start focusing my attention.

This may sound odd, but how do you remember what "tweaks" you made to raise the taste level a notch, etc.?

Maybe someone mentioned it and I missed it, but taste as you go! All great chefs do it! You might want to add more or less of ingredients as you go**, or add/subtract ingredients according to what you like or have on hand. If nothing else, do a final taste when you finish a dish to adjust salt, and err on the less salty side. People can add salt & pepper, they can't take it away. You have to add some salt to most dishes though, otherwise a great dish can be unnecessarily bland.

If you make major changes to a recipe, but all means update the recipe. DW & I like garlic, so if a recipe calls for 2 cloves of garlic, I might use 3-4 (though I keep that in my head).

But even after you update recipes, some ingredients can vary pretty substantially - so you still want to taste as you go even when making something you've made before. There's a huge difference between fresh vegetables, herbs & fruits vs less fresh. We use chilies (serranos, jalapenos) a lot, and how hot they are varies dramatically even when they look the same. Garlic varies quite a bit. Dried spices vary dramatically with age. I could go on and on, but if you taste you'll stay on top of your final product.

Taste everything (within reason) as you go, you'll get recipes modified to your liking faster, and be more consistent with your final products thereafter.

Beyond that, a lot of it is technique as others have said, and that comes from practice & experience. Whether you like to read books, watch youtube or the Food network, or attend cooking classes - good fundamental technique will take you a long way. DW & I are both considered decent cooks, but DW is far better at baking than I am, because of her experience. I can bake and follow a recipe, but she is much faster and knows what batters/doughs are supposed to look like and can tell exactly when something is done far more easily than I can.

Having good tools in the kitchen helps. I'd rather have one great knife than a drawer full of mediocre knives. You need some quality pots & pans, but the 10-12 piece sets always have several pans you'll rarely use IME. IMO too many cooks think they need every cooking doo-dad that comes along, and I used to buy specialty items. Now I am looking for high quality versatile tools, and as few specialty items as possible.

** Baking is the exception IME. Where you can drastically change ingredient proportions in most (savory) cooking, precise measurement is usually critical in baking FWIW. Altering ingredients in baking requires a lot more experience. The first time you try a bake recipe, I wouldn't monkey around with ingredients at all.
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Old 09-25-2015, 10:57 AM   #52
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I think I became a much better cook by watching Giada's Everyday Italian. I watched other shows too, but the recipes on other shows I tried were either too greasy (Barefood Contessa), too simplistic (Rachel Ray), too processed (Sandra Lee), too many spices and/or often too complicated (Emeril, Test Kitchen, Julia Child), etc. Giada's presentations of her dishes were always pretty, and ingredients were straight forward, recipes relatively simple, and the food I made were often amazingly good (the kind people ask you for the recipes for when you cook them for people). That was about 15 years ago, I think.

I highly recommend her show Everyday Italian if you want to learn some light, tasty, Italian meals.

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Old 10-03-2015, 01:09 AM   #53
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Even a two year old can learn how to cook! Warning: cuteness overload!

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Old 10-03-2015, 09:26 AM   #54
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Agree with Midpack about avoiding equipment overload. I've invested (?) in some all copper cookware but only a few pieces and love them. Have had a mini food processor that was just fine for about anything. However, did get a standard size fp to do fresh pasta. I find cleaning up a fp to be more trouble than it's worth to just chop up the vegetable by hand unless you're going for a puree or fine chop. If you're going to put a lot of time into a tomato or alfredo sauce, the fresh pasta effort is more than worth it.

I've subscribed to Cooks Illustrated because I like their recipes although some for some reason can be a little hard to follow (I think they need to do bullet points for the steps or more lists).
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Old 10-05-2015, 07:50 AM   #55
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I mostly use the internets for recipes/tips. Sites like foodtv, epicurious, southern cooking, etc. A quick search will lead to recipes for about anything.

Another option is your local used book stores. Lots of cookbooks, many for a song...

And finally, food network, cooking channel, and PBS.
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Old 10-05-2015, 12:16 PM   #56
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Cooking has always been a passion for me, but I had a pretty limited set of skills, and tended to make the same dishes over and over, with just minor variations. Since ER, I've had more time to learn and try new things. Here's my MO: I go to the grocery store and buy some type of meat or vegetable that I've never prepared before. Once home, I go to the internet and read at least a dozen recipes, taking notes on what I like and don't like, while looking for the common elements. Then I condense all that into my own unique plan of attack. I often improvise once I get started, so I modify the recipe as I go. After the meal, I pencil-in some changes based on what DW and I liked or didn't like. Then I'll try it again in a week or so. Typically after 2 or 3 times, and I'm satisfied, I'll type it up on the PC and save it with my other recipes. I don't strictly follow my recipes, but I do like to refer to them before starting to make sure I don't omit some important detail.
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Old 10-06-2015, 06:23 PM   #57
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Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything - great book by the NYT food writer. He works in a teeny Manhattan kitchen and still makes wonderful recipes!

I was very lucky to grow up in an Italian family where I watched my mother cook all my life. Then I became friends with a really wonderful cook who taught me some finer points and now I am fearless in the kitchen. Most of the time I cook without a recipe but I can follow recipes very well. Cooking is a great skill to have!
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Old 10-13-2015, 03:35 PM   #58
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I heartily reccomend "The Joy of Cooking" for a cookbook to learn from.

Also Alton Brown, The Barefoot Contessa, and, as we call her, "Giardia." for technique and ideas in general.

Plus, I just love watching Giardia, for some reason...

Mike D.

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