Monday, January 5, 2015

#5. How I Get Down

I could never be on Top Chef.

First, the length of the application. Maybe there is a reason you never see more than 2 or 3 really great chefs each season and the reason is 26 pages of menu descriptions, videos, social media reference-getting, and essay questions. Real chefs are busy cheffing and then drinking and then sleeping so.......

Second, I cannot sharpen a knife to save my life and so I use my SaniSafe and an antler-handled steel that is about 100 years old and made out of the earth's first carbon, probably, instead of my Global and Shun, pretty much ALL OF THE TIME, because it can be kept up fairly easily, instead of feeling inferior about one's ragged vegetable cuts.
If you're a line cook you should probably be like a Renaissance bladesmith and be able to get a razor-edge from a little tiny stone with no problem. I can hone, but I'm no shaver saver. I have also never sawed an animal in half, which seems to be a requirement these days.

Third, I like shortcuts. If something works as well or better than something else, I don't want kitchen snobbery against hillbillies to raise it's ugly head when I'm just trying to show you how the grannies do.

If you're a caterer/private chef/stay-at-home mom you can save yourself a lot of time/trouble by not trying to impress anyone and just cooking if you will spend less money on cheaper knives. This and other stories that will make food people cringe. Please come inside.

PASTA does not know if the water is hot from the faucet or the stove and the iron content is the same if your water is filtered in your kitchen so how about saving an extra 20 minutes and starting with hot to boil it? Oh fuck. Chemists can back off. I asked my Master Chef teacher this in cooking school and he had to give it to me. If you live in Appalachia and your hot water is rusty, this is not useful advice, everyone else, you are welcome.

GARLIC is so much easier handled using a microplane to grate it instead of the whole smashing it with salt all over your cutting board situation. It saves it from staining your board and is less messy all around. While we are at it, is your microplane the skinny long one? Go get the shorter, fatter one. She's better at getting the job done without your cheese or garlic or lemon or whatever slipping off the tiny little edges.

FREEZER BOUILLON  is not my idea, but I make mine with no fennel, I add four roasted portobellas and use homemade tomato paste which is just reduced crushed tomatoes with some sugar and wine. It takes a bit of time, but it makes about a quart and is worth it or I wouldn't bother telling you because you know I hate typing. When you make soup or gravy throw some in instead of a creepy packet with all the chemicals, Not having to chop and prep a bunch of vegetables as a base is a fantastic headstart on a school night when you had to run errands all afternoon and do not want to feed the people you live with pizza again. I make one with just herbs and salt too, and stir it into green soups and risotto and pasta sauce.

CANDIED NUTS AND SEEDS make a salad for children more fun and I scoffed at the nice lady that taught me how to do it with just powdered sugar but I will give it up to Carmen Cortez for this little trick: Boil 2 cups of water, blanch 1 cup of nuts for 30 seconds. I do not care which nuts. You choose. Strain, throw in bowl with 1/2 cup powdered sugar, spices if you want, maybe some chili flakes. Bake at 400 on middle rack on lined sheet pan until they are toasted. Check every five minutes. Your oven might be hotter than mine.

CREUSET BUT NEVER ALL-CLAD unless Bar-Keeper's Friend is really your friend. I know it looks so pretty on TV, but just don't. Creuset is the Meryl Streep of cookware.

I hope these things are useful to you in this New Year of our planet spinning crazy tiny in the huge Outer Space. We could all use five more minutes and a cleaner kitchen and I feel like we are taking ourselves too seriously. Make it easier by cheating.