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Old 06-29-2011, 11:23 AM
 
Location: Bella Vista, Ark
69,596 posts, read 79,920,399 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joke Insurance View Post
Actually, I am just looking for the basics for now. If that is okay.
That is a great way to start. I have another suggestion (I always blab my mouth) try buying cook books from church bazaars or even from comnunity fund raising groups. They are always a collection of members favorite recipes and are usually easy plus you know they are proven to be good.

Nita
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Old 07-01-2011, 09:21 AM
 
Location: Fairfax County, VA
3,718 posts, read 4,617,848 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nmnita View Post
Great ideas, I had forgotten about "Joy of Cooking"
Another good book to check out?
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Old 07-01-2011, 09:34 AM
 
7,901 posts, read 8,660,465 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joke Insurance View Post
I figured seeing that I am in my early 20's, I should learn how to be everyday cook, one who would like to first learn the basic recipes and such. Can you guys recommend any good websites and books that I can look into? Thanks
Here's what I learned in 20 years of cooking.

I started out with basic "student food." Then I went through a phase where I wanted to try every fancy recipe I could find, every classic dish, etc. - all overdone, all overseasoned...

Now that I have some technique down after two decades of learning, my cooking has become a lot simpler. Fewer, high-quality ingredients with seasoning that complements and does not overpower the main flavor.

Also, not all recipes or cookbooks are created equal. Like any kind of writing, there is an art to writing a good recipe. Some cookbooks and magazines just do a terrible job with that.

If you want to go through your fancy stage then check out Epicurious.com, where all the now-defunct Gourmet and all the Bon Appetit recipes can be found. BA is usually pretty good.

BUT if you want to start with the fundamentals and just get good at cooking in general, I'd recommend starting with the basic family recipes. Williams-Sonoma produces some pretty well written short cookbooks on a variety of cuisines that are unusually well written, provide simplified versions of classic recipes, and usually produce a good result without too much tinkering.


Also, watch Good Eats (Alton Brown). Alton isn't a fancy chef, and he is very good at explaining WHY you have to do things a certain way, and even comes up with novel and sometimes better ways of cooking. Most (maybe not all) of his recipes tend to be simple and easy to pull off and on his show he does a fantastic job of teaching you the techniques, what to look for when you buy, and lots of other stuff that other cooking shows just don't do.
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Old 07-01-2011, 01:04 PM
 
7,901 posts, read 8,660,465 times
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So there's my rant.

Now here are some REAL beginner tips.

EGGS (on their own):

Use fresh ones.
They work better for most purposes if they are at ROOM temperature when you start cooking.
They are very easy to OVERCOOK. Use low -medium heat and take your time. If eggs look done in the pan, they will be overdone by the time they get to the plate due to residual heat.

You don't really have to add milk or water to them most of the time, despite what many people say.

Beware of using too much salt, it will stiffen them up.

PASTA:
DON'T OVERCOOK IT. Learn what al dente means! Don't let it sit around cooked, especially if it is still hot, without some sauce or a little oil on it. It will turn into a blob of mush instead of a nice pile of individual noodles to eat.

Use LOTS of water. Many scoff at the package directions and don't want to wait for all that water to come to a boil. They are fools. It really does make a difference.

If you are serving it with a sauce, put it back in the same pot after draining (off the heat) and toss it with a small amount of the sauce to coat. Also, try not to do what most Americans do and DROWN the pasta with the sauce. In Italy, the pasta is not a vehicle for the sauce, the pasta is the dish and the sauce is a condiment!! Seriously, it tastes better that way.


PASTA SAUCE:
Make your own FFS! It's worth the effort. Canned tomatoes are good, don't look down on them just because they are canned. DON'T put every spice in the pantry in it (unless it's puttanesca, but even then, show restraint). My best pasta sauce has only these ingredients: canned tomatoes; onions; fresh basil; crushed red pepper; garlic (optional) and a dab of butter at the end. That's it. You can puree it with a stick blender (you'll want one of those) to whatever consistency you want, or leave it chunky if it's the vegetarian main course. Or do what I do and leave it chunky for the first night then puree it the next to better go with the chicken parmesan you make with the leftover sauce. Win.


HERBS: Use fresh when possible, it's well worth the effort. You may need to use more fresh than dried for some herbs, as they are more powerful dried than fresh (exception tarragon, which you should be VERY careful with anyway...).
Also know that some herbs aren't really meant for some foods, period. Oregano on eggs? Tarragon on pork? Blech.
The very best seasoning for beef is kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper.

GARLIC: Easy to overdo. Watch it with the garlic unless it is meant to be a main flavor in the dish or you just like garlic a lot. Also, be very careful not to overbrown it, because it turns bitter when it turns brown. For some recipes, especially some Mexican sauces, this is a desirable thing. For most it is not. Throw out overbrowned garlic (and the oil) and start again if you have to. I have seen a lot of recipes that call for browning garlic along with the onions or something else and I will often disobey the recipe - instead adding the garlic near the end of cooking so it doesn't get overbrowned before the rest of the stuff is done. Also, the longer garlic cooks (slow and low), the better it tastes. if you want that sharp, nose clearing garlic taste then don't cook it or don't cook it very long. If you want that mellow, sweet garlic flavor, it needs to cook for a good long time.

I never really use garlic powder but the same cooking time thing applies to it as well. If you use dried garlic or powder, make sure it cooks a good long time (put it in early).

BLACK PEPPER: grind it yourself. There is no substitute for freshly ground black pepper. You should not be buying anything but PEPPERCORNS. No, you don't need a grinder (and they all suck anyway). Get yourself an old-fashioned marble mortar and pestle. Easy to clean, never breaks, no moving parts and you can use it for anything else that needs to be pulverized. Elbow grease FTW.

SALT: except for baking an a few other specific uses, you can usually just get by with kosher or sea salt. Need a finer grind? That's why you have the mortar and pestle. A HUGE mistake with salt is to season a dish with it early in cooking. Bad idea in general...because if you are cooking on a stove, you will be losing moisture the entire time. Unless that moisture is replaced, the loss will concentrate the flavors. This is generally what you want, but in the case of salt you have to be careful - because while you can ALWAYS add salt at the end if the dish needs it - because it dissolves instantly - you can't take it out if you put in too much - because it dissoves instantly...

TOMATOES: Don't refrigerate them unless they have been cooked. At around 40-something degrees a crucial enzyme that makes up most of the tomato flavor is destroyed, and what you have left is tasteless red mush. Cooking locks in the flavor.

MUSHROOMS: Yes, you can and should wash them, considering that they are grown in manure (albeit pasteurized). Mushroom brushing is silly and French. Alton proved this in a very scientific manner on one of his shows.


Come on guys, let's give this poster and each other some real tips!

Last edited by Strel; 07-01-2011 at 01:37 PM..
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Old 07-01-2011, 03:54 PM
 
Location: SoCal desert
8,093 posts, read 12,796,960 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Strel View Post

EGGS (on their own):

Use fresh ones.
They work better for most purposes if they are at ROOM temperature when you start cooking.
They are very easy to OVERCOOK. Use low -medium heat and take your time. If eggs look done in the pan, they will be overdone by the time they get to the plate due to residual heat.

You don't really have to add milk or water to them most of the time, despite what many people say.

Beware of using too much salt, it will stiffen them up.
Fresh eggs will 'stand up' in the fry pan. If the white spreads all over the pan when you first crack it into the pan ... it's old.

But if you're going to hard-boil some eggs - - the older the egg the easier it will be to peel. Older eggs have a bigger air cell under the shell. I usually leave mine out on the drainboard for 24 hours before I make deviled eggs.
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Old 07-01-2011, 05:21 PM
 
Location: Austin
4,103 posts, read 5,910,183 times
Reputation: 6686
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joke Insurance View Post
I figured seeing that I am in my early 20's, I should learn how to be everyday cook, one who would like to first learn the basic recipes and such. Can you guys recommend any good websites and books that I can look into? Thanks
When I started teaching myself to cook I started with Campbell's Simple Recipes book. Then I went to Betty Crocker. Pillsbury and Bisquick have easy cookbooks. Then I started watching the foodnetwork religiously back when they had only cooking shows. I've also gotten tons of recipes off allrecipes and recipezaar and copycat recipe sites. The poineer woman has an awesome recipe blog. I suggest just hanging out at a bookstore and looking through cookbooks and figure out which ones you like best.

My best advice is to start simple since cooking can be overwhelming at first. Don't go for the book with the mile long or specialty ingredient list at first. You have to work yourself up to that or it won't be enjoyable.
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Old 07-04-2011, 02:29 AM
NTT
 
Location: Houston
719 posts, read 1,563,700 times
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I've read through so many cookbooks and have a fairly big collection too. One book that I find great for beginners is the "Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook". It has step-by-step illustration for instructions. Plus, illustrations of meat cut of different animal, and glossary of cooking terms.

You can purchased this book used on Amazon.com for less than $5 including S & H. The one I own is the 1980 edition, I'm keeping it as a reference book. I recently got one for my sister and she loves it.

1980 Edition: http://www.amazon.com/Good-Housekeep...9763978&sr=1-1

1988 Edition: http://www.amazon.com/Housekeeping-I...9763978&sr=1-2
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Old 07-05-2011, 08:40 AM
 
7,901 posts, read 8,660,465 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gandalara View Post
Fresh eggs will 'stand up' in the fry pan. If the white spreads all over the pan when you first crack it into the pan ... it's old.

I really hate when that happens.
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Old 07-05-2011, 07:48 PM
NTT
 
Location: Houston
719 posts, read 1,563,700 times
Reputation: 538
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gandalara View Post
Fresh eggs will 'stand up' in the fry pan. If the white spreads all over the pan when you first crack it into the pan ... it's old.

But if you're going to hard-boil some eggs - - the older the egg the easier it will be to peel. Older eggs have a bigger air cell under the shell. I usually leave mine out on the drainboard for 24 hours before I make deviled eggs.
If you boil eggs, another way to tell bad eggs is that they would float in water instead of sinking. The egg skin is porous. As time goes by the air will absorb into the egg. Enough air inside will spoil the egg and with the same amount of air, the egg will float.

The clear film that surrounds the egg yolk protects the yolk. As the egg ages, this film becomes thinner. Thin enough and this film will break, it no longer protects the yolk. Thus, it becomes spoil. As Gandalara mentioned, if you break the egg cleanly, and the yolk breaks, the egg is bad. Of course, there are times when we are just careless and the yolk breaks anyway. If the date on the carton has not expired, most likely, the egg is good. If not, break another one and find out. If in doubt, it's best just to throw it out and avoid getting sick.

Long ago, we didn't have expiration dates and we learned how to tell good eggs from bad ones. Now that you know it as well, there should be no reason to throw away good eggs that passed their expiration dates. Another way of saving money in the long run.
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Old 07-05-2011, 09:36 PM
 
Location: SoCal desert
8,093 posts, read 12,796,960 times
Reputation: 14842
Quote:
Originally Posted by NTT View Post
If you boil eggs, another way to tell bad eggs is that they would float in water instead of sinking. The egg skin is porous. As time goes by the air will absorb into the egg. Enough air inside will spoil the egg and with the same amount of air, the egg will float.

The clear film that surrounds the egg yolk protects the yolk. As the egg ages, this film becomes thinner. Thin enough and this film will break, it no longer protects the yolk. Thus, it becomes spoil. As Gandalara mentioned, if you break the egg cleanly, and the yolk breaks, the egg is bad. Of course, there are times when we are just careless and the yolk breaks anyway. If the date on the carton has not expired, most likely, the egg is good. If not, break another one and find out. If in doubt, it's best just to throw it out and avoid getting sick.

Long ago, we didn't have expiration dates and we learned how to tell good eggs from bad ones. Now that you know it as well, there should be no reason to throw away good eggs that passed their expiration dates. Another way of saving money in the long run.
I was in the egg industry for over 20 years.

If an fresh or old egg smells bad when you crack it open - then it's bad. A meat spot or a blood spot does not mean it's bad either - it's just unappetizing to look at. I don't eat those myself. Buying cracked eggs - that's taking a chance with bacteria.

Just by being old, does not make it bad.
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