How To Tuesday: Recipe For Success

All the people I talk to about how they can become better cooks inspires today’s post. 

Often when I’m at a cocktail party, meeting new people, the conversation will usually come around to the fact that I cook for a living.  Many people are in awe at the fact that I love to spend time in my kitchen.  For so many, the kitchen is either an incredibly scary place they use only to heat up last night’s take out or, it is the bane of their existence.  A place they are required to spend a few hours attempting to figure out what to make for their family every, single day. 

Cooking isn’t a pleasure, for them, it’s a chore.

CHEF's TOOLS

CHEF's TOOLS

It is very apparent that I love all things cooking, but I do understand how frustrating the process can be - especially, if you are not properly equipped with the right tools and ingredients.  Whenever I meet someone that is petrified of cooking my response is always the same.  I believe cooking is a skill, not a gift.  Sorry, to all those celebrity chefs out there that think they are sooo special, but I know I’m right.  Thomas Keller started out as a dishwasher.  Being a chef is like being a carpenter.  No one is born knowing how to build a house or repair a roof.  People interested in that line of work will either attend a trade school or apprentice with a skilled carpenter until they learn the work.  Also, in order to be a successful carpenter, you need to invest in the proper materials and the right tools to get the job done.

COOKING IS THE EXACT SAME THING. 

PANTRY & FRIDGE STAPLES

PANTRY & FRIDGE STAPLES

I’m not the Michelangelo of Roasted Chicken or the Da Vinci of Lasagna.  Instead, I learned how to make these dishes, and make them really well because I made them many times, tweaking and learning from error.  In addition, I spent time stocking my kitchen with the right ingredients and equipment to get the job done.  I cannot sing “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston and the most I have ever painted has been by number, but, if you come to my home for dinner, I can promise that you will leave very, very well fed.

This is how you can too!  First, stock the pantry.  Trust me on this.  If you go to a grocery store and buy ingredients, you will be inspired to cook them!  If your fridge is bare and there are tumbleweeds blowing through your pantry, you will come home, tired and hungry and reach for the nearest take out menu.  So, instead, have some staples on hand that have a long shelf life, go to the grocery once a week for the fresh stuff and start cooking.

The Pantry

  • Pasta (I prefer De Cecco or Barilla)
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Canned Tomatos, crushed
  • All Purpose Flour (I prefer King Arthur)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a must!
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Wild Rice
  • Couscous
  • Chicken Stock
  • Table Wine, white and red
  • Sherry

The Fridge

  • Mayonnaise (Hellmans, never Miracle Whip - what is that stuff?!?)
  • Lemons
  • Fresh Herbs, parsley, cilantro and thyme
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Parmigiano Cheese, a good hunk for grating
  • Unsalted Butter
  • Lettuce (and other salad stuffs)
  • Ketchup
  • Sliced American Cheese (sometimes all you need is a good grilled cheese sandwich)
  • Protein, chicken breast, steak, ground meat (beef/turkey), fish (buy fresh)

The Tool Belt

  • Cast Iron Skillet (I use this every day)
  • Mixing Bowls and Spatula
  • Cuisinart Food Processor
  • Kitchen Aid Electric Mixer
  • A Sharp Chef’s Knife
  • Oven Thermometer
  • Cutting Board
  • 12x18 Sheet Pans (cookies!)
  • Parchment Paper
  • Measuring Cups (liquid and dry) and Spoons

I know these lists can be daunting, but remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Chip away at the lists and, over time, you will have everything you need for a happy, successful kitchen.  At the very least, you can make yourself some scrambled eggs instead of cereal and a juicy steak instead of reheating that Kung Pao Chicken at the back of the fridge.