About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Do You Want to be a "Good" Cook or a "Great" Cook?

 Christopher Kimball, founder and editor of Cooks Illustrated  said you really only need 25 good recipes to be considered a "good" cook.  That's spreading it a little thin and I'm wondering if I've given you enough to go on after two years of blogging and only 86 recipes so far.  It takes about 150 to publish a decent cookbook. Well, I've got some gaps to close and I'll get on it right now. Anyone can be a "good" cook; bad cooks consciously choose not to cook. They may like to eat but other priorities trump their attention.

 Notice, Kimball didn't say great.  A great cook has more than a good recipe box.  Elevation to "great," but not professional, requires three characteristics . Taste, technique and timing.  Taste is not easy to define.  It's a knowledge and appreciation for quality - an understanding of flavor beyond salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami(savory).  Technique is ability to roll out a flaky pie crust, poach a perfect egg or chiffonade basil.  It usually takes practice and repetition like an athlete achieves muscle memory and coordination.  Timing is an innate instinct to a great cook.  They don't need too much instruction and operate in the kitchen more by sensory perception.  They smell, see and feel the food as a conductor to an orchestra or coach to a team, coaxing the most out of the ingredients.  If you want to be a "great" cook devote more time and thought to developing these three qualities.

I'm nominating these recipes for the "good" category. They are all doable for anyone who aspires to qualify as a good cook.  Some haven't been published yet but do exist in my repertoire and I'll get to them shortly.  An "*" indicates the recipe can currently be found in the Recipes & Random Thoughts Index.

Main Dish:

Roast Chicken (I have about 5 favorite versions but have only published "French Roast Chicken in a Pot"*.  Find one you like and master it.), Beef Stew(coming soon), Turkey Time Meatloaf*(again, find a meatloaf you like and master it),  Apple Cider Braised Pork Chops*, Shrimp Gumbo*, Pecan Roasted Salmon*


Spinach Souffle*, Eggplant Parmesan*, roasted vegetables, potatoes au gratin


Popovers*, cornbread, biscuits(coming soon)


Sausage Pasta Fagoli*, Cream of Chicken*


Balsamic vinaigrette, Green Goddess*


Fruit Cobbler*, Chocolate Cherry Cake*, Hemlock Inn Strawberry Pie*


Fluffy French Omelet*, Deviled Eggs(coming soon)


Blender Hollandaise(just Google and you'll find this one)


Strawberry Fig Jam*


 Pimento Cheese(coming soon)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Flavorful Tips; Eye of the Round & Parmesan Rind

I haven't given beef enough attention, so here is a super simple way to prepare eye of the round.  It's a fairly lean piece of beef not noted for tenderness but can be prepared to be juicy and tender.  Have a 3 pound roast at room temperature. Sprinkle liberally with coarse black pepper and kosher salt.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Bake 5 minutes per pound.  Turn oven off and do not open for 2 hours. Roast will be pink. Carve in thin slices.  Makes for a wonder family meal with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

Save that rind of Parmesan cheese and add to a soup for flavor.  Let the rind sit in soup for a few hours or over night to add a little texture and lots of flavor.  I recently made a pureed all vegetable soup that needed punch so I left a Parmesan rind steeping until I was satisfied.  It only adds a little cheese but lots of flavor.