Monday, January 5, 2009

I'm listening to Hollaback Girl right now and it ate my brain, so no fancy post title.

A long time ago, when I was first married, I was a crap cook. I would throw frozen hamburger into a cold pan, then turn on the burner. I would eat a package of brussels sprouts for dinner, or 7-layer dip (I figured, if you're full, that was dinner). I knew my mom made pork roast for dinner all the time, so I bought pork loin, figuring that one cut was as good as another. (LOIN, people. Faugh. I haven't yet encountered a pork loin that I felt was worth eating. I distrust any cut of meat that has to be all tarted up to be edible. I'm looking at you, filet mignon.)

And this wasn't my mom's fault. She did her best to teach us--once we got old enough my sisters and I all rotated cooking duties, even though Aleece would invariably make hamburger gravy, which is not food. Also there was the time that I attempted coffee cake three days in a row, failing each time, and learning that baking powder is not spelled S-O-D-A. So somehow I managed to get through college without knowing how to cook much more than manicotti and chocolate chip cookies, accessorized by a vast array of frozen vegetables. Then I got married. And suddenly I became really interested in that aspect of domesticity. House cleaning, not so much. But I'm betting that most families would happily stick with delicious meals and grabbling through a laundry basket for their clean socks than have folded laundry and Tuna Helper.

So I started building my skillz (yes, I mean that z) as a home cook, and I found that I was a fairly quick study, and some things, either through subconscious absorption of my mother's tutelage or innate ability, I just knew how to do. I'm sure it was a relief for John, because the man likes his food. We have a little non-traditional-gender-roles going on here and there, but I am the cooking mayor. I'm no Smitten Kitchen or Tipsy Baker, but I can feed my family pretty decent food.

All this boring preamble brings me to my topic, which is: what dishes/cooking techniques do you feel should be a part of every home cook's canon? Here are some of the things I think belong on the list:

French toast
eggs cooked any way--including omelettes

wheat bread

chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles

how to steam/roast/saute/grill

Main Dishes:
how to braise
how to sear meat (not putting it into a cold pan, for example, PAST SELF)
roast chicken
pot roast
pasta of some kind

how to temper
how to cream

There are others that I feel are imperative for me, but I don't know if I'd say they deserve a place in everyone's arsenal (Like curry, for example. I'm still working on this one--I've found one recipe so far that makes me only minimally depressed that I'm not at the Tandoori Oven.). How about y'all--how similar are your lists?


tipsybaker said...

Tell me why you don't like pork loin. I don't either, but my reasons may be different from yours. I am a shoulder/butt fan, which, I apologize, even typed in a food context sounds coarse.
I like your list and am considering. I might replace "tempering" with "crisp-making." Making fruit crisp is THE starter dessert in my circle of friends. Most people I know never move on to pies.

tipsybaker said...

Also: salad and stir fry.

This is a very sweet essay I read yesterday that sort of touches on the subject of kitchen ineptitude:

Layne said...

Hmm. That link no workey on this computer. I'll try later on John's.

A good salad is essential--I don't think I've locked in on The One yet. And I love stir fry. Mmm . . . Bok choy . . .

I don't like pork loin because I am a dark (and moist) meat lover. And pork loin is so high-maintenance, needing to be butterflied and stuffed, or it's super dry. No thanks. We're butt people too.

Why do you think people don't move on to pie? Is it because they're afraid of eating pastry, or making pastry? Or both? Or neither?

tipsybaker said...

I think i failed to post the whole link:

I don't know why people don't move on from crisps! But among my friends, no one really bakes at all which makes me sad.

Layne said...

What a lovely story. I'm going to make that cake tonight.

tipsybaker said...

tell me how it works!

Jenny said...

I must add stew to the "soup" list. I just finished loading the crock pot with a most delicious stew. To breakfast I would add German pancakes or crepes. And to dessert I'd add a good brownie/chocolate cake. I'm making your chocolate cake for Richards birthday on Saturday(with 40 candles in it)! We do love it so!

highdeekay said...

waffles top my breakfast list and boring as it may be, a good oatmeal (not the add water and nuke kind)).

I have some really great pork loin recipes. They are not at all difficult or fancy and quit delicious. My mom says that people overcook pork loin and that is why they think it is dry.

I NEED your chocolate cake recipe.

Layne said...

I forgot stew! So important!

I was silently including waffles in the pancake category, which was dumb, since they are so different. Oatmeal is rad. 'Specially Irish oatmeal.

And Bamamoma, I'm sure that people do overcook pork loin, since the all-knowing government says you will die if you don't essentially cremate it, but still . . . so bland! How about you send me your best, most tasty recipe, and I'll give it a shot. No butterflying! It has to be good on its own merits. Anybody else, I'd tell them I wasn't buying any crazy, but I trust your judgment and am willing to give it a second chance.

I'll trade you the chocolate cake recipe. Jenny, you're doing the 1/2 hour cake, right? I have a new one (from babacapra visitor mmm.chocolate) that I like very much too. I need to do a taste-off.

Layne said...

Tipsy--the Nutmeg Cake was good. It's more of a coffee cake than a dessert cake, but I loved it. The shortbread crust is nice. I used pecans instead of walnuts, because I hates walnuts. It's a good dish for a brunch, and way easy.

All8 said...

I would add creamy soups too. It all sounds good to me.

Do you use an apron in the kitchen?

Amy said...

In everyone's arsenal? Hmmm . . . I'd have to add more soups and the ability to work with dry beans. I loved this story. I'm nowhere near the cook you are, but it still makes me laugh when I think back to those newlywed mealtimes.


OOH...Pancakes huh...Maybe I like pancakes...whatever!ww:}