Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Six Quick Cooking Tips

I present to you my six best cooking tips.  Legggggoooooo!*

1. Cast iron skillet
Unlike other skillets, a cast iron skillet will last forever, and it will actually get better with age.  It can go from the stovetop to the oven.  And it actually adds iron to your food.  And it's just so retro. 

2. Podcasts
This tip is especially for those who don't particularly enjoy cooking. Listening to podcasts will get your mind off the sometimes menial tasks of chopping and mixing. When I'm doing a lot of cooking, I often catch up on This American Life. I also use the podcast trick when I'm cleaning my house. It has turned cleaning into something I look forward to don't dread. 

3. Chicken stock
I know you can buy chicken stock at the grocery store, but homemade broth makes all the difference in the world in your cooking. And chicken stock comes up in lots of recipes. Whenever I make bone-in chicken, I freeze the bones, and once I have amassed a pot-full of bones, I make a batch of chicken stock. It goes back into the freezer in pint-sized freezer bags. 

4. Rice wine vinegar
A splash of acid turns the most tired boring dish into a beautiful flavor explosion. (I'm working on my Iron Chef Judge audition, in case you were wondering.) If you've ever cooked something and it just doesn't have that je ne sais quo, try adding a bit of rice wine vinegar. It wakes up all the flavors and turns bland into bright. (*Note: Rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar are the same thing, in case you were wondering.)

5. Freeze
I freeze everything. When my bananas are overripe, I just throw them in the freezer until I'm ready to make banana bread, hummingbird cake, or these pancakes. I freeze chicken bones to make chicken stock. I freeze vegetable remnants to make vegetable stock. When I have a lot of basil, I make pesto and freeze it in baby food jars. In the spring, I freeze jam. In the summer, I freeze corn.  I'm not a big fan of frozen foods at the grocery store, so I always like to have some go-to lunches on hand, frozen in individual containers, like mexican casserole or eggplant parmesan. 

6. Penzey's Spices
I was not sold on this tip until I tried it myself.  The difference between supermarket spices and Penzey's is legit.  If you're lucky enough to live near a retail store, just go there.  Like ASAP.  If you're not among the lucky, they have an online store.  Go to the website and scroll through the list.  It'll make you very hungry and very inspired.  Not only do they sound delicious, they really do improve the flavor of your cooking.  

*According to my students, I am not hip enough to use such expressions, but watch me defy them. 

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