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December 11, 2013

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To heck with that, says I. Now that I see there's such a thing as microwave roux

...and even off the shelf roux.

God bless Zatarain's.

Though we didn't call it roux when I was a kid, but that's how we dispatched with the leftover grease after frying bacon and/or sausages. Add flour, brown, add milk.

It's amazing, but I'm still alive! 8·o

I have found that baking bread from scratch is a good way to try to level up - a focused one, to be sure, but instructive. Especially if you do it every week for a year or so.

I use a pretty simple recipe -- I won't go into details -- but it's just flour, water, yeast, and salt. However, minute adjustments to the mixture, rising time, cooking time, and dough-curing time (i.e., sittin' in the fridge) have noticeable and, over time, controllable, effects. Which is pretty cool.

(Also, living at altitude makes baking a challenge.)

So, if making a roux is "leveling up", Wondra would be a "cheat code"?

Mom was a phenomenal cook, I fondly recall the summer when, bored, she took us on a culinary tour of the world, each week eating the national dishes of a different country. It's at her side that I learned not only to separate eggs, (With my fingers, of course.) and make a roux, but to make a proper stock. (My wife laughs at how I relentlessly simmer the carcass from the Thanksgiving turkey, and was embarrassed when I asked for the head at a pig roast. But she doesn't complain about the resulting soups!)

And, yes, I can't help but think that, if anybody ever comes up with a way to take salt out of soup, they'll make a fortune. (Besides dilution, of course, which is where having extra stock on hand can be convenient.)

I'd add, that tour she conducted led to a life-long fondness for genuine Asian cooking, (Red cooked pork is a favorite of mine.) and indirectly led to my eventual marriage to a filipina.

We're currently touring India, thanks to 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. (If you use the book, no, you don't really need to peel and salt bitter melon.)

Brett: since cooking is 'applied chemistry', you have some options for getting salt out of soup.

Like using a pressure cooker with a semi-permeable membrane. No salt through the membrane, just pure water!

Better yet: add a dash of anti-matter NaCl ... yes, it's expensive but nothing takes out the salt faster. After the blinding flash and deafening explosion, the soup that you scrape of the remains of your city will be much less salty.

Someone should send Megan McArdle some pink Himalayan anti-salt, just for yuks.

I think cooking is a good example of why I prefer a skill system to a level system in role playing games. Cooking skill is very multi-dimensional, as your example of being great at baking cakes but completely inexperienced at making roux shows. I consider myself an accomplished bread baker- I've been sourdough baking with self-made starter for a decade- but I know next to nothing about baking cakes. Does that make me a low level or a high level baker? Neither. It means I've put all my baking skill points into bread rather than other baked goods.

Separating eggs?? I consider myself a fair baker of cakes, cookies and miscellaneous other pastries and I can't remember ever having to separate eggs for any recipe.

You sometimes do it when you want to incorporate a lot of air into the batter: The whites get whipped separately, and then mixed back in. Especially if you're also trying to incorporate a fat, which would mess up the egg whites foaming, but which the yolks, being a fair detergent, are capable of absorbing nicely.

It's one of those things you only do if you're tring to go that last inch in getting a fluffy result, it's hardly necessary for most recipes.

sanbikinoraion:

Where are you from? If I go to the popular US cooking site Epicurious and search for 'cake', only 3 of the first 10 hits do not involve separating eggs.

Some eggs do tend to be disruptive when they sit together.

baking edible bread was a huge step up for me. i worked on it for a long long time, but was always missing something. my loaves always came out gray and flat and hideous. i never figured out why my early attempts all sucked, but once i got Micheal Ruhlman's 'bread' app, and started following his instructions, my breads finally became edible. and now i've started tackling more complex mini-quests (poolish!), in this realm.

i'm still struggling with many things (getting big holes is my current opponent). but at least i can make bread.

cakes have always seemed easy to me - just follow the recipe.

I've never used a very hot pan for a roux. I suspect that's only for someone who has really mastered it and wants to make it quickly, like a restaurant chef. Also wonder if that works with butter.

I'm a low heat guy, equal volume, and find that it takes patience, watchfulness, and stirring, but no great skill beyond that.

"I think cooking is a good example of why I prefer a skill system to a level system in role playing games."

Roger: Fair point. I don't have any points allocated to Pastry Making, but I have mad proficiency in Sautee-ing Whatever's in the Fridge.

And I'm with byomtov; roux is easy...if you have unlimited patience, unlimited arm strength for stirring, unlimited attention, and a really, really good idea of what color you're looking for.

in re: "applied chemistry" - I can't recommend enough Harold McGee's book "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" -- it's not a cookbook, it's a science book. Fantastic.

I wonder what it says about us all that most of the guys here (me included!) know how to cook at some reasonable level. We may or may not know some particular skill, but we could all fix a complete meal (salad, entree, vegetables, desert) without trauma.

Yet the country seems to be full of men who are totally lost when it comes to anything (other than perhaps running a barbecue) more complex than putting something in the microwave. Without a woman in the house they either eat out or starve. Sad, really.

I've never really tried making a full-scale Cajun roux

The real secret to roux is practice.

As for color: it depends on what you're making. Gumbo tends to want a golden-brown color, while a cheese sauce wants a roux that hasn't yet started to change.

That last part is personal preference more than adherence to any kind of standard. I've never seen a gumbo recipe that called for a light-colored roux, but I haven't read them all I have to admit.

Just do it. I think that as with a LOT of other things in cooking, precise ratios aren't NEARLY as important as approximate ratios. If you can make a roux 60/40 and it turns out right, you should go with that. I tend to go 50/50 because it works and it's easy to remember. As far as what oil to use: I have used canola, peanut oil and (if you keep the temperature low) olive oil. Even butter works. None of these behave exactly the same as the others, so you have to keep a watch eye on things. And stir. You have to stir. You need enough oil to keep the flour/oil slurry loose, which for reasons I can't fully elaborate tend to keep the flour from burning.

If you're making roux for gumbo, go with a recipe and vary it as you please. If you're looking for a thick gumbo and it turns out thinner than you wanted (after you've added the okra - that thickens it some) then it's really as simple as: make some more roux.

Gumbo can be irreparably screwed up by e.g. the famed mistake of oversalting, but it's a recipe that is fairly robust and can be changed to suit your personal taste. There's a huge variety of different kinds of gumbo. Some of them have no roux at all in them, I think. Those tend to be gumbos that use fille powder, which IIRC is the powdered leaf of the sassafras tree. Sounds odd, putting a root-beer-ish flavor into your gumbo, but it actually is very good.

I have done little to no scholarly reading on the history of Cajun and Creole cooking; I have just adhered to and subsequently improvised on some recipes. Some things just aren't conducive to improvisation. Waffles, for instance, I have made well from scratch and from Krusteaz mix, but Bisquick waffles, which I made because I was feeling too ill to do them from scratch (for some reason we had Bisquick in the house. I have no idea how that happened) and it was as if...well...I had lightly leavened some drywall patching compound and poured it into the waffle iron. I will never try that again. Not only was it awful (even dressed up with some vanilla extract, which is my secret pancake & waffle ingredient), it had this magic property of adhering to Teflon.

The same kind of variability, incidentally, applies to Cajun/Creole staples such as red beans and rice. Families have recipes that they have developed and that's their magic. The one I like is described at Gumbo Pages and takes some time to complete from the start. But if you make it a lot, you're going to just have some pickle meat and pickled cocktail onions on hand at all times.

I have been close to the point where I have decided to go in that direction. If my wife were a bigger beans&rice fan, I would be there.

My red beans and rice is the standard by which I measure all other beans and rice, but I have changed it to suit myself. Instead of red kidney beans, I use small red beans. I just like them better than the large kidney beans.

And of course I make my creole seasoning from their recipe, but truly you can use a commercially available creole seasoning mix and still make bangup red beans and rice. Sometimes you want to throw a little extra love in the making. That sounds odd, I know.

One of these days I will try to make their gumbo recipe. Mine is a lot different, and starts out with me putting a couple of whole chickens in the smoker. Gumbo with smoked chicken has this extra layer of yum from the chicken's smokiness that in my opinion makes my gumbo outshine most that you can find.

Except for in and around New Orleans, where everything is better. Don't ask me why, it just is.

I don't know what it says in general.

In my case when I got out of college and got my first real job away from home, where I had been well-fed, I discovered that restaurants were expensive, and that if that I expected to continue eating decently I better learn to cook.

A female friend recommended Joy of Cooking as a starting point, I found it sort of interesting, and I was off.

When making gumbo, if the roux has too much oil in it, it (the oil) will float to the top. It doesn't hurt to skim as much of that off as you can.

What it says to me is that "seems" is probably the right word, and you're looking at a stereotype, not the reality.

what it says about us all

I would say that our male cooking skills, seeming or not, are less unusual than the apparent fact that we can all write in lucid sentences and coherent paragraphs, and do so voluntarily.

Cross that with an informed interest in "current affairs", and one is describing a group of people three or four sigmas out from many societal means.

IMHO, these are good things. Y'all are some of my favorite people anywhere, and I come here specifically to read whatever you write about.

I wonder what it says about us all that most of the guys here (me included!) know how to cook at some reasonable level.

in my experience, it's odd. aside from my brother (who ran an underground supper club in Brooklyn for many years), i don't know any guys who cook. all the people i know who really get into cooking are women. and to see so many here, of all places... doubly odd.

I thought I posted this already, but:

Perhaps we need a virtual pot luck!

During my freshman year at college (1970) our dorm was being renovated, so they put us (all males) up in a residential hotel. Away from the dining service, we had little choice but to cook, and we learned from books and each other. Very valuable experience. Then after college I was unemployed and learned to cook nutritious meals for little money. When I think of building up my stocks, I'm thinking soup, not portfolio. Nowadays I come home from work, turn on the music, pour a glass of wine and spend a happy hour preparing dinner. Sometimes things do work out.

Tonight we had tilapia poached in coconut chili sauce. Pretty good, actually, but we've got to train up my 5 year old, so that we don't have to short the chilis on these recipes.

My limited palate has limited my cooking palette, but I've got a small reputation as a good cook perhaps because repetition in making a (relatively) small number of things means I've got my recipes down pat.

As far as the guy-cooking thing goes, most of my male friends cook at least somewhat, but then I don't hang out with the got-married-young/never much lived on their own-types. And a lot the males in my social world either currently or previously have worked in restaurant kitchens, so there's that.

There's certainly a male-dominated element to things like barbecue competitions and chili cook-offs (both are things I make but am not interested in entering contests).

For the virtual pot luck I'm bringing macaroni and cheese the way my grandmother O'Meara made it (really baked cheese with some macaroni hiding in it). Although she never made it with jalapenos or habaneros.

It's one of those things you only do if you're tring to go that last inch in getting a fluffy result, it's hardly necessary for most recipes.

I'm going to side with Brett on this; the only dish I make even semi-regularly where I separate eggs is tiramisu. The rest of the time it's a flourish.

--

I'm also a better baker (specifically desserts) than I am a cook, and most of my cooking is stovetop rather than roasting, etc. Some of that is attributable to extended periods without a working oven, some to regional cuisine preferences, some to dietary restrictions (almost exclusively of the arbitrary or economic variety, aside from a long-wavelength on-again-off-again vegetarian cycle), and some others to being raised in a household where stovetop cooking was the norm (for the same reasons mentioned above).

Sauces* remain a weak spot, though. I can usually make a sauce if needed, but I'm not practiced, and have no developed repertoire. I'm willing to blame this on a low inclination to cook meat, or to roast. Outside of those activities, seasoning - even when complicated - is much more frequently acceptable as a lighter and simpler alternative to preparing a proper sauce.

*By which I don't mean the sort of sauces destined for pastas. Those I'm much more comfortable with. I'm thinking more "garnish" sauces, even when they're very substantial "garnishes".

I thought I was a decent enough cook (within a limited repertoire) until I read the comments above. I am Not Worthy to be in such company! Yet I can still keep myself and my wife going from meal to meal, many of them reasonably tasty, though roux-less.

But I don't bake at all, FWIW.

(Our son, whom some of you may remember as "Anarch," is actually a better cook, when he has the opportunity. He started younger than I, as I in my time cooked more [and probably earlier] than my father. Just knowing that men have the right - and sometimes the necessity - to be at home in the kitchen is a good start.)

In honor of the recently departed Marcella Hazan, I will bring to the virtual pot luck her Baked Fish and Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic.

I love her _Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking_, and it occupies a place on my cookbook shelf next to Joy of Cooking as a wonderful basics book. I know a young person who recently learned to cook by going recipe by recipe through the book. He's now a contender.

That said, I love Asian food, and am dreaming about Brett's tilapia. Tilapia is one of my favorite fish (along with catfish). It's sustainable and incredibly versatile. Steamed, fried, creamed, poached, baked, served alone with vegetables, in sandwiches, in a burrito - can't miss.

I love all fish, but feel compelled to be conscientious about overfishing. Fish lovers: don't forget about sardines!


I started to learn to cook in the Army, when stationed TDY at Rasthaus am Chiemsee, a resort hotel with no mess hall -- barracks-mate Johnny Mendez taught me how to make real chicken soup, and then the hotel chef and his wife started inviting us over and demo-cooking/feeding us, and we competed at potluck barbecues.

And then in engineering school I lived off-campus and swapped cooking duties with my housemates, and we all taught each other. Bev gave me a copy of Laurel's Kitchen, which changed my sensibilities some, and I started to make more things from scratch (starting with staples rather than cans). I got a copy of The Joy of Cooking for Christmas (the old one, before the Rombauer-Beckers reduced the butter and salt and lard in the recipes.) I talked Mrs. Garcia into teaching me to make her fried cheese/onion enchiladas; I tried to learn egg fu-yung; experimented with pasta sauces and beer bread and heavy corn muffins. Another friend liked chicken cordon bleu, and we had to make that a couple times, until we got it right. I tried a first turkey, in a foil "roasting pan", and dropped the bird and all the drippings on the floor while attempting to remove it from the oven for carving.

A couple years later I was married, and my wife and I cooked for each other. She became very fond of my teriyaki barbecued king salmon and of my classic Iowa tuna casserole; I coddled her by learning to do a perfect 3-minute soft-boiled egg for her breakfasts.

We made omelettes with the leftovers of kung-pao prawns, or with five kinds of mushrooms from the farmer's market. We made our own egg rolls. She was manic about Christmas cookies; I hand-chopped fine many cups of pecans for the Russian tea-cakes. I made rabbit stew; she made chicken curry. I learned to do eggs Florentine; she taught me to do a great lasagne.

My wife passed away; I learned to do all the big holiday feasts -- turkey with quarts of gravy, ham, beef and pork roasts -- and to get things to all come out together.

Now I've got a friend with a pizza stone in his oven and a garden full of tomatoes and peppers in season, and I'm likely to reciprocate with a pork loin roast under sweet teryaki and hot chutney. We split a bottle of Maredsous Tripel or Chimay Cinq Cents and all is well.

This is not the description of a thin person.

I'd love to learn to do Slarti's red beans and rice.

I hope to retire in a few years, at which time I plan to have the time to learn to do good bread, and the sweet raised-dough Christmas breads and heavy-cream kuchen that the "Bohemies" make in SE Iowa.

As for egg separating: I've only needed it a couple times -- meringue (mine wasn't very good), and for my first attempts at my grandmother's whipped vanilla custard dessert (everyone fails at that one the first three times; I'll get it right in a year or two)

Actually, this is the recipe I was thinking of, although the previous link that I provided would probably not be bad either. But this is the one I make, and the one in Marcella Hazan's wonderful book.

joel hanes, I accidentally got in the way of your wonderful comment.

Not at all.

That bluefish/potato recipe looks great, but I don't think we have bluefish here on the Left Coast. I'd like to try it with rockfish ("snapper").

Living in New Mexico, besides cooking some New Mexican food I've been fooling around with using red or green chile in other sorts of dishes. I make a killer green chile baked mac & cheese (adapted from the America's Test Kitchen recipe) -- incidentally, most of the time when I make roux it's to make green chile sauce/stew.

However, for the e-potluck I'd have to bring my Chicken Albuquerqiana (of my own devise). It's based on chicken parm, and is designed to look just like it. However, I use red chile sauce instead of tomato sauce. It's kind of shocking; instead of sweet tomato sauce on the breaded cutlets (over pasta, of course) you get fiery hotness. Covered in cheese.

"During my freshman year at college (1970) our dorm was being renovated, so they put us (all males) up in a residential hotel. Away from the dining service, we had little choice but to cook,"

College I went to, (Michigan Tech) you were pretty much required to use the dorms for the first couple of years unless you were a local, but after that most students moved out, and the dorm food, honestly, was bad enough that anybody who had the option of cooking their own would.

I've met one or two guys who couldn't cook, but I think they're the exception. Again, I think this is a stereotype, which may have been established back when a substantial number of guys went straight from living with their parents to living with a wife. Unless you make enough to eat out exclusively, living alone means learning how to cook.

My husband and I take turns, each of us cooking one night a week. I call it "Date NIght" and we hold those nights sacred. Theh rest of the week we forage singly.

Paul rotates between five dishes. I'm experimental and have a growing collection of recipe books. But I would rate my skills as only moderate.

Excellent comments.

Brett, you and my father went to the same college. I was born there in Houghton/Hancock. Small, small world. "3 months of bad ice." I actually know a lot of people in their late 40s to early 50s that got their engineering degrees from there.

Overall, I would say that the one thing that distinguishes one level of cook from the level before is confidence; the kind that is borne from experience.

Anyone can cook. All you have to do is follow instructions correctly. The real problem is you're following instructions doing something you really haven't done before, using tools, etc that perhaps you're unused to. Improvisational ability will come, most likely, once you understand how a dish is supposed to go together and taste.

So, my advice to people who can't cook but want to learn is: do it. Start simple. Buy yourself a Cook's Illustrated Cookbook, and find a recipe (or two) that looks tasty. Buy the ingredients and follow the instructions exactly. Don't do a whole bunch of recipes at first; pick one or two and do those. And them do them again the next week. And again. Now that you can do these with some confidence, pick another couple of recipes and get good at those. Not everything you pick will be both something you like and something that winds up being easy to prepare, so note the ones you want to have as part of your menu rotation and then move on.

If the huge selection of recipes in that cookbook is too daunting, I recommend going into Williams Sonoma, for example, and just browsing through their cookbooks. If you don't want to buy a cookbook, just go to recipes.com or epicurious.com and search for recipes for whatever ingredients you want to make a meal out of.

I would advise a few things. First, that if you're a beginner at cooking, cook only for yourself and the people you live with until you've got that all-important confidence to cook for company. This, it turns out, is very important. The stress of cooking for the first time for your family, roommates, etc is NOTHING like the stress of inviting friends over for the first time and stumbling through a recipe that you've never even read before.

An even larger mistake is: picking an overly elaborate recipe before you're ready to tackle it. There are some recipes that I won't even bother with, because they are just far too complex, and the ingredients are murder to track down and acquire. There is a recipe in Norm Van Aiken's cookbook that has at LEAST three dozen ingredients, and that's just for an appetizer. I suppose that can be rewarding, but things like that sort of beg for help in the kitchen and are best not tackled solo, and best not attempted at all by a novice chef. Keep it simple, to start with. There are recipes that are very simple, yet very tasty.

So. Go forth and cook. It is, believe it or not, very much like any other kind of skill. Working on a car for the first time with a manual will result in a number of missteps, mistakes and even some inadvertently broken parts. Building a woodshed (as I did last year) from plans you drew up yourself, never having done such a thing ever, is a learning experience. Think of cooking like that, only you get to eat the result. And once you get good at it, the result-eating part is an extra bonus (as well as a quality check) for a job well done.

Maredsous Tripel

love love love it. and i can't see a bottle without singing "All the angels want to drink Mah-red-sous".

e-pot luck... i'd have to bring my chili, simply because it won a chili cook-off a couple of years back. the big secret: use stew meat (and let it simmer for three hours). having chunks of beef really separates you from the pack (most of whom will use ground beef).

We split a bottle of Maredsous Tripel or Chimay Cinq Cents and all is well.

I'm not much of a cook, but this I can do.

Maredsous is not bad, but I think Kasteel Donker is a level up.

Ommegang Three Philosophers is nearly as good.

"Where Houghton gets to look at Hancock, and Hancock has to look at Houghton." is the one I remember best. My first apartment was over the Downtowner bar, later I had one on the far side of Hancock, and would walk both ways in all sorts of weather. Nothing quite like walking across that bridge during a bad blizzard, only to find the campus has closed an account of weather for only the second time in history, and having to walk back again.

It was a sleepy college town when I was there, the place is completely changed now.

The Betty Crocker cookbook isn't bad, either, for beginners. Later? My advice is to visit a few estate sales and/or used book stores, and keep an eye out for any cookbooks which happen to have grease stains and pieces of paper stuck in them. Those are the good ones!

Once I got out of grad school, I got both a job and an apartment of my own. I then had a decade or more of my own kitchen to work in. I already knew the basics, but following my mother's example, I got a copy of Adele Davis' Let's Cook it Right so I could expand my repertoire.

I think I'll bring to th e virtual pot luck some whole wheat cinnamon raisen bread. Still warm from the oven, it can even work as desert!

Unless you make enough to eat out exclusively, living alone means learning how to cook.

Unless you're capable of living happily on canned (turkey!) chili, PB&J or hummus-and-tomato sandwiches (on wheat bread!), (skim!) milk and (not light!) beer. (Yes, I've done this, but I swear I'm not a serial killer.)

P.S. Just so you can be in the moment with me, I'd like you all to know that, as I was about to post this comment, I threw back my last big swig of coffee, it went down the wrong way, and I was unable to suppress the involuntary reflex that forced me to spew it over half of my office, including a good bit of my desk and left pant leg. Yay!

hsh, I can definitely sympathize. I keep thinking that I really need to learn not to breathe and swallow at the same time. But somehow the lesson never sticks. Not always messy, but the coughing fits can be really inconvenient.

Unless you make enough to eat out exclusively, living alone means learning how to cook.

While in the service, the Soldiers I knew who weren't on separate rations often (though by no means always) were helpless in the kitchen, yet avoided eating in the chow hall and couldn't afford to eat out all the time. Their compromise was various processed food, which was noticeably more expensive and less healthy than cooking for themselves, but faster and still cheaper than eating out exclusively.

These types were also oft as not the ones who went straight from their parents' house to Basic at 18.

Overall, I would say that the one thing that distinguishes one level of cook from the level before is confidence; the kind that is borne from experience.

Truer words... I pretty much went from not cooking straight to being a competent cook because I never "learned" that cooking is supposed to be hard/intuitive, so I though being rigorous, methodical, and sensible should yield good results no matter who was doing the preparation. At the same time, I didn't feel any need to rashly modify the recipes I was following to "make them my own" as I've since seen a lot of neophyte cooks try to do. Lo and behold, good results and confidence followed immediately, and the experience to improvise followed with very few failures along the way.

So, my advice to people who can't cook but want to learn is: do it. Start simple. Buy yourself a Cook's Illustrated Cookbook, and find a recipe (or two) that looks tasty

My standard recommendation for a basic, modern starter/teaching/general cookbook is How to Cook Everything. Just throwing that onto the pile.

(I also knew plenty of almost-exclusive consumers of processed foods when I was in college, FWIW)

It's not a 'cajun roux' it's a black roux. It's, like all rouxs, made 1-to-1 with clarified butter and flour. HOWEVER, any fat source -- pork, beef, chicken, dairy, oil -- is technically acceptable in the technical sense. But I prefer clarified butter and think oil-based roux taste 'wrong.'

Your four rouxs are:

White Roux -- used to thicken bechamel and other white sauces. Can be used to thicken a veloute. Used when you do not wish to add color to your sauce or to lighten a darker sauce. Adds the least flavor and complexity to a sauce.

Blonde Roux -- traditionally used to thicken veloute, it can be used to lighten brown sauces and darken bechamel's as well. Adds MORE FLAVOR than white roux to a dish.

Brown Roux -- somewhat darker than peanut butter, it is used in Brown sauces. Can be used to thicken lighter sauces for darkening purposes. Is more flavorful than white or blonde.


Black Roux -- the darkest of them all. It should be such dark reddish-brown that almost a black walnut color. THis is the most flavorful roux and is key to making Cajan food 'right' (at least when a roux is required).


All can be made at high heat. The lighter the roux, the shorter the time. HOWEVER, long-cooked rouxs at lower heat have better flavor as short-cooked rouxs can have a 'flour' undertone.

Brett, we had a kid who loved hot food from the start. He'd crawl across the floor, haul himself up by the chair of the eater of kimchee and open his mouth like a little bird. We'd give him pieces, cut very small, because of course he had no teeth yet.

"HOWEVER, any fat source -- pork, beef, chicken, dairy, oil -- is technically acceptable in the technical sense."

My favorite is turkey fat. Better smoke point than butter, and very flavorful. But then, I'm a fiend for turkey, almost lived on it when I was single.

Victor didn't really become a problem until the last few months, when he suddenly decided to become a picky eater, after years of eating whatever was put in front of him. I'm hoping it's a passing phase.

Potluck- Mojo steak.
Buy a jar of Mojo sauce in a Hispanic grocery. It's made from sour orange juice, garlic and lots of good spices. Marinate a tough piece of steak for one hour at room temperature or up to two days in the fridge.
Fry thin cut onions and thin cut peppers till soft and remove from pan.
Take steak out of marinade and fry one minute per side. Lay peppers and onions on top of steak and continue cooking till done.

I like to buy complicated sauces (mojo, massaman, Thai red pepper, vindaloo) and then marinate meat or add an appropriate liquid and join with whatever is salvaged from the refrigerator.

Another set of jars which hasten sauces to completion and are available in Hispanic and Asian groceries- chopped fresh garlic, grated ginger and dried parsley.

Grating a few tablespoons of ginger and garlic for MaPo Tofu is quite daunting; with jars it becomes a fairly simple dish.

One of the few "Pampered Chef" products I actually bought was this chopper, which works like a champ. Though there are plenty of competing cheap ones operating on the same principle. Works great for finely chopping moderate amounts of anything from garlic to carrots. I've had it for something like 17 years now, and it's still going strong.

For a virtual potluck, where I don't have to do any work, I'll pull out all the stops and make Julia Child's Los Gatos Gateau, a fabulously elaborate apricot dacquoise. It's even gluten-free! Normally I make it no more than once a year, for New Year's Eve.

I got the recipe from my parents, who got it from Julia Child and Company, and over the years I made one crucial alteration: bake the meringue layers on non-stick baking mats. With those, I rarely crack a layer or have the other problems Julia describes.

It is astonishingly delicious.

To counterpoint all that "we all know guys who cook"... how many of you know women who don't cook? Who actually self-describe as "oh, I don't cook, my partner does that"...?

That's my other half for you! Left to her own devices it's crackers and peanut butter; she's not even interested in toasties. We've been together for going on 10 years now, straight out of uni, and it has always been me who has been the primary chef.

If I had to bring one thing to a potluck it would be what I call 'pinwheels', which I never saw a recipe for, just the end product in a sandwich shop near York (UK)[fn1]. Take a sheet of puff pastry, grate a good strong cheddar onto it, then a layer of bacon (or veggie bacon) paste on sausagemeat (or sosmix) then roll up into a roulade. Cut into slices, brush exposed pastry with egg and bake for ~20mins. They travel really well, look great and you can make loads really quickly.

fn1. Pastry/sandwich shops in the north of England are *way* better than those you find in the south -- I think the difference is that northeners are not afraid to make things bad for you!

how many of you know women who don't cook?

my wife doesn't cook. i do all the cooking, and all of the grocery shopping that goes with it.

she does the dishes.

We believe that there's a moral hazard in the one doing the cooking not doing the dishes afterwards.

My Mom didn't cook (although she did bake). Dad bought the food and cooked it, everyday and twice on the weekends. He made soups from scratch and, for the 1950's, outre items like curry and paella.

In my house we both cook, but roasted chicken is almost the only item in both our repertoires.

My wife has been making Christmas cookies to distribute in little gift bags to all our friends. Problem I see is, they're all the same cookie. Now, I could have urged her to make some coconut macaroons, but they ARE my favorite, they wouldn't make it out the door. So I suggested Toll house chocolate chip. She kept finding excuses not to make them, so, last night after dinner, I started a batch myself.

I'm just setting up the Kitchen-aide to cream the butter and sugar, and in she walks, announces that she always does that by hand, insists I put it back, and then wanders back out.

Am I wrong in thinking that, if she wasn't willing to make them herself, she shouldn't think she has any say in how they get made?

Well, I suppose that, if this is what passes for marital discord in my life, I'm not doing too badly.

Is it safe to assume she didn't throw a half-drunk bottle of gin at your head when she said this to you, and she didn't light anything on fire afterwards?


Whatever happened to the command and control marriage?

Oh, it's there, I can see. ;)

Along with reading "Man Is Wolf To Man" (see another thread) about Stalinist terror and privation during World War II, I've just started M.F.K. Fisher's "The Art of Eating", which contains five of her books, including, in a odd twist of bookended themes, "How To Cook A Wolf", which I presume is not about cooking wolves or men.

I got on this to this after finishing "Provence 1970" by Fisher's nephew about the lucky happenstance of Fisher, Julia Child, Simone Beck, James Beard, Richard Olney, Simone Beck, and a flock of other orbiting culinary personalities all being in Provence for a few months that year and the cooking and eating and eating and cooking that ensued, not to mention enough personality conflicts, petty jealousies, backbiting, publishing and critical sabotage, and near fistfights over recipes and culinary philosophy to tempt a person to long for a Stalin-type of personality intervention to crack all of their heads together.

At one point, Julia Child under cooks a roasted chicken for much of the group and has to return it to the oven and I can't tell you how comforting I find that event as I ponder my own culinary disasters.

I love to cook and I'm getting back into it now that I've lived alone for a few years.

My tragic flaw (one among many) is that in whatever endeavor I try I start at the wrong end of things -- so in cooking years ago I began with the most daunting of recipes and served multi-course meals to guests not having experimented with the dishes or techniques ahead of time.

But I became fairly proficient.

But first I'd give up (like giving up walking because I failed to climb Everest without the proper clothing and equipment, or giving up reading because as a child I made it my goal to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica; made it to somewhere in the A's) and then after a time coming back to it at a proper beginning.

I'm very into doing what looks simple but is really very satisfying and elegant and hard to perfect, like omelets in an omelet pan, different ways, very soft and velvety, or browned, maybe with cheese, maybe with a little pancetta or fresh chanterelle mushrooms when in season, whatever.

Also roasting a chicken, maybe tucking a little butter, herbs and garlic under the skin.

Simple salads with a simple vinaigrette, olive oil, garlic, a vinegar, dijon mustard.

I love making stocks and soups; it's one of the few things I do that tames what I think is a raging case of attention deficit disorder/anxiety bracketed by dark periods of languorous boredom which have sabotaged just about all of my endeavors, though I've steeply calmed down in recent years.

I'm usually either jumping out of my skin or dropping off to sleep at odd times, though now I get up really early and make it through the day with a certain amount of satisfying productivity.

I'm a piece of work, though I appear perfectly normal in person, except for the Tourettes, the numerous tics, and the bit of kipper sticking out of the top of my vest.

Cooking is meditative for me.

I put a little piano music on while the pot simmers -- Chopin, Beethoven piano sonatas, whatever, and my brainwaves lose their peaks and valleys like a song vocal with a compressor/limiter on it.

I made a creamed corn (only works with fresh corn cut off the cob) with tarragon and cream the other week that was yummy.

Add statins to it just in case.

last night i discovered that turkey a la king is almost the easiest thing in the world to make.

Turkey tetrazzini is also super-easy.

Tetrazzini with smoked chicken or turkey puts others to shame, though. Our tetrazzini is just a white roux with plenty of good parmesan cheese melted into it, along with some diced fresh mushrooms and the poultry meat. Sometimes when we feel like we're not getting enough vegetable/other food ratio, we throw in some broccoli.

Never forget the underestimated stewed chicken with drop dumplings. We made some last week using some cardoon which had shown up in the market, and the result was so good we're planning on growing cardoon in our garden next year.

Brett, you are far from being the only man who knows how to cook, and cook well . . . and whose wife basically holds almost anything he does in the kitchen is wrong. Either the wrong thing to have done, or done the wrong way.

There is some reason to believe that, at least in some cases, men do less around the hose for the simple reason that they will never do anything right. Domestic tranquility will only be assured by standing away.

.....they will never do anything right.

A myth perpetuated by the Promise Keepers and their ilk to perpetuate patriarchy and keep men on the golf course on Sundays.

Domestic tranquility will only be assured by standing away.

All the easier to flee to the golf course.....Or a life of "indentured servitude" (heh) in the yard, including risk of life an limb hanging Christmas lights from the gutters.

Turkey tetrazzini is also super-easy.

You will come to roux the day you made this claim.

"and whose wife basically holds almost anything he does in the kitchen is wrong."

Nothing of the sort, she loves my cooking.(Thinks my roasts are a bit "herby", though.) She's just got this "thing" about not using appliances to do what you could do manually.

Ever cream butter and sugar with a hand whisk? What a pain!

Actually, bobby, I find it really frustrating. And there is some inconvenience to basically having to wait until I am home alone before trying to dust or vacuum. I figure that, since I managed to keep house quite reasonably until I got married at 40, there's no obvious reason why I should suddenly be incapable. But apparently, for anything beyond doing my own laundry, I am.

I don't doubt that there are some who embrace a myth, as you put it. But that doesn't mean there are not also some of us who deal with the reality.

Ever cream butter and sugar with a hand whisk? What a pain!

Personally, for years I didn't have decent equipment to do it any other way, so at this point my pea-sized (or possibly mule-shaped) brain just tells me it's going to be easier to use a fork than to mess about with a mixer. I sympathize with your wife. I know I shouldn't, but the aforementioned undersized/misshapen brain is assuring me I do.

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