There are certainly some tips you can take home that will improve your cooking, but it is important to note that technique will not replicate that amazing meal you had last week. Nor will the exact recipe, or even the top of the line commercial equipment in your kitchen (though that really helps).
The fact is that your meal was made wonderful by much more than the food. Eating out is as contextual as any experience — it is all about the moment. It was the setting, your mood, your companion and many other things that worked together in concert with the food to make the meal special. That is why we go out, and it can’t be copied at home. Home is for different moments.
Okay, having got that out of the way, let me also throw this one out to you: I did not go to culinary school, and thus I am not a trained chef. I have spent plenty of time ‘behind the line’ in professional kitchens, but I am not a pro. I know how to cook, however, and I know what to look for in food. I also ran these ideas by the real pros that I work with for their approval before I submitted them. Given those disclaimers, take this advice for what you think it is worth.
These are some simple tips and strategies that should help your cooking at home. The most important tip I have is that the more you can approach cooking without anxiety or fear, the better your food will taste. Many people see recipes as intimidating and hosting as nerve-racking. I can guarantee you it comes out in your food. The more fun you have and the more relaxed you are, the more sumptuous your meal will be. Many chefs and cooks chose this line of work because it is their passion. It isn’t ridiculous to suggest that their passion as much as their expertise is what makes their food taste so good.
I cannot walk by the range in my kitchen when my wife is cooking without dialing up the burner. Whatever it is set at, it should always be higher. She used to put in the oil and the vegetables in the cold pan and then turn on the burner. Now she heats the pan, adds the oil and waits until it is hot. I hear it sizzle and pop, and I know dinner will be good.
Many home cooks are too tentative with temperature. Life in a restaurant is always hot; 350 is a minimum, 500 is lots of fun. Of course, there is simmering, slow cooking and baking, but most of your food benefited from a red hot skillet, grill or pot. Heat makes flavor — not only do you get that wonderful texture from a charred steak, but the marking also enhances the flavor tremendously.
Smoke in your kitchen is a good thing. Next time you ‘cook’ a chicken breast, try ‘searing’ it first: Turn the burner up and wait for the oil to almost start smoking. Drop in the chicken and listen to that sound. You’ll never go back. Just turn on the fan or open a window.
Normally around this time of year, readers and watchers of local news are bombarded with warnings about the dangers of turkey fryers. Those dangers still exist — see below — but the Arlington County Fire Department says there’s another Thanksgiving danger that often goes un-publicized: distracted cooking.
“Burnt food or food on the stove calls are more frequent than turkey fryer incidents,” ACFD spokesman Capt. Gregg Karl told ARLnow.com. “Distracted cooking is hazardous.”
Distracted cooking leads to almost daily fire-related calls to houses and apartment buildings in Arlington. Most food-on-the-stove calls just result in lots of smoke or minor fires that are quickly extinguished, but some can lead to full-scale fires.
The department offered the following cooking safety tips for the holidays and beyond.
Don’t be distracted while cooking. Guests and other distractions can take your attention from cooking which could result in a fire or injury. Don’t leave any cooking unattended.
Wear short sleeves or fitted sleeves. Loose fitting sleeves can contact heat sources and catch fire.
Turn pot and pan handles away from the stoves edge to prevent burns and scalds.
If you are going to fry a turkey follow all recommendations by the manufacturer for the fryer. Do not use the fryer on a deck or close to a residence.
Have a “kid free zone” 3 feet around the stove or areas where cooking is being done. Keeping the children away will help prevent burn and scald injuries.
On the inevitable topic of turkey fryers, Karl cautioned against a new indoor turkey fryer that seems safer than the traditional kind, but which is susceptible to the same fire hazards.
Karl said the popular Butterball Indoor Electric Turkey Fryer, seen in the video below, can still cause a fire if overfilled with oil.
“We do not believe they are any more or less hazardous than a regular deep fat fryer,” he said. “The same risks still exist frying a turkey indoors or outdoors. We ask people read the manufacturers recommendations and be certain the turkey is completely thawed before frying.”
“We wish everybody a safe Thanksgiving,” Karl added.
Paws to Read Coming to Cherrydale – Paws to Read, a program that allows children to practice their reading skills by reading books aloud to dogs, is making its debut at the Cherrydale Branch Library next month. The ‘Paws’ dogs will be at Cherrydale the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 10 and for one Saturday each month afterward. The program is intended for children from K-5. [Arlington Public Library]
Controversy for Fmr. Arlington Official — Former Arlington Deputy County Manager Kenneth Chandler has resigned as City Manager of Portsmouth, Va. The resignation came as the city council was preparing to fire him for the bungling of the resignation of the city’s former fire chief. [Virginian-Pilot]
Resident Pens Va. Tech Cookbook — Krista Gallagher, a Pentagon City resident, has co-written a recently-published cookbook for Virginia Tech alumni. The book, “A Taste of Virginia Tech,” compiles recipes from various restaurants around Blacksburg. Gallagher will participate in a book signing event at Bailey’s Pub and Grille in Ballston (4238 Wilson Blvd) at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8, before the nationally-televised Virginia Tech-Florida State football game. [A Taste of Virginia Tech]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Tuesday night cooking classes are on hold at the Clarendon Whole Foods (2700 Wilson Blvd) while the store looks for a new chef.
The Clarendon store is now searching for Kiss’ replacement.
Photo courtesy Stacey Viera
The Whole Foods Market in Clarendon (2700 Wilson Blvd) is gearing up for another year of free cooking classes with in-house chef Michael Kiss.
On the menu for January are two vegetarian classes and a how-to for curried lamb. The classes are held from 7:00 to 7:45 p.m. on Tuesdays.
Seating is limited. Interested cooks are asked to reserve a spot by emailing michael.kiss[at]wholefoods.com with the subject line “Cooking Class.”
See the list of January classes after the jump.
Flickr pool photo by Erin Johnson
Every year around this time, fire departments around the country take to the airwaves to remind the public that turkey fryers are incredibly dangerous and will probably catch your house on fire if you ever use one.
If you’re still using a turkey fryer at this point, really, you’re either a professional cook or an amateur daredevil.
Nonetheless, the Arlington County Fire Department has asked us to pass this video and a few turkey fryer safety tips along, just in case you’re the kind of person who likes your Thanksgiving dinner cooked in the same manner as your french fries.
Via Every Food Fits, we learn that Michael Kiss, resident chef at the Clarendon Whole Foods, will be teaching a class on whole grain salads tonight. What are whole grain salads? Well…
We all know that we need to incorporate more whole grains into our diets, although in practice it can be overwhelming and frustrating. Chef Kiss will showcase light and flavorful vegetarian salads, great for summer entertaining at patio dinners and picnics!
The class will start at 7:00 and run 30-50 minutes. It’s free and you don’t have to RSVP, but arriving early is recommended.
Whole Foods’ free cooking lessons are a weekly event. See some of the upcoming classes here.