learning to cook – a delightful culinary experience

I’ve had to cook a little. Not much while married but it was more because I didn’t know how than anything else. I did what I called “Single Man’s Cooking” during the “single” years and even a bit when I was married.

I really didn’t like cooking at all. Ok… The truth… I didn’t like cleaning up the dishes. That was the real reason I didn’t like cooking. I could eat what I cooked. That was no problem. But then it never was too difficult to feed me or to get me to eat most things. I say most because I just don’t have that many things that I don’t like.

Well, my tastes have changed. Quite a bit in fact. My guess is that it is due to maturity more than anything else but I would also be inclined to believe that it is also due to the fact that over the years I have had an opportunity to “taste” a plethora of variety as well as much as quality.

Now don’t go getting mad at me mom. It isn’t that your food wasn’t good. 🙂 It was and IS great. Just wanted to get that straight right now!!!

I’ve been fortunate to have been a part of a really great occupation in these last 8 years where I have been exposed to some culinary delights that few have the opportunity to experience. Yes… I said experience. Great food is an experience. Not just a method to fill the belly with sustenance. I have been working in the education field for some time (longer than those 8 years) but have more recently been able to gain the ability to cook by watching, listening, and learning from some really great chefs. During the four years I was single this last time I began to get more interested in cooking and developed a taste for culinary cuisine far beyond what I had previously had.

My father was a “good cook” in that he did like to cook and did a good job of it on what he did know how to cook when he did get involved. All of the kids (siblings and myself) ate what he would cook without complaint. Most of the time we wanted more.

It is my understanding that one of my brothers likes to cook and I know my sister is an excellent cook and has even been a pastry chef in her own right before doing very extravagant wedding cakes. She used to do that. No longer. That type of baking is hard, time consuming, intense, nerve racking, etc…. I would not even begin to desire to do that (at least I don’t think I would.)

I first began desiring to learn to cook when I went on a diet a about 5 years ago.  I had been going and playing poker frequently and in an attempt to loose weight I decided to only eat celery & blue cheese dressing for dinner.  I basically put myself on a “no-white” diet with only small infractions allowed (like blue cheese dressing and a beer now and then).  No-white meant:  No white sugar, no white potatoes, no white rice, no white bread, etc…  That diet worked very well.  Anyway…  I liked the blue cheese dressing very much.  I happened to see a cooking show that gave the easy way to make your own blue cheese dressing which was critical to me seeing I hated blue cheese dressing out of a bottle.  The only places I would eat that celery & dressing before this was when it was made in house by the restaurant.  So… I learned how to make it myself.  And learned quite well.  I adjusted it to my own taste over a number of trial and errors.

I had some help.  Several people including some with either catering or chef experience gave suggestions on how to improve what I already had.  So far the easiest for the best taste (for me at least) is:  ½ cup real sour cream, ½ cup real mayonnaise, 2 cloves of fresh garlic (pressed), ¼ tsp black pepper, ½ tsp sea salt, 1 tsp lemon juice, and blue cheese crumbles to taste (I like mine thick so I add more than some).   I say “real” on the mayo and the sour cream because I have found that if you use low fat anything it will tend to get soupy over night if any is left.  If you are preparing it for only one setting then it won’t really matter.  If you prepare for something for the next day then use real and go a little lighter on the blue cheese as it will thicken over night anyway.  BTW… there have been many people that have stated that they do not like Blue Cheese dressing.  I’d guess they have never had fresh.  It is totally different.  My kids loved it.  And loved it more when they were involved in helping to make it.  And… buy good blue cheese crumbles.  That makes a substantial difference as well.

Well… since then I have gone with doing a Salad Wedge with the blue cheese dressing which also includes diced tomatoes, bacon, and a couple of slivers of yellow bell pepper.

Then on to a surf and turf… (sorry for the quality of picture on this one).  Its a filet Mignon (medium rare) topped with crab meat, asparagus, and some Bearnaise sauce, with seasoned red potatoes, and grilled zucchini.

on to Baked Pear: (Baked Pear with raisins, pecan nuts, a mint leaf, a bit of raspberry sauce and a couple of small scoops of vanilla ice cream.)

Then to Blackened Tilapia with mango salsa, garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli:

More recently I made something I found on a website as a result of another blogger (http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2012/01/tuscan-bean-soup-with-shrimp/) though I made just a few changes.  It turned out to be some of the best soup we have had.  I also added hot Italian Sausage which really kicked it up a notch.  The home made bread (provided by a friend) just added to the delight which I toasted a bit and to which I added a bit of garlic butter.

and we (Elaine and I) made beef stew last night.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of that.  It too was very good. Tonight I made chicken soup.  Sorry… again, no picture.  Could but decided that it wouldn’t

Yes… I can cook other things.  My marinaded steaks need no additional sauces and are usually very tender.  I guess I have the hardest time with chicken on the grill with the bone in.  Grilled zucchini is a favorite as is grilled corn on the cob.  My spaghetti isn’t too bad (learned how to make my sauce for that from my wife) and my chili could possibly take a prize (so I’m told).

OK… so it sounds like I’ve been doing nothing but bragging.  In some ways that may be true.  I’m actually thrilled that these meals have turned out so well.  Guess I didn’t expect it.  Still, the point I want to make has nothing to do with what I can do but what YOU can do.  And this message is kindof especially for guys…  YOU CAN COOK if you just give it a try.

My love for cooking has come as a result of trying.  Trying something new.  Maybe as a result of need as well but, in the end, it was as a result of finding out that I COULD do it and even do it well enough that others would like what I can accomplish in the kitchen.  It has been a challenging and yet very pleasant enriching of my life.

I still hate to clean up.  So… we came to an agreement.  Whoever cooks, the other one cleans.  Its working so far.

Another thing or two that I have learned as a result of my interest in cooking:  1.  There are tabs on the ends of plastic wrap, aluminum foil, wax paper, parchment paper, and other such packaging that can prevent the roll from being pulled out while trying to use the product.  They’ve been on those boxes for over 50 years.    2.  If you are in a hurry to cook something frozen… thaw it in the package in warm (closer to hot) water.  You can even thaw out an entire solidly frozen turkey in less than an hour if you put it in a dish washer (no-soap of course).    3.  Slow cooked is much better than a Speedy Gonzales meal any day of the week.    4.  Presentation is almost as important as taste.     And most important…. 5.  The preparation is the key to success.  Don’t rush it.  Good food takes time and the end result is what is important.

A good or great meal will be remembered.  A mediocre meal will be forgotten before the next day is over.

Taking your time…  It is a pet peeve with me.  In a lot of things.  Maybe it was because that was the way I was raised.  It really matters to me.  In much more than just cooking.  Don’t forget to take some time to enjoy the food.  Don’t just scarf it down.  Let your mouth experience the delight of the flavors and spices.  A good wine can make all the difference if you like that sort of thing.  On some occasions a good cold beer might be in order.  In any event… drink responsibly.  Always.

I thank any and all contributors to my learning experiences.  Both in food and in life.  It means a lot to me.

A couple of chefs I like to thank: Chef Booker and Chef Neal have both helped me considerably in my cooking efforts.  Too many to thank for the life lessons and honestly there are also too many people to thank that have contributed to my cooking experience as well.

For those interested…  Chef Booker has a web site.  http://www.yourresidentgourmet.com


Author: memman

Too much to tell. There is more than what is seen on the surface of any man. Some have more layers than others. I have many.

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