I have decided to start a new category on my blog. Danese Cooper says that the way to get a popular blog is to talk about what you know. Well, one of the few things at which I can claim to be good with little dispute is cooking. Yes, I'm male, and I cook. I'm not just a hobby chef, either. I cook pretty much every meal my wife and I eat.
The title of the category is Bachelor Cooking. I know you're wondering what I know about bachelor cooking if I'm married, but since we moved to Germany, I have spent many weeks alone while my wife escapes to the US. Enough about me.
In this new category, I intend to talk about how to cook with little planning and without a cabinet full of shallots and truffle oil. I do not intend to post recipes. We're all manly men (and women) here. We don't read the instruction manuals for our $2000 laser guided table saws. Why on earth would we follow a recipe? If you want recipes, ask Martha.
To kick this thing off, I thought I'd start with an inventory of supplies, equipment, and skills. If all you've got in your fridge is a 4 year old jar of mustard and some expired milk, I can't help you.
(Otherwise known as ingredients.)
These are what I consider the baseline requirements to have hanging around the house. If you have these things on hand, you are unlikely to starve. This list does not include delicate perishables (like meat), because they don't hang around so well.
- Whole black pepper corns
- Table salt
- Course/kosher salt
- Olive oil
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Cayenne pepper (Because we're manly men (and women))
- Red pepper flakes
- Pasta of various kinds
- Good beer of various varieties (A good beer makes any meal better.)
- Cream (Yes, it's perishable, but it lasts a long time.)
- Minced onions
- Various other spices (I like paprika, rosemary, thyme, and nutmeg.)
- Parmesan cheese (Also perishable, but long lasting.)
While with these things on hand, you can make a meal, it will be a much better meal if you also go out and buy some meat, bread, cheese, and vegetables occasionally. Since they tend to rot, I usually only buy as much as I need, right before I need it.
I kinda assume your kitchen has a stove and an oven. A microwave is optional. On my endless pursuit of Ted Kazinsky down the path of Luddism, I've actually come to shun use of the microwave. I much prefer the stove or oven.
- Frying pan (It doesn't have to be huge or fancy. A smallish cast iron skillet will do.)
- Pot (This does need to be kinda biggish. Pasta needs room when it cooks.)
- Big spoon-like thing (I prefer wooden.)
- At least one good knife (This is an absolute must. If you only get one, get a chef's knife. As a bonus, you get geek points for owning a really expensive set of knives.)
- A sharpening steel for the knives (Less than sharp knives aren't useful.)
- Pepper mill
- Oven mit or hot pad
- Aluminum foil
- Baking sheet or baking pan
- A dog (Helps clean up spills and "mistakes.")
If you gave all of the above to a caveman or a Scott, the likelihood of him producing dinner is slim to none. You have to have a vague idea of which end of the knife is pointy if you're going to cook something you will actually want to eat.
The first place to start is Good Eats on the Food Network. Alton Brown is the ultimate bachelor chef. His show is how I learned most of what I know. Also, if you have the time and money, buy and read all of his books. Really.
Another good source for skills is the Food Network web site. They have a cooking section with videos and a cooking encyclopedia.
Finally, be sure to cruise the Internet for recipes. You don't actually have to follow them, but they can give you an idea of how to go about making whatever it is you think you're going to make. Aside from the Food Network and Martha Stewart, Epicurious has a good selection of recipes.
So, there you have it. The fundamentals of cooking. I haven't told you anything useful yet, but I will; don't worry. Hopefully in the coming weeks I will find the time to document some of my principle building blocks and techniques. Until then...