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Recover the American kitchen.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Imagination flies on the wings of basics. Part 2

We got the Moist cooking methods down right? Let's move on to the dry.
 Here's something to know. Burnt tastes good. Well ok, not BURNED but caramelized. Sit down kids I have a story to tell.
 Once upon a time a very long time ago when we all ate raw Mastodons and Saber-Tooth Tigers ate us. Some unknown proto-chef dropped his cold haunch of yuck into the fire. Once he dug it out and pawed off all the ashes he (or maybe she) discovered something wonderful. Cooked food is better than raw.

There's some science here. See the thing is this, we don't digest raw food well, despite what the left-coast food-fascists tell us. We lack the enzymes to break down the cell walls of most proteins and vegetables. Although uncooked food contains more nutrients, we can't digest them if they are still inside those cells. Plus and YAY!! heat adds savoriness and color and also breaks down connective tissue which we can't digest without it. Take a bite of a raw Rib-eye if you don't believe me.
 Here's another fun fact. Our palettes are geared towards complex flavors. Nature steers us towards what's best. Trust your guts. Fire makes everything better.

we DO however need a certain amount of raw fruits and vegetables in our diet, so don't be stupid and refuse yourself the pleasure of a fresh apple, leafy greens etc. 

 Roasting: DRY
 This involves surrounding the item with intense heat. It's terrific for most proteins with surface fat and all vegetables. Renders fat and produces a succulent finished product.
roasting both chicken and vegetables
Grilling: DRY
I'm from Arizona. Grilling is our State sport. A friendly argument exists between the charcoal vs gas crowds but that's a different article. It's food placed over heat suspended by a grill. This works wonderfully for anything. I've grilled meat, vegetables and fruit. You cannot deny the loveliness of grilled peach halves then filled with a mixture of Ricotta and honey. 
Lisa K's Cumin and Lemon chicken
Bake: DRY

Done by surrounding food with heat. This applies to any layered meat or vegetable. Bake you say? Isn't that what we do to cakes, muffins and bread? Well sure, same process. What did you think Mom was doing to that casserole? Stick it in an oven and go nuts.
Who remembers Arthur the giant Zucchini?

Cooking with fat. NO, NO, COME BACK  HERE. Sit back down, fat loves you. 

Saute: DRY but with fat. See? It's ok
A tremendously useful cooking method. It involves cooking in a large hot surface with a small amount of fat. Absolutely my favorite cooking method. It can be applied to meats, vegetables and fruits. Heat up your widest pan. Add a splash of oil, butter, whatever and add SMALL amounts of your item. This creates caramelization and fond which can be used to create a sauce. 
do not crowd your pan
 When sauteing, always add a pinch of salt, it helps pull out water which in turn pulls out natural sugars and creates a lovely brown color and rich flavors. 
using fond and a splash of wine adds intense flavors
Pan-frying: DRY
 A layer of fat is used to brown an item that has been coated in batter or breading. Or not. Depends on the item. Flip. The only difference between this and saute is the amount of fat. Use a wide pan. If I'm doing fish I use batter, if I'm not then I don't. If I'm doing chicken-fried steak then I do, If I'm making my Pollo-Cacciatora then I don't. So is this a moist or dry cooking method? Ask me. 
pan-fried Catfish

Submerged into fat, either a batter itself (donuts) or batter-covered item. I don't do this much, 'nuff said. Go to the Arizona State Fair and knock yourself out. This important thing to know is to keep an even hot temperature. 400 degrees usually does it. Keep it dry. Change your oil if it starts to stink. 

TODAY'S QUIZ. Again just one question. What did you cook today and what cooking method did you use and why? 

This is cooking poor, eating rich
get your grub on