I won’t argue with the statement that making food look pretty adds to the sensory appeal of a dish. We do indeed “devour with our eyes”. That said, food that is so artfully presented that you don’t feel like eating it kinda defeats the purpose – at least in my opinion.
I subscribe to the “quick trick” school of food presentation… since I don’t take hours to dress myself up, I see no reason to spend hours dressing my food up. For the average home cook, making food look good doesn’t necessarily involve intricately carved vegetables or sculptures made of meat. All it takes is a little imagination, and yes, a smidgen of extra effort.
Whether you’re a chef or an amateur, whether you cook for yourself or entertain others, certain skills will always be indispensable. Here are my top five kitchen skills:
- Dicing an onion
- Caramelizing onions
- Constructing a marinade
- Searing meats
- Peeling a tomato
If you don’t already know how to do these things, learn how. Now.
Er... how many knives?
For the sake of academic interest, walk into your kitchen right now, and count how many kitchen knives you own. My guess is that you’ll come up with a figure between six and 15, of which, you probably use only three or four (sheepish confession).
Some of us keep old knives so we can “sharpen them later”. Some of us are seduced by knife sets housed in attractive wooden butcher’s blocks (mea culpa). Some of us believe that we need a different knife for each and every task in the kitchen, from mincing garlic to carving chicken. The end result is a formidable – if redundant- kitchen armory. So how many is too many?
I was wondering today – what is the most basic thing about food, the most overlooked, obvious thing we never think about while cooking? And then it hit me – we never think about what it really means to cook.
Know your heat
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, “to cook” means “to prepare food for eating, especially by means of heat”. According to the Oxford English dictionary, it means either “to prepare (food or a meal) by mixing, combining, and heating the elements or ingredients” or (with reference to food) “heat or be heated so as to reach an edible state”. Simply put, cooking is the application of heat to food to prepare it for human consumption.
Ergo, the most basic cooking principle to master is the application and effect of heat on different kinds of ingredients. Time to go back to school, people… Keep reading…