Kitchen Basics Part 2

As Jeff prepares to leave for his annual “mancation” with his friends (man camping), and I am left alone to fend (and cook) for myself, I realize I have never been taught how to steam vegetables.  Normally, I would avoid this, but we are on a special diet counting down the days leading up to our wedding.  Alas, I have to learn how to steam asparagus – by myself.  So, let’s learn some more kitchen basics together.

1.  Steaming veggies

Steaming vegetables is a simple and healthy way to prepare almost all vegetables.  In fact, Jeff can’t think of any that can’t be prepared by steaming.  You’ll need a couple basic tools: a pot with a lid, and a steamer basket.  Jeff likes the collapsible metal baskets that you can pick up at any department store.  Start by putting a small amount (half an inch to an inch) of water in your pot.  Next, put the steaming basket in and then put your vegetables on top.  Slap the lid on and bring it to a boil.  Now all that is left is taking the vegetables out once they’ve reached the “done-ness” you like.  Think crispy to soft.  Jeff likes his a little on the rare (crispy) side.

2.  Saute food

One thing you need to know about sautéing food is that it needs fat.  This can be any fat, from oil to butter to bacon fat.  Now, you probably want to use olive oil if you are aiming for a more healthy approach.  We don’t believe extra virgin olive oil is necessary when cooking.  Most of the fruity flavor will be lost when heated.  It is best to use extra virgin olive oil for salads and dipping sauces.  The first thing you want to do when sautéing food is get your pan hot and add your oil.  Medium high heat is a good starting place.  Once your pan is hot, add your food.  The only other thing you need to know is that once your food starts to cook, it needs to sizzle.  If it’s not sizzling, it’s sweating.

3.  Sweat onions

Sweating onions, or any aromatics for that matter, requires four things:  lower heat, the onion, fat, and salt.  Salt is key here.  It will pull the moisture from the vegetable allowing it to sweat.  Sweating takes longer than sautéing, and is typically used to bring multiple flavors together, such as carrots, celery, and onion (also known as the mirepoix).  Sweating is a technique that can help enhance a vegetable’s natural sweetness.  You want your stove top to be around medium or medium low heat.  Put your fat into the pan first.  Once it is up to temperature, add your vegetables, followed by the salt.  Cook until your desired “done-ness”.  This will usually take about 15 minutes for vegetables to properly sweat out, so make sure you have some time to devote.  We love sweating onions and putting them on cheeseburgers.

4.  Letting meat rest

When meat is done cooking, it is not ready to eat quite yet, especially red meat.  The reason for this is that the juices need to redistribute throughout the meat. If you cut into it too early, the juice will just run all over your cutting board.  For just about everything, start with five minutes of rest time.  The larger the piece of meat, the longer it will need to rest.  A whole turkey will need at least ten minutes.  To make sure your meat doesn’t get cold, loosely, repeat loosely, cover the meat with tinfoil.  If it’s too tight, your meat will continue to cook.  Now your meat will be nice and juicy when you eat it, instead of dry, with the good juices wasted on your cutting board.

5.  How to roll dough

Rolling dough is a very simply and easy concept, that can sometimes be very frustrating.  You will need pie dough, a rolling pin, flour, and your greased pie pan ready.  Look for our pie crust recipe, coming in the future, for one of our indulge posts.  It is very fattening, like most pie crusts are.  You have been warned.  There are times that you will want to throw in the “healthy-towel” and indulge in fattening food.  This is ok, as long as it’s not very often.  Once you have made your pie crust and are ready to roll it out, make sure that it has cooled, but is not too cold.  If it is too cold, it will be hard to roll out.  The same is true if it’s too warm.  30 minutes in the fridge is a good medium.  Now, sprinkle your counter and your rolling pin with flour.  Take your rolling pin, and begin to push the dough away from you, turning about 45 degrees each time, until the dough starts to resemble a circle.  You will need to flip it over once or twice, and remember to keep adding flour so it doesn’t stick to your counter top or the rolling pin, yet not too much, otherwise your pie crust will become dry and crumbly.  Remember: you can always all more flour, but you can’t add more water.  When the dough has reached the desired width, carefully and loosely fold it in half, and use your rolling pin (underneath the dough) to lift it onto half of the pie pan.  Now unfold the rolled dough to cover the other half of the pie pan, and gently press into the pan until the dough is flush with the pan.  You are ready to add your filling, or blind bake, depending on what kind of pie you are making.

We hope we’ve armed you with more ammunition to cook well and have fun in the kitchen!  (Just promise not to put too many holes in your walls with all that ammunition 😉  That would be bad.)

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