For the time being, I am back to cooking at home — which to be honest — is one of the best ways to fall in love with cooking again.
Not that I ever fell out of it, it’s just different when you cook
professionally. You don’t have as much grace in the professional kitchen. You are feeding a much wider audience, and you are able to control (mostly) all of the variables. Your sauce isn’t finished reducing? At home, this is okay. In a restaurant, you best figure it out while already feeding a few two tops and have the credit card machine go down.
Needless to say, yeah, cooking at home is real nice.
Moving into my mom’s kitchen, as I call her “Chef!” when she asks me to fill the kids sweet teas, I giggle. I respect her kitchen, and find ways to make it my own. This means adding to it things I like to consider bare necessities. Let’s go:
Yes, use whatever you like. Sea salt, table salt or hand harvested salt from Oregon (expensive, but worth it). I’ve been using kosher for years, and it’s just what my finger tips are used to. Because unless I’m baking, I don’t measure salt in spoons, but pinches. Keeping your salt in a bowl will aid you in this, but it’s how most kitchens work, so I like it better this way.
I accidentally left my pepper mill in Oregon, which sort of broke my heart. We could have made arrangements for its return, but I decided to buy another one just like it. Hey, if it ain’t broke…yeah. You get it. This is the one I like. I know, it’s a bit pricey. But thus far mine had lasted me a good four years before I decided to abandon it. Sorry old Peugeot, it’s nothing personal. It’s great to travel with, if you decide to cook at friends houses and it’s just damn sexy. I
mean, the color is “chocolate”.
Preferably some good olive oil. Hash out an extra few bucks on this one. It’s worth it. You’re worth it. Okay?
Throw in some neutral cooking oil as well. Canola. Grapeseed. Safflower. And for you paleo mommas and papas out there, coconut oil.
Try to find as local as possible. I will refer to this one as well when seeking out produce and meat. But I can’t emphasize enough on supporting the local dairy people. The really good parts of Portland have worn me down on this one, and it’s because it’s better. Truly.
Eggs. Buy as fresh as you can. You might have to pay more than three bucks for a dozen, but seriously, you’re worth it. Pasture-raised is obviously the better choice, but with your budget in mind, do what you gotta do. Same with milk, cream, and butter.
God. The folks I worked with made fun of my excessive use of mustard in almost everything I made. This was sort of true. But it’s one of those ingredients you can’t put your finger on in a dish. That acidic tangy thing. What it is? Well, generally vinegar or mustard. Which mustard is mostly vinegar. Having a few different kinds of mustard is magic. It helps develop a sauce, or a salad dressing, or like I do, put it in meatloaf. Off da hook, yo.
Ah, I get a little teary with this one because morning coffee was never a thing until I lived in Oregon. Now, it is a necessity to my ebb and flow. Lucky for our spoiled generation, you can buy amazing coffee online, freshly roasted and shipped to your door step. Here are some good ones: Stumptown, Sightglass, Tanager, Heart, Counter Culture, Coava and Rose Line.
I recognize that after you’ve been at work all day, you don’t want to cook at home. The same applies to professional cooks. Even more so. We cook all day, and rarely feel like cooking anything when we get home. If anyone gets this rule, it’s the cooks, trust me. But there are some ways, at least in my head, I try to plan ahead, as though I’m planning meals in a restaurant setting. I love roasted vegetables. I generally roast a ton of them when I do so I can eat on them the following days. One of my favorite breakfast things is roasted veggies sauteed up with some sort of meat (could be leftovers as well) with a couple of fried or poached eggs on top. And hot sauce. Naturally. Think about things that hold well. Stews and soups are good. Rice, not so much unless you want to do fried rice the next day, in which case, direct message me and I’ll come over for dinner, if that’s cool.
Roasted meats work great. Chicken. Beef. Pork. Fish…not so well, but who ever has leftover fish?? (Kidding.)
These are just things to make my life easier. I could go on and on. About things like parchment paper and microplanes, but I’m sure you’ve heard it all before on those other blogs. I’m in the process of another tiny road trip, to visit some friends and family. If given the opportunity to cook, I want to be prepared, so I usually carry with me my chef’s knife, apron, deep all clad saute pan, salt, finishing salt, and pepper mill. The other things I can generally gather from place to place, but that is my Tao. My peace of mind. My tools. I can go anywhere with them.
And I have.
I hope some of this was useful to you and your story as a cook.