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Old 11-11-2008, 10:05 PM   #1
Assistant Cook
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Should I develop a "specialty"

Hey guys I'm new to the forums here and am just starting to cook more often. My question is, should I start in one area and develop a specialty for a certain type of food [BBQ, Steaks, Pasta etc.] or should I just try and make whatever I feel like. What would you recommend I do? Thanks in advance for any advice.


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Old 11-11-2008, 10:20 PM   #2
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Welcome to DC.

I recommend you try lots of different things. Develop a large base of dishes from many cuisines you are familiar with. Try to understand how different cuisines create thier flavors.

If you are going to have a specialty, it's something that will come from your experience and the foods you like. It's not something you choose up front.

"If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." -Carl Sagan
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Old 11-11-2008, 11:05 PM   #3
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Hello and welcome.
iAndy is right... keep on trying lots of different things. The more you cook the more
you learn and the more you understand. Have fun!!
In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. Robert Frost
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Old 11-11-2008, 11:07 PM   #4
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Hi! Welcome to DC.

I agree, too. Build a good foundation with a variety of recipes. After a while, it will be apparent what you like/excel in. It takes time, so be patient and enjoy the process.
"As a girl I had zero interest in the stove." - Julia Child
This is real inspiration. Look what Julia became!
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Old 11-11-2008, 11:10 PM   #5
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I agree. Diversify, along with your palette. Life would get pretty boring eating just one thing all the time. And in a pinch, you would know the ground rules to make something of anything.
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Old 11-11-2008, 11:38 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by quicksilver View Post
I agree. Diversify, along with your palette. Life would get pretty boring eating just one thing all the time. And in a pinch, you would know the ground rules to make something of anything.
I completely agree with having the ground rules of cooking down. Learning how different ingredients interact with one another is an essential step in moving from "I can follow a recipe pretty well..." to "I know how to COOK!"

You can easily mix it up though. Take butter and flour for instance. Put equal amounts in a pan, start heating them, and you have a roux. From there the possibilities are endless. Whisk in some chicken stock for a white sauce, fish stock for a fish sauce, milk for a bechamel, cook the roux longer for brown sauce, etc.

If you like fish then learn 3 or 4 different ways to make your fish. Even if you are using the same kind of fish, different cooking techniques will give you different flavors. You can reinforce the basics and keep your palette satisfied at the same time.
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Old 11-11-2008, 11:59 PM   #7
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If you can eat in different ethnic restaurants each week and get a feel for what you like then start to cook. Using your library cook book collection and read the different styles of cooking get some ideas floating around then act on them
It may not be perfect but it will teach you every time you cook soon you will be swinging out all kinds of good food
Cook with passion or don't cook at all
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Old 11-12-2008, 12:32 AM   #8
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I agree that it's great to branch out. I think you will find your own special "signature" dishes as you go, the ones that people love and ask you to bring to parties etc. If you are just starting out, I would try to avoid frustration by sticking with simpler recipes, and then accept small challenges as you go!
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Old 11-12-2008, 02:09 AM   #9
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Thanks for all the replies guys, is there a thread somewhere that has some basic recipes? And as far as hardware goes, what would should I invest the most money into [Knives, Pots, Cutting Boards etc.]
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Old 11-12-2008, 02:33 AM   #10
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I have a friend that keeps wanting to get fancier and fancier. But I keep telling her to keep things relatively simple at first and go from there. It's easier to add one additional flavour to a recipe and decide how it works than to toss in 20 ingredients and try to figure out which ones don't belong.

A few things I wish I'd learned a long time ago:
1 - Use Marinades. Very easy way to impart a lot of flavour.
2 - Bake or roast longer and slower on chicken and pork to get them more tender and juicy.
3 - as said a few posts up, making roux. I never made gravies or sauces from scratch until I started making sausage gravy.
4 - use as natural and fresh ingredients as you can get / afford. This has made a big difference in my diet and overall health. I use raw sugar, kosher salt, filtered water, honey, olive oil and real butter.

Keep a sense of humour and don't take it too seriously. Cooking is fun more than work.

As for buying hardware, try to do more with the little hardware you have instead of blowing a lot of money on things you might not really need.

I would say for essentials:
1 - cutting boards and mineral oil for treating them
2 - a decent set of knives and a good sharpener. I have the Furi Fingers sharpener and it works pretty well.
3 - a microwave veggie & rice cooker - wonderful for steaming veggies and rice. (I hate cooking rice on the stove, I almost always burn it)

There are a ton of things I would like to have for my kitchen. But by trying to work with what I have, it helps me figure out what I really need to buy next. I had to buy a new stove a few months back so I'm working on paying that off before buying anything else.

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