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Old 09-12-2010, 07:13 PM   #1
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Help! I don't know what I'm doing in the kitchen.

I'm a 35 year old man, who sadly, doesn't know how to cook. I eat out for almost every meal and my idea of cooking is boiling water for pasta and brewing coffee in the morning. My general thoughts about getting started are to hit the ground running; start cooking some basic recipes and hopefully learn some very basic techniques in the process. I do actually own a range (oven w/ cooktop), assorted pots and pans, and a bunch of knives including a couple of 8 inch chef's knives (one of which is 8" Global G2). I had intended to learn how to cook two years ago but used my career as an excuse not to start trying my hand at cooking. Below is a snapshot of the type of foods that I routinely buy outside my household. My motivation for learning how to cook is lowering my food expenses (eating out in New York is obviously expensive) and to impressive someone that I just started dating. All advice and suggestions are appreciated. I apologize because I'm sure I've posted this in the wrong forum on this site but I'm sure I'll learn my way around shortly. - Rob

breakfast: ham, egg & fresh mozzarella cheese sandwich ($2.95) on a roll OR a bagel ($1.50).

lunch: salad with grilled chicken, chopped tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and balsamic vinaigrette dressing ($6.50) OR chicken parm ($6.80).

dinner: chicken burrito with black beans, tomatoes, cheese, rice and guacamole ($5.92).

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Old 09-12-2010, 07:22 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by rcald2000 View Post
I do actually own a range (oven w/ cooktop), assorted pots and pans, and a bunch of knives including a couple of 8 inch chef's knives (one of which is 8" Global G2).My motivation for learning how to cook is lowering my food expenses (eating out in New York is obviously expensive) and to impressive someone that I just started dating.
Really, your having a range, pots and pans and superb set of knives is already a great asset to your learning the joys of cooking.

My advice for what it's worth, is always set out the ingredients according to the recipe at hand. That way, you won't get so confused. And clear as you go.

Even the simplest of recipes will help encourage you. Like, for exaple, a lovely omelette made from the freshest of eggs, a simple green salad and some nice juicy red tomatoes sliced up. And a glass of wine.

Don't be afraid of making mistakes. Like, cremating a steak. Easily done when the phone rings. Most of the time you'll learn by trial and error. But surely, isn't that the joy of learning to cook?

If I was to recommend a book, try Nigel Slater's Real Food. It's a joy to read, inspiring, too.

Edited to add,

Perfect a chosen recipe, get good at it, then invite your loved one round. I'm sure she'll be impressed with your cooking.
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Old 09-12-2010, 07:31 PM   #3
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Linux, thanks for your suggestions. I've just ordered the book from Amazon; thanks for that recommendation as well. I'll follow your advice and won't be afraid of making mistakes. It's interesting that you say that, because fear of failure is my biggest drawback. I'm very excited about trying this.

- Rob
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Old 09-12-2010, 07:44 PM   #4
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Linux, thanks for your suggestions. I've just ordered the book from Amazon; thanks for that recommendation as well. I'll follow your advice and won't be afraid of making mistakes. It's interesting that you say that, because fear of failure is my biggest drawback. I'm very excited about trying this.

- Rob
If it's any consolation, I get to fail on some dishes, especially when working under pressure in a steaming hot kitchen with covers stacking up - and the air conditioning has just packed up. It's tough, but we learn to cope by having to accept that we'll never be perfect, but at least try our 100% best and try again.

And again. Because you do anything providing you give up the belief you can't do it.

I recommend you a spanking good website that sells out-of-print books.

AbeBooks Official Site - New & Used Books, New & Used Textbooks, Rare & Out of Print Books

I managed to buy, dirt cheap, a pristine copy of The Renaissance Of Italian Cooking, by Lorenza D'Medici - the first edition. The book is a revaltion of classical Italian cuisine of the highest order. And surprisingly, easy to navigate and a joy to cook from.
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Old 09-12-2010, 07:45 PM   #5
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Find the spices that you like and then try small recipes with different amounts of spices to show how much the difference is until you have an idea what each spice adds. Then experiment and have some fun
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Old 09-12-2010, 08:29 PM   #6
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OK.. eggs, while a perfectly cooked egg is almost an art form. Cooking an over-easy egg is not rocket science.

You said you like a ham and egg sandwich with Mozzarella.

Ok, we're going to keep this simple. Pick up a small ham steak, a carton of large eggs and some fresh mozzarella cheese(shredded works but fresh is amazing).
Get a skillet hot, not screaming hot, when the ham hits the skillet it sizzles a little. Let it brown a few minutes on each side. You are really just warming it as it is already cooked. When lightly browned on each side, turn the heat down under the skillet to medium, add a small amount of butter(say a teaspoon). When that melts, should be fast, crack your egg and gently break it into the skillet. While that is cooking gently take your spatula and run under the edges to to keep it loose from the skillet. When the whites are white all the way around(the top will still have clear egg in a thin layer). lean the skillet to one side, take you spatula and gently roll the egg over. Leave for about 30 seconds then remove.
place the ham on the toast,(or bagel, etc) place the egg on top then top with a thin layer of mozzarella. Salt and Pepper to taste.

If you want a hard fried egg.. just cook it longer.

Salads are easy. Start with bagged salad as a base. If you want grilled chicken and don't want to grill it. You can buy pre-grilled chicken in packages. If you have a grill... fire that baby up take chicken breast(no bones), lay on a medium grill and cook. Do not over cook. You really should have a meat thermometer. Remember when you remove meat from the heat, let it set. It will finish cooking(temp inside will go up, plan on it). Do NOT slice until it has set for at least 10 minutes or it will be dry.

Buritos are easy. to start with, look at the grocery, they will probably have a chicken fajita kit ready to cook. Get a little oil hot in the skillet, start with the meat, get it well started then add the veggies. For the black beans..open a can of black beans and heat them up.
Guacamole.. look up a recipe online. follow it, it isn't hard to make good guac!. The rice.. rice can be tricky. I would start with a quick flavored rice then move into long cook.

In my opinion, the only way to learn is to jump in and do it.
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Old 09-12-2010, 09:05 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rcald2000 View Post
Linux, thanks for your suggestions. I've just ordered the book from Amazon; thanks for that recommendation as well. I'll follow your advice and won't be afraid of making mistakes. It's interesting that you say that, because fear of failure is my biggest drawback. I'm very excited about trying this.

- Rob
If you don't fail from time to time you are not challenging yourself.

Seriously though, I like "Jaqes Pepin's techniques" book.
and one called"Cooking at home" he did with Julia Child.
Any good culinary college textbook will teach you more than most home cooks know. I like one called "On Cooking"

You will have to cook to learn to cook.Even the best books are still just unapplied knowledge.Just get in there and do it.

The wine helps with failures too.
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Old 09-12-2010, 09:43 PM   #8
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Welcome back to Discuss Cooking, Rob. I see that your earliest post with nearly the same title was in Feb. of 2008. I read from those posts that you were on the way then, what happened? Was there a reason why you didn't continue cooking? As with anything else, cooking takes practice. I think one of the best things about learning how to cook today is the vast collection of cooking videos.
Youtube has thousands of them, and most people learn better by being shown how to cook, although cookbooks are wonderful.

All of us are only too happy to help you Rob, but you have to "get into that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans" You're much too young to know that song.
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Old 09-13-2010, 11:38 AM   #9
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Start simple. Get a couple of boxes of Rice-A-Roni or similar boxed/bagged dishes you can make. Read the directions all the way through first so you know for instance that you will need your measuring cup ready to add hot water.

Take about 1/3 of a kielbasa and slice in the 1/4" rounds. Brown lightly while the RAR is simmering.

Add the kielbasa when the RAR is done. Spanish Rice-A-Roni or Oriental styles work well here.

By preparing simple boxed dishes, you will start to develop some confidence and that is what will eventually lead you to cooking on your own.

Don't give up because of mistakes:

Get used to the idea that you WILL make mistakes. It goes with the learning process. Transforming written instructions into reality is not easy, and if you didn't make all those mistakes, you wouldn't learn how to cook. The mistakes are where you learn what works and what doesn't.

PS to Kayelle: I love that song.
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Old 09-13-2010, 11:51 AM   #10
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I found that there are lots of cook books out there for the beginner. Look for one that not only has recipes but also has instructions for the different techniques used. I wish I could remember the title of the book I got as a newlywed. It had pictures and instructions for braising, grilling, dredging, etc. The book would show a specific technique while walking you through a basic recipe step by step using that technique. Then there were many different recipes on the following pages that used the same technique. I want to say it was either Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens. I gave it to my son when he moved out on his own to help him learn to cook. He knew some things from working at a restaurant and watching me at home but having to do it yourself is different. Being able to understand what the recipe means makes it easier to follow too.
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