08 February 2005

confessions of a self-taught chef

ok... i thought i'd give a little backstory today, seeing as i haven't figured out yet which pork tenderloin recipe(s) to post. i wish i knew more about bryan's skillz as a chef, because it might help me narrow down the possibilities. (a quick note: pork tenderloin is a cut most decent chefs have a multitude of recipes for, some of them much easier to deal with than others.) i might supply the recipe for a killer marinade or brine and suggest bryan grill or pan sear the thing, or i might post a recipe for a more labor-intensive and skill-demanding east-west asian-french fusion thing a la ming tsai.

speaking of ming tsai, wasn't it cool that he wiped the floor with bobby flay on iron chef america? i know, i know... a true food snob might look down his nose at the food network, but gawd... there are some kick-ass cooks on there. michael chiarello (check out his website. click on the title of this post.), host of "easy entertaining w/..." published a cookbook in 1999 call tra vigne. one of the points he makes in this book is that the closer you remain to the season you're in regarding your food choices, the easier and better your cooking will be.
i understand that might be a lot easier to do in southern california than in most places, seeing as we have fresh fruits and vegetables here during times of the year they're not normally seen elsewhere. also, there's an abundance of farmers' markets in these parts. but even the grocery stores have had gorgeous asparagus for $1.49 a lb lately, so we've been eating a lot of it. mostly roasted with some smashed cloves of garlic and lots of pepper.

i used to be a boring cook. what i cooked was generally good, but i didn't have an adventuresome bone in my body. tacos, meatloaf, that sort of thing. and i used mixes. stuff in boxes. i wouldn't think of that now, though, and that's mostly because of food tv. granted, i still make tacos. but they're shrimp tacos, made out of shrimp i marinated and grilled, with salsa i made myself instead of the old boring gringo tacos made out of ground beef.

i felt a certain something with a few of the hosts, and began to procure cookbooks. alton brown's are good for beginners. he even has a "gear" book, wherein he explains all the various pots and pans, cutlery, appliances, et al. he encourages using multi-taskers. a potato masher IS more than just a potato masher, after all.

i watch the shows of many other cooks. i will leave divulging their identities for another post.

i have one bit of advice. look long and hard at the produce department the next time you're at the grocery store. see what's cheapest? buy some and go home and click on
http://foodnetwork.com and do a search based on that ingredient. look through the recipes rated "easy" and pick one. sometimes you'll get lucky and there will be links to other recipes from that show. it makes deciding what to serve with, say, roasted beets, a lot easier.

and... if there is a farmers' market in your area, please go look around. i've found the produce to be much nicer and oftentimes considerably cheaper than at your typical megamart.

mr. brown was right. anything can be good eats.

1 comment:

bryan said...

Ok, a little about my cooking skills. I'm no Wolfgang Puck (I think the food at his restaurants is vomitable, by the way), but I'd like to think of myself as fairly creative, given my college-student budget. I try to never use anything canned, unless the recipe calls for it. I'm a big fan of grapeseed oil for the skillet. I've learned to do things with pasta besides tossing it with Ragu (using olive oil, garlic, greek olives, sun dried tomatoes, that sort of thing). But I've never made pork tenderloin. Chicken is what I typically make, or some kind of beef, because you really can't fuck that up unless you're blind and handless. But pork is sort of scary since I haven't dabbled in it much. The pan-searing sounds doable, as does the grilling. I'd be up for attempting the "skill-demanding east-west asian-french fusiong thing a la ming tsai" if it doesn't require a lot of expensive ingredients, of if those expensive ingredients have student-budget substitutes.

Thanks so much!