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I'm just here for the monke.. er.. food. - Portrait of a Young Man as The Artist — LiveJournal
I'm just here for the monke.. er.. food.
Angry developer guy is in top form today. He is so angry that he's even yelled at disarmingly-charming-gay developer guy. How can you be surly at such a small, flaming man?

The Thermochemical Joy of Cooking

In nifty news, I bought Alton Brown's first cookbook and it is sexy. Plus, Fox and I are three sheets to the wind (best phrase ever) with cooking. Monday I blended two green bean casserole recipes on the spot because I decided it would be better food. I even subbed things out with out ruining the meal; I think it was better with yoghurt instead of cream. Last night Fox made superbly spiced beef patties with portabella.

I think therefore, I'm not as helpless in the kitchen as previously believed. I just felt daunted by it. Much of the progress has happened simply because I shifted my perspective. Before, cooking was an arduous task. Now, it's something fun that Fox and I can do. I used to think it cut into recreation time but it can be recreation. Besides, I can still unwind with Boob Toob and cook. It is kinda nice, actually.

The next steps seems to be learning more recipes. We have a select few things we know we can make. We just need to add to that base. Flavor combination and spicing is surprisingly easy - especially when you taste as you go. I've found I can pick apart food into component flavors when I'm tasting which helps quite a bit in the preparation. Problematically, there's a level of science I haven't grasped yet; namely, what happens to most foods when you apply X sort of heating, where X can equal frying, baking, boiling, sauteing etc. These things are all very different and blend ingredients in markedly different ways. This bit can be learned, I think, through vigilance in tasting before and after heat application. I'm even thinking about starting a cooking journal, a book of experiments if you will not unlike chemistry experiment design, to track observations and results of cooking experimentation.

The hardest part seems to be actually panning meals in advance. That's boring, dull work. I'd much rather have a stocked kitchen and make what feels right when I look at ingredients. This isn't really practical or economical. That situation is, in my opinion, the sort of nirvana of master cooks - delicious meals from kitchen scraps. While there is a certain amount of this ability present, hence the use of mushrooms in pretty much ever dish we're eating this week, but the Zen blindness isn't there. I shan't expect it soon nor to I really care if I get there. I'm pleased not to feel stupid.

Irrespective of my abilities or lack thereof, I'm finding it all fun now. I don't feel like a hapless oaf by the oven. A little planning and we're set.

Oh, but I'm never giving up my Boca products.
You'll have to pry those from my cold, dead hands.

Current Mood: good good

15 comments or Leave a comment
ocarina_justin From: ocarina_justin Date: November 8th, 2005 04:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Where to begin, where to begin?

First, I am glad you have discovered the joy of cooking (har har). I tend to enjoy it. I think the communal aspect would be helped if I had a larger kitchen. Also, I think certain personality traits help in cooking - for example, especially when starting out it is useful to pay close attention to details. This doesn't entail necessarily measuring everything exactly, but more in making sure you don't slice when you are supposed to dice, sorta thing.

It is very satisfying when you start to figure out what the important bits of recipes (ingredients, processes) are, and which ones can be changed, substituted or dispensed with.

Planning is the most fun part. Trick is to try and plan a week in advance so that all of the recipes use ingredients from the other ones or produced by the other ones, kinda like a fuel cell.

Boca is good, morningstar is better :).
abmann From: abmann Date: November 8th, 2005 04:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I never measure unless absolutely needed. Slice versus dice seems to be merely for geeting things cooked at the same time, as far as veggies and meats go. Herbs and the like use smaller cuts for more flavor - at least so it seems in many cases.

That sort of planning seems harder with the exception of having a left over night. However, making things like casseroles is good because they can go well with many dishes.

Shoot. Now I'm hungry.
ocarina_justin From: ocarina_justin Date: November 8th, 2005 04:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
I used slice versus dice because they rhymed. The general idea is that if you make the pieces a lot bigger than envisioned in the recipe you need to increase cooking time or they won't cook all the way through. :P. You can always just increase the cooking time, but that might OVERCOOK other things, so a little care is usually warranted. Basically, its about more than just flavor :P.

I measure some things and not others. Most things don't lend themselves to exact measurements anyway - "medium onion" "large potato" - even "two cups of broccoli florets" is at best an approximation. I measured at first though so I could get an idea of what two cups looked like. ;) Exception: When I am baking, I measure every damn thing - and I assume that is one of the "absolutely necessary" situations you refer to.

abmann From: abmann Date: November 8th, 2005 04:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I said: Slice versus dice seems to be merely for geeting things cooked at the same time.

I think that implies cooking time!

But baking is more fun when you're baking bricks!!!
I'm less careful with baking ingredients unless a chemical reaction is required for the recipe to work.

I've been wanting to bake brownies recently. I may have to do so next week.
aetrix9 From: aetrix9 Date: November 8th, 2005 09:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

Chiming in...

I have to chime in here and say that there are other reasons to cut things differently. Yes - the smaller something is cooked the more flavors are released and smaller bits cook faster than larger bits. There's two other things to think about with cuttery.

1. CubeSquared rule. As the volume of a regular solid (cube, sphere) doubles, the surface area increases to a power of three. A good discussion relating to cells and biology. That means, especially for meats, that you can get jucier little bits of meat if they're more spherical.

2. Texture The way you cut up things also changes the overall texture of a dish. Shredded carrot will be less crunchy than matchstick carrots.

3. Mixture. Big potato chips will be at the top of the bag and little bits fall to the bottom. The same goes with mixtures of foods, but you're in control of the size of things. A bunch of equal-sized pieces (grated carrot, jicama and potato) will produce a homogenous mixture of the flavors while an unequal mixture (matchstick carrots, grated jicama and wedges of potato) will shift the balance from one flavor to another.
lady_fox From: lady_fox Date: November 8th, 2005 04:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Alton rules. Cooking seems to have worked well last night.... I'm glad my experimentation with the hamburgers went well.

abmann From: abmann Date: November 8th, 2005 04:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
lady_fox From: lady_fox Date: November 8th, 2005 04:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Leftover night tonight? I'm craving some of that casserole...
abmann From: abmann Date: November 8th, 2005 05:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
That was the original plan, yes.

lady_fox From: lady_fox Date: November 8th, 2005 06:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
abmann From: abmann Date: November 8th, 2005 07:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Bunches of my friends keep talknig Civ for. They have me jonesin'
I hope the patch comes out soon.
lady_fox From: lady_fox Date: November 8th, 2005 07:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

This week, right?
abmann From: abmann Date: November 8th, 2005 07:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Supposedly. Maybe they'll push the patch back two weeks to make up for the two lost with an early release...
lady_fox From: lady_fox Date: November 8th, 2005 07:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
That would be sad... though possibly smart on their part.

I've got 3 hours and 15 minutes left!!
lady_fox From: lady_fox Date: November 8th, 2005 09:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
haha!! 1 hour 15 minutes!

Not that I'm counting down or anything....
15 comments or Leave a comment