I really do like to cook at home, not that I am there very often to do it. Many of you, I am certain, will find that odd, a busman's holiday of sorts, no doubt. But I do. Cooking at home is very, very different than is cooking in a restaurant. At home, I come up with an idea, get all the ingredients together, and prepare the meal from start to finish, the proverbial soup to nuts, just like both of you reading this that still cook at home. At work, we spend all day preparing food to be ready to cook. Then we try to chill for a few minutes. And then we spend the next several hours assembling dishes and doing the final cooking, a very disjointed process that is nothing like what happens at home.
So I spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen at home doing what it is that got me into the foodservice business in the first place and that which I do very little of at work. As the king of the hill at work, how often do I really chop onions, mince garlic, and all the other little tasks that I do each time I am in my home kitchen?
I got to wondering what parts of work rub off on what I do in my home kitchen and because I am too close to the subject, I asked my wife Ann for a list of ten things that she has learned from me about cooking in our years together, things that she would like to pass on to others. She says:
1. For a great sear on anything, get your pan screaming hot.
2. When cooking shrimp, don't keep turning them over and over. Cook them once on each side, just like any fish.
3. To halve a whole bunch of grape tomatoes at once, place the tomatoes on the cutting board and put your hand over all the tomatoes and slice through with a serrated knife, between your hand and the cutting board.
4. Never be intimated to cook for a chef—they will eat anything—especially if they don't have to cook it! However, they WILL make fun of all your small cans and containers of food and your SMALL cooking utensils and say, quite obnoxiously, "Aww, they're so cute!" [guilty as charged]
5. Combine sweet flavors with salty ones and spicy ones. Don't be afraid to try any combination. I now use a lot more sea salt in my brownies and oatmeal cookies than the original recipes call for.
6. When cooking pasta, reserve some of the starchy cooking water to use in the pasta sauce. The starch helps make sauces creamy.
7. Use leftover fish bones, lobster shells, chicken parts etc. to make stocks for soups. Roast them all first ( I know...right?!?! Who knew?).
8. Presentation is EVERYTHING—even when making simple scrambled eggs!!
9. If the product you start with is awesome, cooking it in olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper is generally the way to go.
10. One is not allowed to eat/buy a fruit or vegetable unless it's in season.
And there you have it. Don't forget number 4 above. I'm available!