Food: Back in the Saddle

Haven’t blogged about food for awhile for various reasons.  I tried, despite what I wrote in a previous blog,  to lose that extra 10 pounds, and again failed miserably.  The reasons I did this, was that I thought it would be a good opportunity, because I did not have the stress of working and I was scheduled for cataract surgery on December 4th.  I thought this might give me some extra incentive, but I should have known better, because in reality this extra 10 pounds I am lugging around is not a major health hazard. The incentive was not really there.  It was the wrong time of year to try and do something like this,also.  The weather is getting colder and the body wants to retain fat, not lose it.  I think that is why so many New Year’s resolutions fail, when it comes to weight loss.  It’s in the middle of winter, and the body is fighting like mad to hang on to that fat, to help it keep warm.  The cataract surgery went well, and I am over all this nonsense, and can get back into enjoying food.  I have been cooking food for about 10 years now and I am a very good amateur cook.  But that is the key word amateur.  I do not think that people that  teach cooking realize, this is all people want to be, is good amateur cook.  We do not need to chop an onion in about 15 seconds.  If I tried to do it that fast, I probably would lose my fingers first, and I’m not too sure how good they would taste in the sauce or soup, I was making.  I  think not enough is mentioned about cooking to taste.  Cooking things that you like. Grilled portabella mushrooms may be great, but not if you do not like mushrooms. The thing I like most about cooking is that you learn the basics, then you can create.  Here are some of my basic ideas when it comes to cooking and keeping it simple and flavorful.

First, don’t  get all worried about chopping onions, peppers, carrots or celery all the same size.  I always chop these vegetables a larger size than most.  They still cook up fine, and I feel you can taste them better, in whatever you are making.  I always sauté some kind of vegetables first when I am making rice. Once the veggies are softened, I add the rice and coat it with the olive oil for about 60 seconds, pour in the water.  It makes the rice more flavorful  and keeps it from foaming up and spilling, making a big mess.

Any time you are making a sauce depending on what it is, always add lemon juice or ketchup to it, my “secret ingredients”.   Horseradish and Mayonnaise is another one for a white sauce.  Horseradish heavy for cocktail sauce with lemon juice. Hot sauce used in small amounts add some real flavor to sauces with out adding any heat to the sauce.

Rubs work better than marinades. I find that rubs make meats more tender and flavorful, than marinades, and it’s easier.   I rub round roast, flank steak, pork roast, pork shoulder, tri tip, pork chops, turkey breast, chicken, ham and just about any meat I am going to grill or roast.  I usually put the rub on in the morning and refrigerate for 5 to 6 hours or will even do it overnight.  My basic rub is Montreal Steak seasoning, Paprika, Chile Powder, then smaller amounts of Cumin and Garlic Powder.  Put the rub on liberally.  For roasts the rub should cover the meat so you do not see the meat. Only slightly less for steaks, chicken parts, and pork chops.  For steaks I usually just do Montreal Steak seasoning, doing both sides.

Brining is the new thing for the Thanksgiving day turkey, and now you can  get turkeys that are already brined.  Its worth the time, or the cost, if you don’t want to do it yourself. It makes a huge difference in the tenderness of the white meat.  The  only other cut of meat that I think should be brined is the boneless pork chop.  It’s easy and it makes the pork chop so tender.  It is the difference maker when it comes to grilling pork chops.  There are plenty of brining recipes for pork chops and I don’t think there is one better than the other.  The key to brining, whether it’s the turkey or the pork chop, is to thoroughly rinse the food when you are done to remove all the salt.  With pork chops, you do not want to over brine.  You should only brine them for about 90 minutes to 2 hours depending on how big they are.  I wasn’t all that impressed on what brining did for chicken, so I don’t bother brining the little bird.

Finally, make sure that you know thy grill.    Where are the hot spots.  Know how long it takes to cook every cut of meat that you grill, even if it takes a little bit of trial and error. You do not want to keep lifting the lid of the grill, and peaking every 60 to 90 seconds.  Even though I am big believer in the statement, the fat is the flavor, you should trim some of the fat off, of what you are going to grill.  The same thing for burgers, get the 90% lean at least.  The reason being, if the cuts are too fatty, as the fat drips into the flames it has a tendency to make giant flames, which can just burn the hell out of the meat. You want to keep that lid of the grill down for at least 4 to 6 minutes per side depending on what you are cooking.  Turn off the middle burner if you need to cook things through like chicken or pork.

That’s it for now. Will have some more tips and ideas in future food blogs.  The main thing here is to learn to cook.  Food Network is a great place to learn, and get started. I think cooking food makes you appreciate it more, and makes the whole consumption process more enjoyable.

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