So often I hear people complaining that they can’t cook worth a dime. I’ve heard things such as “I can’t even boil spaghetti, let alone know what to do with swiss chard.”
Here’s a secret, I’m not always a good cook. Some things turn out great, others, well…not so much. But you know what, I’m not afraid to experiment or fail.
To become a rockstar in your kitchen, It takes the Julia mentality!
Have you ever read any of Julia Child’s books or memoirs? I love and adore this woman.
She was fierce and feisty not to be undertaken by anyone. She wasn’t afraid to do something. She went at it and through her failures conquered the world of French cuisine.
I take on her attitude in my kitchen. I go at it full force, never taking the easy boxed route.
You know what starts to happen after awhile. You learn.
You learn new methods and technique. You begin to understand flavor and what ingredients compliment one another. You even begin to notice different textures in food and notice when dishes need a bit more “acidity.”
To be a great cook it takes confidence, never being afraid to fail, and perseverance.
Here are my top 5 tips on how to be a rockstar in your kitchen.
1. Read, read, read, through “well written” cookbooks.
Often times, we don’t realize that learning is done through reading books.
In my school days, each class started with a book. A book written by another person just like you and me. The class would be centered around a book and by the end of the year, we read through its entirety and called ourselves educated on that subject.
Just like that, we can learn through cookbooks. However, there are so many cookbooks published that it takes “well written” books by authors that go into depth on culture, tradition, flavors and technique including methods and tutorials.
Some of my favorite cookbooks include:
- Julia Child’s, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1
- Mexican Everyday (Recipes Featured on Season 4 of the PBS-TV series “Mexico One Plate at a Time”)
- 1080 Recipes
- Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes
- The Food of Spain and Portugal: A Regional Celebration
- In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart
- Harvest to Heat: Cooking with America’s Best Chefs, Farmers, and Artisans
- Five-a-Day Fruit & Vegetable Cookbook
- The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread
- Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours
These are just 10 of my favorites. There are many, many more.
One thing I’d like to encourage you with, with the enormous online world of food blogging be careful to not get so overwhelmed by what you see online that you lose focus of the simplicity in cooking real and seasonal food. Relax and read a book focusing on one recipe at a time.
2. Begin to cook recipes from those books.
Remember, these are your textbooks. Mark them up. Highlight your favorites. Research the ingredients and cook, cook, cook. Don’t be afraid to fail. If the recipe doesn’t turn out to your liking, start something new. The more that you do this, the more that you’ll start to learn and increase your knowledge in the kitchen.
3. Adapt recipes.
Once you’ve become comfortable remaking recipes from cookbooks, you’ll be quite surprised at how free you’ll start to feel in the kitchen. If a recipe calls for marjoram, use thyme. If a recipe calls for buttermilk, use sour cream. Make it yours! Just be sure to always give credit to where you adapted the recipe from, especially if you’re a blogger
4. Grow your own food or shop at farmers markets but most importantly, know your seasons.
If you’ve never started a garden, you’ll be quite pleased to see how it will encourage you to cook more. You’ll also begin to learn first hand about the growing seasons including what’s available during the different parts of the year.
When you understand the seasons, you can begin to really cook. It’s no surprise that fresh Spring greens taste amazing with mint. Why? Because they are in season at the same time of the year. They’re the first to produce and the first that chefs reach for to start their creations. Spring trout and tarragon. Again…they go hand in hand
If you don’t garden, visit your farmers market and explore new vegetables and herbs. Utilize them in familiar recipes and make them your own.
5. Homemade staples and a well stocked pantry.
It goes without saying that the secret to great dishes starts with homemade staples including broth, ghee, yogurt, creme fraiche and many more. By making your own condiments, sauces and salsas you’ll elevate your dishes to another level.
Most importantly everything begins with a well stocked pantry including grains, legumes, dried, and fresh herbs. Soon I’ll be starting a series on a well stocked pantry. Please note, I didn’t write a huge stocked pantry but instead, a “well” stocked pantry.
So, are you ready to release your inner Julia and become a rockstar in your kitchen?
What has helped you become a better cook? Do you have some tips of your own to share. We’d love to hear them in the comments below.