Country Cleaver

Cookin' My Way Back to the Country

What I’ve Learned Thus Far

A couple of months ago, after my TODAY Food Home Chef Challenge win (still excited about that one) they asked what my biggest and most important cooking tip was…
My answer? Always have a glass of wine on hand. Or beer. Whatever floats your boat.
Unabashedly honest, what can I say?
But it got me thinking, what other things have I learned whilst toiling in the kitchen like the domestic goddess I so desperately want to be?
Feel free to giggle at “domestic goddess”, ratty jeans, dog-nail scratched laminate floors and hair done up in a banana clip and headband. That’s so (not) hot, nor “Cleaver-ish”. 
So, here are a few of my answers.
Make Jam.
When cooking blueberry muffins, or anything else that has watery berries in it like Blackberry Icebox Pie, cook down half of your berries over a stove, adding in 1/2 cup of sugar and make a mock jam out of them. This will concentrate their flavor and reduce the excess moisture that would leave your dish bland and wicked of that berry flavored punch we so adore.
Sharper Knives are Safer Knives.
Invest in a good set of knives. Like, for real. There is nothing like a good, balanced and sharp knife.
The sharper they are the SAFER they are. Completely counter intuitive, but absolutely true.
(Same goes for axes, but what would I know about that?)
Less slippage and cleaner cuts. When you aren’t muscling your way through a cut of meat, or slicing an apple – it will be much prettier and less bloody than if you slipped and ran the blade over your hand.
My enameled cast iron dutch oven baby. My hunny loves me.
Cook with cast iron. 
Last forever. Cheap. Distributes heat evenly. When seasoned properly they are virtually non-stick. They don’t have all of the pesky carcinogens and chemicals coating them that more mainstream modern non-stick cookware contains.
And they’re terribly romantic and nostalgic. They’re nostalgic, because what good grandmother doesn’t have one or two of her very own. And romantic for their old west roots, with cowboys cooking over a hot fire, and wearing cowboy hats and chaps…sorry, I got a little distracted there.
Sure, they’re pretty darn heavy. But if you haul enough cast iron around your kitchen you’ll get a good arm workout. So maybe it’s a “pro”, after all.
Master the Poached Egg.
There is nothing more rewarding than when you get your first poached egg perfect. The keys are to use a shallow pan, about 3″ deep and gently lay the egg into the simmering water. It’s like putting a fish into a new bowl, you don’t just DROP it in – you lay it in there gently.
And while you bring your water to a simmer – add 1 tablespoon of Vinegar to it. The pH will help the whites stay together and not fray at the edges. Nifty, and works every time.
When you master the poached egg, you also conquer patience. Something I’m usually short on.
Don’t be afraid to fail.
I was also asked what my biggest cooking fails were and much like my first (non)-experience on Splash Mountain at Disneyland where I screamed, cried and refused to get on, my biggest cooking failures are mostly repressed memories. Much like Splash Mountain.
But occasionally, you can salvage those mishaps and turn them into complete and unprecedented successes. My Bacon Maple Cupcake Bread Pudding, was one of those incidents. And it will go down in infamy as a raving success.
Always find the positive and don’t let one mis-step beat you.
Easier said than done, I know.
Eventually, everything will fall into it’s proper place and you can claim kitchen victory.
Shout it from the rooftops, spatula and glass of wine in hand – VICTORY IS MINE!
What are your biggest and most utilized cooking and kitchen tips? 

PS – Don’t forget to enter the MasonJar Primitives GIVEAWAY!

8 Responses to “What I’ve Learned Thus Far”

  1. #
    Ann from Sumptuous Spoonfuls — October 18, 2011 @ 7:21 pm

    I like the wine / beer answer the best! My biggest "tip" is always always always unplug an electric appliance before sticking your fingers anywhere near the blades … not that I've done that or anything … noooo not me!

  2. #
    Dzoli — October 18, 2011 @ 10:28 pm

    I love cooking and all things food.But I have to say sinc eI follow cooking blogs I have learned and tried a lot of new dishes:)

  3. #
    Brooke — October 19, 2011 @ 2:28 am

    Sharp knives good, make jam good, cast iron goooood! =) I love my cast iron! I think my number one tip is "Don't be afraid of the pressure cooker." Soups, beans, potatoes, canning it's so versatile and makes things cook so much faster. It's a huge time saver for me.

  4. #
    Kay Heritage — October 19, 2011 @ 2:53 am

    love these tips, Megan! re: camera lens, I use Nikon 35mm f/1.8G for my food shots. I have 50mm you mention but feels like the shots are too far away. I think your photos are great! I have long ways to go still. Using reflector helps to bounce the light, but still wanting to learn more about styling and having more natural light on my photos…. we'll keep learning together! 🙂 Hugs.

  5. #
    Serena Bakes Simply From Scratch — October 19, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

    Great tips!I love cast iron too! It's so versitile, easy to clean and great on the budget! One of my favorite things I found is I can sub almost 1/2 my a.p. flour with whole wheat pastry flour in my recipes with out a real flavor impact or texture! I love whole wheat pastry flour!

  6. #
    Camylla Leonardi — October 19, 2011 @ 5:41 pm

    Thank you for the awesome tips!!
    I'll deff be using them!!

    Happy Wednesday,

  7. #
    Kat — October 20, 2011 @ 2:15 am

    This felt like going to church. I will for sure remember the bit about jamming watery berries because that is a problem I have fallen prey to before!

    Also, LOVE cast iron. And as you were writing about lifting it, I realized I could probably use my giant Le Creuset pot as a mock kettle bell without encountering any trouble. You win for inspiration of the day.

  8. #
    8 — October 27, 2011 @ 3:28 am

    Been meaning to comment on this for-evah! Excellent tips. Especially your tip about being unafraid to fail because sometimes failure spawns the best recipes. 🙂

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